Thursday, February 26, 2004

POINDEXTER LIVES! (in the nightmares of the ACLU).

In sorting through my office mail, I came across a two identical letters (both addressed to me) from Nadine Strossen, the President of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asking me to “become the newest card-carrying member of the ACLU.”

My first reaction was to wonder where and how the ACLU got my name to add to its recruitment list. I subscribe to a number of magazines and journals (The Atlantic Monthly, National Geographic, The Wilson Quarterly, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The American Historical Review, and the Journal of Asian Studies to name a few) but none of them appear to me to be an automatic ACLU-recruiting demographic (not to mention the fact that I always specify that I do not want to receive special offers or notifications from the magazines’ publishers or their friends when I subscribe). It may simply be that I am a university professor and while I think that much of the conservative ranting about American universities as hotbeds of ultra-liberal sentiment is nonsense, perhaps the ACLU is more likely to find recruits in Academia than from mass mailing to the offices of Fortune 500 companies or the Pentagon.

Whatever the case, the letter urges me to join because
“These are, indeed, trying times for civil liberties.”
In particular:
“Attorney General John Ashcroft is waging a relentless campaign to undermine our freedom, shamelessly using the ‘war on terror’ as cover for his assault.”

Ah, John Ashcroft. Personally, I don’t really care for the guy. On the other hand, I don’t believe, as Ms. Strossen apparently does, that Ashcroft is using the war on terror as an excuse to take away our civil liberties. Rather, he is assaulting our civil liberties because he genuinely believes that it is necessary to fight the war on terror. One can agree or disagree as to whether his particular approach (e.g. enforcing the USA PATRIOT Act) is an effective way to fight terrorism (I happen to think that it is not much more effective than the current system of airport screening) without assuming that Ashcroft is insincere in his enforcement of the current laws like the USA PATRIOT Act. It is only if you have predisposition to regard conservatives as people who harbor secret desires to take away all civil liberties and are merely waiting for a pretext to act on these desires that Ms. Strossen’s depiction of Ashcroft naturally follows.

Whatever the case, I have actually had no small admiration for the ACLU in some instances although I often find its priorities to be a bit misplaced. But Ms. Strossen’s sales pitch isn’t going to go very far with me. Why?

The centerpiece of the letter is the fact that
“With your help, one of the next challenges our Safe and Free Campaign will take on is resisting development of a Pentagon-inspired Total Information Awareness (TIA) system.”

TIA? You mean the institution that was renamed quite some time ago (now known as the DARPA Terrorism (formerly “Total”) Information Awareness program) and was denied funding by the Senate more than a year ago (noted and celebrated at the time by yours truly here)? Yep, that’s the one.

But it gets better (or worse)
”And who’s in charge of this Orwellian project? It’s none other than John Poindexter, the man who deceived Congress and the American people during the Iran-Contra scandal.”

You mean the John Poindexter that resigned from the post in August of 2003, more than six months ago? Yep, one and the same.

To be sure, some argue that the program has been fragmented and modified but remains “disguised but alive.” But if the ACLU is too lazy or too duplicitous to do basic homework on the topic, I don’t think I have much confidence that they are the best organization to lead the charge against what may very well be a real threat to our civil liberties.

SEGYEHWA? Globalization (segyehwa; ¼¼°èÈ­ á¦Í£ûù) has been an oft-repeated slogan in South Korea ever since the Kim Young Sam administration. How successful has Korea been in actually implementing its goals? Well, if the recent A.T. Kearney/Foreign Policy Globalization Index is any indication, not all that well. The ROK finishes 32 out of 62 countries surveyed. More interestingly, the ROK cracks the top ten in only one of 14 variables used in the index (second in internet users). Perhaps that's why there is so much more talk of the ROK as the "hub of Northeast Asia" these days.

Equally interesting to me was the fact that only two Asian nations crack the top twenty of the overall index: Singapore at an impressive #2 and Malaysia, squeaking in at 20th. Malaysia? More globalized than Japan, the ROK, and Taiwan? I would not have guessed this.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004


Rep. Park Geun-hye, a daughter of the late President Park Chung-hee, is under probe on the allegation she received money from the opposition Grand National Party in return for re-entering the party shortly prior to the 2002 presidential election, prosecution sources said yesterday.

Prosecutors recently secured testimony from a former top GNP official that the party gave her about 200 million won after she rejoined in November of that year, according to the sources.
Having already served as first lady (after her mother was assassinated), Park bolted the party in what was thought to be a bid for the presidency in 2002 (check out her website here). But the sudden entry of 2002 World Cup organizer and Hyundai tycoon Chung Mong-jun into the race stole all of Park's limelight. Naturally, she denies any wrong-doing:
Park acknowledged receiving 200 million won from the GNP after rejoining the party but said the money was to finance her campaign activities for GNP presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang.

"I didn't receive any money from the GNP in return for joining hands with the party," she said in a news conference.
It is hard to say at this point, but would this have anything to do with the allegations against her?
Park has been touted as a possible successor to GNP Chairman Choe Byung-yul, who recently announced his intention of stepping down.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

FORMER DPRK ACTRESS NOW WORKS IN A BAR IN SOUTH KOREA (thanks to Gweilo Diaries for the link).
Before she defected, Joo Sun Young was one of North Korea's rare "Class-One" actresses, hand-picked to play the coveted role of the regime leader's wife and "mother" of all North Koreans.

Today, she sells beer and sings songs for drunken South Korean businessmen at a low-rent Seoul bar. The crowd knows she once performed for North Korea's inner circle, which is in part why they like hollering for her to fill their glasses.

"I sometimes feel humiliated at how my life has been downgraded. But I thank my customers for coming to my place. This is my life. I have come a long way," she says.
Despite her current less than ideal circumstances, she has hope for the future:
She's 39 now, and dreams of running a hotel and living to see the reunification of the Koreas and of her family -- parents, husband, 15-year-old son and 12-year daughter.

"I want to be a rich businesswoman," Joo says. "I concentrate on work not to think about my children, but when I see delicious food, I can't help crying. I wonder whether my children are not starving."

STOP THE PRESSES: Dennis Kucinich comes from out of nowhere to snag the sought-after Grandfather Twilight endorsement (link courtesy of Wonkette). Folks, you can't make this stuff up.

Monday, February 23, 2004


NORTH KOREA'S NUKES: THE CANADIAN CONNECTION. If, like me, you thought you would never see a headline like that, check out The Rathbone Press's take on the subject.

DPRK TO JAPAN: YOU ABDUCT, WE ABDUCT, WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE? Actually, the DPRK claims that Japan's abductions are worse:
Pyongyang, February 22 (KCNA) -- Japan is talking much about the "abduction" by someone in a bid to mislead the international community with the second round of six-way talks at hand. Its loudmouthed "abduction" is a crafty trick pertaining to Japan to lay an artificial stumbling block in the way of the talks and cover up its true colors as the kingpin of abduction.

In the past century Japan committed such an extra-large crime against humanity as abducting and forcibly drafting at least 8.4 million Koreans. It has not yet reflected on its past crimes. Of late it went to the lengths of abducting at least 20 DPRK citizens in the Korea-China border area to take them to Japan.

Worse still, the "fund for the relief of north Korean refugees" which is to blame for the abduction is trying to justify its criminal abduction as a "humanitarian aid" as it has become a controversy.

Possible Democratic Party Presidential Candidate John Kerry and the Korean Buddhist martial art of Shim Gum Do. Althought the two might not appear to go together, a certain karma has been developing between them for the last 10 years. Kerry is very close to Shim Gum Do's founder, Zen Master Kim Chang-sik, and has been a very strong supporter of Kim's activities in the United States. They exchange letters once a month to exchange views on Zen and spiritual discipline, and meet whenever the need arises.

Just to give you an example of how close the two are, when Kerry's father passed away in 2000, he secluded himself at home to console his grief-stricken mother. He met with no one. No one, that is, except Zen Master Kim, whom it's said he met even then. According to those associated with Shim Gum Do, Kerry is not a student of the practice, but is know to have much interest in Eastern Zen and other forms of spiritual training. Although he's never visited Korea, he is reported to have said he would like to visit Buddhist holy spots in this country.
Who knew?

Eight people claiming to be North Korean asylum-seekers were inside the compound of a German government-run school in Beijing on Monday, a German official said.

. . .

The German official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, would say only that the latest group was inside the school compound. He wouldn't say when or how they entered or give any details about them.

"The German Embassy and German Foreign Ministry are trying to find a solution to this," said the German official. He wouldn't say whether they had contacted the Chinese government.
Let's hope that the "solution" is a little better than the recent one that Canada came up with.

SOUTH KOREA: SOLVING THE NORTH KOREAN NUCLEAR ISSUE IS AS EASY AS 1-2-3. So it would seem from the following, admittedly sketchy AP report on a proposal from Seoul.
At the coming talks, Lee said South Korea will push a three-stage plan to resolve the 16-month-old nuclear standoff.

The plan will start with North Korea declaring its willingness to give up its nuclear programs and Washington and its allies expressing readiness to provide a security guarantee.

The second stage will start with North Korea freezing its nuclear programs and then dismantling them in a verifiable way; the other countries would offer corresponding measures.

"The third stage is more of a comprehensive proposal in which resolution of other issues following the dismantlement are discussed,'' Lee said.
The U.S. response?
Maureen Cormack, spokeswoman of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, said she would have to check on Lee's statement before commenting on the U.S. position.

Sunday, February 22, 2004


GET YOUR NUTRITIOUS POLITICAL TOAST AT THE TOAST-O-METER. Not much action predicted for next week's "forgotten Tuesday" primaries:
If March 2nd is “Super Tuesday” then February 24th is “Forgotten Tuesday,” as it appears that the candidates have written off the contests in Idaho, Utah and Hawaii.

I am still at a loss as to why Edwards didn't make a push in some of these states to try to wrack up another win prior to Super Tuesday.

According to the NYT, the polls show Kerry in the lead in all three states—and the only way any of the Forgotten Tuesday contests will make any difference is if Kerry loses one.
This illustrates what I see as a problem with our current system of primaries. Taken together the population of Hawaii, Idaho and Utah is some 4,800,000 people (2001 estimates taken from my trusty Encarta Reference Library). That is half a million more people than the population of Iowa and New Hampshire combined! And yet the good denizens of Ogden, Burley, and Kuau will never get the chance to see their potential representatives flipping pancakes, addressing a town meeting, or another of the myriad of small-scale interactions that people in Iowa and New Hampshire enjoyed. Instead, they get sound-bites from a fly-over campaign focused on Super Tuesday’s bigger fish.

I’m not sure how to rectify this situation. If no delegates could be committed until the convention, most candidates would simply ignore all small states. Under the current system, at least Iowa and New Hampshire get to be king for a day.

LIES AND THE LYING LIARS WHO TELL THEM . . . The DPRK makes the following announcement:
North Korea has repeatedly denied a U.S. contention that it has a highly enriched uranium program in addition to its publicly acknowledged plutonium program.

"The story about the 'enriched uranium program' much touted by the U.S. is nothing but a whopping lie," North Korea's official KCNA news agency said.

The agency also denied receiving nuclear secrets from Pakistan, accusing Washington of spreading false rumours to make U.S. claims about the North's program "sound plausible."
So we have on one side an administration that, if it did not outright lie, at the very least demonstrated a willingness to believe and hype the flimsiest of intelligence on WMD's in order to justify military action against perceived foes. On the other side we have a regime that is built at least in part on lies (was Kim Jong Il really born on Paekdusan?) and fears the truth enough to deny nearly all information about the outside world to its citizens. Which side do we believe on the HEU issue? Is there any way they both can be lying?

But after 25 years, what big successes can the social conservatives claim? Electing Presidents is nothing more than a defensive success if those Presidents refuse or fail to deliver on your signature issues. And for social conservatives, whose issues are founded on an idyllic vision of a Christian and moral past that never really existed in America, Republican Presidents haven't delivered jack.

Just look at the record. Since the early 1990's the Supreme Court has upheld both Roe v Wade and the use of affirmative action in college admissions, and it struck down state sodomy laws. More children attend day care than ever. More women work out of the home than ever, and most of them prefer to work out of the home even if it's not necessary for maintaining their standard of living. "Will and Grace" is mainstream, and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" is on network television. The social conservatives' crusade against the teaching of evolution has had little success.
I agree with this sentiment. I suppose one could argue that if it weren't for Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, and the Republican-controlled Congress, things might have gotten worse (from a social conservative's viewpoint) but they certainly don't seem to have gotten much better during this time period. So if you are a social conservative for whom abortion is a signature issue, do you keep on voting for the folks who talk about their opposition to abortion even though they haven't been able to deliver the goods? Or do you start to look elsewhere? If the latter, where do you look?

OUT WITH THE OLD IN WITH THE NEW? Virginia Postrel (check out her blog here) argues that the new jobs in the U.S. aren't always the types of jobs noticed by the government bean counters (NYT; free registration required). Examples:
Consider the ubiquitous granite counter top. The slabs are imported, but the counter tops are made in the United States, and the shops that do the work are proliferating rapidly. ''It's an explosive trend,'' says Michael Reis, editor of the industry magazine Stone World. In 2002 alone, the magazine added 2,000 fabricators to its 20,000 subscribers. Reis estimates that there are 8,000 to 10,000 fabrication shops in the country.

Equipping a fabricating business can cost less than $30,000, thanks to relatively inexpensive machinery developed over the past decade. Sales are holding strong. Seventy-three percent of Stone World subscribers said their business was up in 2002, and nearly 60 percent of those reported an increase of more than 16 percent. The fabricators are small local shops, usually with fewer than 10 employees, which makes stone fabrication the sort of industry job prognostications tend to overlook. The Bureau of Labor Statistics survey doesn't have a separate category for this burgeoning construction craft. It is lumped under ''cutting and slicing machine setters, operators, and tenders,'' a production category dominated by people slicing paper in mills and printing plants. So losses in those fields mask the growth among stone crafters.

Or take Denise Revely, just the sort of worker that people who worry there will be no jobs in the future have in mind. She is in many ways a typical middle-class American, with skills, experience and some formal training but no college degree. Divorced with two grown daughters, she owns a house, pays her taxes, supports herself. Far from a tale of woe, Revely's resume is a good place to find the resilience of the American economy. She used to work in an electronics factory. Now she gives facials. She used to draw a paycheck from a day spa. Now she works for herself. Her business has been in the black ever since she opened last July. But as far as official statistics are concerned, she doesn't exist.

Neither do a lot of people in her rapidly growing field. In 2002, spas in the United States employed 176,000 people full time and another 106,000 part time, up from 50,000 full-time employees and 26,000 part-timers five years earlier, according to the International Spa Association. (These numbers do not include independent contractors, some of whom rent space inside spas.) Some of those spa employees show up in the bureau survey, which counts 15,580 skin-care specialists, 31,350 manicurists and 27,160 massage therapists. But a lot are still missing.

The American Massage Therapy Association counts more than 46,000 members -- nearly 20,000 more massage therapists than the bureau could locate for the profession as a whole. The association estimates that there are between 260,000 and 290,000 massage therapists in the United States, including students, compared with 120,000 to 160,000 in 1996. The bureau count thus overlooks some 200,000 massage jobs.

Similarly, the bureau has missed more than 300,000 manicurists. It puts the total at around 30,000, compared with the count of 372,000 -- up from 189,000 a decade ago -- by Nails magazine, using private survey and state licensing data. Even if not all licensed manicurists are practicing, the bureau number is off by an order of magnitude. There are 53,000 nail salons in the country, most of them with more than one manicurist. The industry supports two major trade magazines, each with about 60,000 subscribers.
This is interesting but I suspect that few people who once possessed a stable factory job with benefits, pension and all whistles and bells we associate with old school manufacturing are all that happy to be self-employed manicurists wondering about where to get health insurance.

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