Thursday, August 28, 2003

le parcours

Arnold does indeed have views! I'm not happy with his opposition to gay marriage. I wonder whether he'd consider civil unions to be the same thing. What, exactly, are "domestic partnerships," how are they different from marriage and civil unions, and what legal rights do such partnerships have? It's such a simple question: can gay people who show the same loving, long-term commitment as a hetero couple enjoy the same rights and benefits? If not, why not? This boggles my mind. To the extent that marriage is a religious issue (which is debatable, especially if two atheists get married outside of a religious context-- say, in a courthouse), is this something for the secular world-- the state-- to rule on? To the extent that, in American society, married couples enjoy certain benefits that result from their commited partnership (at least on paper), is there a legitimate reason for the law NOT to be extended to cover a new type of legally recognized marriage (instead of declaring a priori that marriage is always and forever between a man and a woman, as if the concept of marriage were engraved in the cosmos)?

Heaven forfend! They're booting God out!

Guns don't kill people... but they sure make killing seven people in a short time a lot easier when you're pissed off about being fired!

Frank J does a hilarious riff on some politics- and gun-related hate mail he received.

Harrison Ford doesn't like US foreign policy.

France shows its true colors as it mulls scrapping Christmas.

We're mulling the UN troop option. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but I think that, if we're to let the UN get deeply involved, it should be in this area, rather than in something like economic & infrastructural rehabilitation. Why? Because you can't trust France. Or Western Europe in general.

The 6-way talks' first-day round-up can be found chez Kevin and the Marmot.

The Marmot also links to an article on Japanese women's attitudes toward blowjobs.

The Vulture caws about the unseemly conduct of Koreans at Korean-hosted international sporting events like the current Taegu Universiade. Let me state for the record that I agree with him: Koreans aren't very good sportsmen.

A fascinating post from the Peking Duck (who's actually in Singapore) about the true nature of the Communist Party in China.

Found on Winds of Change: a post on "Tolerant and Intolerant Islam." Follow the link at the bottom of the article for another article re: the compatibility of Islam and libertarianism.

Evil thought: Why not hold the Kaaba shrine (and, oh, the city of Medina) hostage by threatening it (them) with nuclear destruction? "Another US soldier killed in Iraq, and your holiest sites get it!" That's thinking symbolically, just like al-Qaeda did when they chose the WTC. As Carlin says, "I leave symbols for the symbol-minded." If that's the language they speak, then maybe you gotta speak their language.

Two articles from The Guardian place blame squarely on American shoulders for any current and potential difficulties re: the NK nuclear crisis. The first article is a short summary of first-day proceedings. Key sentence from this article:

But participants and observers expressed little hope of progress because the Bush administration is divided over how to deal with a North Korea, whose leader, Kim Jong-il, appears to have drawn the lesson from Iraq that his only hope of survival is nuclear deterrence.

Question: if NK has been shafting us about the nuke issue since Clinton's 1994 deal (or before), is this really a matter of Kim's having "drawn the lesson from Iraq"? No, I think Kim's been thinking along these lines for a long while.

From the second article, we read the following:

The decibel factor is still worrying: North Korea has, by its standards, talked in relatively mild terms about the US recently. But only last month it called US undersecretary of state John Bolton "human scum" and a "bloodsucker" after Mr Bolton had called the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il a "tyrannical dictator". Bizarrely, the state department has chosen to reaffirm Mr Bolton's language on the eve of the talks. Mr Kim is indeed a tyrant, but it is hard to see what purpose is served by giving more ammunition to Pyongyang's polemics.

In both Guardian articles, the onus appears to be on the US to make the breakthroughs, take the lead. This affirms the idea that the Koreas are mere victims in a larger, menacing process of Western manipulation and control. I don't think I like the Guardian.

Maybe Kevin at IA is right to argue (as he has repeatedly) for the use of economic sanctions against NK. NK might view these as "an act of war," but it's possible this is just saber-rattling. Sanctions might actually produce some real results.

From an LA Times article (you have to register, I think, to access the link, but it's free):

China's history with North Korea is tangled, and relations are changing fast. Chinese leaders once saw North Korea as an immensely pliant fellow Communist state, one that was indebted to Beijing not only for food and fuel but for the fact that China suffered at least a million casualties fighting for the North during the Korean War in the early 1950s.

But even the Chinese now seem to view North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Il, as an erratic rogue state that is no longer a puppet but instead a drain on China, especially with an economy so dysfunctional that hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are trying desperately to slip across the border into China. And in a final straw, some Chinese businesspeople and government officials who have visited the North report that there have been systematic actions by officials in some places to remove memorials in honor of the Chinese who died fighting for the country.

Given all this, the Chinese want North Korea to make a deal, one that ensures it gets rid of its nuclear weapons and that perhaps yields some aid to help recharge its ailing economy. That helps to explain why China has taken a much more forceful diplomatic role in the matter than it had in the past.

How hard, exactly, is China leaning on North Korea? There's already been a lot of focus on the informal talk between the US and NK on the first day... I'd like to know more about the other two-way talks that have to be going on behind the scenes. Japan, for example, may want to yap about missing and kidnapped Japanese, but just behind that item, there's the huge issue of Japanese rearmament, which is becoming more and more likely as Japanese conservative hawks get louder. Japan's delegates might not be blustering directly to NK delegates about this, but I bet they're letting it slip in conversation with other countries' reps.

The Korean Herald's take on yesterday's talks can be found here.

Yes! Stand up and applaud Cardinal Kim! This from the Chosun Ilbo:

The top Catholic representative in Korea, Cardinal Stephano Kim, critized the government's sunshine policy on Wednesday, saying it had brought about no changes in North Korea's posture or system. Instead, he said, under the guise of national cooperation, it has caused a rift in South Korea society, with people dividing themselves into pro- and anti-North Korea camps.

Kim also expressed disappointment with President Roh Moo-hyun's performance, saying that his high expectations for Roh had been betrayed. In an interview with a new conservative Internet newspaper,, Kim said that the nation should seriously review whether any true reconciliation or cooperation had been effected due to the sunshine policy. He also voiced clear opposition to demands some are making for "reunification regardless of the system."

South Korea should stop the exchanges and other meetings between the two sides from being used by the North as venues for its propaganda and strengthening its position, Kim said.

Kim also criticized the Roh government for the way it has dealt with the banned student group Hanchongryun. He said it was a huge mistake for some students to infiltrate a U.S. Army firing range, and that the government should not be complacent when dealing with them, but should draw a clear line.

I wonder what Rome thinks of this. The cowardice-and-appeasement bullshit may be thick in the European Catholic hierarchy, but Kim's vision strikes me as clear and bullshit-free. Kim will, of course, be attacked by fellow South Koreans as a mouthpiece for the US... which is precisely the kind of rhetoric the North regularly slings across the DMZ.

I somehow doubt the Catholic bishops in China can speak this freely and critically. And... are there any such bishops in NK?

The JoongAng Ilbo also has an article about Cardinal Kim.

DongA Ilbo on the same subject here.

The Infidel comments at length:

Validation: Never in my short pundit career would I have dreamed (or hoped), that a Catholic official would validate my opinions about the "Sunshine" policy and unification in general. But South Korean Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan talks about a "public consensus on reunification resting on principles of liberal democracy" and "trust". I have consistently believed unification was a fascist policy, because it is foisted on a majority of uncommitted citizens by a powerful, vocal minority of policy-makers more concerned about short-term greed than the general welfare. I have also argued before, that the only way to proceed with unification is through a referendum conducted jointly in both Koreas, but only after the DPRK is granted sovereignty. Finally, all this must proceed under the auspices of some international or regional organization, like the United Nations or ASEAN. I know Cardinal Stephen is not saying this, but its so nice to see a public official buck the unification bandwagon. And, its nice to see a South Korean use the term, liberal democracy. Now, if only the politicians could say, and practice, that!

I think reunification is possible and maybe even desirable, but it does indeed have to happen uncompromisingly according to liberal democratic principles. The last thing Korea needs is to try the mutant socialist-democratic fusion that's causing such problems in Europe (cf. French heat wave deaths, non-stop strikes, etc.). In Korea, the result of such a fusion would be even more internal strife-- a peninsula sitting like an indecisively shat turd, halfway in the sea, halfway flopped on China's doormat, stinkin' the place up and no good to anybody.

And the South Korean doubters are right to doubt: the obstacles in the way of reunification are legion. Not least among them: the two Koreas are no longer, in my opinion, one people. They haven't been for years. The North's Stalinism-cum-cult of personality has done much to wipe the North's cultural memory clean, and all that cultural memory needs to be restored (we won't go into the South's own attempts at chasing after Western cultural tropes). Along with this, you've got the obvious economic and technological differences. Then there's the devilish question of deep brainwashing: it will take many generations to rid the Northern populace of the Kimist metanarrative. Like isolated soldiers convinced the war is still going on, millions of North Koreans currently alive will remain in the thrall of the Stalinist dream; these folks will have to die out before true change can occur.

But I think that a unified Korea is better than a divided one. I hesitate to agree with the Infidel about a UN role in Korean reunification, and think the Koreas need to manage this on their own. The resultant dividends from a justified feeling of empowerment will be salutary, in the long term. Other benefits of reunification: more open real estate for investment-minded South Koreans (and foreigners) to play with, fewer (maybe NO) defectors running to China, and a better strategic position for the US with a friendly (we hope) democracy in place. And hey-- whatever nukes the North currently has can be re-aimed at China if US-Korea relations remain friendly enough. Heh.

Meantime, I'm adding the Infidel to my blogroll (w/thanks to the Marmot).

In other news...

The Korean truckers' strike is winding down, finally. Someone realized the economy has to, uh, move forward. Please, SK, don't become like France.

Comrade Queef is not well liked by his citizens.

A Chosun Ilbo editorial has this to say about the truckers' strike:

How is it that a pro-labor government that promised to "straighten the imbalance of power in labor-business relations" now singles out the KCTU by name? The confederation and the truckers' organization Hwamul Yeondae showed they care not the least for the economy as they for the second time in three months stopped the country's freight trucks, causing a national distribution crisis. The government must realize at this point that its earlier hopes for goodwill from irresponsible, selfish and shortsighted unions as well as any ideas it had about working with them on the economy were far removed from reality.

Keep in mind: the Korean media swing conservative; Noh is what Americans might call a Clinton liberal (though I'm becoming convinced Noh doesn't possess a tenth of Clinton's legalistic adroitness), so the above commentary perhaps isn't surprising.

Yes! Some pissed-off South Koreans are suing the NK reporters who lashed out at anti-NK demonstrators during the Universiade. I have no damn clue what the English title of the article means. Another item for

ON A PERSONAL NOTE: Feeling much better today. No fever, dizziness, headache, bodyache, or nausea. A different problem cropped up, though: the power went off around 3:30 in the morning (I know because I was still awake). Fans stopped whirring; fridge stopped chugging. The power outage is confined to our house-- some problem with the outdated wiring, according to the adjumma who lives upstairs. The wiring couldn't withstand last night's heavy rain. So I'm outta the place while repairs are being done. Here's hoping I'll have power when I get back.

Well, this is Day 2 of the three-day, six-way Beijing talks. Perhaps there'll be something meatier to report later on this evening. Take care.

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