Wednesday, February 25, 2004

le parcours

As always, my blogroll proves itself way too interesting.

Over the past 24 hours, the Maximum Leader and I have been going over this question of single-issue voting, which I suppose was prompted by my "it's official" post. The ML wrote this post in response, and I responded on his blog (where I'm one of several guest bloggers) here. At this point the ML clarified his own stance, granting that I'm not a single-issue voter but that my post was reminiscent of single-issue thinking. Here's what he wrote in a subsequent post:

Your Maximum Leader would like to ask the Poet Laureate for whom would he vote if it was a Kerry v. Bush election? (Which it is very likely to be.) On the issues that the Hominid lists, one would appear to get a split decision. Bush over Kerry on Defence. A push on managing the economy. And Kerry over Bush on social issues. Does that make the Hominid likely to cast his (hypothetical) vote for Bush or Kerry? Perhaps it does come down to one issue. Gay marriage? Korea policy? Or does the plot thicken? Does the Hominid cast his vote for Nader? For Daffy Duck? For Opus the Penguin? (Or does he do the sensible thing and write in his Maximum Leader?)
(emphasis added)

The ML is suggesting that it's possible to "become" a single-issue voter when presented with candidates who are appealing in some aspects but not in others, such that a decision may indeed boil down to the One Issue to Rule Them All.


This isn't my impression of what "single-issue voting" is (hereinafter SIV for short). SIV, as far as I can tell, is a behavior/tendency that manifests itself over time, election after election: e.g., a person whose sole criterion for choosing candidates is, say, their stance on homosexuality. Or, similarly, an SIVer might also be someone who shows this kind of stubborn, blindered focus over the course of a single election cycle-- perhaps because Topic X has been the Issue of the Year. By implication, the SIVer's focus on this issue is so intense that s/he actively ignores the candidates' stances on all other issues.

More succinctly: the constitutive element of SIV is voluntarily exclusive focus on a single issue.

My own shift away from Bush (and even in the posts where I mentioned I might vote Bush, I wasn't at all enthusiastic) doesn't reflect any of the above traits because I'm not focused on a single issue. As I laid out on the ML's blog, I'm worried about the holy trinity of defense, social issues (which include but aren't limited to gay marriage), and the economy. More to the point, the ML's hypothetical doesn't necessarily produce SIVers: it merely produces voters who've been presented with narrowed choices-- i.e., we're no longer talking about voluntarily exclusive focus.

So I don't think the ML has provided a proper model for the SIV question. If you want to find out who the SIVers are among us, you have to watch their thinking over time and see whether they remain focused on a single issue.

To answer the ML's question, at least partially: if I were faced with a Bush/Kerry choice, and absolutely no other option ("CAKE OR DEATH!"), I'd choose Bush because in the hierarchy of issues, defense is on top for me. Further: since the ML's question allows for other selections, like Daffy Duck... to be honest, in a Bush/Kerry/Daffy election, I'd have to choose Daffy.

At the risk of over-repetition: Having a hierarchy of concerns isn't the same as having a single, voluntarily exclusive, focused concern. If our presidential "menu" (yes, probably Kerry vs. Bush) forces us into a choice between defense and the economy (as I've argued on this blog), then the choices we make are by no means necessarily a function of SIV.

My own point of view is premised on a particular definition of SIV, to be sure (though I'm pretty sure my definition is the conventional understanding of the term). If the ML's own conception of SIV is something more general, such as "making a choice/vote based a single issue"-- period-- then obviously ANYONE forced into the situation the ML describes does indeed "become" a single-issue voter: the scenario and terminological definitions together produce circular results.

To pull another KBJ:

1. A single-issue voter is someone who chooses/votes based on a single issue. Period. No further qualification.
2. You find yourself in a situation where your choice of candidate A or B ultimately boils down to a single issue and those candidates' respective stances on it.
3. If you vote for A (or B) while in circumstance (2), you're a single-issue voter. QED.

Circular, thanks to both the definition and the scenario. You almost don't even need (3). But:

1. A single-issue voter is someone who chooses/votes due to a voluntarily exclusive focus on a single issue.
2. You find yourself in a situation where your choice of candidate A or B ultimately boils down to a single issue and those candidates' respective stances on it.
3. If you vote for A (or B) while in circumstance (2), you're a single-issue voter. QED?

No, not QED. Why? Because it's less clear that we've established voluntarily exclusive focus on a single issue. This would require getting inside the person's head, observing their behavior over time, etc.

Then again, the ML may have an even different definition of SIV, something not covered by the above two alternatives. ML?

Moving on to the Korean blogosphere...

Kevin at IA fuels my political cynicism by noting that the Bush Administration will still be appeasing NK by funneling aid through South Korea instead of giving it to NK directly. If true, this bites, sucks, and swallows. I suppose that what differentiates a Democrat from a Republican when it comes to NK is a matter of degree, not kind: it's all appeasement in some measure.

Does this also mean that the Bush Administration's admirably undiplomatic language (and attitude) toward NK is a sham? I'd like to think it isn't, but articles like this don't give me hope. All the same, when you've got NK positively rooting for John Kerry to be elected, you have to wonder. My hope is that the Bush Administration doesn't give away the store. They will, as Kevin notes in another post, very likely try to pass off some half-measure as a "victory" in an election year, but if they revert to a less-accommodating stance after Bush is reelected (as I'm still pretty sure he will be), that works for me.

The Marmot does a roundup of Koreablogger pre-talk thoughts. He also expresses doubts about the NK "unofficial agreement" to have inspections of Yongbyon. I have a feeling that Yongbyon is, at this point (if it wasn't already before this), little more than a front for whatever Uruk-hai factory the Norks have built in their mountain fastnesses and deep underground.

NK Zone, which I need to stick on the blogroll, quotes an article questioning the effectiveness of sanctions. After all the work I did on Natsios, I can understand where the article writers (not NK Zone) are coming from. But Rebecca McKinnon, who runs NK Zone, is right to ask:

But we still have a serious problem. We still need to know how an agreement by North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons programs (plural) and to stop proliferating would be reliably enforced, and how cheating would be truly prevented. Without the "trust, but verify" piece, the engagers could still potentially wind up supporting activities that threaten themselves.

And how do you get to the point where you can "trust and verify", when you can't even monitor food aid properly?

This has always been the heart of the NK problem: verification. It's not enough to obtain a mere promise from NK about future conduct. What we need is access-- something NK isn't willing to give as they protest and bluster about sovereignty and the right of self-defense.

McKinnon also has an amusing post, referred to above, about NK support for Kerry.

The Vulture has something nice to say about his patrons. He's also counting the days until Bush leaves office. I imagine a Bush supporter could re-tool the counter so that it's a countdown to reelection. I'm still working on that Vulture logo.

Seeing Eye Blog has further remarks on NK Zone's Kerry post:

Kerry has called Bush's truth-exposing NK strategy "reckless," and said, "I'll talk to North Korea, and solve the nuclear crisis peacefully."

To Pyeongyang's dictator this means he would get back all the goodies he was getting under the '94 deal, along with the world's blind eye to his clandestine nuke program.

Naturally, if I were Kim Jong-il, I'd whip up visible evidence to strengthen Kerry's argument that the Bush strategy is reckless. I'd create signs that the crisis is worsening, getting more dangerous - in hopes that the perception of impending danger and policy failure will hurt Bush in November.

This would be a lose-lose situation for the U.S., for South Korea, for Northeast Asia, for everybody in the world but North Korea. If Kerry cared more about solving the crisis than winning in November, he would stump that he'd be even sterner with Pyeongyang than Bush has been. That would undermine Pyeongyang's brinksmanship tactics, and engender chances, however slim, and however risky, for real, productive changes.

That's what I hope Kerry does. And he'd be more likely to get my vote if he did so.

Mike also notes something a commenter on his blog (Slim) said:

You're being unfair to Kerry. He resolutely opposes North Korea's nuclear ambitions -- on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays he backs the atomic programme, arguing that the Bush administration is lying about it. On weekends, he goes with the prevailing poll sentiment.

SEB also gives us a glmpse of the cutest criminal ever.

An article at Oranckay about shooting ranges at Lotte World ($30 for only TEN FUCKING ROUNDS!? Kim du Toit's head would burst!). Most disturbing tidbit: the place is a hangout for lonely NK defector-youths. Memories of home, eh? Jesus.

Words of wisdom over at the Infidel's:

Seoul, like Beijing and Tokyo, lacks the political will to end the cradle-to-grave socialism which has served the region through the respite provided by the American military umbrella. But, facing remilitarization and global economic competition, South Korea needs to revitalize a moribund culture radically. The contract, too, which saw every generation do better than the one before it, is also in peril. Where America's woes are [predominantly] cyclical, South Korea faces a structural crisis. Resisting the attractions of an ugly isolationist nationalism will take a little luck and the good graces of South Korea's neighbors, [on] which Seoul depends for its continued prosperity.

Over at Flying Yangban: what do Americans think of other countries? It's a relief to see that question, as opposed to the usual "What do Koreans think of America?"-- which usually leads to depressing answers.

A reminder to people in the States: America is talked about all the damn time. I found this to be true while living in France and Switzerland as well. There's no escaping the fact that people pay attention to us. Message to American isolationists: it's too late. Isolation ain't gonna happen. We're way too plugged in to the rest of the world. Let it go.

I'm very slow on the uptake, but check out Owen Rathbone's post on the NK/Canada connection.

For those who've been following the Lee Seung-yeon flap (an actress who made the very tasteless mistake of posing for pictures as a scantily-clad and beat-up-looking comfort woman), Jeff at Ruminations in Korea has the goods on the latest twist in the soap opera: Lee is going to America for a while, ostensibly because her lower back needs treatment (from all the apologetic bowing to the real comfort women?), but Jeff thinks otherwise:

So, does this mean the story is finally over now that she has subjected herself to voluntary exile? Not hardly. According to news reports (in Korean) Ms. Lee had signed a one-year modeling contract with "H" company. However, according to the company, because of Ms. Lee's actions, any product with her image associated with it is completely unusable, and as a result of their association with Ms. Lee, their company's reputation and marketability has suffered enormous damages. They are prepare to file a lawsut seeking damages from Ms. Lee. The amount is likely to be more that USD 1,000,000.

As the punk-biker-dude shouted in "The Road Warrior," YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN'T HIDE!

Then again, I hear Osama's on dialysis and he's been running and hiding. Miss Lee's younger than Osama-- smaller, faster; she has a fictional lower-back problem, and can disappear for years in LA's huge Koreatown. Be careful, Miss Lee-- if you stray too close to those Hollywood surgeons, you might resurface in the public eye as a man! Hairy Soo!

Guess who works at a bar in South Korea these days? Go to Kirk for the answer.

A weekend of rain, temples, migraines, coffee (always coffee), queers, and many other things besides over at Overboard. Oh, and Andi's gi-ding p'aet ah-roun dah heep.

Polymath provides a great survey of South Korean opinions about America and North Korea, laced with his perceptive commentary. One quote from an old Korean gent struck me:

"Can anyone believe everything North Korea says? If it doesn't work out again, then I guess we'll just have to fight it out, I'm old but I can still pick up a gun and go to war. I've done it before, I can do it again." - Retired teacher and Korean War vet, Kim Hak-jun, 76.


Drambuie Man hosts a GOP Korea gathering and remarks:

One of the things in my experience that has always amazed me is how grassroots the GOP really is. I know all the rhetoric about the GOP being in big business' pocket. However in all my experience I have seen that to be opposite. Contrasted to some Dem meetings and functions I have been privileged to attend, yesterday's meeting (despite the aforementioned differences), as far as I can tell, was made up entirely of people with humble middle to lower class backgrounds.

Why? Simple, getting a fifty dollar tax cut means more to scrappers like me than making sure that the guy in charge of the "Blind Midnight Basketball Diversity Awareness Feasibility Study Blue Ribbon Commission" gets a comfy chair for his desk.

Of more interest is his lengthy post about MREs, Meals Ready to Eat. You can buy them all over Seoul, where you'll find old ladies selling piles of them on flatbed carts along with other canned and wrapped foreign products.

Kathreb observes that, in China, they don't fuck around with corrupt officials: they simply dispose of them. I doubt they dispose of them fast enough: my impression from reading the other Chinabloggers is that China's got plenty of political and business corruption to spare.

A pissed-off Party Pooper writes in defense of most American soldiers-- and rightly so, since most of them don't commit crimes.

And you know what? I'd planned to continue on through the blogroll, but this is taking way too much time, so I'll stop here. More later.


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