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

Monday, January 31, 2005
A Hell On Earth

Vodkapundit mocks a rather silly column by Bob Herbert in the New York Times.

Here's my favorite part:

That is not the case in Iraq and is not likely to be the case soon. In much of Iraq the people exist in a kind of hell on earth, at the mercy of American forces on the one hand and a variety of enraged insurgents on the other. Despite the pretty words coming out of the Bush administration, the goals of the U.S. and the goals of most ordinary Iraqis are not, by a long stretch, the same.

[emphasis added]

Indeed. Those darned Americans:

Jessica R. Ross, a Navy corpsman with the Surgical/Shock Trauma Platoon at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq, checks the heart rate of an Iraqi boy Nov. 16, 2004. Marines brought the boy and his father to the SSTP after the boy sustained a broken wrist and shrapnel in his leg during a mortar attack against a Marine checkpoint in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq. Ross, a 22-year-old native of Nashua, N.H., volunteered to deploy to Iraq from Okinawa, Japan, where she was stationed.
(via US Marine Corps)

Workers with the Independent Electoral Commission Iraq (IECI) unload from a CH-53E helicopter Jan. 29 at Camp Korean Village, Iraq. The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing is providing aerial transport of materials and people during Iraq's first free elections since the fall of Saddam's regime.
(via US Marine Corps)

2nd Lt. John Herman, a platoon leader with B Company, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, and one of his Soldiers pass out candy to children while on patrol with Iraqi police in Kirkuk, Iraq. (via US Army)

Sgt. Fernando Perez, a team leader from Company B, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, takes a short timeout while on patrol with Iraqi police in Kirkuk.
(via US Army)

Posted 6:35 PM by Tony

Not Only No

But "hell, no!" (via Korea Times):

North Korean products are likely to emerge as a fresh obstacle for a South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) as the Seoul government allegedly plans to include a "Kaesong provision" in future FTA negotiations.

The Kaesong provision aims to permit preferential duties for products produced in the North Korean industrial complex in Kaesong, with the products being treated the same as those made in South Korea.

The provision was introduced for the first time in FTA talks with Singapore, which were wrapped up last year.

"We haven’t decided when we to propose the provision to the U.S., but in principle, we will bring up the provision in future FTA talks," an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) said yesterday.

Brendon, a frequent commenter at the Marmot's Hole suggests at the Times' web site an ulterior motive on the part of the Roh administration:

It seems like the Roh government realized that this way, they can forestall submitting Korea to free trade with real competitors while blaming it on foreigners` lack of understanding of the `special relationship` with Comrade Kim Jong Il. Why bring this up now? Are these sanctions new or something?

Given South Korea's approach to the North, e.g. refusing entry to North Korean defectors, I'm not surprised. But it is infuriating.

Posted 6:31 PM by Tony

Sunday, January 30, 2005
An Open Letter To Senator Barbara Boxer

Dear Senator Boxer,

I write this because, as your constituent, I have become increasingly concerned that your actions in the last 90 days will dramatically weaken California's voice in Congress.

I consider myself a proud native son of the Golden State. You learned to love this state after moving here from somewhere else. As for me, I was born here, and spent my entire life here (with a short interval spent living abroad. I live here, work here, and fully intend to spend the rest of my life here. Which is why I watch your recent actions with growing alarm, given the potential they represent to marginalize half of California's representation in the Senate.

I refer first to your insulting treatment of Dr. Rice during her confirmation hearings, as reported both in the LA Times and San Francisco Chronicle:

[Boxer:] And I personally believe -- this is my personal view -- that your loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell this war, overwhelmed your respect for the truth. And I don't say it lightly, and I'm going to go into the documents that show your statements and the facts at the time.

[Rice, later in the hearing:] Senator, we can have this discussion in any way that you would like. But I really hope that you will refrain from impugning my integrity. Thank you very much.

[Boxer:] I'm not. I'm just quoting what you said. You contradicted the president and you contradicted yourself.

[Rice:] Senator, I'm happy to continue the discussion, but I really hope that you will not imply that I take the truth lightly.

You accused Dr. Rice of engaging in intentional misrepresentation, and then denied having said that, in the face of Dr. Rice's objections. Are you aware of how foolish that makes you appear?

In those same hearings, you commented:

Well, you should read what we voted on when we voted to support the war, which I did not, but most of my colleagues did. It was WMD, period. That was the reason and the causation for that, you know, particular vote.

It's been pointed out elsewhere, the text of the joint resolution lists a number of reasons for the authorization of force - I note, in particular, the following:

Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack, the United States, including by attempting in 1993 to assassinate former President Bush and by firing on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged in enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council;

It does no good to point out "you should read what we voted on," when your failure to have done the same is so manifestly obvious.

And in response to Dr. Rice's vigorous defense of herself, you then complained on CNN, "she turned and attacked me."

Your concern for the sanctity of truth seems a bit curious. I say this given your comments in the Senate during the Lewinsky affair, in which you characterized the incident as being concerned only about sex, while totally ignoring the allegations that President lied while giving testimony under oath. The impression this whole episode leaves is one of petulance, ill-suited to the office of United States Senator.

The second instance was your objection to the confirmation of Ohio's Electoral College votes. Many of your colleagues took the oppotunity to posture at length. However, not one of them voted with you, and your objection failed by a vote of 74-1. Senator Kerry, the person with the greatest interest in a "Nay" vote, did not even bestir himself to vote. Again, the episode smacks of immaturity, unsuited to the august office to which you have been elected.

Finally, I refer to your December 9, 2004 letter to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. Part of your letter stated:

But, Mr. Secretary, most of all I am appalled at your callous answer to the question posed by an American soldier about to face combat in Iraq.

When the soldier asked why the Guard doesn’t have adequate armor, your answer was, "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want..."

Mr. Secretary, how could you not have said to those troops, 'I will do everything in my power to ensure that every one of you will be protected with adequate armor– that is the least we can do for you.'

The purpose of your trip was to lift morale. I don’t think you lift morale when you make comments such as those, and try to lay mistakes of an ill-planned war on the troops.

Further, when you said, "If you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up, and you can have an up-armored Humvee and it can be blown up," it sounds like an excuse not to fully protect our troops.

[ . . . ]

With those increased dollars, we can do what was done during World War II– keep those equipment factories going, night and day, until our soldiers’ needs are met. And if that isn’t sufficient, add more production capacity.

There are so many errors here that it's hard to pick a starting point.

First of all, you claim that Secretary's Rumsfeld's answer was "callous." How is it callous? I would caution against overreliance on media reports, given that this was a town hall meeting to which the media was not invited. According to at least one eyewitness, Rumsfeld's reactions during the meeting were hardly "callous." Nor did the soldiers' reactions to Rumsfeld, both during and after the meeting, indicate any sort of ill-will on their part.

I note that, although Secretary Rumsfeld was unaware of it, only 20 of the 830 vehicles of the 278th Regimental Combat Team were not up-armored when Spec. Wilson asked about the vehicle armor situation (via the Tennessean):

Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Speakes and Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, senior members of the Army's combat systems development and acquisition team at the Pentagon, said protective armor plates were added to the last 20 vehicles of the Tennessee-based 278th Regimental Combat Team's 830 vehicles shortly after the exchange with Rumsfeld.

The generals said it was part of routine, pre-deployment preparations in Kuwait before the unit proceeded into Iraq.

"When the question was asked, 20 vehicles remained to be up-armored at that point," Speakes said at a Pentagon briefing. "We completed those 20 vehicles in the next day. ... In other words, we completed all the armoring within 24 hours of the time the question was asked."

I also would point out that M-1 main battle tanks, much less Humvees, will still take damage, given the explosive devices being used in Iraq (via Armor Geddon):

“Hey Sir, look at that shit.” Across the road, some obstacles and wire were strewn about. We moved in for a closer look. There were a few tires laid out and some other strange obstacles. Some of the discs looked like giant smoke alarms.

“Oh shit. I think those are mines.” And by the size of them, they look like anti-tank mines. “Back up Mewborn. We’ll hit it with .50cal.” We stopped about one hundred meters back.

Df-Df-Df-Df-Df-Df- BOOM. “Jesus that woulda sucked,” SGT P said.

The explosion from the mine was about the size of the tank. It was safe to say we all would have been safe inside the tank, but it probably would have blown our track off. If it had tilt-rods and hit our belly, it might have killed Mewborn in the driver’s hole.

And as far as your World War II analogy goes, it actually buttresses the point that "you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want."

During World War II, the mainstay of American armored forces was the M4 Sherman tank. The Sherman was designed with mobility in mind, but was underarmored and undergunned in comparison with the German Panther. I refer you to Professor Weigley's classic text of the campaign for France and Germany, Eisenhower's Lieutenants; see generally Military History Online):

This latter fact [the Sherman being used as the standard Anglo-American tank] was unfortunate, because by 1943 the Sherman had fallen behind in the race for tank supremacy. It remained a good match for the Pzkw IV, which the Germans still used in large numbers. But as the Anglo-Americans planned at last for a cross-Channel invasion in the spring of 1944, a German panzer division usually had not only a battalion of Pzkw IVs but also a battalion of Pzkw Vs, the Panther. [Technical comparision of the Sherman and Panther omitted.] The Sherman had greater rapidity of fire because it was equipped with a gyrostabilizer and a powered traverse. Nevertheless, the usual dependence of the Sherman in combat against the Panther had to be upon greater numbers of tanks, unless the Sherman's crew were exceptionally skillful tank tacticians. With numbers, Shermans could surround a Panther and hit its vulnerable flanks and rear. As General Omar N. Bradley was to comment, "this willingness to expend Shermans offered little comfort to the crews who were forced to expend themselves as well.

[pp. 20-21, 1990 paperback edition]

The Sherman was particularly ill-suited to the bocage country of Normandy, which neutralized the tank's mobility advantage. (see Figure 2 from Busting the Bocage , Michael D. Doubler, Combat Studies Institute, 1955 for an illustration of the typical German hedgerow defense). Indeed, the Sherman was ill-suited to piercing the hedgerows forming the bocage until a field-expedient solution was found, i.e., one not generated by existing procurement programs. Again, I refer you to Professor Weigley's text:

In the final days before COBRA [which began about six weeks after the invasion], there was even hope of crashing armor therough the hedgerows. From the beginning of the Bocage fighting, soldiers in the field experimented with the sort of devices for countering the hedgerows that the invasion plannners might have thought about earlier had they comtemplated [sic] the Bocage. [Discussing other expedients] On July 14, at General Gerow's invitation, Bradley visited the 2nd Division to see the device invented by Sergeant Curtis G. Cullin of the 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron: heavy steel tusklike prongs welded to the front of a Sherman in such a way that when the tank butted into a hedgerow, the prongs pinned the tnak so it would not belly up over the obstacle; then the Sherman was able to drive through the hedgerow by main force. Culin had fashioned his prongs from a German roadblock. Bradley was so impressed that he ordered German underwater obstacles from the beaches used to mass-produce the tusks, and he instructed his ordnance chief to comb England for as much arc-welding equipment and as many welding crews as he could get, and to have tanks in England equipped with prongs as well.

[p. 149; emphasis added]

Despite its deficiencies, the Sherman remained the cornerstone of America's armored forces up through the fall of Germany. You go to war with the army you have.

And it doesn't help, Senator, when you vote against supplemental appropriations to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nor does it help when you extend your thanks to a person who remarked of dead Americans, "Screw them."

The cumulative effect of what can only be called displays of pique threaten to turn you, and by extension, California, into a laughingstock. As a Republican, I cannot help but feel some schadenfreude at your inability to pick your fights. As a Californian, I cannot help but feel alarmed at the potential impact on the effectivenes of California's representation.

While your actions may stem from a principled opposition to the Bush Administration's policies, I implore you to consider the effect of your actions on California's voice in Congress.


Update: And I note in your letter to Kos, Senator, you mention that "Condoleezza Rice received 13 votes against her confirmation -- the most votes against any Secretary of State's nomination since 1825."

A couple of salient points:

First, as CNN points out, the nominee in 1825 was Henry Clay. That's not bad company to be in, when his life is taken in context.

Second, Senator, your comparison makes for a pithy quote, but is quite meaningless. The comparison fails to take into account the difference in the composition of the Senate then and now. Clay, again referring to CNN was confirmed by a vote of 27-14, i.e., 66% of those Senators voting. Secretary of State Rice was approved by a vote of 85-13, i.e., 87% of those Senators voting. Again, these kinds of easily refuted arguments does not help efforts to have California's elected representatives taken seriously.

Posted 11:03 PM by Tony

Friday, January 28, 2005
A Distinction Without A Difference

Lawyers are fond of pithy sayings to express certain concepts. One favored phrase refers to meaningless distinctions: "a distinction without a difference."

In the January 24 letters section of the LA Times:

At his second-term inauguration, Bush declared it our country's policy to spread democracy and freedom all over the world. Wasn't it just a few years ago that the Soviet Union's policy was to spread its political system, communism, all over the world? And in this country, didn't we think that was a bad thing?

Paul Bergman

UCLA professor of law

I was a bit surprised to see this.* As far as I can tell, Professor Bergman's logic, as reflected by his letter, is:

1. Spreading communism is bad (basis for No. 3, below)
2. Democracy occupies the same moral plane as communism (unstated assumption)
3. Therefore, spreading democracy is bad (conclusion)

Note the unstated assumption in Professor Bergman's letter: democracy is the same as communism. Or, put differently, the difference between democracy and communism is a distinction without a difference. Go figure.
* For the record, my own opinion of the president's speech is that it's pretty much a textbook example of Wilsonianism, if I might use the classifications of the major schools of American foreign policy thinking, as explained by Walter Russell Mead in Special Providence . See also Rich Lowry; compare 199 Cole article on Wilsonianism.

As far as the purported religious overtones, I disagree. There are only a few sentences which arguably touch on religion:

1. "From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth." - this seems to me an allusion to the classic sentence from the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
2. "Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul." - The reference to "soul" may have religous overtones, but it's seems pretty minimal to me.
3. "The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: 'Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.'" - The president quotes Abraham Lincoln, who explicitly mentioned God. However, God is not the point; freedom is.
4. "That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people." - The reference to the Koran and "varied faiths" hardly seems a celebration of evangelical Christianity.
5. "Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills." - It's hard to see how this phrase indicates a plan to make America a religious nation. Indeed, the reference to God is used as an argument against American exceptionalism.
6. "History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty." - In fairness, this sentence does suggest conformance of public policy to divine will. However, this sentence hardly advocates some sort of religious crusade.
7. "May God bless you, and may He watch over the United States of America." - This pretty much amounts to ceremonial deism, much like "In God We Trust" on coins.

Posted 5:45 PM by Tony

Torture By Thong

Despite efforts to paint this as abusive, these interrogation tactics don't exactly strike me as grounds for moral outrage (via SF Chronicle):

"I have really struggled with this because the detainees, their families and much of the world will think this is a religious war based on some of the techniques used, even though it is not the case," the author [of a draft manuscript obtained by AP], former Army Sgt. Erik R. Saar, 29, told AP.

[ . . . ]

One female civilian contractor used a special outfit that included a miniskirt, thong underwear and a bra during late-night interrogations with prisoners, mostly Muslim men who consider it taboo to have close contact with women who aren't their wives.

Beginning in April 2003, "there hung a short skirt and thong underwear on the hook on the back of the door" of one interrogation team's office, he writes. "Later I learned that this outfit was used for interrogations by one of the female civilian contractors ... on a team which conducted interrogations in the middle of the night on Saudi men who were refusing to talk."

Some Guantanamo prisoners who have been released say they were tormented by "prostitutes."

Oh, the horror.

Seriously, though, it seems to me that the whole point of an interrogation is to get information from an unwilling source. That goal requires, by nature, overcoming the prisoner's will by pressure tactics. These tactics are undoubtedly offensive to the prisoners - then again, so would any other interrogation tactic.

Again, the outrage meter is not exactly pegging, here.

Posted 8:26 AM by Tony

Competitive Distilations

France has a problem - too much wine (via SF Chronicle):

Stuck with hundreds of millions of bottles they can't sell in a toughening global market, vintners want to distill some of France's winelake into industrial-use alcohol.

It wouldn't just be swill heading for destruction: Most of the 66 million gallons vintners hope to recycle is considered high-quality.

Such destruction would be unprecedented for "appellation" wines that carry France's AOC seal of origin and quality. Although nearly 71.3 million gallons were distilled into alcohol in 2002, that was second-rate table wine. This time, 267 million bottles of AOC wines would be boiled down in stills if vintners get their way.

[ . . . ]

Pressured by Californian Chardonnays and other vintages from the new world, French wine exports fell by 6.6 percent in volume and 6.1 percent in value in the first 11 months of 2004.

[ . . . ]

But because of European Union regulations, the process requires getting not only French but also European official approval.

The proposal from the Confederation of French Wine Cooperatives -- which represents 110,000 winemakers who account for half of France's wine production -- would require the French government to ask the EU's executive commission for a "crisis distillation."

I'll admit, I don't know much about economics, but I'm not sure that a crisis distillation is a good solution. Sure, prices of French wine will go up due to decreased supply, but will that result in increased revenue for French winemakers?

My understanding is that price increases only work if there less expensive substitutes of comparable quality are not available. In this instance, non-French wines may be comparable to French appellations, as reflected by the volume and value figures in the above article. My guess is that if the supply of French wine is kept artificially low through a crisis distillation, consumers will simply increase their purchases of non-French wines, since those are seen as viable alternatives.

However, this is a question probably better left to the econmist smart guys at Marginal Revolution, whose recent posts include this interesting post on the Deadly Swiss Miss.

Posted 1:28 AM by Tony

Media Criticism Done Badly

Eric Alterman's bio quotes a characterization of him in the National Catholic Reporter as "the most honest and incisive media critic writing today."


In his MSNBC blog, he writes:

Does the guy who writes MSNBC’s Question of the Day work for Karl Rove? Here is yesterday’s:

Do you think Democrats are playing politics with Condoleezza Rice's nomination?

Here’s how a non-partisan journalist might have posed it.

Do you think the senate should reward Condoleezza Rice’s combination of incompetence, dishonesty and refusal to admit mistakes and learn from them with America’s most prestigious cabinet post?

How, by any stretch of the imagination, is that non-partisan?

Alterman's point about the "playing politics" language is well-taken, even though his hypothetical re-formulation of the question is widely off the mark.

I would offer the offer the following rewording:

Do you think that the Senators opposing Condoleezza Rice's nomination are motivated primarily by reasons other than an objective analysis of her record?

Or, alternatively:

Do you think that the Senators opposing Condoleezza Rice's nomination are doing motivated by the opportunity for political gain?

I am unfamiliar with Alterman's body of work, but if this blog entry is typical, he's "the most honest and incisive media critic writing today," then the field of media criticism does not deserve to be taken seriously.

Posted 1:12 AM by Tony

Thursday, January 27, 2005
Snappy Comebacks

Ted Turner, at a January 25 meeting of the National Association of Television Programming Executives (via SF Chronicle; found via Dizzy Girl)

"There's one network, Fox, that's a propaganda voice for them [the Bush Administration]," the cable news pioneer said. "It's certainly legal. But it does pose problems for our democracy when the news is 'dumbed-down."

[ . . . ]

During a question-and-answer session moderated by former CNN anchorman Bernard Shaw, Turner called it "not necessarily a bad thing" that Fox ratings top CNN and other cable news networks.

"Adolf Hitler was more popular in Germany in the early '30s than ... people that were running against him," Turner said in remarks videotaped by conference administrators. "So just because you're bigger doesn't mean you're right."

Fox's response (via Fox News):

A FOX News spokesperson says, "Ted Turner is understandably bitter having lost his ratings, his network and now his mind. We wish him well."

I just find it amusing that Ted Turner is making criticisms of Fox being a "propaganda voice" given, during his watch, CNN's silent complicity with the Hussein regime, as described by Eason Jordan, CNN's news chief (PDF; see also The Command Post):

Then there were the events that were not unreported but that nonetheless still haunt me. A 31-year-old Kuwaiti woman, Asrar Qabandi, was captured by Iraqi secret police occupying her country in 1990 for "crimes," one of which included speaking with CNN on the phone. They beat her daily for two months, forcing her father to watch. In January 1991, on the eve of the American-led offensive, they smashed her skull and tore her body apart limb by limb. A plastic bag containing her body parts was left on the doorstep of her family's home.

Far as I'm concerned, Turner can take his criticisms and shove it . . . well, you know.

Update: Darn - just found that Best of the Web covered the same topic yesterday. Ah, well.

Posted 8:32 AM by Tony

Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Great Moments In Jurisprudence

The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently considered whether "Back That Azz Up" is substantially similar to "Back That Ass Up" (PDF; found via Lawren):

[page 3 of the slip opinion] In 1997, two rap artists based in New Orleans, Louisiana--Terius Gray, professionally known as Juvenile (“Juvenile”), and Jerome Temple, professionally known as D.J. Jubilee (“Jubilee”)-- each recorded a song that included the poetic four-word phrase “back that ass up.”

[ . . . ]

[pages 28-29] When we look at the evidence presented to the jury, the verdict may be explained by the possibility that the jury rejected PBT’s argument that the phrase “back that ass up” was the qualitatively most important part (or “hook”) of Jubilee’s song. That phrase recurred only a few times in Jubilee’s song, which is over seven minutes long.14 Thus, the jury may have believed that, as the defendants argued, the hook was the sampling from the Jackson Five’s song I Want You Back,15 and that belief would explain why the jury determined that the songs are not substantially similar. Accordingly, we cannot say that the jury instruction, even if it had been erroneous, probably resulted in an incorrect verdict.

[footnotes omitted]

How in the world did Chief Judge King (or her clerks) not laugh their heads off while writing this?

Posted 6:02 PM by Tony

Beat Me To It

I was going to comment on this story, but Tio Jaime beat me to it.

Here's what struck me (via SF Chronicle:

"This whole incident was started by a deranged individual that was suicidal," [Glendale police chief Randy] Adams told a news conference at the scene of mangled railcars in the suburb north of downtown Los Angeles. "I think his intent at that time was to take his own life but changed his mind prior to the train actually striking this vehicle."

The man, identified as Juan Manuel Alvarez, 26, of Compton, stood by as the train hit the SUV, Adams said. Alvarez had also tried to slash his wrists and stabbed himself, authorities said.

[emphasis added]

It's a damned shame he didn't succeed.

Especially given things like this (via SF Chronicle):

Hugo Moran, 34, was one of the Costco employees who rushed out to the tracks behind the store as flames erupted from the wreckage and the smell of diesel fuel hung in the air.

An elderly man, covered in blood and soot and with apparent broken arms and legs, was pulled out but died after thanking his rescuers because he didn't want to be burned, Moran said.

Tio Jaime's characterization falls a bit short: "insensitive asshole" doesn't even come close.

Posted 2:56 PM by Tony

Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Grumpy Old Men

So Senator Byrd, who I mentioned before, is upset, and, along with several other Democratic senators, is calling Condoleezza Rice a liar (via SF Chronicle):

"Dr. Rice is responsible for some of the most overblown rhetoric that the administration used to scare the American people," Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said.

[ . . . ]

Democrats, in the minority in Congress, often resort to delaying what they cannot defeat.

Byrd, the longest-serving Democratic senator and a student of the Constitution, insisted that his party is merely doing its duty.

"I am particularly dismayed by criticism I have read that Senate Democrats by insisting on having the opportunity to debate this nomination have somehow been engaged in nothing more substantial than petty politics or partisan delaying tactics," Byrd said, his voice rising in anger.

Am I the only one struck by the effrontery it all - the impugning of a black woman by a man whose record in race relations equals Strom Thurmond's?

I was going to ask why West Virginians put up with this quality of representation, until I remembered who I'm being "represented" by - Feinstein, Boxer and Stark - and realized I can't really bitch.

Update: And Oliver Willis, surprising me not at all, responds to criticism of Byrd with unproven allegations of Republicans preventing blacks from voting. He also implies that ethnic minority conservatives are puppets for daring to be, well, not "progressive," and tops it off with an insulting "My question: how much are y'all getting paid?" Yes, Oliver, every ethnic minority who isn't a liberal must be a paid operative. What a tool.

Posted 6:44 PM by Tony

Friday, January 21, 2005
Blogger Ethics

Kos on a blogger's ethics, in light of the recent silly kerfluffle involving his acceptance of money by Howard Dean's campaign:

So to recap, if I write about something in which I hold a financial stake, I will disclose it. If I don't, then it's nobody's business. If other bloggers follow that rule, then great. If they don't, then great. If they have their own rules, then great. I could care less. This talk about ethics bores me, so I'm done discussing it.

As for the academic weenies -- I've told them to go to hell, I've given them a middle finger... that should do the trick. For now.

When it comes to Kos's blogger ethics, his problem isn't financial disclosure.

A more grievious lapse would involve, say, writing "Screw them," in response to the hanging, burning, and dismemberment of Americans, and then deleting the post when people call you on it. (see also Blackfive; Marine response)

Just a thought.

Posted 6:21 PM by Tony

A Public Service Announcement For Would-Be Trolls

FYI, I do not get automatic notifications when people leave comments on this blog. Nor do I go check comments once posts have gone from the main page to the archive. The only way I can tell when someone has responded to an old post is if I log onto HaloScan, which I do once every few months.

Which means, if you're going to try to piss me off with recent comments about posts from six months ago, you need to do more than simply leave a comment for that post. Otherwise, you'll have to rely on accidental discovery.


Posted 5:38 PM by Tony

Congratulations To Avenger Red Six

Title 10, Chapter 357, section 3746 of the United States Code:

The President may award a silver star of appropriate design, with ribbons and appurtenances, to a person who, while serving in any capacity with the Army, is cited for gallantry in action that does not warrant a medal of honor or distinguished-service cross—

(1) while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;

(2) while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or

(3) while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

Avenger Red Six was received this award for actions taken June 24 of last year in Iraq (via 1st ID web site):

It took the crew about one hour to fight their way through the next one kilometer stretch of road. Official battle reports count 23 IEDs and 20-25 RPG teams in that short distance, as well as multiple machine-gun nests, and enemy dismounts armed with small arms and hand grenades.

Because enemy dismounts were attempting to throw hand grenades into the tank’s open hatches, Prakash ordered the tanks to open protected mode – bringing the hatches down, leaving them open only a crack.

As the lead vehicle, Prakash’s tank took the brunt of the attack, sustaining blasts from multiple IEDs and at least seven standard and armor piercing RPGs. The enemy fired mainly at the lead tanks, aiming for the few vulnerable spots. One round blew the navigation system completely off of the vehicle, while another well-aimed blast disabled his turret.

Although unable to rotate the turret, Prakash continued in the lead, navigating with a map and maneuvering his tank in order to continue engaging the enemy with the main weapon system and his .50 caliber machine-gun. He watched as men on rooftops sprayed down at his tank with machine-guns and small arms.

So pop on over to his site - it's worth a read.

Posted 5:24 PM by Tony

From The Obits

As a friend of mine is fond of reminding me, "fan" is short for "fanatic." That's not a bad thing, though.

From the obituary section, Ottawa Citizen (via SF Chronicle; see also Ottawa Citizen article and guestbook):

BENNITZ, Archibald (Archie) Wednesday, January 19, 2005, at the age of 84. Predeceased by his wife Vicky, Archie was the beloved father of son David and daughter-in-law Wendy and a wonderful grandfather to Joshua, Michael and Adam. He leaves behind his brother Doug in B.C. and many nephews and nieces. Archie was born in Amherst, Nova Scotia and served overseas with the 422nd Squadron RCAF, in WWII. A long-time resident of Niagara Falls, Archie was an avid fan of watching hockey. He asked that Mr. Bettman and Goodenow know that they are "skunks" for denying him the pleasure of watching the NHL on TV this year. He also asked that Mr. Bettman steps aside and gives Wayne Gretzky the job that rightfully belongs to him. Special thanks to Dr. Yahyavi, Ellen, and the nurses on the 4th floor of the Queensway Carleton Hospital for their caring and compassion. At Archie's request he is being cremated and a private family gathering will be held. In memoriam donations to the Canadian Cancer Society would be appreciated.

I haven't been following the NHL lockout story, but you have to admire someone that cares that much about the game.

Posted 12:26 PM by Tony

I Guess You Can Buy Anything There

I always thought of Costco as the place to go to buy, say, mayonnaise in bulk. Not that I do, mind, but if you needed it, you could probably find it.

Then I found out that they started selling caskets (which, surprisingly, you don't have to buy as an 8-pack).

Now, I find out one can buy Picasso artwork there (via SF Chronicle):

Art dealer Jim Tutwiler, who sold the Picasso, has been selling art through Costco for the past decade. He said Costco's markup is one-tenth that of traditional galleries.

Tutwiler described the drawing [sold for $39,999.99] as a "doodle" on the blank side of a book jacket. Picasso probably traded it for a new suit or a boat or some service, he said.

I'm not in the market for expensive artwork, but if I ever am, I know where to go.

Posted 8:43 AM by Tony

Thursday, January 20, 2005
Stupid People

The SF Chronicle has a short article on SF reaction to the inauguration:

Honored at the event [held by The People For The American Way] were Joan Blades and Wes Boyd, who started; Robert Klein, who spearheaded the $25 million campaign to approve Californians stem cell proposition; and U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson. Organizers said they wanted to give blue Californians a reason to celebrate on Inauguration Day.

I find it rather disheartening that a federal judge who I respect has chosen to consort with the extremist organizations like MoveOn, but that's his privilege.

The next paragraph notes:

"I think America has forgotten that dissent is patriotic," said television producer Norman Lear, who founded People for the American Way in 1981. "We are a group of people who dissent about a number of things that came about in the life of the Bush administration. So we are celebrating the American right to dissent -- the American patriotic right to dissent."

Why is it that leftist types think that those who disagree with them are questioning their patriotism?

I don't question Lear's right to express dissent; I simply think that the substance of his dissent rather idiotic.

Then again, we are talking about the same guy who threatened a lawsuit if the Pledge of Alleigiance was recited at the 2003 Federalist Society-sponsored National Lawyers Convention (PDF). Idiot.

Update: So the Boohoo Brigade, unsurprisingly, was out on the streets last night. The discussion about the "mandate" makes me wonder - how would these people react if Kerry had won by the same margin, and the same complaint were raised?

Posted 5:40 PM by Tony

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Model Minorities *

I was unaware of Import Tuner magazine until I started playing Need For Speed Underground 2. In the course of the game, the player has the opportunity to have his car photographed for the cover of various car magazines.

Which brings us to our three diversions for the day (at the risk of treading on the turf of the Marmot - marmots, as is well known, are quite territorial).

First, there's Natasha Yi (via her web site; found via Import Tuner):

Given Seeing Eye Blog's lamentable decision to quit its "Half-Korean of the Day" profiles, I feel compelled to help partially fill the void, with the Irish/Korean Erin Lee Stephens (via Import Tuner):

As one of the very few Korean-American country music listeners (at least that I know of), I have to appreciate this exchange:
2NR: What music do you listen to?
ELS: Hip hop and country. (She giggles)
2NR: You're all over the place. You really do live up to a Gemini's traits.
ELS: I love country music. I like that I can actually sing it and actually mean something. I like when hear a country song and I can say, "That's so me!"

Finally, there's the half-Chinese/half-white Joli Robinson (via, suprise, Import Tuner; see also Joli Robinson web site, Stuff magazine):

There, hopefully that makes up for the lack of posting since the New Year.
* Yes, I know, terrible pun. I apologize.

Posted 7:46 AM by Tony

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Your NY Times Mockery For The Day

Yes, I'm whipping a deceased equine, but I can't help but make fun of the NY Times. Call it a character flaw.

Two items, for your consideration:

1. Sure, the New York Times is unbiased. Check out this inaugural guide to Washington DC, in the Travel section:

Why Go Now

Because this is where the power is. This bluest-of-the-blue city may have given President Bush a paltry 9 percent of its vote, but this week it rolls out the red carpet for his second inaugural. You don't have to be a Republican to appreciate the pomp of the swearing-in on Jan. 20, although hard-core Democrats might want to visit some other week (or wait four years) given the Republican gloating that pervades political circles.


The next paragraph:

Why go? Because the reasons not to have gently receded in recent years, spurred by Mayor Anthony A. Williams's focus on revitalizing downtown Washington. Prostitutes and crack houses have given way to professional couples, quirky boutiques and ethnic fusion restaurants.

"Prostitutes and crack houses have given way to professional couples, quirky boutiques and ethnic fusion restaurants." There's a difference?

The authorship note at the bottom is perhaps the most curious of all:

JENNIFER 8. LEE is a reporter for The New York Times.


2. A guest blogger at Veiled Conceit takes on a West Point wedding. My favorite part, which Veiled Conceit did not mention, is the last paragraph:

Afterward, Maj. Carlos Huerta, West Point's Jewish chaplain, blessed and broke the bread before toasting the couple.

[emphasis added]

Oy, talk about your surprise twist endings.

Posted 12:21 PM by Tony

Fanboy Blog Pointers Of The Day

Well, as it turns out, Jon linked to a picture of Grace Park I had put up from an earlier post. The Marmot weighs in, using it as a springboard to a larger discussion about ethnic Koreans in Hollywood. Go check both of them out.

Posted 8:18 AM by Tony

Friday, January 14, 2005
Random Picture

At the risk of getting tsk-ed, I note that Rachel Weisz is on the cover of UK GQ (via Rachel Weisz fan site; larger images here and here):

Posted 7:08 PM by Tony


I try to read left-leaning web sites, but there are days when I wonder why. Today's post by Oliver Willis is a case in point:

Dean Esmay (idiot) and Bill from InDC have decided that HIV doesn't cause AIDS. Damn librul media and the gay mafia.

First, I note that the post by Bill that Willis linked to does not express any opinion as to Bill's belief as to whether or not HIV is causally linked to AIDS. Also, neither Bill nor Dean mention, either expressly or by implication, liberal bias or gay interest groups. Reading comprehension is a wonderful thing, no?

The Esmay post that caused Willis to go up in flames:

Just as I know that when Monty asks if you want to switch doors you should switch, I know that HIV cannot be the proximate cause of the AIDS epidemic.

Mark my words: this story is going to blow wide open sooner or later. My gut says that by the end of this year, no one will be talking about AIDS the same way again. It's not going to be pretty. There's going to be screaming and yelling and finger pointing and denial. Congress may even get involved.

But HIV cannot be the cause of the AIDS epidemic.

Tomorrow, Dr. Bialy will show you why.

Now, Esmay may be wrong. Indeed, he may be way off the mark. I don't really have an opinion on his assertion, as I haven't looked at However, Willis's outrage seems more directed to Esmay's challenge to the AIDS orthodoxy, i.e., 1) HIV infects and kills T-lymphocytes; 2) reducing the T-lymphocyte population in the body, which 3) impairs the body's immune response, which, in turn 4) results in death due to opportunistic infections.

Science isn't about consensus. The scientific method involves poking holes in previous hypotheses. As one of my professors told me, "Experiments aren't done to prove something right; they're done to prove something wrong." These comments by Michael Crichton in 2003 are worth noting (found via Volokhk Conspiracy):

But Sagan and his coworkers [on a paper supporting the hypothesis of nuclear winter] were prepared [for criticism], for nuclear winter was from the outset the subject of a well-orchestrated media campaign. The first announcement of nuclear winter appeared in an article by Sagan in the Sunday supplement, Parade. The very next day, a highly-publicized, high-profile conference on the long-term consequences of nuclear war was held in Washington, chaired by Carl Sagan and Paul Ehrlich [who is still heeded, despite being proven wrong], the most famous and media-savvy scientists of their generation. Sagan appeared on the Johnny Carson show 40 times. Ehrlich was on 25 times. Following the conference, there were press conferences, meetings with congressmen, and so on. The formal papers in Science came months later.

This is not the way science is done, it is the way products are sold.

[ . . . ]

want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.

"[A] bit overexcitable these days," I'd say.

Posted 6:49 PM by Tony

Things I Want

Dang, I want this car (via Car and Driver; see also UK Skyline GT-R Register; Tokyo Auto Salon-related Nissan site):

Unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Salon this week, the 500hp GT-R Z-tune is not only the most powerful GT-R ever, but at $170,000, it’s also the most expensive. Why did they make it? Simple. To show what's possible. And when we hinted at any relation to the next generation GT-R due in 2007, Nismo [Nissan's racing division] staffers started sucking through their teeth and looking skywards. One thing is for sure. The 2007 GT-R's sticker price will be around half that of the Z-tune but pump out nearly as much power. Leaning heavily on 15 years of racing experience with the R-32, R-33 and R-34 GT-R’s, Nismo engineers have created the mother of all GT-R’s.

So, anyone got $170,000 they can spare?

Posted 6:45 PM by Tony

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Maureen Dowd, one of the more incoherent columnists at the New York Times (and that's saying something, given that she shares column space with Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert) is upset. In a column entitled "Men Just Want Mommy," she alleges that men just cannot handle successful/powerful women, and require unequality in the relationship:

A few years ago at a White House Correspondents' dinner, I met a very beautiful actress. Within moments, she blurted out: "I can't believe I'm 46 and not married. Men only want to marry their personal assistants or P.R. women."

I'd been noticing a trend along these lines, as famous and powerful men took up with the young women whose job it was to tend to them and care for them in some way: their secretaries, assistants, nannies, caterers, flight attendants, researchers and fact-checkers.

Women in staff support are the new sirens because, as a guy I know put it, they look upon the men they work for as "the moon, the sun and the stars." It's all about orbiting, serving and salaaming their Sun Gods.

[ . . . ]

A new study by psychology researchers at the University of Michigan, using college undergraduates, suggests that men going for long-term relationships would rather marry women in subordinate jobs than women who are supervisors.

[ . . . ]

So was the feminist movement some sort of cruel hoax? The more women achieve, the less desirable they are? Women want to be in a relationship with guys they can seriously talk to - unfortunately, a lot of those guys want to be in relationships with women they don't have to talk to.

I asked the actress and writer Carrie Fisher, on the East Coast to promote her novel "The Best Awful," who confirmed that women who challenge men are in trouble.

"I haven't dated in 12 million years," she said drily. "I gave up on dating powerful men because they wanted to date women in the service professions. So I decided to date guys in the service professions. But then I found out that kings want to be treated like kings, and consorts want to be treated like kings, too."

I suspect that the 50-something unmarried Dowd is projecting, asking "Why Aren't They Married?" when she is really asking "Why Aren't I Married?" Admittedly, this is pure speculation.

I do point out that Dowd (previously discussed, in reverse chronological order, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) is being a bit inconsistent, however.

Contrast the above column with one she wrote almost exactly one year ago, dated January 15, 2004, entitled "The Doctor Is Out" (found at Free Republic; see also Medical Rants:

The doctors Dean seem to be in need of some tips on togetherness and building a healthy political marriage, if that's not an oxymoron.

Even by the transcendentally wacky standard for political unions set by Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Deans have an unusual relationship.

[Steinberg Dean] is a ghost in [then Democratic presidential candidate Howeard Dean's] political career. She has never even been to Iowa, and most reporters who have covered Howard Dean's quest here the last two years would not recognize her if she walked in the door, which she is not likely to do, since she prefers examining patients to being cross-examined by voters and reporters.

[ . . . ]

Many women cheered Judy Steinberg as a relief and a breakthrough. Why should she have to feign subservience in 2003, or compromise as Hillary Rodham and Teresa Heinz did when they took their husbands' names? But many political analysts said that just as the remote technocrat Michael Dukakis needed Kitty around to warm him up, the emotionally chilly Howard Dean could benefit from the presence of someone who could illuminate his softer side. So far he has generated a lot of heat but little warmth.

And at a moment when he's under attack by Democratic rivals for reinventing his political persona and shifting positions, he could use a character witness on the road to vouch for his core values.

As you can see, in 2004, she complains that Dr. Steinberg Dean is not playing the traditional role of subservient political wife. One year later, she is essentially complains that women are paying the price for not playing the traditional role of subservient non-political wife.

In turn, Dowd's 2004 column is inconsistent to a column she wrote, dated June 20, 2003, entitled "Hot Zombie Love In The Suburbs" (see Best of the Web for an amusing take on this column, which highlights Dowd's problem with ellipses):

[Stepford Wives screenwriter] Rudnick noted that the "embedded biology" of romantic fantasies has not changed: "Men want a babe and don't care about her earning power. Women want a rugged poet or musician with a private jet."

It will still make a great thriller. But the real chiller is that the evil husbands in the original did not need to murder. They just needed to wait. In the long interval between the two movies, women have turned themselves into Stepford wives.

They can no longer wince at their mates because they have frozen their faces with Botox. Women puff their lips, balloon their breasts and suck fat from their hindquarters. The spring fashions were so hourglass sexy, frothy and pastel, they were dubbed "Stepford style" in The New York Times fashion section.

Martha Stewart (a haywire robot with a team of lawyers) led women - and culture - back to the wifely arts of cooking, gardening, decorating and flower arranging. Hillary Clinton, once so angry about tea and cookies, is now so eerily glazed and good-natured that she could be the senator from Stepford.

There's even a retro trend among women toward deserting the fast track for a pleasant life of sitting around Starbucks gabbing with their girlfriends, baby strollers beside them, and logging time at the gym to firm up for the he-man chief executive at home.

As Rudnick slyly pointed out: "Men and women are working in tandem to create the Stepford wife of tomorrow. Once the technology advances, there'll be a Botox babe who runs on solar power."

At this point, it's hard to feel angry or worked up about Dowd's assorted expressions of idiocy. It's sad, really.

Update: Apparently, I'm in the "MoDo's just bitter" camp, according to PG. A clarification is in order - I don't find the actual assertion - that men prefer subordinate women - completely meritless. I just find that Dowd's treatment of the subject instantly robs the assertion of credibility, and is inconsistent with her previous position.

Posted 7:06 PM by Tony

Mercedes Blogging

I used to own a used E-class Mercedes Benz, which was, at the time I got it, less than 10 years old. I figured that the car would be pretty reliable. I had seen plenty of old Mercedes sedans in perfectly good working condition, and figured that Mercedes' reputation for quality was well-justified.

I was wrong. I owned the car for less than two years, and spent over 8000 dollars on maintenance and repairs. Eventually, I had enough, and bought a new car. The whole experience left me with a somewhat sour opinion on Mercedes build quality.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one.

DaimlerChrysler is trying to change things (via New York Times):

When DaimlerChrysler asked Eckhard Cordes to take the helm of Mercedes-Benz last summer, he knew it was less a promotion than an anointment. Not only is Mercedes the flagship of this trans-Atlantic company, but it also has long been the crown jewel of German industry.

[ . . . ]

Once the reliable profit engine of DaimlerChrysler, Mercedes has become the company's problem child - standing in the corner normally occupied by the resurgent Chrysler.

The problems start with the weak dollar, which makes all German luxury cars less competitive in the United States. But Mercedes is battling its own demons, chief among them a recognition that its once-matchless reputation for quality has slipped in recent years.

[ . . . ]

Would that the German-built cars were as well made as the Mercedes-Benzes of the past. It is not that the cars run badly when they are new. But things tend to go fluky as they age, particularly electronic gadgets, which are more complex in a Mercedes than in almost any other car.

In a J. D. Power & Associates poll of vehicle reliability after three years, Mercedes ranked below the industry average, behind even Chrysler. In a survey of customer satisfaction by the German automotive club, Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil Club, it finished 31st in a field of 33, beating only Land Rover and Volkswagen.

[ . . . ]

"There is what you call a quality issue out there. Everybody knows it," he said. "I would be lying if I say everything is wonderful." But he added, "What currently comes out of our factory is O.K."

Mercedes has bolstered supervision of its assembly lines, installing a quality-control czar who reports to Mr. Cordes. It is also spending heavily to repair cars already on the road. Goldman Sachs estimates the campaign will cost Mercedes at least $330 million a year in additional costs for the next few years.

I wish Mercedes all the luck in the world. For now, though, I'm sticking with my G, which will eat a C320 for lunch, with room for fries.

Posted 7:58 AM by Tony

Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Understanding The Other Side

One of the more frustrating things about living in the Bay Area is the operating assumption around here that Republicans are hardcore evangelical Christians whose political views revolve exclusively around Jesus, as expressed in, for example, this Mark Morford column in the SF Chronicle.*

Another example came Sunday, all because of a produce sign at a market in SF's Marina District marked, "Texas / Red State / [Forgot the type] Grapefruit." A friend objected that the sign was unfair, since she knew plenty of "blue state" i.e., liberal Democrats in Texas. I pointed out that I was Republican, even though the Bay Area is considered to be as liberal as it gets, i.e., a red stater in a blue state. My admission brought about literal gasps of astonishment from my friends, as we usually don't talk politics.

For my part, it's hard for me to not everyone in the Bay Area is a raving lefty moonbat, despite photos to the contrary.

Then came the whole Kid Rock kerfluffle (via WorldNetDaily):

Kid Rock, the vulgar rock-rapper whom inauguration staff initially talked of headlining the youth concert next week as part of the festivities for President Bush's swearing in, will not be appearing after all.

"He's not performing," a spokesman for the Presidential Inauguration Committee confirmed for WND.

I find the whole episode an absurd overreaction, as does Protein Wisdom, who writes to Randy Thomasson.

Let's leave aside the overheated reactions by Michelle Malkin** and Donald Wildmon.** It's worth considering the perspective of those on the other side of this issue.

Rightwingsparkle explains:

So this is what I have to say to my Southpark Republican friends. Let me give you a little perspective if faith is not a part of your life. Imagine that someone you love more than anything in this world; your child, is constantly being depicted in a gross or perverted manner in print, TV, and movies. Imagine a show that depicts your child, calling him by the name you have given him, being sexually raped or molested with no hint that there is anything wrong with that. I would think you would be enraged. You would scream from the roof top.

That is the way religious conservatives feel about this culture. We feel that what we love is being put on display for ridicule and that we are having to raise our children in a culture than not only disrespects the faith we are trying to pass on to our children, but denigrates it in every way that it can from music, to TV, to movies. Every moral value that we convey to our children from pro-life issues to sexual issues to religious issues are considered "judgmental" or "prudish." We honestly feel our children are breathing in the venom our society puts out there and we feel helpless.

[ . . . ]

We want what you want, a better society. Whenever I look at an issue I don't only look at who is for it, I look at who is against it. That tells me a lot about it. Yall might think about that as well next time you disagree with a religious conservative. Look around you and see who is against us as well.

You might not like the company.

Although I'm best described as a "slacker Catholic," I can appreciate (though I disagree with) her point of view, especially given the tendency around here to brush off politically alternative (dare I say, diverse?) points of view. And note that there's a difference between asking that one's POV be understood (which rightwingsparkle does), as opposed to asking that that POV be imposed on everyone else.

Her point about the company one is pithy, but one not subject to universal application. I doubt that she'd like to be lumped in with Wildmon.
* Incidentally, I note that, in Morford's peculiar algebra, a donation of zero for tsunami relief is better than one of $10,000, at least where President Bush is concerned. I would suggest that, given that sort of equivalence, the Chronicle should experiment with cutting Morford's salary by $10K - it's all the same, right? I find Morford to be an interesting example, as I regard him, as with Oliver Willis, to be the flip side of the self-righteous evangelicals that he delights in lambasting.

** For some reason, Malkin cites to Title 4, section 8 of the United States Code, implying that Kid Rock is breaking the law and is subject to legal sanction. However, it's worth noting that under section 4, the law is a "codification of existing rules and customs." Customs are not enforceable, absent some penalty for violation.

*** Wildmon characterizes Kid Rock as being at "the bottom of the list" in terms of inaugural entertainers. Nope - that honor should really go to Barbra Streisand, the Dixie Chicks, and Linda Ronstadt.

Posted 6:33 PM by Tony

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Remedial Civics

James Taranto points out this gem from the ACLU web site:

It is probably no accident that freedom of speech is the first freedom mentioned in the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The Constitution’s framers believed that freedom of inquiry and liberty of expression were the hallmarks of a democratic society.

[emphasis added]

From the United States National Archives and Records Administration, which maintains custody over the physical copy of the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

[emphasis added]

Taranto may be correct in suggesting that someone at the ACLU is taking lessons from Maureen Dowd.

Posted 1:22 PM by Tony

Monday, January 10, 2005
A Not-So-Total Smoking Ban

SF Chronicle columnists Matier and Ross discuss the proposed smoking ban - as it turns out, the ban is not so total after all:

[A] new law making its way through the Board of Supervisors that would slap a $100 first-offense fine on anyone who lights up in any "park, square, garden, sport field or playing field, recreational pier or other property used for recreational purposes."

One notable exception: the city's own golf courses.


According to a recent report by the board's budget analyst, the city's cash-strapped Recreation and Park Department makes about $9.4 million a year off the courses.

And it's estimated that 30 to 40 percent of golfers like to smoke on the course.

Ban smoking, and those golfers might just walk over to a private course - - taking their lucrative greens fees with them.

It might also jeopardize the city's ability to lure professional golf tournaments to its courses -- another potential loss of money and jobs.

"It's about keeping our competitive edge," said Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who proposed the latest law.

Apparently, "Think of the children!" stops at the checkbook.

It can be argued that I'm going overboard with this. Perhaps.

But it's worth noting that Supervisor Alioto-Pier's justification for the ban:

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

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

The absurdity of this justification can be illustrated quite easily.

Golden Gate Park is run by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. The Park features a 9 hole golf course at its western end, which is managed by the same Department.

Many people bring their children to Golden Gate Park to enjoy the open space. I daresay some of them may even play micro-soccer. Using Supervisor Alioto-Pier's justification, smoking on the course should be banned because children might possibly be exposed to secondhand smoke.

An unfair example, one might respond. However, consider that a person just outside the boundaries of the golf course would be prohibited from smoking, even though the (tenuous) risk of secondhand smoke would be the same.

It's for reasons like this that I laugh whenever Bay Area residents claim to be smarter than those in other parts of the state.
On a somewhat-related note, Cinnamon Stillwell points out the flaws of the proposed ban on all firearm possession within San Francisco.

Posted 5:34 PM by Tony

Sure, They're Not Loony At All

From today's New York Times:

To the Editor:

As the administrator of the Web site Democratic Underground, I am perplexed as to why you would consider an obscure posting on a busy Internet discussion forum to be worthy of an article ("Myths Run Wild in Blog Tsunami Debate," news article, Jan. 3).

Your article did not make clear that the message in question was posted by a completely anonymous individual, whose identity and political agenda are impossible to determine. The article also did not mention that the posting appeared to be an innocent question from a person guilty of nothing more than ignorance. Indeed, the posting's title (which you did not mention) was "One more dumb question regarding the earthquake in Asia."

Our discussion forum is different from a traditional blog. We get approximately 25,000 messages posted each day, and we cannot possibly check them all for accuracy.

It is fairly common for right-wing Web sites to cherry-pick the most extreme or outlandish posts from our forum in order to paint all liberals as wacky or extreme. I was surprised to see The Times doing it, too.

David Allen
Washington, Jan. 5, 2005

I don't know about Allen's "right-wing Web sites," but I don't paint all liberals as wacky or extreme; if I did, I'd have very few friends up here in the Bay Area. Rather, most criticisms of the left focus on that category of liberal known as the Moonbat.

Is Democratic Underground "wacky or extreme"? Decide for yourself - here's a link to DU's General Discussion forum. Go ahead, and skim for gems such as this. Judge for yourself whether these are exceptional or atypical for that Web site.

After you take a look, you'll understand why the above letter made me laugh.

Posted 11:23 AM by Tony

Thursday, January 06, 2005
Delicious Irony

I know I've made fun of Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, but this particular comment is simply too good to pass up (via SF Chronicle):

In San Francisco, where orphaned animals live in "pet condos" at the SPCA, pet parents are called guardians instead of owners, and well-heeled canines are enrolled in doggie day care, now comes a law mandating more creature comforts for the creatures.

The ordinance, expected to be approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, spells out exactly what the city means by providing food, shelter and water to San Francisco's estimated 110,000 dogs.

The food: palatable and nutritious. The water: changed at least once a day and provided in a non-tipping bowl. The shelter: big enough for the canine to stand up and turn around in and with a raised floor and dry, clean bedding for when the "ambient temperature falls below that ... to which the dog is acclimated."

[ . . . ]

"It's a classic case of taking an issue we need to deal with and overcompensating," Alioto-Pier said. "It's one thing to say you have to have clean water for your dog, another to say you have to have it in a container that won't tip, or if it does, then you have to bolt it to the wall. I think it's too Big Brother."

[emphasis added]

Ah, irony.

I find it hilarious that Supervisor Alioto-Pier has finally found something too extreme/disproportionate, given her support for a total ban on firearm ownership and/or possession within city limits and a total ban on smoking in all outdoor recreation areas regulated by the city. I guess even Mrs. Lovejoy has limits.

Probably because this ordinance can't be justified with the cry of, "think of the children!"

Posted 2:27 PM by Tony

Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Selling Off A Bit Of History

As an OC native, the soundtrack of my high school years was the sounds of Marine Corps helicopters and jets flying over my school. Orange County used to boast two Marine Corps Air Station. One was in Tustin, and hosted a helicopter unit.

As for the other, MCAS El Toro, it hosted the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. In the minds of non-OC/non-military people, I suppose MCAS El Toro will always be known that base Will Smith's aircraft unit was stationed at in Independence Day (though the erroneous depiction of El Toro as being in a desert is still irritates me). The base was nestled at the junction of the 5 and 405 freeways, surrounded by nothing but orange groves.

Things change. MCAS El Toro closed down, and the orange groves are slowly being displaced by residential housing.

People tried to figure out what to do with the land, including a dumb idea to convert the place into an international cargo airport, which refused to die.

The land has finally now been put up for bid (via SF Chronicle):

A former Marine Base slated to become one of the largest urban parks in the nation went on the auction block Wednesday in an online bidding process that will allow developers to compete for the portions that won't be set aside as open space.

No one submitted any bids for the Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, in the first hours of the auction. Most of the bids aren't expected until after the U.S. General Services Administration announces a closing date for the bids, said David Haase, a realty officer for the federal government.

[ . . . ]

The city of Irvine, which has annexed the land, has set aside 15 percent of the site, about 750 acres, for private development that will finance "The Great Park" on the remainder. Local boosters say it will be similar to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco or San Diego's Balboa Park, with a mixture of open space, landscaped parkways, sports facilities and cultural institutions.

I can't help but wonder what environmental conditions at "The Great Park" will be like, FOST or not.

Posted 6:26 PM by Tony

The Wherever Angels

This simply makes me wince (via SF Chronicle):

The city of Anaheim asked a judge to block the Angels from adding Los Angeles to their name.

The complaint filed Wednesday in Orange County Superior Court asked for a temporary restraining order against the use of the name "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim." City spokesman John Nicoletti said a judge was expected to rule on the request Friday.

Anaheim officials claim the name violates a stadium lease agreement that has provided nearly $30 million in public subsidies to renovate the club's ballpark.

[ . . . ]

Arte Moreno bought the team in 2003, a year after it won the World Series, and became popular with fans by paying for high-priced talent while lowering beer and ticket prices. The Angels rank 23rd in average ticket prices and have the third-highest attendance total in baseball, behind the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.

"Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim"? Seriously? God, that's a stupid name.

My own personal opinion is that it should be changed back to "California Angels." Heck, if it was good enough for Rod Carew and Reggie Jackson, I can certainly live with it.

Posted 6:19 PM by Tony

Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Tsunamis, Physical And Political

Let's be upfront - I'm not a big fan of the United Nations.

The United Nations Charter states that the UN's goals are to:

to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and

to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and

to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and

to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom

Lofty and noble goals, to be sure. However, as the Imperial War Museum somewhat dryly notes:

The end of the Second World War did not bring an end to conflict. There has been fighting somewhere in the world almost every day since 1945.
In addition, the United Nations has been singularly unable to prevent conflicts and skirmishes between nation-states, e.g., the Korean War, China-USSR border clashes, Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia, the various Arab-Israel wars, the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom. And, as this paper notes, warfare between nation-states forms only a small part of the world's conflicts since 1945, e.g., the Chinese civil war, Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Vietnam War, the Intifada in Israel, Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s, the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia, the crackdown in Hama, the killing fields of Cambodia, and various conflicts in Greece, Malaya, Rhodesia, Thailand, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the Congo. At least one book has been written about the topic.

In addition, the UN has become a majority rule of tyrannies. I would direct you to Libya's recent chairing of the UN Commission on Human Rights. That august body currently boasts among its current members Cuba, China, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia.

Execution has fallen short of expectations, I'd say.

I don't think the UN can be fixed, but there are those who disagree (via Monday's New York Times):

At the gathering, Secretary General Kofi Annan listened quietly to three and a half hours of bluntly worded counsel from a group united in its personal regard for him and support for the United Nations. The group's concern was that lapses in his leadership during the past two years had eclipsed the accomplishments of his first four-year term in office and were threatening to undermine the two years remaining in his final term.

[ . . . ]

Their larger argument, according to participants, addressed two broad needs. First, they said, Mr. Annan had to repair relations with Washington, where the Bush administration and many in Congress thought he and the United Nations had worked against President Bush's re-election. Second, he had to restore his relationship with his own bureaucracy, where many workers said privately that his office protected high-level officials accused of misconduct.

[ . . . ]

The meeting was held in the apartment of Richard C. Holbrooke, a United States ambassador to the United Nations under President Clinton.

Others in attendance were John G. Ruggie, assistant secretary general for strategic planning from 1997 to 2001 and now a professor of international relations at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard; Leslie H. Gelb, a former president of the Council on Foreign Relations; Timothy E. Wirth, the president of the United Nations Foundation, based in Washington; Kathy Bushkin, the foundation's executive vice president; Nader Mousavizadeh, a former special assistant to Mr. Annan who left in 2003 to work at Goldman Sachs; and Robert C. Orr, the assistant secretary general for strategic planning. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's ambassador to the United Nations from 1998 to 2003, was invited but could not attend.

I'm a bit skeptical that Annan will repair relations or clean house. The most glaring example is the Oil-For-Food scandal (see here for a contrary view; I disclose, you decide). Annan appointed former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker to conduct an investigation. I have my doubts that this will amount to much, however, given Volcker's apparent lack of coercive authority, and alleged involvement of Cotecna, which employed Annan's son Kojo.

So, how effective will the UN response (as opposed to independent national/multinational efforts) be?

Past experience in Afghanistan may be a guide (via Winds of Change):

The UN and associated NGOs ran through years of aid funding in a matter of months. Now when money cannot be found for reconstruction, the UN issues reports criticizing the parsimonious Americans. Meanwhile, the UN and NGOs live like pashas. Hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for Afghans have been transformed into fleets of top-of the-line Toyota Landcruisers, villas and estates to house their workers complete with swimming pools, an endless supply of underpaid servants, luxurious furnishings (accented with looted antiquities,) the latest laptops, video equipment, cases of Johnny Walker Blue and the bling bling ...perks that might even seem excessive to Ken Lay are justifiable expenses charged off to the US.

One contributor of Diplomad (a collective blog run by US foreign service officers) has been in one of the spots hit by the tsunami, and reports:

The [UN World Food Program] team has spent the day and will likely spend a few more setting up their "coordination and opcenter" at a local five-star hotel. And their number one concern, even before phones, fax and copy machines? Arranging for the hotel to provide 24hr catering service. USAID folks already are cracking jokes about "The UN Sheraton."

Actually, I recommend reading these entries in chronological order:

Quakes and Tsunamis and Leftist Babble
Things That Make You Say 'Blah!' The UN Response to the Tsunami
Flash! Clare Short is an Idiot!
UN Death Watch
The UN Begins to Act . . .
UNsanity Update
almost fUNnny . . .
More UNreality . . . But the Dutch Get It
Just TOO Good for a Mere Update!

It makes for some interesting, yet infuriating, reading.

On a somewhat related note, I'm of the opinion that James Wolcott's a bit of a tool, as has been noted by, among others Say Anything and Classical Values.

Posted 9:15 PM by Tony

Monday, January 03, 2005
Korean Political Games

I'm not sure, but I don't think it reflects well on a political party's viability when its leadership resign their posts (via Korea Times; see also TKorea Herald):

The ruling Uri Party is to select new members for its leadership as chairman Lee Bu-young and other key post holders resigned en masse Monday apparently due to pressure from party hardliners who criticized them for failing to scrap the National Security Law.

Lee, who assumed his post last August when Rep. Shin Ki-nam resigned after his father was found to have served in the Japanese military police during the nation’s period of colonial rule, tendered his resignation Monday along with other members of the party’s Central Standing Committee, including Reps. Lee Mikyung and Kim Hyuk-kyu. "I’ve been leading the party with Rep. Chung Jung-bae, but now I feel sorry to the people as well as party members for not completing my duty as a result of lack of my ability," Lee said at a meeting of the party’s Central Standing Committee.

Rep. Chun Jung-bae, floor leader of the Uri Party, resigned on Saturday along with vice floor leaders, taking responsibility for what the party’s reformists claimed to be a failure to carry through "reform bills" as planned during the last session. Among the four reform bills the ruling party aimed to pass by the end of last year, only a toned-down motion to regulate the nation’s media market passed in the National Assembly due to strong resistance from the main opposition party.

This should get interesting.

Posted 8:44 AM by Tony

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

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