Saturday, February 22, 2003
We figured the DNC meeting would be as good a time as any to update our Invisible Primary Ratings, in which we rank the original Six Pack's chances of winning the Democratic nomination. Former Senator Carol Moseley-Braun, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and the soon-to-file Senator Bob Graham are all too new to the field for us to truly be able to assess their impact at this time. We'll get to them in the next round.
In our latest round of ratings, the Senator from Massachusetts places first. In second: Senator John Edwards, followed by Senator Joe Lieberman at third, Rep. Dick Gephardt quite close behind in fourth, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean at fifth, and the Rev. Al Sharpton in sixth place.
And every so often - say, when you’re standing in the aisle of Target, woolgathering, recalling something you heard on the radio on the way over, or read on the web that morning, and you see headlines: Israel retaliates; Syrian forces push south or Smallpox appears contained, for now and you wonder whether this simple trivial moment will seem unutterably precious in six months, or three - and then you shake it off, and buy Tupperware. Another normal February day..
March is named after which Roman god? Yes, yes. Of course.
I listened to Dean's speech on C-SPAN radio (nothing like a two hour-plus commute home) and found that while he was far more excited and impassioned than Gephardt (who spoke before him) and clearly appeals more to a certain segment of the Democratic faithful, I don't know whether he will appeal to the public at large (swing voters anyone?) in the same way.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell today revived the possibility that the United States could offer broad assistance to North Korea, but he said that North Korea must first end its nuclear weapons program.In other words, nothing has changed.
Major donor nations including Japan and the United States on Saturday pledged a total of $50.7 million in aid to help reintegrate former Afghan combatants into society at a conference on peace in the war-torn country, with Afghanistan reiterating its commitments to consolidate peace.The specifics?
Japan pledged $35 million, the U.S. $10 million, Britain $3.5 million and Canada $2.2 million, covering the estimated $50 million needed for the initial year to implement the DDR program for former combatants, according to the chairman's summary issued after the end of the meeting.Funny, I don't see Germany or France on that list.
"We are implementing a Land Partnership Plan, which will return to the Korean government almost half the land that our bases now occupy. Together with the South Korean government, we are also looking at alternative locations for our base in Yongsan," Amb. to South Korea Thomas Hubbard said.Whatever one thinks about the long-term benefits or drawbacks to an American military presence in Korea, this is a long-overdue imperative. Of course talking about moving and actually doing it are two different things.
Thursday, February 20, 2003
Diplomats said after the meeting that no one wanted to anger North Korea, which has said that it would treat economic sanctions as "a declaration of war" by the Security Council.
"I DIDN'T REALIZE WHAT ALL WAS IN IT" Some American legislators are finally getting around to reading the fine print of McCain-Feingold and don't necessarily like what they find. Wow.
Tuesday, February 18, 2003
The North Korean ship that last year delivered Scud missiles to Yemen transferred a large shipment of chemical weapons material from Germany to North Korea recently, U.S. intelligence officials said.One needs to take the source, Bill Gertz, with a grain of salt. But still, the prospect of the peace-loving Germans selling dual-use materials to the DPRK is interesting to say the least. A bit more:
Sodium cyanide is a dual-use chemical. It is used to make the nerve gas sarin, as well as commercial products including pesticides and plastics.
The chemical is controlled by the 34-nation Australia Group, a voluntary coalition of states that agree to curb exports of dual-use chemicals that can boost the chemical weapons programs of states like North Korea. Germany is a member of the group.
If you are one of our beyond-the-Beltway readers, the biggest service we probably can do for you today is to tell you that people in the nation's capital seem more freaked out by the threat of terrorism than at any time since immediately after September 11, 2001All I can say is "speak for yourself." I don't think anyone who works in DC likes hearing about Orange Alerts, duct tape and CBW's. However, very few people I rub shoulders with appear to be "freaked out." Why media reporters relentlessly harp on this is beyond me.
But random interviews today with 10 North Koreans — a composer, a band director and his assistant, a tourism director, and half a dozen park guides — underlined how pervasive and deeply held anti-Americanism is in "the hermit nation."Rather than being "random," this is actually a survey of the few people the DPRK regime feels comfortable about letting interact with foreigners at a resort desiged especially for foreigners.
Still, what these folks have to say is interesting if for no other reason than to highlight what the current propaganda line is:
"The Korean War was started by the U.S., and today the U.S. continues to threaten us with the nuclear issue," continued Mr. Chun. "We have a lot of monuments about atrocities committed by the U.S. during the war. We don't have nuclear weapons, but our nuclear weapon is our strong unity among ourselves." . . .I've noticed recently that while the handful of statements by President Bush (e.g. "Axis of Evil," "I loathe Kim Jong Il," etc.) usually garner derision and dismissal by many in the U.S. ("so simplistic" counteproductive, knee-jerk reaction, "stupid," "insane" are among what I've heard lately) no one seems concerned about the high degree of incredibly vitriolic anti-American sentiment that comes from P'yongyang on a daily basis. This may be a result of unconscious condescension (e.g. those silly North Koreans can't help themselves; or, shouldn't be expected to help themselves, but we Americans should know and speak better) or a perverted sense of moral equivalence. Whatever the case, it is important to recognize that any calls for dialogue or negotiation means that we need to talk to, understand, and work with people who have grown up on a steady diet of this stuff.
Another popular spot is the Pueblo, a Navy spy ship captured in 1968 by North Korea and never returned. A videocassette describes American negotiations for the return of the 83-member crew, saying the "enemy knelt down before the Korean people, as the myth and might of the United States crumbled before the will of the Korean people."
Films, art work, television documentaries and newspaper articles relentlessly portray Americans as bloodthirsty aggressors. One new poster given wide distribution last month shows a People's Army soldier thrusting missiles toward a shredding American flag and an exploding United States Capitol.
"All servicemen of the Korea People's Army should always be on the alert," the newspaper Rodong Shinmun warned in an editorial today, the birthday of the nation's leader, Kim Jong Il. "All party members and workers must burn with hatred and hostility in their hearts toward U.S. imperialists." . . .
Ri Jo Won, a 23-year-old guide, said: "I don't think the United States is particularly strong. If they are so strong, why haven't they engaged us in war already?"
Ms. Kim, the woman in the black parka, predicted, "The United States will probably attack Iraq, but not North Korea because North Korea maintains a strong military and is much stronger."
Any nuclear bombs that Pyongyang may be producing, several people said, are to protect North Korea.
Monday, February 17, 2003
"Direct talks are an indispensable ingredient of a solution here," said Ashton B. Carter, a former Pentagon official who is now a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. "The issue is only when and what to say. Once we figure that out, we can begin the experiment of seeing whether or not North Korea can be talked out of going nuclear."
Happiness filled the humble cottage of Ri Myung Shim today, as her 5-year-old son awoke to find a gift bag of cookies and candy. This was not an offering from the tooth fairy, but a birthday present, of sorts. The gift celebrated the most important day on the North Korean calendar — the birthday of Kim Jong Il, the country's leader. . .
"It is great that children get these gifts," said Li Ok Hwa, a 27-year-old park guide outfitted in stylish white parka and shiny black boots. "That way, they learn who the Dear Leader is and that he is their king." . . .
"This should be the happiest day of the year because it is the Dear General's birthday," said Kim Young Hee, a makeup artist who had just finished applying cherry red lipstick and white face powder to the majorettes. "We are living in affluence, so we don't expect anything special. He is the person who provides us with life and food and happiness."
The government showers real gifts on members of the elite on Mr. Kim's birthday.
"My gift set had canned food, ginseng, liquor and cookies," Chun Moon Il, a composer, said as his brass band worked its way through a lively new number, "Flower Fireworks for Blessing His Birthday."
Down on the state farms here, the workers received a rare gift from Mr. Kim this weekend — 24 hours of electricity.
And, a warning:
While few people here seem aware of the disparity, they do seem to be aware of the Bush administration's warning to North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. People here are bracing for an attack by the United States, though they say they are not afraid.
"The U.S. would not dare to invade North Korea because we have mighty Kim Jong Il,"
The main event came midway through the service, and I faced a great dilemma: in order to properly film the event I would have to ruin it. To get the good shot I’d have to block it off so the congregation couldn’t see - in effect, treating their religious ceremony like raw material for a home movie.In my experience, this happens all too often. Who cares about the actual experience as long as we can get it on film so we can watch it later? Warped!
Sunday, February 16, 2003
Millions of Chinese are stockpiling vinegar as a supposed disinfectant against a mystery pneumonia virus in southern China. The panic has even reached Shanghai, a day's train journey from its source in Guangdong province
More than 300 people were reportedly affected by the unidentified bug which first appeared in November: five have died. Although no new cases have been reported for several days, there is alarm.
Hundreds of tons of antibiotics and other medicines to tackle respiratory infection are being rushed to Guangdong, but vinegar is still in high demand. Many believe that if a pan of vinegar is boiled until it evaporates, the steam will be an effective disinfectant against disease. Four extra deaths were reported last week as a result of the vinegar being boiled over coal-burning stoves which gave off lethal fumes.
Two were in Foshan, where a pan was left boiling overnight, killing an 18-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy. Their mother is critically ill.
I go back and forth on the war on Iraq but, for the most part, find myself opposing it . . . until I see something like this. Then, it gets much harder to defend the anti-war position.
UPDATE: here's another protester that doesn't demonstrate historical illiteracy so much as cultural illiteracy.
The LA Times (Sonni Efron and Mark Magnier, "RUMSFELD MAY REDUCE FORCES IN SOUTH KOREA," Washington, 02/14/03) and the Washington Post (Bradley Graham, "US MAY SHIFT TROOPS IN KOREA," 02/14/03) reported that US Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld expressed support yesterday for shifting US forces in the ROK away from the fortified border between the ROK and DPRK and from the capital city, Seoul, adding that there might even be an overall reduction in the 37,000 US troops stationed on the peninsula. Disclosing that US military officials have been working privately for months on a potential repositioning of US troops in the ROK, Rumsfeld saidWhatever happens, I think it is a good idea for the U.S. to move out of Yongsan and other high visibility military installations. Whether the total withdrawal of U.S. troops from the ROK is good for Korea and the region remains to be seen.
bilateral discussions on the subject would soon begin at the invitation of the ROK's President-elect Roh Moo-Hyun. His remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee came against the backdrop of recent strains between the US and the ROK over how to deal with the DPRK's intensified pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Thousands of angry South Korean farmers clashed with police during a protest rally in Seoul against the country's first free-trade agreement set to be signed with Chile, a major fruit exporter. Around 3,000 protesters demanded that the trade pact be nullified, some hurling tangerines, pears and apples at the police. Under the terms of the deal, each country must scrap many tariffs on manufactured and agricultural goods.
My reactions to this piece are two-fold: 1) Some police probably were able to bring home a nice fruit basket assembled from the emblems of the farmers' wrath. 2) As is often the case, the "anti-American" demonstrations are not the only thing on the Korean radar screen, often not even the most significant.
Washington has told Tokyo of its plan to beef up its military forces in Japan to prepare for a possible emergency on the Korean Peninsula as tensions rise over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program and it focuses attention on Iraq, Japanese government sources said Sunday.
The Japanese government has welcomed the U.S. government's plan, given "the need for deterrence under the Japan-U.S. security arrangement in the Asia-Pacific region to remain effective," even when Washington attacks Iraq, according to the sources.
But Kim denied that the payment was a payoff aimed at luring the North Korean leader to the landmark summit, which helped earn him the Nobel Peace Prize the same year.This will hardly satisfy DJ and his MDP's conservative critics. Looks like yet another ROK president is leaving office with a less-than-stellar image.
In a nationally televised address, Kim admitted that Hyundai Group's under-the-table dealings with North Korea had been made with his government's knowledge.
"I am very sorry for causing such deep concern to our people because of a controversy over Hyundai's remittance," he said.