Thursday, October 23, 2003

THE VOICE OF DARTH VADER NOTWITHSTANDING, technological trends make it increasingly clear that Verizon is toast (thanks to Asymmetrical Information for the link)
Seeking temporary refuge behind technological Maginot Lines (also known as regulatory stays), Verizon is stuck with an increasingly anachronistic legacy. In four key communications sectors of the future, Verizon is on the defensive. Here is an autopsy of the corporate equivalent of the walking dead.
Of course who has essentially a local phone monopoly where I live? "Can you hear me now?"

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

GNP APOLOGIZES FOR FUND SCANDAL. Or so reads the headline. The details are slightly different:
The main opposition Grand National Party yesterday apologized for one of its lawmakers' involvement in a controversy, in which he is suspected of receiving a huge amount of illegal campaign funds from a conglomerate shortly before the December presidential election.

"The GNP gives a sincere apology for the controversy stirred up by Rep. Choi Don-woong's admission to having accepted money from SK Group and expects a fair investigation by the prosecution," Party Chairman Choe Byung-yul said through his spokesman.
So are they apologizing for the behavior (e.g. taking bribes), the admission of the behavior, or the "controversy stirred up" by the admission of the behavior? If this translation is correct (and I'm too busy and lazy to look up the Korean version) this would seem to be another non-apology apology that politicians around the world are so good at. "We're sorry we were caught and that this has become such a big deal."

SIGN THAT MY YOUTH IS FOREVER GONE. I read about this fashion development and feel only revulsion and pity.
Tired of the same old flower-design chinaware gathering dust in the back of your cupboard? Try out Park Zinoo's new take on "table-wear," ceramic dishes that simultaneously act as bikini bottoms and a tray for your food. Mom might not approve, but it's the next best thing to enjoying a meal in the comfort of your birthday suit.
And the appeal of this is what exactly?

"AS YOU KNOW, IN MY CASE . . . " I happened across a Donga Ilbo editorial that begins like this:
In Korea, we have the most beautifully tinted autumn leaves in the world. The leaves turn to the most brilliant colors during weather in which the temperature does not fall below zero and in which the temperature difference between the day and night is at its largest. The Korean autumn is like this. Just around the time that we see all those beautifully tinted and shaded colors in the mountains, the northwest wind blows in from the Chinese continent and makes the matching sky clearer and higher.
One could, of course, quibble with this. Sure, Korean autumn leaves are nice, but "the most beautifully tinted autumn leaves in the world"? Folks in Vermont and who knows where else might beg to differ. My general reaction, though, is one of nostalgia. I can't count how many times in 1980's knocking Province I encountered an earnest young Korean student who wanted to practice their Enlgish. Almost invariably they began with a discourse on Korea, one that came straight out of their middle school introductory English textbook.
I would like to introduce my country to you.

As you know, in our case, Korea has four distinct seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter.

Korea also has the most scientific alphabet in the world
And on and on it would go. South Korea is far more cosmopolitan and jaded now. Almost no one approaches me in Seoul to practice their English. I'm glad to see that love of that most beautiful of the four distinct seasons still remains.


NOW TELL US WHAT YOU REALLY THINK PART TWO. Christopher Hitchens is, unsurprisingly, critical of the Catholic Church's beatification of Mother Teresa. He calls her a "fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud" and labels her fast-track beatification "abject surrender, on the part of the church, to the forces of showbiz, superstition, and populism." I find his sudden concern for the integrity of the beatification process a tad insincere given his general antipathy towards organized religion of any type.

NOW TELL US WHAT YOU REALLY THINK! "For all his flaws, Lieberman is Not a Republican." Meteor Blades has the polls to prove it. Well, I'm glad we got that out of the way.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

KIM JONG IL RE-APPEARS. Did anyone actually miss him?

WHEN IS A PACT NOT A PACT? Priorities and Frivolities noticed two very different headlines to stories about Bush's statements on North Korea at the APEC summit. One from the Washington Post:
Bush Says Pact With N. Korea Possible
and one from the Associated Press
Bush Rules Out Pact With North Korea
So which is it? Read the whole post for a reasoned examination of the issue.

DOES NORTH KOREA ACTUALLY HAVE NUKES? What a silly question. Of course it does, right? How many times have we heard the CIA estimate that the DPRK had enough nuclear material to make one to two weapons before the 1994 Agreed Framework? Now, with clandestine uranium enrichment programs, IAEA-inspector-free plutonium facilities, emissions of krypton gas, there should be no doubt, right? Well, the apparent exaggerations of the intelligence community when it came to Iraq should be sufficient to give one pause. Add to this David Sanger's concise summary of the issue in the New York Times. According to Sanger, what does the IAEA say about the DPRK?
The International Atomic Energy Agency, in a series of confidential briefings, has taken a middle view: It has told Asian governments that North Korea has probably produced enough plutonium to make two new nuclear weapons, according to officials who took notes on the briefings.

"When you add up the evidence, we have every reason to believe they've made two new weapons," a senior Asian official said. That would be in addition to the one or two that the C.I.A. has said the North probably made in the early 1990's.

However . . .
American officials caution that the international agency reached its estimates by reinterpreting data from the United States, South Korea and other nations.

The international estimate concerned fuel and did not assess whether the North could convert it into a working bomb. North Korea has never tested a nuclear weapon.

And here's the kicker:
The C.I.A. assessment that North Korea built two bombs a decade ago appears to assume that the country had mastered the technology, but the basis for the conclusion is unclear.

So, based on estimates from the same organization that convinced most Americans, Republican and Democrat, that Iraq was brimming with WMD's, the DPRK may have some nuclear fuel and may be able to convert this fuel into weapons. But Sanger's conclusion is well warranted:
What it all adds up to is that no one knows for certain how big the North's arsenal is.
Or whether North Korea has an arsenal at all.

Monday, October 20, 2003

OUCH! A former student sent me the link to the following story: "A short cut to better spoken English. South Koreans trimming their tongues to improve speech"

This disturbing phenomenon appears at the intersection of two different social and cultural trends in South Korea. First is the emphasis on education as a means for advancement. South Koreans already spend massive amounts of their disposable income (around 25% if memory serves) on extra-curricular education (hakwon, private tutors etc.). Since so much is devoted to ensuring that the next generation gets ahead (a trend that goes back to the Choson Dynasty (1392-1910) if not earlier), what is a little tongue-snip if it helps junior get ahead?

Second is an increasingly visible proclivity for plastic surgery. The article notes:
Using surgery to enhance your looks is already very common in South Korea, where many resort to plastic surgery to make their eyes bigger, noses shapelier and even their calves slimmer.
I would feel a bit less queasy about tongue-snipping (although I think it is rather silly regardless; why should we assume that accentless English is all that beneficial anyway?) if the recipients were consenting adults. But instead:
Bae said that he had received many inquiries about the operation, mostly for children aged between 12 months and 10 years.

President Roh Moo-hyun indicated yesterday that he might call off his plan to hold a national referendum in December on his troubled leadership.

"I will settle the matter politically to defuse the people's concern and find a breakthrough to run state affairs smoothly," Roh was quoted as saying in a meeting with war veterans at Cheong Wa Dae.

The embattled South Korean president added this note of acknowledgment of reality:
"It would be hard to push for the vote alone when all the political parties oppose the national referendum," he was further quoted as saying.

So what does one make of the initial call for an extra-constitutional referendum? A brief paroxysm of frustration? A calculated gamble gone wrong? I suspect a combination of both.

A budding young entrepreneur went on eBay in March, promising savvy television shoppers a bundle in savings on a large-screen "plasma high definition picture," the sheriff's office said.

And that is just what 19-year-old Jeffrey Roberts of Wellington delivered. A picture -- of a big-screen plasma television. Deputies said at least four eBay shoppers from coast to coast took the bait, netting Roberts a total of $11,726.

But authorities were not amused, nor were they satisfied that Roberts met the legal terms of the offer by mailing buyers a "picture."

Thanks to Cut on the Bias for the link.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, NOT. My wife is out of town, the kids are in bed. So, after my weekly dose of Law and Order: Criminal Intent I did something I would never expect to do: watch the show that comes next on NBC: The Lyon's Den (what else was I supposed to do? Watch the World Series?). I've never been a Rob Lowe fan either before or during The West Wing. But in this new show, he takes his earnest Dudley Do-right persona to new heights. At one point he counters the shadowy security chief (played by an aging Cliff Roberston) with the verbal riposte: "what about the search for Truth? Doesn't that mean anything around here" (a paraphrase). Where does he get such pabulum? Of course it doesn't mean anything, it is a law firm for heaven's sake! Later he takes down the aging father of one his clients with "it is deeds that matter in life, not words." That'll ruin the multi-millionaire's day. Prediction: the show won't last the season.

And yet, upon further reflection, I can't help but feel a bit guilty about how cynical I have apparently become. What's wrong with expressing a preference for the truth? If more people walked their talk, wouldn't the world actually be a better place? How have we (I?) come to the point where the expression of such sentiments elicit only sneers of derision? Perhaps it is merely because they are so artificially yet artlessly (meaning lacking in skill not lacking in guile) expressed. Perhaps not.

HAVING TROUBLE KEEPING TRACK OF THE VARIOUS SCANDALS IN SOUTH KOREA? This piece offers as a nice summary of them (thanks to the infidel for the link).

KOREAN CHAEBOL MOVING INTO IRAQ? Flying Yangban has the proof in pictures.

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