Friday, January 30, 2004

"BENEDICT ARNOLD COMPANIES": I heard part of a John Kerry South Carolina stump speech yesterday. Kerry decried the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and declared his intention to get tough on the "Benedict Arnold companies" who move operations overseas. One wonders whether he has spoken to his wife about this particular line. After all, she inherited some $500 million from Heinz ketchup, a firm that boasts that "Heinz is the most global U.S.-based food company, with a world-class portfolio of powerful brands holding number-one and number-two market positions in more than 50 countries." Heinz has factories in Europe (Britain, Ireland, France, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy, Poland, Russia, Germany and the Netherlands), Africa (Botswana and Zimbabwe), and Asia (China, Japan, Korea, India, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand).

If Kerry were serious about this rhetoric, he should call for firms close to heart and home to take the lead by abandoning their overseas factories (especially ones in Africa and Asia that are highly unlikely to adhere to American labor, safety, and environmental standards) and coming back home. Don't hold your breath.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Born in 1974, the furry feline turns the big 3-0 in November. That's an eternity in show business and puts Kitty alongside other global cartoon stalwarts like Snoopy, Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh. Year in and year out, she nets her owners at Sanrio about $500 million in revenue and helps generate billions more for those who license her image.
But storm clouds loom on the horizon:
While this formula will likely work well for generations of young girls, Sanrio faces several daunting challenges keeping Kitty's flame glowing. The number of youngsters in Japan is falling fast, and in the cool logic of the toy industry, that means fewer kids to buy Kitty cell phones, Kitty dolls and Kitty boomboxes.

Kitty is also under attack from legions of rip-off artists, particularly in China, the world capital of fake goods. Sanrio has a team of ten lawyers working around the clock to ferret out fakes. As any brand goods maker knows, the battle is never won. The sad fact is that the company loses an estimated ¥100 billion ($910 million) because of fake Kitty goods, according to Sanrio's legal beagles.

UPDATE: Kevin at Big Hominid's Hairy Chasms says that this post pushes him over the edge. Hello Kitty has been called many things but I have to admit that "cultural goiter" is one of the more imaginative.


THIS NICELY CAPTURES OUR ENTIRE WEEK. The kids love having a full week off. Parents are ready for them to go back to school so they can get back to work.

OH THE PLACES YOU'LL GO. Or, in this case, the places I've been (scroll down):

Thanks to aforementioned Fractal Meandering for the link

VISA SCAM SPAM: Check out this one that just crossed my in-box:
Dear Sir/Madam,

We were informed that your credit card is used by another person or stolen. It could happen if you have been shopping on-line, and someone got your "Billing information" including your credit card number. To avoid and prevent any further fraud and billing mistakes and to refund your credit card, it is strongly recommended to proceed filling in the secure form on our site and applying for our Zero Liability program. Program is free and it will help us to confirm the fact of fraud and investigate this accident as soon as possible.

Sincerely yours, Visa Support Assistant, Alwin Desagun.
Is it legit? Of course I had my suspicions. The IU Credit Union concurs as does the author of Fractal Meandering (scroll down to "This Just In"). How do the folks that attempt these scams sleep at night? What do they say when someone they meet asks them what they do for a living? Argh!

WILL THE REAL JOHN KERRY PLEASE STAND UP? Noam Schieber juxtaposes two letters written by the Massachusetts Senator to constituents in 1991:
"Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition ... to the early use of military force by the US against Iraq. I share your concerns. On January 11, I voted in favor of a resolution that would have insisted that economic sanctions be given more time to work and against a resolution giving the president the immediate authority to go to war."

--letter from Senator John Kerry to Wallace Carter of Newton Centre, Massachusetts, dated January 22 [1991]

"Thank you very much for contacting me to express your support for the actions of President Bush in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. From the outset of the invasion, I have strongly and unequivocally supported President Bush's response to the crisis and the policy goals he has established with our military deployment in the Persian Gulf."

--Senator Kerry to Wallace Carter, January 31 [1991]
So which letter represents the real John Kerry? The answer is obvious: both of them!

TROUBLE BREWING IN P'YONGT'AEK. The Marmot points to and translates chunks of an OhMyNews piece on local protests of the proposed relocation of U.S. military bases near P'yongt'aek (basic info on the city here, better info here, map here). Put simply: the locals aren't pleased at the prospect of more American bases and troops nearby.
We entered the sit-down strike tent, and there the married women's club members unburdened their hearts of their losses suffered from the U.S. military. Lee Ok-ja (59, P'yeongt'aek City, P'aengseong-uep, Daech'u-ri) said, "We've had land taken from us for the U.S. base, and rather than compensation, we've been forced from our homes naked or had to build and live in mud huts? we've had to cry tears of blood."

Lee Kyeong-bun (50, Daech'u-ri, president of the club) said, "Because of the ear-splitting sound from the American warplanes, our children go into convulsions, and because the American soldiers carelessly burn waste fuel, we couldn't hang up our laundry," and "I have nothing to ask the American military. The only thing I wish is that they would just go back to their own country quietly."


Conveying the urgency of the situation, he said "The villagers oppose the turning over of land to the U.S. military with such a do-or-die spirit that they joke among themselves that they'd rather kick out the U.S. military and accept a nuclear waste dump."

Lee also said, "The government and the U.S. military, by inflicting damage once again on the pure, simple-hearted villagers, are turning them into believers in anti-Americanism." He revealed his struggle plans, saying, "From this year, we will unite with other groups from across the nation that oppose the U.S. base move and launch a struggle. In March, we are planning massive demonstrations."

Kim Ji-t'ae (44, P'aengseong-eup, head of the Response Committee) said that the owners of the land on which the American base is to be expanded have agreed not to negotiate on selling the land. Kim said, "We cannot surrender one p'yeong of land to the American base. If they can take it, let them try." He stressed that "If the government says it's going to forcefully expropriate the land, it'll have to prepare for even stronger resistance than they faced in Buan."

I actually feel no small amount of sympathy for the denizens of P'yongt'aek and its environs. I suspect that few Americans, particularly rural Americans would be all that pleased if a large military base was set up in their back-yard. I suspect that even fewer would welcome the development if the troops stationed there were not Americans but were French, German, Korean, or whatever. Still, there is NIMBY-ism galore here. Most South Koreans still want U.S. troops somewhere on the peninsula, they just don't want them near them. Off course the uncompromising rhetoric of the protestors probably doesn't bode well for any sort of compromise solution. If they make good on their claims, we will see a lot more of P'yongt'aek in the news in the months to come.


TOKYO — Japan on Thursday contradicted a statement made in the U.S. Senate by David Kay, who resigned recently as the top U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

"Weapons of mass destruction existed" in Iraq, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said. The continued existence of such weapons in Iraq is still seen as "a strong possibility." Fukuda also questioned the credibility of Kay's remarks, saying his current posture and the grounds for the opinion should be checked, but failed to reveal his own grounds for contradicting Kay's statement. (Kyodo News)
I doubt that this statement is based on separate Japanese intelligence so it is more likely a statement of political support and solidarity for Bush (or to be more accurate, Cheney). Will statements like this from one of largest economies in the world make a dent into criticisms of Bush's "unilateral" foreign policy? Not likely.

HISTORY WARS CONTINUED: Seoul will take a "firm stance" on conflict with China over Koguryo/Goguryeo.
South Korea will take a firm stance on the Chinese assertion that Korea's ancient Goguryeo Dynasty was part of its legacy, Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said yesterday.

Civic groups have accused the government of failing to take proper measures to tackle the issue.

Mindful of the ongoing academic debate between the two countries developing into any diplomatic conflicts, Ban also said the government would respond coolly to the sensitive issue.
This will be sure to encourage open and objective inquiry on the subject in South Korea. Imagine if you are a scholar who has doubts about the utility and validity of forcing present-day ethnic identities back on to peoples of two millennia ago. Would you make your concerns known? Would you be respected for your courage?

Public uproar has skyrocketed since the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Science launched the "Northeast Asia Project," in which it claimed the Manchuria-based kingdom belonged to the Chinese legacy, while denying continuity between the dynasty (37 B.C.-A.D. 668) and the Korean Peninsula.

"We will handle the issue based on the unwavering fact that Goguryeo is an inseparable part of our national history," Ban said during a weekly news briefing.
The Korea Herald reporter uses the History of the Three Kingdoms (Samguk sagi; »ï±¹»ç±â; ß²ÏÐÞÈÑÀ) dates for the founding of Koguryo. The historical validity of these dates are questioned by virtually all objective scholars. Will any South Korean scholar even dare to mention this fact (e.g. that Koguryo probably didn't coalesce together as a recognizable state until late 1st century A.D.) in today's politically charged climate? Not likely.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

MORE ON THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS, MINDS, AND USELESS HUNKS OF ROCK IN THE EAST SEA/SEA OF JAPAN. I noted the ever-simmering conflict over Tokdo here. Now the Marmot points to an interesting form of early-childhood education/indoctrination on the issue. Given the infinite number of possible topics for pottery painting, the selection of "Tokdo is our land" probably doesn't bode all that well for future Korea-Japan relations.

An not entirely unrelated aside: there has been much controversy over the proper name of the body of water in which Tokdo can be found. "Sea of Japan" was often the default name for most English-language maps in the 20th century, a nod to Japan's prominent position in the world at that time. However, the ROK has mounted a full-court press to have the sea renamed the "East Sea." See here for an example (note: VANK is involved). See here for one of the formal attempts to change opinions on this subject. Snippet:
Every geographical name on earth has a unique identity that reflects the history and culture of the area. International norms and practices require that geographical names conform with the usage of the residents of the area. First and foremost, we believe that to adopt an internationally acceptable name for the sea between Korea and Japan is necessary from the standpoint of removing one of the vestiges of Japanese colonialism. We do not believe that the international community should condone the use of a name that was decided upon unreasonably and without the consent of a party directly involved.
That is all well and good, but how does "East Sea" really resolve the dilemma? The sea certainly isn't east of Japan (nor of Russia for that matter). Does changing the frame of reference from former colonizer to former colonial victim really make things better?

I have long suggested that only an entirely neutral but appropriate name will solve the problem. My suggestion: the "Green Sea" (ûÇØôìú­). There is absolutely no historical precedent for this particular name. However, there is a nice symmetry with the Yellow Sea that lies between China and Korea on the other side of the peninsula. And the color "green" (ch'ong in Korean) really refers to a blue-green that nicely captures some of the different hues of sea water. And finally, and obviously, it does not favor one side or the other. If you like the idea, pass it on.

"SOME FIGURES SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES" So says Amatai Etzioni referring to the following:

Chief executive pay as a multiple of employee average (as reported by pay consultants Towers Perrin in 2000):

United States 531
Brazil 57
Venezuela 54
Hong Kong 38
Britain 25
Canada 21
France 16
Germany 11
Japan 10
Ever since the AFC and Japan's never-ending recession, there have been few willing to trumpet "Asian Values" or the "East Asian model of development/capitalism" and the like with the same enthusiasm and fervor that we often heard in the 1980s and even into the mid-90s. Some of the changes in attitudes are well justified: continual emphasis on market share and capacity at the expense of productivity and profitability will, in the end, be counterproductive. Still, one can't help but wonder whether the Japanese system of corporate executive compensation is superior to the U.S. one and not only for reasons of fairness and equity. Think of how much more loyal and motivated Japanese workers might be if they truly believe that their CEOs are on the same plane (or at least the gap between management and worker isn't nearly as daunting). Food for thought.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

HEARD THE PRESIDENT OF POLAND ON THE RADIO ON THE WAY HOME. He is in the U.S. pleading for (among other things) Poles to be allowed to come to the U.S. without being fingerprinted and without having to have visas. I can't think of a reason why Bush shouldn't reward what has been a staunch ally in Iraq and move on this quickly. Probably won' t happen though.

I was also struck by the way the Polish President (whose name escapes me and I'm too lazy to look it up) off-handedly spoke of Polish participation in "peacekeeping" in Iraq for "decades to come." Will U.S. (UN?) troops be in Iraq in four decades just like they are in Japan and Germany? Depends in part, I suppose, on how long Iraqis continue to shoot at them.

With 25 percent of precincts reporting, the Massachusetts senator was at 39 percent, followed by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean at 24 percent. Exit polls sponsored by CNN and other news outlets also showed Kerry in the lead.

The battle for third place was especially tight. Initial returns showed Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and retired Gen. Wesley Clark at about even, followed by Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

UPDATE: See Outside the Beltway for play-by-play on the New Hampshire media spin

UN-STINKIN-BELIEVABLE: Joanne Jacobs reports the following:
This is mind-boggling. Writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Marquis Harris, a black college graduate with excellent credentials, says he was rejected for a high school teaching job for being too articulate. He quotes from the rejection letter.

Recently, I interviewed with a school in one of the metro Atlanta counties, only to receive an e-mail from the principal stating, "Though your qualifications are quite impressive, I regret to inform you that we have selected another candidate. It was felt that your demeanor and therefore presence in the classroom would serve as an unrealistic expectation as to what high school students could strive to achieve or become. However, it is highly recommended that you seek employment at the collegiate level; there your intellectual comportment would be greatly appreciated. Good luck."
If this is a true description of events (and I confess I am a bit suspicious), I am dumbfounded, jaw-still-on-the-floor speechless. "Soft bigotry of low expectations anyone?"

I bought my daughter a clownfish because she wanted Nemo. I put it in a bowl filled with tap water and it died soon after.

--A Tokyo mother, one of thousands of fans of the hit movie "Finding Nemo," who are snapping up the exotic fish wherever they can find them without learning how to care for them.

Associated Press (Audrey Mcavoy, "JAPAN LAWMAKERS AGREE ON NORTH KOREA BILL," Tokyo, 01/26/04) reported that Japan's ruling coalition and top opposition party agreed Monday on legislation that allows Japan to unilaterally impose economic sanctions. The measure is aimed at pressuring the DPRK into resolving a diplomatic standoff over its past abductions of Japanese citizens. The legislation authorizes the government to independently halt remittances, stop trade, and impose other restrictions on the flow of money and goods to and from another country. Japanese law currently only allows such steps if they are made in response to a U.N. resolution or another multinational agreement. The bill - which amends the foreign exchange law - doesn't specifically target the DPRK, but was drawn up with the DPRK in mind.
Wonder what P'yongyang will have to say about this. So far, the on-line KCNA is silent on the matter.

Doubts are being raised about the accuracy of economic forecasts by domestic institutions after their predictions for last year were found to be way off mark due to unexpected factors such as the ongoing credit-card crisis and a wider-than-expected slump in domestic consumption.

The nation's gross domestic product grew at an estimated 2.9 percent in 2003, while the trade surplus reached a record $12 billion.

However, at the start of 2003, the Finance Ministry projected GDP growth of 5 percent and trade surplus of somewhere between $2 billion to $3 billion.


The government unveiled its economic growth target for this year at 6 percent or higher, saying that the continued expansion of exports would drive up the overall recovery, a similar prediction it made at the beginning of last year.
A similar thing couldn't happen in the consumer-debt-ridden-spending-buoyed-only-by-drawing-out-equity-from-overvalued-real-estate U.S. could it? Nah.

THIS LOOKS LIKE A BAD PHOTOSHOP EDIT. Except that it probably isn't. Poor people of Ohio.

So anyway, when I arrived at the bowling alley, about 15 minutes before North Carolina's Sen. Edwards, trouble was brewing. It was like The Perfect Storm, with two powerful opposing forces on a deadly collision course:

• On the one hand, you had hundreds of people there to see the candidate, including a large, aggressive press corps that was not wearing appropriate bowling footwear.

• On the other hand, you had league bowlers, who were there to bowl, dammit.


It was a weird kind of stereo: In one ear, I'd hear Sen. Edwards explaining how he would provide economic opportunity to all Americans; in the other ear, I'd hear: ``OUR WHOLE NIGHT IS RUINED! YOU DON'T GIVE A (bad word) ABOUT US!''


As the crowd dispersed, I overheard this exchange between an Edwards volunteer and a bowler:

Bowler: Go Bush. You guys suck.

Volunteer: You shouldn't generalize. We don't ALL suck.

Bowler: Yeah, you do.

That's what's so great about the primaries: people talking about issues.

WHY THE KERRY SURGE IN NH? After looking at all the possibilities (and they're worth a look) Chris Sullentrop concludes:
I'm left with one answer: He's taller.
Makes as much sense as anything else.

UPDATE: Kausfiles links to this 1971 Doonesbury cartoon on Kerry. Spot on!

Monday, January 26, 2004

"UNILATERAL? WHAT ARE WE THEN, CHOPPED LIVER?" Earlier this morning (an eon ago in Instapundit-land) Glenn Reynolds linked to a post by Matthew Hoy which notes:
Sen. John Kerry again repeated his mantra that the United States went to war in Iraq with an "illegitimate coalition." Kerry has also used the term "fraudulent" to describe the 34 nations that have sent troops to Iraq, including Great Britain, Australia and Poland.

Someone, anyone, please get Kerry on the record of what impact his description of Great Britain, Australia, Poland, et. al., will have on the relationship between the U.S. and these countries should he become president. They casually toss insults the president's way for political gain and also end up hitting foreign countries with their slime.
I have wondered similar things about how many of the Dems talk about Bush's "unilateral war on Iraq" and the like. I have often wished that an Asashi Simbun or Chosun Ilbo (or their equivalents) reporter were to ask Dean or Kerry et al something along the lines of the following:
Japan and South Korea have both responded to Bush's call and have committed troops to Iraq. Both nations have been close allies to the U.S. for five decades. Both boast first-world economies and manufacture many of the consumer goods Americans use every day. Both have democratically elected governments. What, then, is "illegitimate" or "unilateral" about their participation in Iraq?
This is, I think, a legitimate question regardless of whether one thinks the war in Iraq was a good idea or not. Kerry and Dean et al seem to feel that Japan and Korea matter not a whit in the world. If this is the case, Japanese and Korean reporters should call them on it.


HOWARD DEAN = PEDRO MARTINEZ? We report, you decide.

Sunday, January 25, 2004


EVER LOOKED AT THE LOBSTER ON YOUR PLATE AND THOUGHT: "This is nothing more than a giant sea insect?" Well, according to "Etymologically Speaking," that's where the actual word lobster comes from:
From the Latin "locusta," meaning, "locust." The OED adds, "The Latin word orig. denotes a lobster or some similar crustacean, the application to the locust being suggested by the resemblance in shape."
Mmmm! Lobster!

But unlike some of his colleagues with long records to defend, Mr. Kerry has never been especially popular with other Democrats in Congress and the party establishment. They have accused him of being too eager to be in the majority, too quick to position his vote for political advantage.

The rap on Mr. Kerry's Senate career, fellow senators and Congressional aides say, has been that he is more interested in high-profile investigations — like those into the Bank of Credit and Commerce International and Gen. Manuel Noriega of Panama — than in the grinding details of legislative procedure. He has deferred to Mr. Kennedy on most bills involving health and education and has few major bills to his name; when asked to summarize his legislative accomplishments, he often seems to struggle.

But among the details of his legislative record, there is fertile ground for his rivals' attacks. Mr. Kerry voted for the USA Patriot Act, Mr. Bush's No Child Left Behind education bill and the Congressional resolution authorizing the president to use force in Iraq, only to sharply criticize all three once he became a presidential candidate. Mr. Kerry counters that his quarrel is with Mr. Bush's execution of the policies, but he struggled for months to explain his shifting stance on the Iraq war.
I haven't made up my mind yet but my biggest strike against Kerry is this: I lived in Massachusetts for five years while Kerry was senator and I cannot recall a single thing that Kerry did or stood for during that time. I can tell you about Teddy and Joe Kennedy, about Governor Bill Weld, about Boston Mayor Tom Menino, about Scott Harshbarger, Mitt Romney, and Ed Markey. So it is not as if I was completely out of the political loop. But Kerry? I don't recall a single significant piece of legislation he sponsored. Nor do I recall a single significant stand he took. Heck, I couldn't have told you what he stood for (was he a moderate Democrat? A liberal?) Aside from marrying ketchup heiress Teresa Heinz, I don't remember a single thing he did. And it is this "experience" that should be the basis of a run for the White House?

UPDATE: An interesting analysis of the Kerry campaign in the last days of the New Hampshire primary can be found here.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?