Friday, December 12, 2003


Thursday, December 11, 2003

IS THE U.S. BOTCHING THE OCCUPATION OF IRAQ? Daily Kos counts the many ways. I agree that there is much to criticize. And these issues should be openly and freely discussed, free of any suspicion that to raise them is somehow unpatriotic.

KYOTO AND UNILATERALISM. Long before Iraq, the mantra that Bush acts unilaterally began with the American withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol. Never mind that Bush was simply acknowleding what the U.S. Senate had already voted 95-0 to do: not sign on to any climate treaty that didn't include China and India. Bush's decision to abandon Kyoto was taken as a sign of how out of step Bush was with the rest of the well-meaning world. Perhaps so. But Tyler Cohen notices this interesting development.
The European Union's environmental commissioner says 13 of the 15 EU members will not meet this year's emissions targets stipulated by the protocol. Only Britain and Sweden will comply; France, which lectures America about multilateral responsibilities, will not. Europe is failing to limit emissions even though its economy is stagnant, which makes compliance easier.
Better to talk about doing good things, and thus be multilateral, than to actually do good things I suppose.

REMEMBER THAT WOMAN WHO WAS RECENTLY TRAMPLED AT WAL-MART? Apparently, this isn't the first time she has been injured by the evil corporation. In fact, Patricia Vanlester, 41, has filed 15 previous injury claims, 8 at Wal-Mart stores. She could just be a very unlucky person, but this certainly casts some doubt on the veracity of her claims.
According to state worker's compensation records and court files at the Volusia County courthouse in DeLand, here's some of what Vanlester has claimed over the years under some of her various legal last names: Rastellini, Findley, Crabtree, Platt and Vanlester.

In 1978 and 1982, more than $400 in worker's compensation was paid after she claimed injuries from being struck by a falling object and from slipping and falling while working as a machine operator at a now-defunct manufacturing plant in DeLand.

In 1984, she claimed a back sprain from working at a restaurant in Winter Haven, producing $356 in worker's compensation.

In 1987, she filed an injury claim against Deltona Lanes, a Volusia County bowling alley, after claiming she slipped and fell while bowling there. In a 1993 sworn deposition in another case, Vanlester testified she received a cash settlement from the bowling alley claim, but did not recall the amount.

In 1989, after her car ran off Interstate 4 in Volusia and overturned, she filed a claim against Big T Tire and Wheel Service, of Orange City, claiming the crash was caused by a tire blowout. She testified she received a cash settlement in that case, as well.

In 1991, she claimed to have slipped on a puddle of hand lotion while shopping for a curling iron at an Orange City Walgreen's, causing "permanent injury, disability, disfigurement (and) mental anguish." She filed suit in 1993, but it was thrown out in January 1994 after a 10-minute hearing. Walgreen's argued no one at the store had seen any liquid on the floor, so it could not be liable for failing to clean it up.

In 1995, Vanlester reported slipping and falling on liquid or grease while working in the meat department of a Eustis Publix, resulting in more than $1,200 in worker's compensation.

In 1996, she claimed to have slipped and fallen while working at the layaway desk of a Mt. Dora Wal-Mart, leading to more than $600 in worker's compensation payments.

In 1997, she claimed a back strain while working at the snack bar of an Orange City Wal-Mart that was replaced by the Wal-Mart Superstore where she claims to have been trampled last Friday.

Burk, the Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said she could not reveal exactly how much Wal-Mart has paid in medical expenses and direct payments to Vanlester as a result of her eight claims, but said the total was in the "thousands."

South Korea's investigation into illegal political donations widened with the revelation that LG Group donated $12.7m of cash to the pro-business candidate in last year's presidential election.

Prosecutors on Wednesday said LG, South Korea's second-largest conglomerate, delivered a 2.5-tonne truck stuffed full of bank notes to a highway service station, where it was collected by an aide to Lee Hoi-chang, the losing candidate in last December's vote. The truck was allegedly driven to the headquarters of Mr Lee's Grand National party in Seoul.
Two and a half tons of banknotes! This is reason alone for the ROK to create a higher denomination bill.

North Korea announced Tuesday that it would freeze its nuclear weapons programs in return for energy aid and being removed from the U.S. list of countries that sponsor terrorism. President Bush rejected the offer.
Why did Bush reject the offer?
While Washington and its allies have sought the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear programs, the new proposal from Pyongyang offered only to "freeze" them as a first step. The North added, however, that the long-term goal would be to "de-nuclearize the Korean Peninsula."

"The goal of the United States is not for a freeze of the nuclear program," Bush said. "The goal is to dismantle a nuclear weapons program in a verifiable and irreversible way."

"That," he said, "is the clear message we are sending to the North Koreans."
Why weren't the North Koreans willing to accept the U.S.-ROK-Japan-proposed multi-step solution?
A spokesman for North Korea's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday called the proposal "greatly disappointing," because its aim is to "completely eliminate our nuclear deterrent force by giving just a piece of paper called 'written security assurances,'" which is "no more than a commitment."
One wonders how the much sought after non-aggression pact would be anything more than a similar piece of paper.

So, we're essentially back where we started. Both sides want the other side to give major concessions first. Neither side is willing to compromise too much. And, since the U.S. is presently dealing with the Iraq problem and will soon be dealing with a presidential election (and since the DPRK appears to recognize that it is better off not testing a nuclear weapon for the time being), it is likely that this is all we're going to get for some time. Talks, talks about talks, and then some more talks.

IMAGINE, IT'S EASY IF YOU TRY. A sort of fisking of the John Lennon standard by Joel Engel.
Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can / No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man / Imagine all the people, sharing all the world. . . . Let's begin implementing the third stanza's message by splitting up the royalties to this copyrighted song. Mrs. Lennon, I imagine, will be only too happy to share with the rest of us the proceeds from the semiannual checks she receives for its licensing. In fact, why don't we all participate in every revenue stream created by John's invaluable catalogue? No, even that's not good enough. John wants us all to own everything, so we're each entitled to an equal share of not only his catalogue but also every album, tape, and CD ever made--by every artist.
There's more.

WE CAN IMPLANT ENTIRELY FALSE MEMORIES This isn't exactly sci-fi but it is interesting nonetheless.
"We can easily distort memories for the details of an event that you did experience," says Loftus. "And we can also go so far as to plant entirely false memories - we call them rich false memories because they are so detailed and so big."

She has persuaded people to adopt false but plausible memories - for instance, that at the age of five or six they had the distressing experience of being lost in a shopping mall - as well as implausible ones: memories of witnessing demonic possession, or an encounter with Bugs Bunny at Disneyland.
This has interesting implications for eyewitness testimony in the courtroom (among other things).

MICHAEL CRICHTON ON ENVIRONMENTALISM: IT IS A RELIGION I've noticed this tendency for some time but have been unable to articulate it quite so pithily and forcefully.
Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.


Increasingly it seems facts aren't necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.

Am I exaggerating to make a point? I am afraid not. Because we know a lot more about the world than we did forty or fifty years ago. And what we know now is not so supportive of certain core environmental myths, yet the myths do not die. Let's examine some of those beliefs.

There is no Eden. There never was. What was that Eden of the wonderful mythic past? Is it the time when infant mortality was 80%, when four children in five died of disease before the age of five? When one woman in six died in childbirth? When the average lifespan was 40, as it was in America a century ago. When plagues swept across the planet, killing millions in a stroke. Was it when millions starved to death? Is that when it was Eden?
Amen brother! Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


I suspect Dean would pull a Clinton while in office-- a repeat of the 1994 "agreed framework," at which NK has confessed it thumbed its nose. Clinton's and Carter's legacies regarding NK amount, in my eyes, to a huge failure. Not to let Republicans off the hook on this; I'm disappointed at how internally conflicted the Bush Administration is right now, and the rift between Pentagon and State is something that needs healing-- or at least patching. But I'm not confident Dean is the man to create a breakthrough with NK.

THE MARMOT HAS VISITED MONGOLIA TOWN IN SEOUL (and has the pictures to prove it). He also waxes rhapsodic about ddokboggi; makes me hungry.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Agence France-Presse ("UN SAYS MILLIONS OF NORTH KOREANS AT RISK IN FOOD EMERGENCY," 12/09/03) reported that millions of people in the secretive communist nation of North Korea are at risk of going hungry as the country remains in the grips of a food emergency, the United Nations said. The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that up to three million people had been temporarily dropped from food handout lists this year because of a shortage of aid funds.
"Unless new pledges are confirmed soon, by May, cereal shortfalls may affect 3.8 million people countrywide," it said, adding that more than 40 percent of DPRK children are malnourished. "Around 70,000 children are severely acutely malnourished and at high risk of dying if they do not receive critical hospital treatment," OCHA said.

ADVENTURES IN DIPLOMATIC DOUBLE-SPEAK OR "IF YOU SPEAK IT, IT WILL HAPPEN?" Check out this statement made by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao:
Speaking to reporters after meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Wen said there had been progress in efforts for the peaceful resolution of the DPRK nuclear crisis, the PRC news agency Xinhua said. The DPRK has said its ultimate objective is a nuclear-weapons-free Korean peninsula. It also wants security concerns addressed, Wen was quoted as saying. For its part the US has made it clear it has no intention of changing the government in Pyongyang, Wen said.
If the planets align so as to make this our actual future, I couldn't be happier. But to describe this as an accurate depiction of present-day intentions and realities in both P'yongyang and Washington is doubleplus ungood.


JOE TO AL: THANKS FOR NOTHING. Gore to endorse Howard Dean's candidacy.
Former vice president Al Gore plans to endorse Howard Dean for president today, according to Democratic sources, giving the insurgent candidate the kind of establishment backing his campaign has been lacking.
What I find curious is why anyone should care who Al Gore endorses?

UPDATE: Political cartoonists weigh in here and here.
UPDATE II: William Saletan makes what is to me a strange and untenable case that Gore's call for every vote to be counted in Florida means that Gore shouldn't call for Democrats to stick together and endorse Dean.

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