Friday, November 29, 2002

THE JOY OF ACADEMIC WRITING: Reading prose like the examples collected here makes me a bit embarrassed to claim membership in the ivory tower club. More can be found here if you can stomach it.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON on what a funny kind of "empire" America is. I don't know if I accept all of his comparisons but it is useful to contemplate the ways in which the U.S. has been and still is different from others. An excerpt:
In that regard, America is also a revolutionary, rather than a stuffy imperial society. Its crass culture abroad — rap music, Big Macs, Star Wars, Pepsi, and Beverly Hillbillies reruns — does not reflect the tastes and values of either an Oxbridge elite or a landed Roman aristocracy. That explains why Le Monde or a Spanish deputy minister may libel us, even as millions of semi-literate Mexicans, unfree Arabs, and oppressed southeast Asians are dying to get here. It is one thing to mobilize against grasping, wealthy white people who want your copper, bananas, or rubber — quite another when your own youth want what black, brown, yellow, and white middle-class Americans alike have to offer. We so-called imperialists don't wear pith helmets, but rather baggy jeans and backwards baseball caps. Thus far the rest of the globe — whether Islamic fundamentalists, European socialists, or Chinese Communists — has not yet formulated an ideology antithetical to the kinetic American strain of Western culture.

Much, then, of what we read about the evil of American imperialism is written by post-heroic and bored elites, intellectuals, and coffeehouse hacks, whose freedom and security are a given, but whose rarified tastes are apparently unshared and endangered. In contrast, the poorer want freedom and material things first — and cynicism, skepticism, irony, and nihilism second. So we should not listen to what a few say, but rather look at what many do.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

THE LIBERAL MEDIA? A recent survey of columnists on the web reveals that conservatives are at the top of the list in terms of most web page matches. This survey may not be all that accurate but it seems to reflect my experience.

After three+ months, Nick Cage and Lisa-Marie Presley call it quits. Nick was apparently more interested in getting closer to the King than in actually spending much time with the King's daughter.

KIPLING ON THE NORTH SHORE: Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit has a link to this reworking of Kipling to describe contemporary Boston. A portion:
We are patricians of Boston, intellectuals proud and strong;
We send our kids to private school to avoid the unwashed throng.
When we were young we dodged the draft and got in Johnson's face
For we think our home and country is all the world's disgrace.

For it's Chomsky this, The Nation that, and "George Bush is a clown!"
And "the USA deserved it!" when they knocked the Towers down;
They knocked the Towers down, my boys, they knocked the Towers down,
Yes, the USA deserved it when they knocked the Towers down.
Yes, making mock of uniforms that guard us while we sleep
Lets us feel ourselves superior, and do it on the cheap;
And talking of root causes when we appear on NPR
Is five times more "intellectual" than fighting a just war.

GENEVA, Switzerland (AP) -- South Korea has the most effective education system of the world's richest countries, with Japan in second place and the United States and Germany near the bottom, a United Nations study has said.

The ranking "provides the first 'big picture' comparison of the relative effectiveness of education systems across the developed world," the United Nations Children's Fund study said.

"It is based not on the conventional yardstick of how many students reach what level of education, but on testing what pupils actually know and what they are able to do," UNICEF said.

While the reasons for this are manifold, one of the biggest is simply the amount of time Korean and Japanese students spend in school or in before- or after-school tutoring programs.

The Agence France-Presse (NORTH KOREA COULD USE TRANSPORTATION CORRIDOR AS INVASION ROUTE," 11/26/02) reported that a US army general said the DPRK could make use of transportation corridors under construction between the ROK and the DPRK as ready-made invasion routes to the ROK. US Major General James Soligan was responding to the DPRK's refusal to continue work on the road and rail links unless the US-led United Nations Command (UNC) gives up its control of the corridors in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the two Koreas. "The North Koreans would like to create this corridor outside the demilitarized zone and outside the authority of the armistice agreement," Soligan said in an interview with cable television YTN. "That way, if they elected to, they could move combat forces into this corridor and challenge the security of South Korea.

Let's think about this for a couple of minutes:

1) The last time the DPRK invaded South Korea was over 50 years ago. How many more years will it take before we start to at least consider the possibility that the DPRK might not be poised to invade the moment we blink or drop our guard? Of course the same goes for the DPRK's claims that the evil Americans are waiting with baited breath the chance to strike and finish what they couldn't in 1950-53. Note that I am referring to a conventional attack here. The DPRK has engaged in clandestine covert operations any number of times since 1953. It is clear that the North Koreans don't need a train to send a few spies or suicidal soldiers south.

2) The Korean People's Army (KPA) has not engaged in armed combat since 1953. I think most will agree that all the training exercises in the world can not replicate combat conditions. Given this lack of experience, the nearly total implosion of the North Korean economy over the last decade, and the huge advances in technology on the U.S.-ROK side, how serious is the DPRK conventional threat?

3) Even if one concludes that the DPRK is intent on invading the south and poses a credible conventional threat, how hard would it be to take out the rail links with a few well-armed and well-aimed missiles?

I am no fan of the DPRK. It is a horribly repressive regime. The world would be a better place without it. But let's be reasonable shall we?

Monday, November 25, 2002

WHO SAYS THE MARKET DOESN'T PICK WINNERS? Krispy Kreme profits exceed expectations!
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts said today that its earnings increased 56.3 percent in its third quarter, narrowly beating Wall Street estimates as revenue rose 29.4 percent.

The company earned $10.1 million, or 17 cents a diluted share, for the three months ended Nov. 3, compared with $6.5 million, or 11 cents a diluted share, in the period a year earlier. Revenue rose to $129.1 million from $99.8 million.
I'll take a dozen!

North Korea said today that it would refuse to allow foreign experts into the country to verify that American fuel supplies were being used for peaceful purposes.

On Thursday, North Korea said the 1994 agreement to prevent it from producing nuclear weapons had collapsed. It accused the United States of destroying the pact, known as the Agreed Framework. Under the agreement, experts are allowed to verify that shipments of fuel oil to North Korea are used only for peaceful purposes.
I think the powers that be in the DPRK recognize that Bush is not going to threaten war until after Iraq is settled. Thus, they feel free to prevaricate, resist and otherwise make non-proliferation in the DPRK impossible.

GEORGE W. BUSH'S "GOOD FRIEND" MUSHARRAF AT WORK: Pakistan used U.S.-made and supplied C-130's to move ballistic missile tech and uranium enrichment technology to and from North Korea (NYT; free registration required)
In a perfect marriage of interests, Pakistan provided the North with many of the designs for gas centrifuges and much of the machinery it needs to make highly enriched uranium for the country's latest nuclear weapons project, one intended to put at risk South Korea, Japan and 100,000 American troops in Northeast Asia. . . .

The accounts raise disturbing questions about the nature of the uneasy American alliance with General Musharraf's government. The officials and experts described how, even after Mr. Musharraf sided with the United States in ousting the Taliban and hunting down Qaeda leaders, Pakistan's secretive A. Q. Khan Nuclear Research Laboratories continued its murky relationship with the North Korean military. It was a partnership linking an insecure Islamic nation and a failing Communist one, each in need of the other's expertise.

With friends like these . . .

GET YOUR VERY OWN SYNDROME OR DISORDER WHILE THEY'RE HOT! Best of the Web spins out some possibilities.

HUGE POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT IN THE ROK: Chung Mong-joon has agreed to withdraw from the presidential race. I didn't think this would happen but it appears that Chung and MDP candidate Roh Moo-hyun have learned from history: every past ROK president was elected with a plurality largely because opposing figures split the vote. ROK voters are now presented with a rather stark choice: front-runner Yi Hoi-chang (often rendered in English as Lee Hoi-chang) is older, more conservative, promises to be more lenient toward South Korea's huge chaebol conglomerates but harsher toward North Korea. Roh, a self-taught lawyer, promises to continue President Kim Dae Jung's "sunshine policy" towards the North, promises to continue to push for chaebol reform and workers' rights, and crusade against corruption. In terms of relations with the North, the ability of either candidate to maneuver will be sharply constrained by the policy-line coming from Washington. But there is some wiggle room in domestic issues. This is truly history-making stuff!

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