Friday, October 10, 2003

WHAT WILL GRAY DAVIS DO NOW? Scott Ott has the goods.

TO KILL TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Strange things are afoot in Columbus, Indiana.
Columbus East High School has canceled its student production of "To Kill a Mockingbird" because of concerns over a racially sensitive word in the play's dialogue.

The school's drama teacher asked the play's publisher to let the students take the "N-word" out of the dialogue, but the publisher refused, Principal William Jensen said.
Before the play was canceled, the drama teacher asked Gwendolyn Wiggins, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, what she thought of using the word in the play. Wiggins said she didn't want students to hear it.

"That would be giving another reason to say, 'OK, if they use it in the play, we can say it outside the play.' And that's not right," Wiggins said.
I have encountered few books (or films) that more eloquently and compellingly demonstrated the stark inhumanity of prejudice and intolerance than To Kill a Mockingbird. The unsparing depiction of racist whites in the work reveals them in all their inhumanity and ugliness. Anyone who comes away from reading or hearing characters in the work using the "N-word" with the impression that using that word is acceptable was not conscious when they encountered the work.

But wait, there's more:
Wiggins said she supports the story's message, but she doesn't like the way it is delivered, particularly when it is delivered to high school students.

"Don't we have some positive things going on with black people that we can highlight now? Find those plays and use them," she said.
If one takes this kind of muddled thinking to its logical conclusion, we should quit talking about slavery, Jim Crow, or anything else that doesn't highlight "positive things going on with black people." Unbelievable!

UPDATE: Erin O'Connor makes this conclusion:
The school bought her argument, saying that cancelling the play is "being sensitive to issues still bubbling below the surface." In this instance, cultural illiteracy paves the way for more cultural illiteracy. In focussing on Lee's use of a word, rather than on how Lee's use of the word enables her to paint a realistic portrait of the southern culture she criticizes, the Indianapolis NAACP and the school that follows its directives are using identity politics to promote ignorance. The lesson they teach is that cheap simulations of sensitivity are superior to genuine expressions of it, that censorship is preferable to knowledge, that context and tradition do not matter, that history and memory exist to be strategically shaped and selectively suppressed according to the needs of the moment, and, lastly, that kids are really, really stupid.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

LOOK OUT SUPERMAN, STEP ASIDE BATMAN. This car boot is a job for the Angle-Grinder Man!


MARK STEYN ON AMERICAN INTELLIGENCE (the exciting covert James Bond intelligence, not the grey matter of the general populace).

But all these engagements will depend on good intelligence. If the Third Infantry Division rolls across the Syrian border, it can handle anything Boy Assad can throw at it. But, if you’re sending in a few Delta Force guys to take discreet care of a small problem, you need to be very well informed of the facts on the ground. Two years after 9/11, the CIA is still not up to the job of human intelligence. It has no idea of what’s going on in Iran or North Korea. It relies on aerial photographs and ‘chatter’ — which is a fancy term for monitoring e-mail. But it has no insight whatsoever into the minds of the Politburo or the mullahs. So, when it comes to their nuclear ambitions, all we have is guesswork — or, more accurately, wishful thinking, given that both Hashemi Rafsanjani and the Norks have promised to use their nukes as soon as they can.

If sending Joseph C. Wilson IV to Niger for a week is the best the world’s only hyperpower can do, that’s a serious problem. If the Company knew it was a joke all along, that’s a worse problem. It means Mr Bush is in the same position with the CIA as General Musharraf is with Pakistan’s ISI: when he makes a routine request, he has to figure out whether they’re going to use it to try and set him up. This is no way to win a terror war.
It may be that the CIA has gotten some things right and in so doing has averted disaster but hasn't told the public about it for fear of compromising its sources. But based on what information is available, I don't know that I would disagree with Steyn's observation:
‘The intel bureaucracy got the Sudanese aspirin factory wrong, failed to spot 9/11 coming, and insisted it was impossible for any American to penetrate bin Laden’s network, only to have Johnnie bin Joss-Stick from hippy-dippy Marin County on a self-discovery jaunt round the region stroll into the cave and be sharing the executive latrine with the A-list jihadi within 20 minutes.

‘So, if you’re the President and the same intelligence bureaucrats who got all the above wrong say the Brits are way off the mark, there’s nothing going on with Saddam and Africa, what do you do? Do you say, “Hey, even a stopped clock is right twice a day”? Or do you make the reasonable assumption that, given what you’ve learned about the state of your humint (human intelligence) in the CIA, is it likely they’ve got much of a clue about what’s going on in French Africa? Isn’t this one of those deals where the Brits and the shifty French are more plugged in?’

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

KIM JONG IL'S WIFE IN CRITICAL CONDITION? (link courtesy of Seeing Eye Blog) I hadn't heard that she has been referred to as North Korea's "queen" before. More fuel for the North-Korea-really-is-a-traditional-Korean-dynasty-in-modern-garb theory.
UPDATE: The Marmot has more.
UPDATE: Free North Korea has still more (though some is more of the same):
Little is known about Ms Ko, other than that she is the daughter of parents who left Japan in the 1960s, lured by the promise of enjoying Mr Kim's socialist paradise.

Ms Ko reportedly caught Mr Kim's eye as one of 2,000 girls employed in the dictator's "pleasure groups". She was a dancer in the Mansudae Art Troupe in Pyongyang. Each "pleasure group" is composed of three teams - a "satisfaction team", which performs sexual services; a "happiness team," which provides massage and a "dancing and singing team".

These teams, recruited from girls' high schools, undergo a six-month training course before they are assigned to one of the dictator's 32 villas and palaces until the age of 25.

Reports filtering out early last month suggested that Ms Ko, had recently become obsessed about raising her profile into that of a national icon, on a similar footing to Kim Jong Il's revolutionary fighter mother. Before the accident she had begun styling herself the "Mother of Pyongyang" and insisted the state media broadcast propaganda about her.

According to a bodyguard to the regime who defected: "The National Security Department warns that anyone who criticises the 'Mother of Pyongyang' will be strictly punished as a political criminal."

There have been intriguing hints of a looming power struggle. One North Korea watcher in Seoul said: "To make her second son Jong-Woon the successor, Ms Ko has ordered the Workers Party and high officials to call Jong-Woon the 'Morning Star King'."

Yu Suk-Ryul at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security think-tank in Seoul said yesterday that the North Korean dictator deliberately maintained a veil of secrecy around his dynasty.

"His royal families are hidden in a veil as a way of worshipping the Kim Jong Il family."

BUSH'S BI-POLAR DISORDER. Peter Hayes has penned a thoughtful essay on the North Korean nuclear issue and the ways in which the U.S. can help or hurt the situation. He has an interesting vision of the near-term future of North Korea
Much more likely than collapse or a coup dreamed about by hawks in Washington is the possibility that, within a decade, big party bosses and players in North Korea will be operating vertically and horizontally in integrated trading empires that look, feel, and sound like South Korean chaebols, such as Hyundai and Daewoo, with global operations but concentrated on a zone of urban-industrial commerce and manufacturing along the northern side of the DMZ. There will be at least a dozen or so North Korean billionaires selling real estate at Panmunjon. The big question is: Will they be armed with nuclear weapons?
I'm not sure that I buy his "Ukrainian solution" but it is worth thinking about.

Japan on Tuesday blasted North Korea as "selfish" for saying Pyongyang will not allow Tokyo to take part in future six-nation talks aimed at resolving the dispute over the North's nuclear weapons program.

"It was a selfish thing for North Korea to say," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told reporters.
Of course if "selfish" is the best Japan can come up with, the Japanese have much to learn before they can match the North Koreans in rhetorical vitriol. See this denunciation of the ROK's sending of troops to Iraq:
To send young people of south Korea as bullet-shields for U.S. troops at a time when the world opposes troop dispatch to Iraq, is an anti-national, pro-U.S. flunkeyist act harming the dignity of the nation, infringing upon its interests and disgracing it.
Or this attack on Japan:
Lurking behind this is a black-hearted intention of the present Japanese rulers to save Japan from economic depression and achieve the stability of their office by making its domestic policy veer to the right and stepping up its militarization under the pretext of the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula.
A little more harsh than "selfish."

GLOBALIZATION (WESTERNIZATION?) IN KOREA. A recent survey of the names of businesses in the busy Myong-dong area of Seoul (and in the central district--chunggu--more generally) reveals that fully 53% of them have some sort of foreign word in their name. This is up from 45% two years ago. Language purists probably decry such a move. Of course, aside from the comical efforts of a French style l'Academie Francaise language police, there is no way to really stop languages from changing.

NOW WHAT DO I DO? I tried to have a little fun with one of the variants of the Nigerian e-mail scam that crossed my inbox recently. The note began as follows:

From Ms. Sandra Kobe
Abidjan Ivory Coast.
I hope this letter will not upset you, as we have no previous discussion on this matter. I am Miss Sandra Kobe, daughter of Mr. Marcus Kobe; a Liberian former Director of Liberian Mining corporation who was assassinated by the Rebels fighting former President Charles Taylor’s Government in Oct.2001.

My mother died of hart attack, one year after my Father?s death. I and my brother Nelson become orphans without anybody to care for us, even the Government which our father served and lost his life.

You know the drill: be my partner, help me get money out of an account, give me your account number etc. etc. Anyone who takes this stuff seriously needs to write that old saying about fools and their money a thousand times. So, my attempt at a witty reply went as follows:

Dear Ms. Kobe,

I did not realize that there were homicidal harts in Liberia. Did they attack your father in a herd or was this a lone hart doing the evil deed?

Note that in my attempt to be witty, I misread the letter. It was her mother not her father that was supposedly felled by deer. Well, Ms. Kobe wrote back:

So, what do I do now? What kind of percentage should I offer? Is this the key to a comfortable retirement? Suggestions?

DUMB AND DUMBER Courtesy of the Smoking Gun.

THIS IS CNN. Tim Blair spots an interesting line in a CNN story:
Schwarzenegger, who, like Hitler, is a native of Austria ...
CNN, which as Blair notes "like feral swine, is based in Georgia" has pulled the story. But all sorts of amusing possibilities emerge from this style of reporting (see the comments section):
Fox News might say, "Schwarzenegger, who, like Maria Von Trapp, protaganist of "The Sound of Music", is a native of Austria..."

CNN, which, like that crematorium guy who kept hundreds of rotting corpses in his backyard, is based in Georgia...

Cruz Bustamante who, like Hitler, had a mustache..."

"Peter Uberoth who, like Hitler, organized an Olympics..."

"Bill Clinton who, like Hitler, was admired for his public speaking..."

THE MARMOT HAS NOTICED SOME INTERESTING PHOTOS OF SOUTH KOREAN WOMEN SOLDIERS. I am curious about the significance of the raised arm salute. What is this supposed to signify? Note too, the poster for Orion Caramels in the background of the 1959 photo. If one had any doubt whether this might be a photo of North Korean soldiers, that should put such doubts to rest.

NEWS FROM AROUND THE WORLD. Or at least the front pages of world newspapers. Definitely worth a look. Thanks to Cut on the Bias for the link. Many but certainly not all or even most have Arnold on the front page.

ARNOLD! I find the following observation to be interesting:
As I sat bleary-eyed at 1:41 AM EST listening to an impossibly broad-chested man declare he was an "out-sidah," I couldn't help but notice that arrayed behind him, with their fulsome smiles and die-cast cheekbones, was a entire wing of an American political dynasty.

UPDATE: Interesting Map of the recall vote here.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Agence France-Presse ("CHINA AIMS TO TOUCH THE MOON: TOP NATIONAL DEFENSE OFFICIAL," 10/06/03) reported that the PRC's space ambitions will not stop at just sending a person into space; the country plans to send astronauts to the moon, a top national defense official said, quoted by PRC media. "China will become the third country in the world to launch manned space flight. In the past, China's 'Shenzhou' (unmanned) spaceships have successfully gone into space to orbit the earth," Wang Shuquan, deputy secretary of the Commission for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, was quoted as saying. "China will still continue to develop its space exploration plans. At a future time, China will carry out lunar landing and flight experiments." Wang did not give an exact date for the PRC's first manned space flight, which is expected to take place "right after" a Communist Party Central Committee plenary meeting ending on October 14, the Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po newspaper in Hong Kong cited authoritative sources as saying last week. Wang's comments reflect similar recent comments by PRC officials reported in the PRC media saying sending a man to the moon is part of China's plans for its space program.

In the long-term, this could be one of the bigger developments of our time. Absent Cold War rivalries, the West doesn't appear to be all that excited about space exploration. Will the Chinese interest in space spark a resurgence in American efforts or will the U.S. leave the field to China?

NORTH KOREA TO JAPAN: You're no longer welcome to nuclear talks (link and discussion at the Marmot).
North Korea said Tuesday it would not allow Japan to take part in any future multilateral talks on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program, but Japan said it would not accept the notion Pyongyang could decide who attends.

A statement from the North Korean Foreign Ministry, published by the official KCNA news agency, said Japan had linked other bilateral problems to the talks, such as the past abduction by North Korea of Japanese nationals.

This would seem to be a natural intensification of the anti-Japan rhetoric that has been blasting forth from Pyongyang lately (see here and here for examples). It would appear that, having utterly failed to normalize relations with Japan (and cash in on the $20 billion that would be demanded as compensation for Japanese colonial rule) North Korea is reverting to form: the anti-Japanese struggle is at the heart of the Great Leader's legitimacy. The DPRK has consistently used South Korea's elite's close ties to Japan as a club to beat the "collaborators" with.

OH ME OF LITTLE FAITH. The Red Sox are heading to New York. They managed to eke out a game 5 victory over the hapless A's; and this in spite of the fact that they have stopped using their closer Kim Byung Hyun (who has been benched after blowing game 1 and giving Boston fans the middle finger). I don't even like baseball but with both the Red Sox and the Cubs in their League Championships, I may have to watch a few games.

Monday, October 06, 2003

H RES 385:
Resolved, That the House of Representatives recognizes the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Republic of Korea as a momentous occasion and as an excellent opportunity to reaffirm a mutual commitment and to continue to deepen cooperation and friendship between the United States and the Republic of Korea.
Sounds well and good. Does it actually mean anything?

ACCOLADES FOR THE DEAR LEADER. No, not that Dear Leader. We're talking about Samsung head Lee Kun-hee. But some of this praise is eerily reminiscent of the hagiography of both Great and Dear Leaders in North Korea.
Lee Kun-hee said in a low tone, "I've been thinking about a way to do something for your school. I think it would be a good idea to launch a program to foster female leaders, about ten students a year, at your school with aid from the scholarship foundation. This way, Sookmyung University will make giant strides."

Was it a coincidence? Lee Kyoung-sook had been thinking of a way to upgrade her university with a program to foster female leaders for the nation. With the Samsung chairman's invitation, she could put her idea into practice.

To a question about whether Lee is a resourceful leader, a brave leader or a virtuous leader, he answered that Lee appears to have all three of these qualities, and is particularly notable as a resourceful leader.

But can he make movies (I know he can watch them; Lee claims to have thousands of videos in his collection).

A hundred head of cattle will accompany the 1,110-member South Korean delegation as they leave for Pyeongyang on Monday (Oct. 6) to participate in the opening ceremony of a multi-purpose indoor gymnasium built by Hyundai Asan and North Korea.

According to the North Korean tour organizer Hyundai Asan on Sunday, it has delivered 100 cattle to the South Korean National Red Cross to be donated to the North.

The donors include Hyundai Engineering and Construction and Hyundai Motor.

This will be Hyundai fourth donation of cattle to the North since June 1998, when late Hyundai founder Chung Ju-yung visited the North to deliver a herd of 501 cattle.

NORTH KOREA ASKS FOR ANOTHER APOLOGY FROM JAPAN. This time it is for taxing the Chongryun, a pro-DPRK organization in Japan.
North Korea condemned Japanese authorities on Monday for levying local taxes on the main pro-Pyongyang Korean citizens group in Japan, asserting that the Japanese government is pursuing a hostile policy toward Koreans.

In a statement distributed by the official Korean Central News Agency, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said Japan must "apologize for all the damage" caused to the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan.
The Chongryun has a somewhat anomalous status because Japanese-Koreans have generally not been allowed to become Japanese citizens (even if they wanted to). However, to castigate a foreign country for taxing organizations in said country seems a bit cheeky to me. Perhaps I am merely ignorant of international law on this subject. If so, please enlighten me.

MEDIA, THE TERMINATOR, AND THE WOMAN IN RED. Only in America folks (thanks to Matt Welch for the link).

MORE SIGNS OF THE INEVITABLE (?) RE-ALIGNMENT: China emerges as South Korea's number one export destination.
Last month, Korea's total outbound shipments hit a record high of $17 billion, driving its year-to-date trade surplus up to $8.34 billion.

The trade surplus with China from January to September more than doubled over last year to $8.19 billion and the ratio of China-bound shipments to the nation's total exports stood at 17.7 percent, exceeding the 17.5 percent for the U.S. market.
Folks like Andre Gunder Frank would see this is a natural outcome of the decline of the American "paper tiger" and the rise of "fiery dragon" China to its previously-held position of economic centrality and dominance. I suspect that Frank overlooks some significant challenges the PRC will have to meet in the near-term future (rich-poor/coast-interior gaps, bloated state-owned enterprises etc.) but it would be silly to assume that the U.S. will forever remain South Korea's largest trading partner. So, as the economic rationale for close U.S.-ROK ties diminishes at the same time that significant differences of opinion concerning security policy and geopolitics emerge, is there any hope for a continued American-Korean alliance? Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

TYGER, TYGER BURNING BRIGHT. What is this with all the tigers in the news? A 350-pound Bengal Tiger discovered in a Manhattan apartment. A tiger attacking Roy (of Siegfried and Roy) in Las Vegas. Kofi Anan refuses to meet with tigers (of the Tamil Eelam variety) in Sri Lanka. Tiger Woods clings to a lead as Vijay Singh charges in the World Golf Championships American Express Championship. Is this typical?

An article in the October Reason Magazine underlines Blackwell's scorching criticism of his own party: Watch out for those tax-and-spend Republicans. Between 1997 and 2002, spending in Republican-controlled states such as Ohio actually rose slightly faster than in Democrat-controlled states.
Possible explanations:
--Reason Magazine doesn't know what it is talking about (should be fairly easy to check the magazine's math)
--These are anomalous times: once the Republicans eliminate Democrats and other evil-doers from the country, then they can usher in the utopia of limited government.
--The difference between Republicans and Democrats on most issues is small to non-existent. All are politicians, all pander to special interests, all know they can get away with not walking their talk.
Guess which explanation I favor?

FOOD AID AND NORTH KOREA. Kevin ("Big Hominid") has an extended post on the subject. He points to stories on a new DPRK propaganda offensive: Kim Jong Il eats gruel just like you. Snippet:
In new fiction, TV shows and in films like last year's "People of Chagang Province," Kim Jong Il is shown as keenly aware of chronic food shortages, and even as eating the same "gruel" as ordinary Koreans. He is often depicted as too busy conducting a "military first" policy, defending the nation from its enemies, to have the time to be fully engaged in agricultural oversight. There's even a strain of guilt injected in the message — that people don't work hard enough to feed the "Dear Leader."

For example, the elderly woman in the short story says to the incognito Kim, "Does not our General Kim go up and down steep mountain paths without a moment's rest in order to visit the People's Army troops? He's trying to keep watch over the homeland and over the fate of all of us. And he always insists on eating just what the people are eating, rice and gruel. Is this taking care of our General? Is it enough just to talk about taking care of him? We've got to dig a lot of coal, coal I tell you."
Of course there is some skepticism:
Circumstantial evidence suggests many North Koreans don't believe the propaganda. The idea that Kim eats gruel, apart from being discounted by a Russian diplomat who told of live seafood delivered to Kim's Moscow-bound train, seems hard for ordinary Koreans to believe when they see photos of the leader and his Panda-like paunch.
Kevin's post also includes numerous links to the controversy over the diversion (or lack thereof) of humanitarian aid. Worth a look.

FLYING YANGBAN FLOATS "AN IDEA THAT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE THAT IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN" Noting that the growing numbers of foreign workers in South Korea are presenting challenges to the ROK, he makes the following suggestion:
Thinking about this I had an epiphany; why doesn't the South Korean government invite some of their North Korean brothers and sisters to come down and work in these factories? After all, as bad as conditions can be in the plants they can't be as bad as those in parts of North Korea, can they?

If ever there was a case in which the two Koreans should cooperate, this is it. South Korean factory owners would benefit by having laborers who speak the same language as their managers. Using Northern workers in the South could also be a first step in joint development projects as workers trained in the South could become foremen on new South Korean-owned businesses in the North.

But the big winner would be the North. The cash-starved country could gain the remittances of hundreds of thousands of workers.
But then reality sets in:
As good an idea as it is to have North Koreans join their Korean-Chinese cousins in South Korean shops and factories, it will never happen, for the simple reason that opening up the Koreans to each other at that level will lead to the eventual overthrow of the North Korean dictatorship.

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