Friday, November 08, 2002

Josh Marshall on Dick Gephardt:
I wasn't surprised by the news that Dick Gephardt was stepping down as House Minority Leader. I wasn't, that is, until I saw the text of his comments, in which he pretty much implies that he's stepping down to try to run for president. What's this dude smoking? This is sort of like having your girlfriend dump you and then you say, "Okay, baby, I can live with that. But I've got another idea for you. How 'bout you and me get married? Huh? Huh? Yeah, baby ... Whaddya think???"
Now that you put it that way . . .

Walking down the brick-paved sidewalks of Pennsylvania Avenue near my office on an incomparably beautiful afternoon, my attention was attracted by a bird fluttering along the sidewalk. Looking a bit closer I concluded that the bird was seriously injured in some way as to render it incapable of flying. Instead it thrashed about in an obviously agonized fashion. My reactions:
--instant sympathy. Why? Perhaps there is an instinctual respect for life that forms a deep part of all of us. I was reminded of the passage in Mencius
'When I say that all men have a mind which cannot bear to see the sufferings of others, my meaning may be illustrated thus:-- even now-a-days, if men suddenly see a child about to fall into a well, they will without exception experience a feeling of alarm and distress. They will feel so, not as a ground on which they may gain the favour of the child's parents, nor as a ground on which they may seek the praise of their neighbours and friends, nor from a dislike to the reputation of having been unmoved by such a thing.
Rather, we act this way because we are human and that is how humans react.

--an impetus to action: I need to do something for this poor creature. But what? I don’t have any experience in treating animals. Where am I supposed to take it? To my office? And do what? I walked away in impotent guilt.

--guilty satisfaction that I still live, breathe, walk, and can enjoy a beautiful afternoon

80,000 SOUTH KOREAN WORKERS GO ON STRIKE: Why? Poor and unsafe working conditions? Demands for the right to strike and engage in collective bargaining? NO!
More than 80,000 factory workers went on strike today to protest proposed legislation to cut the workweek from five and a half to five days, but they promised to go back to their jobs after the government said it would postpone action on the bill. . . Workers would rather go on working five and a half days a week than give up a number of the paid holidays to which they were long accustomed, a union official said.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

This commerical message is brought to you by your friends at Philip Morris (with editorial help of the inestimable James Lileks). Keep clicking on "next" to reach the exciting conclusion!

From the Village Voice: "Voters Set Republicans Loose on the World."

Ah yes, those pesky voters. Life would be so much easier without them getting in the way wouldn't it?

Message matters. Bush had one: support me, the war, and tax cuts. That was pretty straightforward. The Democrats offered, we're not Bush and vote for us if you're anxious about the economy even though we don't have a comprehensive plan for dealing with it. Not much of a bumper sticker there.
I'd say that things were a bit more complex than that, but not much.

PICTURES NEVER LIE (or do they?) Did both Bush and Clinton look at the DPRK through binoculars with the lens caps still in place? How's that for a metaphor for American policy toward Korea?

FORMER US AMBASSADOR DONALD GREGG VISITS NORTH KOREA. He reports, among other things, the following:
the North Koreans felt degraded by "insulting rhetoric" and a "lack of trust" from the United States. He said Ri pointed out that North Korea has pursued better relations with its neighbors, including South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.

"His bottom line to us was essentially, 'What's the matter with you Americans? Why don't you join the procession of countries that are making a better relationship with North Korea?'" Gregg said.
Do the North Koreans mean "insulting rhetoric" like this:
The DPRK will never yield to the U.S. unilateral and brigandish demand and high-handed offensive against it.
The U.S. assertion that it has no intention to invade the DPRK is a sheer lie and a mockery of the public opinion.
The U.S. has rounded off all preparations for a surprise preemptive nuclear attack on the DPRK by staging without let-up such dangerous nuclear war exercises as the joint military exercise "Team Spirit", a preliminary nuclear war and a test nuclear war.
The U.S. warlike forces are well advised to properly know who is their rival and behave themselves. The U.S. should abandon its anachronistic hostile policy towards the DPRK before talking about the DPRK's "threat."
All this in the past few days and weeks in a time when the DPRK is openly calling for negotiations and non-aggression with the U.S. I am not a particularly big fan of Bush's hard-line or of hawk engagement but anyone who has followed official DPRK rhetoric can't but chuckle at DPRK officials whining about "insulting rhetoric."

The South will call on the United States and Japan not to suspend the light-water reactor project or cancel fuel oil provisions to the North even if it fails to take swift action regarding the nuclear issue," the official said.

He said the Seoul government will ask the two allies to take punitive measures in stages rather than ceasing or delaying fuel oil provisions.
If Yi Hoi-chang becomes the next ROK president, will he adopt the same stance?

LIKE RATS LEAVING A SINKING SHIP: More members bolt President Kim Dae Jung's Millennium Democratic Party (MDP). This reflects both an increasing sense that, without Kim Dae Jhung at the helm (Kim is constitutionally prohibited from seeking re-election), there is little hope for the MDP to repeat its electoral success. Moreover, the entire outcome of the approaching presidential election hinges on whether these defectors are successful in forcing MDP party candidate Roh Mu-hyun and newly-launched National Unity 21 Party candidate Chung Mong-joon to submit to some sort of second primary in which only one of the two candidates would be chosen to challenge front-runner Yi Hoi-chang. It remains to be seen whether they will succeed.

Chung continued that the NU 21 was not only a party for the 2002 presidential election, but one for reformists to lead in the 21st century. He said his goals as president would be to promote economic growth, fair distribution, anti-corruption, peace on the peninsula, and the well being of society.
This is opposed to the anti-growth, pro-unfair distribution, pro-corruption, pro-war on the peninsula, and anti-the well being of society "Evil Party" that was founded the same day in nearby Ch'ongju.

(To be fair, Chung did mention one specific action item: "devolve the Ministry of Education's control over local education authorities for the liberalization of education.")

The number of defectors from the DPRK is set to top 1000 for the year 2002.
an official at the Ministry of Unification reported that the number of defectors would exceed 1,000 for the first time this year. He added that the latest arrivals put the total number of North Korean asylum seekers in the South at 935 this year, and the grand total to 2,703. The official said that if this trend continues the figure would reach 1,100 by the end of the year and next year the number of North Korean defectors is expected to be about 1,300.
Earlier this year I thought it possible that the increase in highly visible defections had the potential for triggering changes similar to those in Eastern Europe in the late 1980's. However, even though defections clearly are continuing, they certainly aren't getting much media attention outside of Korea.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Watched a re-run of the Mondale-Coleman debate late last night on C-SPAN. Didn't think either side won by a knock-out, but if one peruses blogs of varying political persuasions one finds partisans who are certain that their man cleaned his opponent's clock. Motivational bias is thick around election day. I did find the debate a chance to ponder again how is it that the Democrats, robbed of their Senator by a unforeseen tragedy, had no one better than Fritz Mondale to bring up to the plate as a pinch hitter. Lileks hits the nail on the head when commenting on the differing responses to a question about technology:
Mr. Mondale, this is for you. This is from Peggy. ``As a businesswoman in southern Minnesota, I'm concerned about technology reaching our businesses and our homes. What is your vision for keeping all of Minnesota on the cutting edge of technology?''

Mondale’s response:

Growing economy, leadership that builds trust. I think right now there should be a reduction in the interest rates.

I’m not kidding. Pitched a question about getting broadband to rural areas, that’s what he says. One word was noticeably absent in Mondale’s reply: INTERNET. Or, for that matter, Fiber, or broadband, or any other aspect of that amusing diversion we call the Web. High-speed internet access in the rural portions of the state is an issue here, because many small towns are served by independent phone companies that can’t afford the upgrades. Or the local phone exchanges have been purchased by out-of-state companies that don’t want to spend the money to run fiber to the barn. It’s a real issue - our paper did a story on it a while back, how the lack of high-speed access crimps the ability of outstate companies to compete.

He continued:

I think that we need to support education that produces economic growth. This is maybe where we disagree. We made a promise that in addition to putting a burden on the schools with new testing that we would provide economic assistance for these schools, elementary and secondary and high school, that would allow them to educate these kids for the future. That has not been done, nor have we brought new help to students.

We need to do that. We have several wonderful educational institutions in our state university system and in the community college systems, and in other systems, that help young people to get ready for this technology and get ready for the future. That's our future, and that's where, I think, our support must be.

Translation: the secretary prints off his Emil for him.

Here’s Coleman:

What we have to do is have to make a firm commitment to make sure that all of Minnesota is wired, and going beyond wired now, now we're talking about wireless. I had an opportunity to visit with the folks over at Minnesota Wireless in Mankato. Wonderful cutting-edge operation, a tentative conference on technology about six months ago, in that same area.

It is our future. We should be wiring the schools and let the businesses draw off a that so they can afford to create the public-private partnership that expands the use of technology. We should be looking at opportunities to expand wireless.

I'm a former mayor. I understand about infrastructure. Part of infrastructure is roads and highways, (inaudible) but another part of infrastructure is the wireless infrastructure. It's linking all of Minnesota through technology. I will be a champion of 21st Century thinking when it comes to making sure that all of Minnesota is wired.

To me, this was the most important moment of the debate - not because it concerned a particular issue, but because it showed who inhabits the current century. Fritz just didn’t get it - which means he’s likely to have a nice steak dinner with The Other White Meat, Fritz Hollings, and sign on to some Disney-paid bill to install copyright protection at the hardware level. Then all the suburban yups who voted for Fritz because, well, you know, Paul and all that, will find himself putting a CD in his computer to rip tunes for personal use - and the disk will be spat out. Or he’ll pop in a DVD he got from a friend, and have to get a new DVD driver with security certificates that establish him as the True Legitimate Owner of the disc - enter your access code now, please, and wait while we access the Warner Brothers / Suncoast database to ensure you are the rightful owner. And the guy will sit there and think: hey, how did this happen?

I’m not saying Coleman is a bulwark against this scenario - only that Mondale obviously hasn’t a clue. When it comes to the computer, to the Internet, he’s truly Grandpa, the guy who thinks he broke the machine when he accidentally minimized a window.

And this is the guy who will vote on digital issues.

And I like his conclusion as well: If all these things matter so much to you, Mr. Mondale, where have you been?

Monday, November 04, 2002

TOMORROW IS ELECTION DAY. I will vote despite the fact that my doing so will do little to influence the outcome of the Senate and House races. John Warner is running unopposed (by any Democrats at least; for those interested in futile protest votes, see Independent Nancy Spannaus (supports Lyndon LaRouche, cold shiver here!) or Libertarian Jacob Hornburger. In the House Race, Jo Ann Davis is running entirely unopposed. So much for choice.
Predictions abound (see here and here for examples). I have no idea who is correct but am resisting comments about monkeys, typewriters, and Shakespeare. Will be fun to watch!

LEE CONSOLIDATES LEAD IN POLLS; the fine print indicates that we may be headed to another opposition-splits-the-vote-winner-wins-with-a-small-plurality result.
A recent telephone survey conducted by the Chosun Ilbo and Korea Gallup showed that Grand National Party presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang was leading the race with 34 percent, followed by Chung Mong-joon (National Unity 21) at 22.6 percent and Roh Mu-hyun (Millennium Democratic Party) at 19 percent. Former Korea Central Intelligence Agency chairman Jang Se-dong (1.5 percent), Democratic Labor Party Kwon Young-gil (1.3 percent), and former Prime Minister Lee Han-dong (0.4 percent) also had small support.

SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT KIM DAE JUNG'S SON IS JAILED. Kim Hong-up sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail and fined for $850,000 on charges of corruption and bribery. Another son, Kim Hong-gul, will be sentenced later. Understatement of the year:
The two sons' cases have been highly embarrassing and politically damaging for Nobel Peace prize-winning President Kim who has just four months left in office.
MDP candidate No (Roh) Mu-hyon can't be excited about this either.

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