Friday, January 16, 2004

HUNGRY? Check out WARNING: May contain nuts!

The simple fact is that Katsumoto (the Samurai rebel) was wrong. Japan needed to modernize and the samurai who fought against that were xenophobic reactionaries. To make matters worse, Saigo Takamori (who Katsumoto was based on) advocated attacking Korea in 1873 and left the Meiji government after other leaders refused to back his plan.

So we have this war-mongering, feudalistic reactionary who finally goes into open rebellion after his rice stipend is cut off by the government and I'm supposed to have sympathy for the guy? I think not.

"Yes, but what of the beautiful traditional Japanese culture that was corrupted by Western culture and Western imperialism? Wasn't that lost cause worth fighting for?"

As a southerner, I know all about lost causes. My ancestors fought bravely for their own set of archaic values and got the tar smacked out of them just like Saigo's Samurai. And you know what? Both had it coming.
Strong words! I haven't seen the movie yet but tend to agree with the idea that Hollywood hopelessly romanticizes any place but here, any time but now."

TRAVELOGUES: KOREA THROUGH THE EYES OF THE FOREIGNER. More than a century ago, Isabella Bird Bishop did it. Today Adam Greenfield does it.
Coming to Korea for the first time is, for those that fixate on such details, like stepping through a rippling mirror into the invert world that awaits behind it: of anywhere I've ever been, this is the place with absolutely the lowest market penetration of the Japanese consumer brands that so predominate just about anywhere else.

It's not just the roads - save for the occasional forlorn Lexus, bereft of Japanese cars or motorcycles. It's every shelf in every restaurant and every living room credenza, all the niches in which we have come to expect something from Panasonic or Mitsubishi and instead find an LG, a Samsung.

With ground rules like that, Seoul for me is like being transported to a universe which lacks, maybe, a single letter of the alphabet, or sports an extra one: nothing has changed, but everything is different.
There's more.

Thursday, January 15, 2004




CURRENCY REFORM: A Korea Herald Editorial calls for currency reform in Korea. In short, the 10,000 won bill is just too small for the 21st century.
The Korean economy has grown 100-fold since the 10,000 won bill was first printed three decades ago. During the same period, prices have increased 11 times. These tremendous changes have two major implications for the Korean currency - the need to print banknotes of larger denomination and to chop two or three zeroes off the won.
This makes perfect sense to me. Currently, one has to carry around an impossibly fat wallet if one ever needs to have any sizable amount of cash. And, as the editorial notes, the practice of using bank-issued 100,000 won checks has drawbacks as well:
The high cost is a drawback in using these checks. Commercial banks spend as much as 600 billion won a year printing 100,000 won checks, not to mention the cost of keeping all the used ones for the statutory minimum period of five years.
But then there's this mind-boggling objection:
Some civic groups are opposed to the idea of putting 50,000 won and 100,000 won bills in circulation on the grounds that this could make it easier to bribe politicians or government officials.
I guess it probably is harder to slide money under the table when the bribe has to be three inches thick but this is an amazing objection to what otherwise appears to be a sensible policy.

SONGS FOR DEAN! A bunch to choose from: folk, rap, blues, pop. Here are the instructions of what to do with them:
Listen to or download the following songs and feel free to make a CD or tape to play at your next Dean event. Play them at tabling, leafleting, meetups, visibilities, and any other Dean events to create a fun, exciting, attention-getting atmosphere that spreads the word about Dean. Or download any of the lyrics sheets and start a Dean Sing-Along! Please create and make available a song list to go with your CDs or tapes that credit the artists for their work. Of course, making of CDs or tapes for commercial use is prohibited.
An example:
Tackling Hegemony!
In the 21st century!
He's the guy for you and me,
People Powered Howard!

He's a doctor, can't you see?
Gonna cure our economy!
He's the guy for you and me,
People Powered Howard!
I wonder if this song would work?

CHECK OUT THE DRAMATIC TRANSFORMATION FROM PIZZA HUT TO "CHINESE HUT" (and other sordid tales of life in the free market; thanks to Lileks for the link).

HUH? Amidst its usual rantings and ramblings about the "angry left," Best of the Web noted the following:
The rise of the Angry Left over the past year follows the erosion of the Democratic Party from New Deal majority party to its present sorry state. This was a long process, dating back at least to the election of 1968, when the Dems more or less permanently lost the White House.
Now everyone knows that since I voted for Bush in 2000, I must be stupid. But even stupid folks might want to quibble with the notion that the Democrats of "more or less permanently lost the White House" since 1968. Let's see:

number of presidential terms between 1968 and the present: 9.
number of those terms occupied by a Democrat: 3

Chances are that the presence of something 33% of the time is equivalent to its more or less permanent absence: 0.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

DPRK: "WE DON'T HAVE A WARHEAD" (LA Times; free registration required). (thanks to Angry Left for the post).
North Korean officials told an unofficial U.S. delegation last week that many claims about their nuclear program were exaggerated and that they did not have a nuclear warhead or a program to secretly enrich uranium for such a weapon, said sources familiar with the trip.

The North Koreans did, however, reiterate their claim to have produced weapons-grade plutonium and showed the delegation their facilities at the Yongbyon nuclear complex and what was purported to be a sample of the plutonium.

"They said, 'We have the potential to make nuclear weapons, but we do not have a weapon,' " said a South Korean official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "They were very adamant in their denials, especially about the highly enriched uranium."

Of course this unofficial delegation really had no way of verifying the veracity of the North Koreans' statements:
The delegation was shown the cooling pond where fuel rods from North Korea's 5-megawatt nuclear reactor are stored and what was said to be weapons-grade plutonium recently reprocessed from the fuel rods. But because the delegation was not allowed to take samples or photographs and was not given documents, it is difficult to confirm the exact nature of the material.

"The U.S. delegates consistently said they had a hard time making a final decision on what they had seen in the North," Wi Sung Lac, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official told reporters Monday.
A South Korean official sums things up:
"We don't necessarily believe them. I think they realize they made a mistake when they admitted it before and they want to take it back," said a South Korean official. "But we think they are very serious about wanting to negotiate in order to survive. They wanted to show the Americans that their nuclear program is transparent, that they are cooperative and they want to resolve this diplomatically."
This seems a bit odd to me. If the DPRK were convinced that the perceived threat of nuclear proliferation meant that Bush will take military action against North Korea the way it did in Iraq, then it seems logical that it would deny the existence of both the uranium enrichment and the plutonium reprocessing programs. On the other hand, if the DPRK wishes to use its possession of nuclear weapons as a deterrent against an American attack, it would seem logical that the DPRK would like to keep the U.S. guessing about just how many programs it actually has. If the Americans can't know for certain how many programs there are, where they are located etc., it is less likely that a preemptive strike can take out all the suspected nuclear sites. But rather than either of these approaches, the DPRK appears to be wanting to have its cake and eat it too: "we peace-loving-but-worried-about-our-own-survival-and-security North Koreans both have and don't have a nuclear weapons capability."

ONE STATE, TWO STATE, RED STATE BLUE STATE: Vodkapundit plays around with various projections of the 2004 presidential election. Green acknowledges flaws:
As I said, it's too simple -- the spreadsheet assumes voting patterns will remain essentially unchanged over a period of 4 years. Given the fact that each party is going to start with 40-42% of the voters, I'm going to go with that assumption. However, things like turnout -- in case the election looks like a blowout one way or the other -- could change things fairly dramatically.

But why let facts get in the way of good speculation?
but it is interesting to consider nonetheless.

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE POETRY CONTEST: Hosted by Mistakes Were Made Not too many entries yet, but this one might be my early favorite:
I came at dawn
armed only with words and ideas
the enemy sought to
ought to
was fraught to
belittle me.

I soldiered on
through muck and rake
hardly noticed by those
who say they matter
but who live the life
of superficiality

I survive this test
born of destiny and desire
it does not kill me
nor does it wound me
because I am brawn
Carol Mosely-Braun.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

KOREA, CHINA AND KOGURYO. My in-box is starting to fill with earnest pleas from VANK (Voluntary Agency Network of Korea) to pay attention to the latest conflict between China and the ROK over the ethnic/national status of the ancient kingdom of Koguryo (others have posted on the controversy here and here). Some snippets:
In particular, I would like to let you know about the Chinese scheme to alter the history of Goguryeo (BC 37-AD 668), a Korean kingdom with a vast territory ranging from the northern part of the peninsula to Manchuria, into that of a Chinese regional kingdom.

The Chinese government launched the project in February 2002, the Northeast Asian Project, to study the history of the area northeast of ancient China under the auspices of its social and scientific academy with a budget of 3 trillion won, US$2 billion, igniting fears that it was trying to strengthen its political influence in Northeast Asia.

Through the project, China is seeking to incorporate the ancient Korean kingdom into a Chinese historical timeline, even claiming that the people of Goguryeo originated from the Chinese "han" tribe.

Consequently, China is trying to rob 700 years of Korean history, which could seriously damage Korea's roots and heritage.
Here's more:
The seriousness of the situation lies in the fact that the Chinese government is taking the initiative in distorting history, making its political intentions clear. It seems obvious that the Chinese scheme under the name of the "Northeast Asia Project" is aimed at providing historical backup to Beijing's political concerns over the potential instability among the Korean-Chinese following Korean unification.

The increasing number of North Korean defectors crossing the porous border into China in recent years is already causing problems to Chinese security and diplomatic authorities.

If you studied world history you would see how serious problems could arise when a government take the initiative in distorting history, making its political intentions.
They even direct toward a website where I can learn the "truth" about Korean history. (More enlightenment to be found here).

So now that I have been enlightened and "warned," what I am supposed to do now?

UPDATE: Now I'm receiving a number of form letters from earnest Korean middle school students. These contain explicit instructions but they appear to be aimed more at the powers that be at UNESCO than at me personally:
Thus, we call on you to defer your decision on China's application until China, North and South Korea agree on proper terms to prevent China's possible trial of history distortion or to give China a chance to clear the conspiracy. We again remind you that China's winning the bid without any strict terms will provide China the best condition to "claim Koguryo," which is just the beginning of further history distortion, and that may cause a great political chaos in Northeast Asia. The terms should include:
(1) China must clearly specify Koguryo is an old kingdom of present Koreans in North and South Korea. (2) China must allow Korean scholars' full access to the sites that is completely limited now. Until recently Korean scholars have kept being denied access to Koguryo ruins as well as a museum opened to the public. We have a right to pursue a research on the remains of our ancestors. (3) In the long term, it is worthwhile to pursue a joint research project among China, North and South Korea.

Secondly we call for the immediate adoption of strict and detailed plans to monitor China's any trial of history distortion in the area under the supervision of multinational personnel.

Finally, we call on you to adopt a letter including North and South Korea, which are the two countries concerned with this issue, into members of the ICOMOS.

GEORGE SOROS AND GODWIN'S LAW; Best of the Web juxtaposes two passages concerning Soros and allegations of Nazism:
"You know, I have also been accused of comparing Bush to a Nazi. And I did not do it. I would not do it, exactly because I have lived under a Nazi regime. So I know the difference. But how come that I'm accused of that?"--George Soros, "Wolf Blitzer Reports," CNN, Jan. 12, 2004

"Soros believes that a 'supremacist ideology' guides this White House. He hears echoes in its rhetoric of his childhood in occupied Hungary. 'When I hear Bush say, "You're either with us or against us," it reminds me of the Germans.' It conjures up memories, he said, of Nazi slogans on the walls, Der Feind Hort mit ('The enemy is listening'). 'My experiences under Nazi and Soviet rule have sensitized me,' he said in a soft Hungarian accent."--Washington Post, Nov. 11, 2003
Does he honestly think that no one will pay attention? Or did he just forget what he said before? After all, two months is an eternity in a world ruled by the Faster Feiler principle.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

FOOD STAMPS AND CELL PHONES. A reader has some interesting comments concerning my recent post on welfare and cell phones. Check out her blog here.
Cellphones these days can be for as little as $30 per month, with the phone free (I have that plan, thanks to Cingular) it's no more really than a home phone anymore.

Second, I don't begrudge anyone a phone. If someone IS looking for a job, they need a phone. What if she has no permanent residence? Moves every 2-3 months.....cell phones make more sense in that case.

I attended a great conference years ago that was hosted by FNS.....and basically they touched on welfare/foodstamp recipients who have cable TV, etc.

The comment was, most of these people- naturally, have kids. Whereas our kids get to normally take some semblance of a vacation, etc- these kids normally do not. So, money is spent on their only 'outlet' to see the world. I used to resent my clients that had cable...because for a long time I did was too expensive. But in the big scope of things, I did eventually get it for my kids. And what's $30-$40 a month? At least when I'm broke and can't take my kids to the movies, out to eat, they can find something somewhat educational to watch on TV.

I sit on both sides of that whole fence...and I try to dispel any myth I come across...being that I'm a single mom who just happens to make too much to receive food stamps myself-but if I could, I would. You know what I'm saying?
I think I do know what she's saying. After all, why would anyone turn down aid from the government if it were offered? I remember initially being disgusted when Tom Daschle said that his mother was on Medicare. Why wasn't he ashamed of his inability to take care of his mother? Then it hit me: the government offers his mother free money for medical care. Why not take it?

And yes, cell phones can be particularly useful for people in transient lifestyles who are job seeking. And cable can come in handy in keeping rambunctious kids contained (those who object on principle to using tv as a baby sitter usually don't have kids).

I don't think I would like to live in a country that consigns any welfare recpients to a life in the poor house where they are deprived of any and all luxuries and have to work from sun-up to sun-down until they get back on their own feet again. But I still can't help feeling resentment when I deny myself luxuries that I would like to have but don't need and see others who enjoy such luxuries on my dime. Oh well, part of life.

An unofficial delegation of U.S. experts visiting North Korea last week examined what the Pyongyang government said was its "nuclear deterrent," apparently providing the first confirmation that Pyongyang has produced the key ingredient for nuclear weapons.

U.S. officials said they have received only initial details of the visit, and they cautioned that they do not yet know the full extent of the facilities and materials examined by the delegation. But one official said it appeared the delegation had been shown what the North Koreans described as recently reprocessed plutonium.
Of course we'll have to wait for the full report of this delegation. But at first glance, this seems to do little more than confirm that the DPRK has indeed reprocessed some of the plutonium from Yongbyon. Can they convert this into a usable weapon? We still don't know.

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