Thursday, February 03, 2005


Test your aptitude in that finest of dead European languages here. I'm not sure whether I should be proud of my 7/10 or chagrined at missing 3 out of 10. Thanks to Ahistoricality for the enjoyable diversion.


Chosun Ilbo:
"We're cooperating with 60 governments in the Proliferation Security Initiative, to detect and stop the transit of dangerous materials... There are still regimes seeking weapons of mass destruction -- but no longer without attention and without consequence," Bush told a joint session of Congress. He made no direct references to reports in the U.S. media a day earlier that North Korea exported nuclear materials to Libya.

Bush defied expectations when these remained the only direct or indirect references to North Korea during his 50-minute speech.
Observers offer several interpretations of this unusual restraint. Some believe it is indicative of Bush's intention to focus his efforts on the Middle East. Larry A. Niksch, an Asia specialist with the Congressional Research Service, said the North Korean nuclear issue had been pushed way down in the Bush administration's list of priorities.
Others say Bush largely skirted the issue because Washington is sensitive to the positions of South Korea and China. Neither Korea nor China, two states whose cooperation is indispensable for a solution to Pyongyang’s nuclear issue, want to provoke North Korea.
Most diplomatic experts, however, believe that Washington’s fundamental views of the North Korean issue have not changed.
Korea Herald:
U.S. President George W. Bush sent a strong indirect warning to North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambition in his State of the Union address, though he restrained himself from making any harsh remarks on the communist country, diplomatic analysts here said.
But his real message to its Cold War foe came in a thinly-veiled manner when he pledged to confront regimes that promote terror and pursue weapons of mass destruction, while singling out Iran and Syria, the experts said.

"Bush seems to have decided to avoid provocative remarks on the North when the United States, which has been preoccupied with Iraq, cannot open a second war front. But he gave a powerful indirect warning to Pyongyang by mentioning the case of Iran and what he called tyrannies," said Paik Hak-soon, director for the Center of North Korea Studies in the private Sejong Institute.
"We cannot find any new proposal or initiative from the United States, and the Bush administration will continue its pressure on the North without making concessions," said professor Koh Yu-hwan of Dongguk University.

No official response from North Korea yet. But, in case you were wondering, Kimjongilia really is the "king of flowers."
Immortal Kimjongilia is now appreciated by people at home and abroad as a "flower of the sun revered by all people", "valuable flower representing the times", "the best flower in the world", "king of flowers", etc. This flower was awarded a special prize, gold medal, diploma and other top prizes at the 12th International Flower Show held in Czechoslovakia in May 1991, the Nordic Flower Show in Sweden in March 1995, the Jilin, China, Flower Exhibition in August 1997, the China 99 Kunming World Horticultural Expo in May 1999, the Begonia Show held in California of the United States in August 2004, etc. The facts go to clearly prove that Kimjongilia is the most beautiful flower in the world.
There you have it.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Not being terribly mathematically inclined (unlike some in my family) it took me a few tries to figure the thing out. Hat tip to The Corner.

Monday, January 31, 2005


but it would have made a good story if it did:

A beautiful student goes to a male professor's office and says, in a breathy voice, "Professor . . . . I'd do anything to get an A on your exam."

"Anything?" the professor asks, conspiratorially.

The student leans closer. "Anything," she says.

The professor says, "Would you . . . study?"

Thanks to Eugene Volokh for the story (I don't think this has happened to him either).

Sunday, January 30, 2005


is the title of the latest exercise in P’yôngyangology by the London Sunday Times. The piece contains all sorts of salacious and usually wholly unsubstantiated gossip. Some snippets:
Jang Song-thaek, Kim’s ambitious brother-in-law, was purged from party office after he tried to build up a military faction to put his own son in power. Mystery surrounds the fate of Vice-Marshal Jo Myong-rok, the soldier once sent as Kim’s emissary to meet Bill Clinton in the White House.

The dictator’s favoured heir apparent, his son Kim Jong-chol, 23, who was educated in Geneva, is reported to have staged a shoot-out inside a palace with Kim Jang-hyun, 34, an illegitimate son of Kim Il-sung, father of the dictator and founder of the dynasty.
Analysts in Seoul say that in recent propaganda pictures the bouffant-haired dictator is wearing the same clothes as in photographs from two years ago, suggesting that they may have been taken then. Observers await Kim’s official birthday, February 16, to see if the state media accord him the usual fawning adulation.

According to exiles, North Korean agents in Beijing and Ulan Bator are frantically selling assets to raise cash — an important sign, says one activist, because “the secret police can always smell the crisis coming before anybody else”.

If one continues to make breathless predictions of imminent collapse, one will eventually be proven prophetic. While I might hope for a speedy demise of a regime that oppresses its own citizens so cruelly, I am not, at present, holding my breath.

Some eyewitness descriptions of Rajin:
However, here we saw economic chaos that has led to unheard-of social disorder. At the central market child beggars chased us along alleys of shoddy Chinese goods, past stalls heaped with decaying fish. A group of dead-eyed teenagers kicked and shoved the younger boys to go after the foreigners. The guides hastily warned us against robbers.

To most North Koreans the prices must have seemed insane. A crab caught locally cost more than a driver’s monthly wages of £1.40. A Chinese cotton vest cost two weeks’ money.

Still hundreds of people jammed the officially sanctioned market and dozens of illegal vendors froze outside as they touted vegetables, clothes and hunks of rancid meat.

No official intervened to stop the illicit trade. Judging by the aggressive pushing and arguing over the goods, there might have been a riot if they had. A few North Koreans are clearly making money. Many more, though, are falling into penury.

Later we were taken for lunch to a state restaurant where lukewarm fish, vegetables and rice were produced from a chilly kitchen. There were iron bars on the windows and a heavy padlock on the door to prevent looting. Marxists, if there were any remaining in North Korea, might have described the situation as prerevolutionary.

UPDATE: some debate concerning the article and its claims can be read here.


whether the campaign of terror and violence led by al-Zarqawi et al. A statement allegedly made by al-Zarqawi tries to put the most positive (from his warped perspective) spin on election day:
"We have spoiled their party. We have struck them with grievous attacks... Before this statement was published, 13 lions from the martyrs brigade of the Al-Qaeda Group of Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers attacked centres of the infidel in various regions of Iraq," said a statement posted on the Internet.
But 13 suicides to kill perhaps three times that number and not appreciably diminish the determination of the Iraqi people to line up for hours to vote doesn't seem to be a very sustainable long-term strategy.

Thinking about the War on Terror more generally, one wonders about the long-term viability of al Qaeda-style terror tactics. It has been more than 3 years since 9/11. There have been no follow-up attacks on American soil. One would think that al Qaeda would have sought to press its advantage in the days, weeks, and months after 9/11 by precipitating a steady stream of attacks in the U.S. in an effort to diminish American resolve and speed up an American withdrawal from the Middle East. Such attacks need not be as big and dramatic as 9/11. I would think that a suicide bombing in a shopping mall in Des Moines would probably be as effective in sowing doubt, anxiety, and terror as would an attack on the Presidential inauguration (if it can happen in Des Moines, it can happen anywhere; nowhere is safe). And yet the attacks have not come. Whether this is due to a lack of resolve, resources, and understanding on the part of the terrorists or whether it is due to heightened security efforts on the part of the U.S., or whether it is due to the fact that the U.S. has aggressively attacked and killed many terrorist leaders and bases (or some combination of all three) is not clear. But what seems to be clear is that the ability of terrorists to completely disrupt Americans' way of life is perhaps not as great as some have feared. And that, too, is a good thing.


to vote in what some early estimates are indicating to be impressively large numbers. Election day was marred by violence: at least 25 dead and over 70 wounded due to election-day attacks. And yet I can't help but conclude that this has to be seen as a dramatic victory of the human aspiration for freedom over forces that explicitly wanted to deny freedom and choice. Naturally, there will still be naysayers (another one here), "I could have done it better" Monday-morning quarterbacks, and those who might be accused of moving the goalposts a bit. But at the end of the day, the people of Iraq rose up and gave the finger--in this case an ink-stained "I voted" finger--to those who sought to intimidate and discourage people from voting. A nice slideshow of voting in Iraq images here.

This does not mean that all will be sweetness and light from here on out. Democracy is hard work anywhere in the world. It doesn't even mean that Iraq still might not fall into greater chaos and even civil war. But I still have to conclude that today was a good day, a better one than it might have been.

UDPATE: Some naysaying was apparently due to unacknowledged incompetence:
At 8 am, Jane Arraf reports a "nightmare" situation at school polling station in Baquba, Sunni area. No Iraqi election commission workers had shown up. But, at 9:15, viewers learn Arraf had just shown up at the wrong school, which was not a polling site. The real polling site was actually open. At 9:30, Arraf reports that she is "now at 'another' polling site. No mea culpa/recognition of previous mistake. Her new polling station is crowded and jubilant.

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