Saturday, September 27, 2003

After a lifetime of failing to keep up with her brother, she finally appropriated him, body and what was left of his mind: not so much will to power as determined opportunism. Little beasts that lay their eggs in a larger creature and whose offspring use the living body of their host as a food store come to mind.


Friday, September 26, 2003

TALK LIKE BILL O'REILLY DAY. I haven't seen O'Reilly in action since our cable network pulled Fox News off of basic cable a few years ago. Still, I think that Atrios has it right (start there and scroll up).

KOREA OR COREA? I can't believe that this old canard is still around.
Chung Yong Wook, a historian at Seoul National University, believes the Japanese -- who controlled the peninsula for four years before officially colonizing it in 1910 -- changed the name by the time of the 1908 Olympics in London so that Japan would come ahead in the ordering of athletes. But the closest thing he has found to a smoking gun is a 1912 memoir by a Japanese colonial official that complained of the Koreans' tendency "to maintain they are an independent country by insisting on using a 'C' to write their country's name."

"I am sure, though, if the Japanese archives were opened you would find much more evidence to support the claim that the name was changed," Chung said.

Prof. Chung may be right; the Japanese archives (many of which seem to be open regarding all sorts of topics) but he would still have to explain why, if the Japanese were so intent and so successful in pushing for the C-to-K switch in Britain and the U.S. why they were so singularly unsuccessful in France? Moreover, having been so successful, why did they continually insist on calling their colony Chosen?

Today the Census Bureau will release the official poverty rate for 2002. While that figure is likely to indicate that the ranks of the poor have increased, it unfortunately won't really tell us much of anything about the true extent of poverty in America.

The problem is that the official definition of poverty no longer provides an accurate picture of material deprivation. The current measure was created 40 years ago by a government statistician, Mollie Orshansky, and hasn't much changed since. "Anyone who thinks we ought to change it is perfectly right," Ms. Orshansky told an interviewer in 2001.


Simple, yes, but there are two basic problems.

First, it fails to capture important changes in consumption patterns since the early 1960's. The research underlying the original thresholds was based on food expenditures by low-income families in 1955. Since her calculations showed that families then spent about a third of their income on food, Ms. Orshansky multiplied a low-income food budget by three to come up with her poverty line. But even she suspected this method underestimated what it took to meet basic needs, and was thus low-balling the poverty rate.


Second, the current measure leaves out some sources of income and some expenditures that weren't relevant when it was devised. The Census Bureau counts the value of cash transfers, like welfare payments, but it ignores the value of food stamps and health benefits, as well as newer tax credits that can significantly add to the income of low-end working families. Not only would taking these additions into consideration bring down the poverty rate figure, it would also provide a real measure of the effects of these antipoverty programs.

It sounds as if we will need to take official government poverty figures with a few grains of salt.


This is a bit dated, but . . . .

The U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill (HR 3137) “To prohibit assistance or reparations to Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.” If it passes (given that the Bush favorite Arab monarchy is on the list I don’t know that it will), it could have interesting implications for future negotiations with the DPRK


The DPRK is left with no option but to go its own way now that it has become clearer that the Bush administration does not have any political willingness to drop its hostile policy toward the DPRK and is getting more undisguised in its moves to disarm the DPRK and isolate and stifle it at any cost.

The U.S. increased hostile policy toward the DPRK will only compel the DPRK to further increase its nuclear deterrent force.

I'm not entirely clear which way North Korea was headed before this dramatic declaration. Seriously though, if this is an accurate description of DPRK intentions, it validates what I have been predicting for some time (see hereand here for examples).


"Enough is enough", concluded the Japanese government last week, announcing that it would take its grievances with the erratic regime in Pyongyang to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.


Things could hardly be worse on the bilateral front, and while North Korea marked the first anniversary of the September 2002 Japan-North Korea summit by accusing Japan of plotting overseas aggression, Tokyo is in an even less festive mood, if reports from the Japanese media are anything to go by.

And things looked so much better only a year ago.

A year has passed since Koizumi and North Korean "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il signed the so-called "Pyongyang Declaration" during what was (prematurely, as it turned out) referred to as a "historic summit" between the two countries.

The declaration called for the normalization of bilateral ties and the establishment of diplomatic relations, causing Koizumi and other diehard optimists to cheer that hostilities and North Korean missile tests over Japan would be a thing of the past before too long.

It only took a couple of weeks, however, before the summit and the two leaders smiling into television cameras ceased to be a promising basis for the beginning of a wonderful friendship in Northeast Asia. Under pressure from the public, the Japanese government was forced to replace diplomatic charm offensives with hardline policies after Kim publicly admitted that Japanese citizens had been abducted and "employed" as language teachers for North Korean spies over the last few decades.

This really was a significant opportunity lost for both sides but particularly for the DPRK. In September 2002, it was far from inconceivable that Py’ôngyang might succeed in peeling Japan away from its strong support for American policies towards the Koreas. With South Korea already openly resisting the Bush hard line and China (at the time) virtually silent, this may have been a significant challenge to the American policy of not engaging the North. Instead, Japan is Washington’s strongest backer in the region and thoughts of Northeast Asian cooperation (co-prosperity?) remain future dreams at best.


Whereas Koizumi is still working on some positive headlines on his North Korea policy, Tokyo's less nonchalant and loose-tongued Governor Shintaro Ishihara has gotten his headlines already, albeit negative and controversial, as usual. Ishihara, known for his outrageous rhetoric and hostility toward China, North Korea and basically everything non-Japanese, last week described Japan's chief negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Hitoshi Tanaka, as a "pawn of Pyongyang who deserved to have a bomb planted at his home".

The governor, considered to be a serious candidate for the post of prime minister by many, dropped yet another of his verbal bombshells after the ultranationalist "Traitor Punishing Group" (Kokuzoku Seibatsutai) informed the media that it had planted a bomb at Tanaka's residence in downtown Tokyo this month.

Although Ishihara refused to retract his remarks, he got himself to admit that he should have been more "precise".

"I should have added more words to explain what I meant. Planting a bomb is not a good thing to do," he said.

Glad we got that out of the way.


South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun is right to talk of equal and fair application of the law as a primary objective of his administration. For decades the police, prosecutors and courts have been used as instruments of government power, with little autonomy from narrow political agendas. But while the rhetoric is heartening, convincing the people of South Korea that the law will be applied equally and fairly will take a lot more than words.

David Scofield goes on to chronicle the sad sagas of Kim Woo Choong, Chun Doo Hwan, Kim Dae Jung’s two sons and South Korean politicians more generally. He continues

Cynicism and contempt for the police, the courts, the corporations and the state are increasing. Stories abound of violent attacks on police and other government officials, as equal application of the law is looking increasingly like no application of the law. It's hard to challenge public contempt when those who rule show little respect for the nation's legal institutions.

And concludes:

Talk of applying the law fairly and equally is meaningless when the people see the rich and powerful flout the law and profit thereby. As former American Chamber of Commerce president Jeffrey Jones was fond of saying, "Some powerful people need to go to jail, the public need to see them in jail, and they need to see the ill-gotten gains forfeited."

If the president is serious about applying the law equally and fairly, then his party, the opposition and the National Assembly might be a good place to start.

While I find little to disagree with this argument, it is important to note that this is far from a strictly Korean problem. I think one could substitute the names of American politicians and businessmen and come to the same type of conclusion

CHOI SOON-HO WRITES OF HIS NOSTALGIA FOR THE OLD DAYS OF BUS CONDUCTORS I remember bus conductors in the late 80's in Kyongsang Province. It appeared to be a difficult and largely thankless job.

ROBERT PALMER, GEORGE PLIMPTON,GORDON JUMP,EDWARD SAID. And these on the heels of Johnny Cash and John Ritter. Does it seem that a larger than usual number of famous folks have headed into the great beyond recently?

FACES OF THE RECALL can be seen in all their surreal glory here.

JAMES FISK AND JAY GOULD OF ARABIA. Joshua Micah Marshall isn’t pleased with the creation of New Bridge Strategies. Here’s the company’s self-description:

New Bridge Strategies, LLC is a unique company that was created specifically with the aim of assisting clients to evaluate and take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East following the conclusion of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Its activities will seek to expedite the creation of free and fair markets and new economic growth in Iraq, consistent with the policies of the Bush Administration.

Mr. Marshall notes the following:

A 'unique company'? You could say that. Who's the Chairman and Director of New Bridge? That would be Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's longtime right-hand-man and until about six months ago his head of FEMA. Before that of course he was the president's chief of staff when he was governor of Texas and campaign manager for Bush-Cheney 2000.

Allbaugh was part of the president's so-called 'Iron Triangle' -- the other two being Karl Rove and Karen Hughes. And now Allbaugh's running an outfit that helps your company get the sweetest contracts in Iraq? That sound right to you? Think he'll have any special pull?

On one level, I find myself in agreement. The seemingly endless parade of media stories on Halliburton, no-bid contracts, and the like demonstrate (if one wishes to be charitable toward the Bush team) a questionable tactical move and a tin ear when it comes to how the administration’s policies will be perceived by the average American (if there is such a creature). Those less charitable towards Bush and his ilk argue that these stories demonstrate a venal mendacity seldom paralleled in the annals of American politics.

On another level, though, I find such attacks to be incomplete at best. First, on the micro-level, I have seldom if ever seen any good reporting on the overall Iraq-related procurement and contract picture. What percentage of the money earmarked for Iraq has gone to Halliburton et al? 5%? 50%? 95%? Frankly I haven’t a clue and those who constantly bring up this issue to use it to criticize the administration haven’t enlightened me. Therefore, I don’t really know how bad the problem really is. And I don’t know how the $600 million contract awarded to Diane Feinstein’s husband’s URS Corporation fits into the overall picture. Moreover, I do not know whether the choice to award contracts to Bush cronies was done at the expense of other equally competent firms. Did this happen? I suspect that it did (and Marshall certainly implies that this process will continue with New Bridge Strategies) but I have no idea who the jilted firms that have been left out in the cold are. Are they any less connected to the establishment? Any less intertwined with “big oil?”

Second, on the macro-level, what would Mr. Marshall and others have the U.S. Government do at this point? Full disclosure: I opposed this war on Iraq though not without significant misgivings (for statements on this, see here and here). However, my wishes were not heeded. The U.S. invaded, toppled Saddam Hussein and his odious regime (not a bad thing), and is trying to rebuild the place. In order to do so, they need to use Iraq’s available resources of which oil is clearly the most easily available and valuable. Who should the U.S. government turn to in order to speedily expedite the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq’s oil industries and infrastructures? Energy companies who do this for a living, or Greenpeace or the Sierra Club? Again, this could merely be another demonstration of my lamentable ignorance; there may be viable alternative firms that have been shut out because of the Bush-crony-oil nexus. But if they exist, they haven’t been too vocal or reported on. Would Mr. Marshall be content if the same reconstruction path were followed but that firms like Haliburton and New Bridge are excluded from the process? Or would any contracts with any energy companies be suspect? If so, what should we do? Trite conclusion: it is easy to criticize; much harder to offer viable alternatives.

ANGRY VIRGINIANS BLOW UP POWER SUB-STATION. OK, not really, but interesting thought experiment nonetheless.

A federal judge in Denver ruled late yesterday that the government's effort to curb unsolicited telemarketing calls was unconstitutional, another blow to plans to implement a national do-not-call list next week.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Edward W. Nottingham was announced just minutes after Congress, in a rare display of speed and bipartisanship, voted to overturn an earlier federal judge's decision to nullify the list on different legal grounds.
I have no doubt that the way the list is set up may be open to various legal and constitutional challenges. However, I soooo enjoyed telling telemarketers that I was on the list and even though it wasn't supposed to kick in until October they should start leaving me alone now! What I don't understand is what the direct marketers are thinking: some 50 million people signed up for the do-not-call list. Now that the list is stalled in court, do they really think that we'll change our minds and welcome dinner-time interruptions with open arms?

OH THE USES OF DUCT TAPE! (link courtesy of Instapundit). Come to think of it, we may be out of the stuff. Better go to Wal-Mart.

SLUMS FROM THE QING DYNASTY ARE STILL SLUMS. David Stanway offers a contrarian view of the much criticized Three Gorges Dam on the Yangzi river in China.
Those having to live in the vast majority of the world's farming communities seem to have a different impression, however. Below one of the temples that have been constructed on the high hills along the Yangtze, a gang of withered little men with ropes of muscle on their arms and legs offer to carry my bloated Western body up to the top for just over a dollar, prompting a minor ethical dilemma: do we accept, and reinforce all the negative imagery of foreign imperialists exploiting the Chinese peasantry, or do we reject, and deprive him of a living?

Whatever. For them, it is difficult to get sentimental about the back-breaking labour and the pitiful annual income. And nor is it all that easy to get nostalgic in a puerile Lawrencian way about the violence of nature when a bloody great flood has just demolished your house and soiled your crops.

The fact that conservationists seek to preserve ways of life that need to be swept away – slums, whether they date from the Qing Dynasty or the Great Leap Forward, are still slums – seems to miss the point entirely. The fact that people are being driven out of subsistence farming and forced to participate in the urban spread is painful, but does not mean that their previous ways of life are worth keeping.

The Three Gorges Dam can be criticized, but not because it is devastating the natural balance in the region: the Yangtze itself has already done far too much of that.

He also notes that
Thousands have lived according to nature in the Three Gorges region. Over the past century, 300,000 people were swept to their deaths by floods, and millions have been made destitute. "Indifferent beyond measure," the Yangtze's last great binge of terror took place in 1998. The death toll reached 4,000.
So, once again we are left with the tension between modernizing developments that may save lives but harm, often irreparably, traditional ways of life. Which is more important?

Thursday, September 25, 2003

BEANTOWN BOYS SECURE THE WILD CARD. Of course as long as The Curse of the Bambino remains, it matters little.


The Wesley Clark phenomenon continues.

EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT LAST NIGHT'S CALIFORNIA RECALL/GOVERNOR DEBATE CAN BE FOUND AT PRESTOPUNDIT I watched bits of it on C-SPAN until the season premiere of Law and Order came on. Frankly, I was underwhelmed by the entire lot of them. With the exception of McClintock (and even he wasn't perfect on this score), platitudes, dodging tough questions and issues, and snarky personal attacks were the order of the day. Also noticed that few of them had anything to say about Gray Davis. If recent polls are any indication, Davis may weather this recall storm and make all of the race for his replacement moot.
By the way, the Law and Order episode wasn'tmuch better. I don't think the show has quite jumped the shark yet but it may be losing steam.

UPDATE: Hit and Run makes the following observation/calculation:

Number of times the gubernatorial candidates used the words "I, me, my, mine, myself" during their closing statements of last night's debate (unofficial count):

Cruz Bustamente: 7
Arianna Huffington: 9
Peter Camejo: 10
Tom McClintock: 13
Arnold Schwarzenegger: 31
. Hmmmm. Interesting but probably ultimately not all that significant.


The Defense Department’s Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office negotiated terms with the North Koreans in July, which led to the scheduling of two, month-long operations this year. As a matter of policy, these recovery talks deal exclusively with the issue of recovering the remains of missing Americans. POW/MIA accounting is a separate, stand-alone humanitarian matter, not tied to any other issue. The second operation will end on October 28, 2003 when these remains and others will be repatriated.

Since 1996, 26 individual joint operations have been conducted in North Korea, during which 182 sets of remains believed to be those of U.S. soldiers have been recovered. Of the 88,000 U.S. servicemembers missing in action from all conflicts, more than 8,100 are from the Korean War.

Nice to see success in the midst of the diplomatic stand-off on nuclear proliferation.

North Korea said Wednesday that it completely rejects Japan's accusations over the abduction issue and that the abductions were the result of Japan's hostile policy over the past century.
The North Korean envoy also said the few abductees are nothing compared with the deaths of 8.4 million Koreans under Japan's 40 years of colonization of the Korean Peninsula.
In short, "you were so mean to us in the past we had no choice but to kidnap your citizens." I'm speechless.


The United States has offered to maintain a smaller presence in the Yongsan Garrison when the U.S. military headquarters relocates south of Seoul in 2006, thus returning to Korea a larger piece of land there than initially envisioned, a report said yesterday.

The U.S. side is expected to return about 700,000 pyeong (2.3 million square meters) of land to Korea, a significant departure from its earlier agreement to return 500,000 pyeong of the total 870,000 pyeong, Yonhap News Agency reported, quoting an unnamed diplomatic source.

Military experts believe, however, the sudden softening of the U.S. stance is aimed at inducing Korea to make a commitment to send combat troops to Iraq to join the multinational effort led by the United States to maintain security there.
Given that Yongsan was the headquarters of the Japanese Imperial Army during Japanese colonial rule of Korea (1910-1945), I think it might be better, at least for symbolic reasons, for the Americans to vacate "Dragon Hill" altogether.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

DOES NEGATIVE MEDIA COVERAGE OF IRAQ ENCOURAGE THE ENEMY? Congressman Jim Marshall thinks so (though blogger Josh Marshall disagrees). Glenn Instapundit Reynolds agrees with the congressman, not the blogger:
Congressman Jim Marshall (whom Josh originally misidentified as a Republican) saying that negative media coverage is getting our troops killed. But Marshall the Congressman, and a Vietnam vet, was there, and thinks negative publicity is encouraging the Baathist holdouts to believe that they can pull a Mogadishu and get the United States to pull out. Marshall the pundit might want to ponder the possibility that reflexive media negativity, counted on by our foes to advance their plans, might actually, you know, advance their plans.

It's not the reporting of criticisms or bad things that's the issue -- the first-person accounts I link below all have criticisms and negative information. It's the lazy Vietnam-templating, the "of course America must be losing" spin, the implicit and sometimes explicit sneer, and the relentless bringing to the fore of every convenient negative fact while suppressing the positive ones that's the issue. It's what the terrorists are counting on, and it's what too many in the media are happy to deliver, because they think it'll hurt Bush.
I would tend to agree with Prof. Reynolds though I would add a cautionary note that it is not too big a leap to move from: "let's be sure to report the good side of the American occupation of Iraq as well as the bad side" to "let's report only the good side (so as not to aid the Baathist holdouts and Al Qaeda fighters in Iraq)." It is a fine line indeed and a difficult one to walk.

The more you look at the Security Council negotiations, the more they resemble one of those horrible divorces in which the children get ignored because the parents are caught up in the psychodrama of each other's perfidies. You've got the usual Franco-American dramatics. You've got the Germans trying to make everyone like them. Meanwhile, the actual needs of actual Iraqis never seem to come in for much discussion.

It's time to acknowledge that the reconstruction of Iraq is too important to be left to the foreign policy types, who are trained to think too abstractly to grapple with the problems that matter.

The good things that are happening in Iraq are taking place far below the level of grand strategy. On Sunday, 18 bankers and civil servants from 11 central and Eastern European countries came to Iraq to describe the lessons they had learned in moving from tyranny to democracy. Every day, U.N. humanitarian workers, far removed from the marble halls of the Security Council, risk their lives to feed and clothe Iraqis. Every day, U.S. military officers spend millions of dollars building schools and tackling neighborhood issues. That's the work that gives Iraqis hope. Seventy percent of Iraqis expect their lives to improve over the next five years, and two-thirds want coalition forces to stay for at least a year, according to a recent Zogby poll.

Over the long term, we need to create an apolitical reservist force, made up of of businesspeople, administrators and police officers who have concrete experience in moving societies from dictatorship to democracy. In the meantime, we need to focus on serving the Iraqis first, second and last. We don't need to get caught up in a distracting round of lofty debates among the world's Walter Mitty Metternichs, who treat the Iraqi people as pawns in their great game-power struggles.
Instapundit has been all over the idea that things in Iraq on the local level aren't quite as bad as the media depictions (more here). I suspect that he is on to something though I would note that if the powers that be fail on the macro level, all of the school construction in the world probably won't matter.

CRANKY "I MUST BE GETTING OLDER" MOMENT. FCUK fragrance has a new series of ads with the tagline "scent to bed" (with liberal applications of the oh so witty "fcuk him, fcuk her," and "where the fcuk are you"). A summary of the ads and the backlash they have engendered can be found here.
I am not so naive to assume that everyone should share my aesthetic sensibilities or that everyone should come to the same conclusions about whether ads are appropriate for the "youth" demographic (a demographic that my daughter is rapidly approaching). However, I do get more than a bit miffed by the obvious duplicity of statements such as these:
For their part, FCUK continues to play coy. "Our message is light-hearted and fun, and any misinterpretation is purely in the eye of the beholder," said Karen Gori, a brand manager for FCUK Fragrance.
Nonsense! The only way to "misinterpret" this ad campaign is to conclude that it actually is a subtle call for sexual abstinence.

OVER ONE MILLION STILL WITHOUT POWER AFTER ISABEL. Fortunately for us, we are no longer among them. I wonder how much longer this situation can last before talk of the quagmire in Virginia and North Carolina begins.

Terror leads to contentment and happiness? Perhaps that's utterly bogus. But maybe it isn't. A crisis does bring people together, and that does make people feel better. There are probably a lot more lonely and isolated people in Canada than in Israel.

If this from-the-hip analysis is correct, terrorism completely and utterly fails.
I think the reality is a bit more complex but the sense of community that is engendered by facing a common threat may be valued by the group.

IF FRODO HAD YAHOO. I suppose he might have used this. Somehow the story wouldn't have been the same.

Monday, September 22, 2003

WHY DO SENATORS RUN FOR PRESIDENT? Some thoughts from an unnamed "political consultant"
First, to the extent the candidates are United States senators (four are), caution-contents-under-pressure egotism is the driving factor. It matters not that it has been 43 years since a senator was elected president. All senators consider themselves Great Men -- substitute Women where appropriate--and of equal importance, all senators consider all competing senators Bloated Gasbags. So when Senator A declares for the presidency, 99 other senators instantly think, Him? I'm better than him! Senators endlessly run, and endlessly lose, because they cannot stand the thought that some other senator views himself as more qualified.

Second, the Renown Political Consultant went on, a presidential campaign is a lottery ticket. No one knows who will win; "expert" forecasts are almost always wrong. All current Democratic contenders are keenly aware that at this point in 1992, George H. W. Bush looked unbeatable; a year later he lost to a small-state governor with bimbo baggage, while party heavyweights stayed out of the race. So why not buy a ticket? Considering that you yourself do not pay the price of the ticket--your campaign donors do that--why not?
Gregg Easterbrook adds the following:
Sounds persuasive. I'll add the third reason, general to all the candidates, which is that running for president allows a person to spend the year pretending he or she actually is president.
As I have noted here and here, it is my strongly held opinion that senators should run for president only if they can continue to do their job while on the campaign trail. Most, apparently, can't do both but don't seem to care.

MADONNA'S NEW CHILDREN'S BOOK. Katrina vanden Heuvel likes it. Diana West doesn't. Who cares?


"South Korea is in a transition," said Lee Woong Jin, 38, the agency's chief executive. "It's a reality that divorce is rising and will probably continue to rise. At the same time, we are adhering to traditional values."

Rapidly changing attitudes toward divorce — as well as such other issues as marriage, childbearing and cohabitation — show a South Korea in the throes of a social transformation. Still anchored in Confucian values of family and patriarchy, South Korea is fast becoming an open, Westernized society — with the world's highest concentration of Internet broadband users, a pop culture that has recently been breaking taboos left and right, and living patterns increasingly focusing on individual satisfaction.

Social changes that took decades in the West or Japan, sociologists here like to point out, are occurring here in a matter of years. In the last decade, South Korea's divorce rate swelled 250 percent, in keeping with women's rising social status. But it shot up even more after the economic crisis of 1997, which caused widespread unemployment and shook men's basic standing in the society and family, said Hwang Hee Bong, a deputy director at the Korea National Statistical Office.

This ain't your daddy's T'ae-Han minguk

Sunday, September 21, 2003

DAY THREE, NO POWER. Most of the commercial establishments in Spotsy County are up and running (albeit some only on generator power). Most homes in developed areas appear to be as well. But when you drive into our little neighborhood suddenly the lights go out. One of our neighbors actually managed to speak to a real live person at Dominion Virginia Power. He was told that we are but a few of hundreds of thousands without power. And, since we are only a small residential area with no commercial establishments, we should count on waiting at least until Tuesday. Sigh!

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