Thursday, June 29, 2006

Nora's obligatory post for June 2006

This story infuriates me. It fills me with rage. And sadness. A profound sadness. Then rage again.

This poor kid was kidnapped, the Norks treat it like it is nothing, like he belongs there...and the idiots in the Blue House just go along with it. Where is the effort to get him back? How about all the others like him? This is definitely a case where Japan has the right idea and Korea should follow suit.

This poor guy's mother. It breaks my heart. And makes me want to break something. Get rid of these bozos in 2007!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Putting the gay in Gotham

Okay, we all knew that Robin was gay and Batman was some sort of chicken hawk. Not to mention the sexual tension between the make-up wearing Joker and that dandy the Penguin.

Well, just to drive home the idea of alternative lifestyles at DC Comics, Batwoman is going to be reworked as a "lipstick lesbian," that mythical creature that so many straight men fantasize want to actually have sex with their sorry selves in pairs.

Oh, bugger!

In the free-wheeling Netherlands, Dutch pedophiles are launching a political party to push for a cut in the legal age for sexual relations from 16 to 12 (and get rid of it altogether eventually), and the legalization of child pornography and sex with animals.

One of the party's founders says the ban "just makes children curious," and said the party wants to make pedophilia the subject of discussion.

To the Dutch people's credit, this has sparked widespread outrage. An opinion poll published Tuesday showed that 82 percent wanted the government to do something to stop the new party, while 67 percent said promoting pedophilia should be illegal.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Remembering Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, I want to give a heart-felt thank-you to all those who have risked their lives and especially those who have given their lives so that I have the freedom to live my life the way I see fit, vote for whom I think is fit for office, and to blog when, where, and what I want. God bless you and all your loved ones. What I and all Americans owe you is something that we can never begin to repay.

Sadly, ever since I was little, I don't remember Memorial Day as being anything more than a day-off. There weren't any parades that I remember, and school was still in session, so it wasn't a holiday that marked the beginning of summer, like it does in some other parts of the USA.

I didn't fully appreciate this day as a holiday until I became an adult. When I started reading more about the sacrifices of men and women in uniform. The "Saving Private Ryan" experience. Memorial Day shouldn't just be about barbecues or seeing movies. It should be a day where everybody talks to, writes to, or in some other way makes contact with a veteran or the family of veterans and thanks them for their sacrifice.

But too often it seems like half of the country forgets what the holiday is for, and the other half wants to ignore what it means. Here in Korea I run into too many American citizens who look down on the US military and the people who compose it. To them, the military is an embarrassment, it's something beneath them, and its personnel something to look down on. Where would these people be without someone fighting to defend their liberty? Ironically, it is the people in uniform who fight for their right to look down on the people in uniform.

And this is why, no matter how much the right-wing neocons in the GOP try to turn our party and our country into a unilateralist theocracy, I don't think I could ever bring myself to vote for a Democrat. By doing so I would be aligning myself with people who look down on the brave people who give them freedom. Of course, this is not all Democrats, but this is enough of them to make it unpalatable to stand and support whomever it is they are supporting. If the Democratic Party ever wants my moderate vote, they should kick out the military bashers and force them all to vote Green.

Okay, maybe this rant is a bit harsh, but lately I've had just a few too many conversations with Michael Moore supporters who seem to think that freedom and liberty just magically fall from the sky.

Go back and watch "Saving Private Ryan" to see what people in uniform have gone through, or "Schindler's List" to see what they have been fighting to prevent. Go and talk to an elderly Korean or two to find out what the US military helped save them from.

Remember this, at least on Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Hopes and Prayers...

... go out to Plunge and his family. I pray things turn for the positive.


The Economist reports that chimpanzees and humans may have interbred.

Hmm...I thought the Mark Wahlberg and Helena Bonham Carter characters were getting a little too close in Planet of the Apes.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Just in time for hwangsa season

I'm tanned and rested, and back in Korea, ready to challenge the status quo with wit, wisdom, and the occasional bawdy comment. Plus maybe a few fart jokes.

That means I should resume more frequent blogging, at least until life returns to normal and I end up under a pile of work again.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Reckless in Seoul

In a nutshell, this video snippet from Marmot's Hole represents all that is wrong with driving in Korea's cities: a general sense of me-first lawlessness because no one is there to punish them. Except God, who is fond of enforcing the laws of physics. (Discussion here)

a bad role model

Don't you know you're not supposed to drink coffee when you're fake pregnant with not-Tom-Cruise's baby?!

(And speaking of Mr. Risky Business, it's totally unfair that he's gay and gets to marry a woman, but when I'm gay I don't get to marry a woman at all! Stupid double standards for celebrities!)

Katie reportedly had her baby. And it's not a TomKat, it's a TomKitty.
The child, named Suri, weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces, and was 20 inches long. Both she and Holmes were reported to be in good condition. "Everybody is doing wonderfully," said Arnold Robinson, publicist for Cruise.
Now here's the thing. No one saw them at the hospital, no one saw them going to the hospital, nothing. If the rumor mill is right and this child was not really from Katie Holmes-Cruise's womb, then maybe some child from Russia or Romania or some place where White kids are often put up for adoption has been transported over. Or it's the offspring of some Scientologist cult member.

Really, I read this with an open mind, but when I saw this...
He declined to give any other details about the birth, saying the couple wished no comments made beyond the very brief written statement. They released no information about the time of birth, nor the duration or nature of labor.
... that was a good indication to me that something is up.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Sure this means an extra week in Purgatory, but the chuckle is worth it.

In honor of the first Sunday after April Fool's Day, it's Jesus Dress Up!

I promise more blogging later. Serious stuff been going down.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"Yes, Mr. President, I promise never to shoot anyone in the face again."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Where are the Leunig cartoons?

Controversial Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig is denying that he submitted two entries to a contest by top-five Iranian newspaper Hamshahri calling for Holocaust-related cartoons. The Hamshahri contest is a tit-for-tat exercise in offensiveness denied to show the Danes and the Norwegians (who seem to get blamed for stuff they didn't do; it's that Viking legacy) what it's like to have your feelings hurt. Or to show that one person's free speech is another person's punch in the stomach. Basically to test the limits of the West's love of free speech (which we all know is a univerally held notion of all North Americans and Western Europeans).

Here's an example of a Leunig cartoon:

This one is apparently unpublished, but I thought it was funny so I decided to include it.

Anyway, while trying to find the fake Leunig cartoon on-line, I came up short (ha ha). This cartoon is newsworthy, at least as newsworthy as the Danish cartoons were when the decision was first made to publish them, but where is the offensive Holocaust cartoon? Was it never released? If it is, will any western papers that ran the cartoons making fun of Islam also run the cartoons in the Iranian contest?

I am not a Holocaust denier nor an anti-Semite, so my interest in these cartoons has nothing to do with that. I support Israel's right to exist and I think that people who deny the atrocitities by the Germans... I mean the Nazis... need to be checked for chemical imbalances. But the Holocaust is a sacred cow that comes about as close as we in the West might get to something approaching the Danish newspaper's offense against believers in Islam. So while I don't think tit-for-tat is right, it was shrewd and we should have seen it coming.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Bush reaches out to Iran and Cuba

The world is a dangerous place. Countries ready to go to war over maritime outcroppings, people raring to kill over drawings of religious figures, embattled leaders seeking weapons of mass destruction. What's a leader of the free world to do to make our planet a better place? For George W. Bush, the answer is to reach out to one's enemies.

Iran and Cuba, along with a few other countries, have been a thorn in his side ever since someone showed him that Cuba was just swimming distance from his brother's state of Florida and Iran was right next to... Iran's neighbors.

Iran he labeled part of the Axis of Evil 2 (which didn't sell as well as the original Axis of Evil, so don't expect an Axis of Evil 3 anytime soon). Cuba he called a menace that nevertheless produced good baseball players, and then he put on a funny hat and did an imitation of Castro.

But that was all in the past. Bush is allowing Cuba to play in the World Baseball Classic, a tournament of baseball-playing nations from around the globe, not to be confused with the World Series, which involves baseball teams from around the United States and occasionally Canada.

Now Bush is trying to reach out to Iran and Cuba in other ways. But it's tough... just what does the light of democracy have in common with the oppressive regimes of Teheran and Havana? How can Bush reach out? Where do these three have common ground?

Shared respect of capitalist principles? No.
Democratic institutions that reflect the will of the people? No.
Secularly guaranteed freedom of religion? No.
Freedom of travel of the citizenry? No.

What's left? Time to get innovative...

Homophobia? Okay, now we're on to something.

That's right: the Bush administration is partnering with the likes of Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and China in a League of Unsympathetic Gentlemen, an Anschluss of the Intolerant, a Hora of Homophobia. Washington has demonstrated rare unity with Axis of Evil member Iran when it backed a Teheran initiative to deny UN access to advocates of sexual minorities' rights.

Scott Long, director of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) program for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people:
This vote is an aggressive assault by the U.S. government on the right of sexual minorities to be heard. It is astonishing that the Bush administration would align itself with Sudan, China, Iran, and Zimbabwe in a coalition of the homophobic.
The US government voted to dismiss two international organizations' applications (Brussels-based International Lesbian and Gay Association and the Danish gay rights group Landsforeningen for Bosser og Lesbiske) for speaking rights at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). This UN vote brought the U.S. government in line with regimes it routinely criticizes as abusers of human rights: Cameroon, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. According to the link, Chile, France, Germany, Peru, and Romania voted not to dismiss the applications. Colombia, India, and Turkey abstained while Cote d'Ivoire, which is being consumed by civil unrest, was absent.

According to Human Rights Watch, the move also marked a shift in policy for Washington, which previously had supported or abstained on such applications. Officials gave no explanation for the change. Ironically, the U.S. government's 2005 edition of "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" highlighted Iran's use of the death penalty to punish male homosexual behavior and Zimbabwean President Mugabe's verbal lashing of homosexuals as "people without rights" and "worse than dogs and pigs."

Some forty groups, including several with a Christian orientation, joined HRW in signing a letter demanding that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice account for the turnaround. The letter read in part:
As long as human rights abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people occur, it is vital that non-governmental organizations working on their behalf are given a place and voice at the United Nations.
Meanwhile, at least three other applications are pending, from the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, the Canada-based Coalition Gaie et Lesbienne du Quebec, and Germany's Lesben- und Schwulenverband in Deutschland.

A quick search didn't turn up anything by the Log Cabin Republicans website on this, so I'll finish with a quote by Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: "It is deeply disturbing that the self-proclaimed leader of the free world will ally with bigots at the drop of a hat to advance the right wing's anti-gay agenda."

Friday, February 03, 2006

I'd pay double for that

As my mother always told me growing up, if you're gonna have photos taken of yourself eating a cherry in a provocative way, don't be surprised when the pictures end up in the ad for a Chinese massage parlor.

Words to live by.

What I'm curious about is whether the people who decided to use this photo of Korean star Song Hyego knew she was a star and believed some prospective patrons might actually think Ms Song herself was putting her hands on the customers. I suppose they just thought this was one of those stock photos of suggestively posed women you can easily find on-line, and no one would ever notice they'd "stolen" the photo.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Asian-Americans and the evils of gambling

I am related to too many problem gamblers for this to not hit home with me. And the story in the beginning is just heart-breaking. But that's the problem with compulsive gamblers: they are so focused on the gambling that they don't recognize their family and work situations crumbling around them.

Ironically, the L.A. Times ad that came with this story came when I read it was for Trump International Casino & Tower in Las Vegas.

Gambling Seen as No-Win Situation for Some Asians
Community leaders and social workers are putting pressure on casinos and legislators to help those who may be addicted face their problem.

By John M. Glionna, Times Staff Writer

Bill Lee's father was sold as a boy to cover a gambling debt.

In the early 1900s, Lee's grandfather lost a wager during a gambling binge in China. With no money to settle up, his only son had to go.

The failed bet unloosed a legacy of problem gambling for Lee's family. His father became an obsessive gambler who never mentioned being raised by a man who won him in a card game. "I saw how gambling destroyed my dad," Lee said. "Part of me also learned, 'Oh, that's how you deal with conflict; that's how you escape.' "

For years, gambling also ruled Lee's life.

His 2005 book "Born to Lose: Memoirs of a Compulsive Gambler" dissects the cultural attitudes that he contends make many Asian immigrants susceptible to problem gambling.

In recovery, the 51-year-old high-tech recruiter is on the forefront of a battle by Asian Americans in California against out-of-control gambling.

In Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Korean and Cambodian communities, social workers and leaders are pressuring gaming officials and state legislators to recognize a hidden epidemic.

"This isn't a special-interest group overblowing a problem," said Timothy Fong, co-director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program, which is conducting an Asian gambling study. "We think this is real."

Nobody really knows how deeply problem gambling reaches into Asian communities because Asians have not been broken out as a group in national or California studies on the issue.

But a 1999 poll in San Francisco's Chinatown, commissioned by a social services agency, found that 70% of 1,808 respondents ranked gambling as their community's No. 1 problem. In a follow-up poll, 21% of respondents considered themselves pathological gamblers and 16% more called themselves problem gamblers — rates significantly higher than in the overall population.

Current data suggest that 1.6% of Americans can be classified as pathological gamblers, a condition recognized as a psychiatric disorder. About 3% more are considered problem gamblers.

Gambling has become America's adult pastime of choice. Each year, more money is spent in the nation's $75-billion gaming industry than on movies, concerts, sporting events and amusement parks combined.

And nowhere is gambling on a bigger roll than in California, with nearly 60 Indian casinos, scores of card rooms, racetracks and Internet gambling sites as well as one of the nation's most lucrative state lotteries. By 2010, annual gaming proceeds will top $10 billion dollars, carrying California past Nevada as the No. 1 gambling destination in the world, gaming experts say.

Asian gamblers play a key role in that success. Though few statistics on their contribution to the state's gambling pot exist, some casinos and card rooms near Los Angeles and San Francisco estimate that Asians often account for 80% of their customers.

"Asians are a huge market," said Wendy Waldorf, a spokeswoman for the Cache Creek Casino north of San Francisco. "We cater to them."

Each day in San Gabriel, Monterey Park and San Francisco's Chinatown, scores of buses collect Asian customers for free junkets to Indian casinos and to Reno and Las Vegas.

Many Nevada casinos also maintain business offices in Monterey Park, where hosts keep in regular touch with Asian high rollers. To reach more run-of-the-mill gamblers, casinos run ads in Asian-language print and broadcast media and conduct direct-mailing campaigns to ZIP Codes with high numbers of Asian residents.

Most gambling venues celebrate Asian holidays, hire bilingual staffers and feature the latest nightclub acts from Shanghai, Seoul and Manila.

Cache Creek Casino has a tank featuring a popular 2-foot-long dragon fish named Mr. Lucky. Dragon fish are considered good fortune by many Chinese gamblers, who often rub the tank for luck.

Culture is a recurring theme in Lee's book, which describes how many Asians — especially Chinese — consider gambling an accepted practice at home and at social events, even among the young. Chinese youths often gamble for money with aunts, uncles and grandparents.

While growing up in San Francisco's Chinatown, Lee took betting to absurd levels — wagering on whether the teacher would assign homework. On rainy days, he bet on which drop would first reach the bottom of the classroom window.

Many Chinese are fascinated by the mystical qualities of luck, fate and chance. The Chinese New Year — this year Jan. 29 — is a time of heightened wagering, when bad luck of the old year is ushered out by the good luck of the new.

Numerology also plays a crucial role in many Asian cultures. The number 8, for example, is considered extremely lucky by many Chinese, while 4, when spoken in Mandarin and Cantonese, sounds like the word for death and is avoided.

Though Chinese believe most strongly in such concepts, other Asian cultures, including Vietnamese, Korean and Filipino, hold similar beliefs — depending on China's political influence in their history or the extent of Chinese immigration there.

Experts believe that recent Asian immigrants — risk-takers willing to leave the familiarity of their homelands — develop more aggressive gambling strategies than their U.S.-born counterparts.

Often lacking language skills and advanced education, some gravitate to casinos, where waitresses dote on gamblers with free drinks and cigarettes. "They're treated as honored guests even though they work dead-end, minimum-wage jobs," said Tina Shum, a social worker in San Francisco's Chinatown. "That's what they long for."

Some eventually engage in "attack" gambling: wagering sums beyond their means in a reckless grab at the American dream. "The immigrant experience is often demeaning," Shum said. "Many get blinded by the neon lights."

But such gaming habits come at a cost. Shum estimates that one-fourth of her 150 annual spousal abuse cases are tied to problem gambling.

"An astronomical amount of money leaves the Asian community for gambling industry coffers," said Paul Osaki, a member of a gambling task force created last year by the state Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs. "It's not all discretionary money. It's quality-of-life money, food-on-the-table money, college education money."

Osaki and other activists want more research and culturally sensitive gambling treatment programs for often-reserved Asians with gambling problems — for whom Western strategies like Gamblers Anonymous rarely work.

The task force also is urging prosecutors to explore possible connections between compulsive gambling and such crimes as fraud and spousal abuse. They've met with casino owners, asking them to support research and treatment programs.

California's 4 million Asian residents — 13% of the population — also should be broken out as a category in gambling prevalence studies, activists say.

Kent Woo, executive director of a Chinatown-based health coalition that conducted the gambling polls, said the biggest challenge is to convince the community that it has a problem.

"Breaking through the denial is the hard part," he said. "For the community to simply accept that someone has lost their apartment building or their business to gambling — there's something terribly wrong with that."

Still, activists say, California's Office of Problem Gambling is under-funded and disorganized. The agency's $3-million budget is derived from contributions from 26 Native American-run casinos. Thirty other tribal casinos do not contribute. Nor do card rooms, race tracks or the state lottery.

In 2003 the office left its entire budget unspent.

"That first year we had no staff; you need people to run programs," said agency director Steve Hedrick. He said his office is spending $1.6 million for a new problem gambling prevalence study to be completed this year.

The office has contacted Asian American leaders for guidance on programs.

Diane Ujiiye, who heads the problem gambling task force, said $3 million wasn't nearly enough to deal with the issue. "It's unacceptable," she said. "What can you do with $3 million? Publish a couple of brochures and run a hotline?"

Officials blame staffing shortages for not having spent the money.

"That first year we had no staff; you need people to run programs," said agency director Steve Hedrick. Leo Chu, owner of the Hollywood Park Casino, said he would not object to contributing to the state's problem gambling fund. Chu says casinos sponsor self-exclusion programs in which problem gamblers can ask that casinos refuse to admit them.

Though Chu does not gamble, he acknowledges that many Asians develop problems. "I wish customers would recognize a responsibility to their families as much as their desire for a good time," he said. "But you can't legislate common sense."

When Bill Lee was on a roll, nothing mattered but the gambling, not even family. He fell for the VIP treatment that came with betting thousands of dollars at a casino: free hotel suites and concert tickets, having casino managers know his name.

"I was a big shot," Lee said, "as long as the money lasted."

Angela, 52, a San Gabriel Valley tour guide who often accompanied Asian customers on Las Vegas gambling junkets, said that on most trips, she ended up losing her own money and began playing with the company's funds. Angela, who is in treatment and asked that her last name not be used, said she once lost $23,000 in a single day.

She said she tried to tame her zealous gambling. On one Vegas trip, she gave all her credit cards to a friend and begged her not to return them, no matter what she said. Later, after losing all her cash, Angela threatened to slap her friend unless she returned the cards. "She threw the cards on the floor and I got down onto my hands and knees without shame to pick them up."

Angela met a reporter at the Commerce Casino, where she spent numerous nights before she quit gambling in April 2000.

"Ohhh, I love it," she whispered, looking away from the pai gow poker tables. "You can feel that old passion. The money is there for the taking."

Angela helped start one of the state's few Mandarin Chinese gambling treatment programs. But she soon realized a hard fact: Admitting an addiction is difficult in any culture. But many Asians find it particularly hard, especially men.

"It's shameful to be emotionally weak," Lee said. "It's not acceptable. So you certainly don't get up and bare your soul before a room full of strangers."

To save face among neighbors, many families will bail out an addicted gambler, paying off casinos and loan sharks, rather than seek help.

Asian American advocates are urging casinos to distribute brochures in Asian languages offering help to problem gamblers.

More ambitiously, they want ATMs in casinos closed and overnight hours curtailed to discourage problem gamblers. They also would like the state to require gaming venues to contribute to treatment programs.

Yet casino owner Chu warned that "too many restrictions will kill business."

Lee's family has broken gambling's grip. He's continuing his treatment, and his only son doesn't gamble. But Lee can still taste the shame his father felt at being sold like a commodity. It was Lee's mother who told him of his father's tragic childhood.

And he knows that gambling almost brought him the same fate. For years, his parents struggled to cope with the effects of what Lee now recognizes as his father's habit. When Lee was only 3, they considered selling him to an elderly Chinatown couple, planning to disguise the transaction as an adoption.

Lee's father finally decided that he loved his son too much to part with him.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

92 House members try to revoke "birthright citizenship"

All people born on American soil have automatically been United States citizens since the inception of the nation. Now, out of fears of illegal immigrants of the wrong color, some on the far right want to take this away. I can understand tighter border security or other such measures, but stripping away a basic right that defines American citizenship is going too far. Fortunately, the Senate would be unlikely pass this.

GOP Faction Wants to Change 'Birthright Citizenship' Policy
By Warren Vieth, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — For nearly 140 years, any child born on U.S. soil, even to an illegal immigrant, has been given American citizenship. Now, some conservatives in Congress are determined to change that.

A group of 92 lawmakers in the House will attempt next week to force a vote on legislation that would revoke the principle of "birthright citizenship," part of a broader effort to discourage illegal immigration.

The push to change the citizenship policy is backed by some conservative activists and academics. But it could cause problems for the White House and the Republican Party, which have been courting Latino voters. GOP officials fear the effort to eliminate birthright citizenship will alienate a key constituency, even if the legislation ultimately is rejected by Congress or the courts.

The principle at issue rests on the first sentence of the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868 to guarantee the rights of emancipated slaves: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."

Some lawmakers advocating tougher immigration laws contend that the amendment has been misinterpreted for decades. Conservatives maintain that although illegal immigrants are subject to criminal prosecution and are expected to abide by U.S. laws and regulations, they are not "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States in the full sense intended by the amendment's authors — and their children therefore fall outside the scope of its protection.

Those who want to change the interpretation acknowledge that illegal immigration is largely driven by the hunger for jobs at U.S. wages. But they also say that for some immigrants, automatic citizenship provides another compelling incentive to cross the border. They note that the United States is one of few major industrialized nations that grant birthright citizenship with no qualifications.

"Illegal immigrants are coming for many different reasons," said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), one of the lawmakers pushing for the House measure. "Some are coming for jobs. Some are coming to give birth. Some are coming to commit crimes. Addressing this problem is needed if we're going to try to combat illegal immigration on all fronts."

But the proposal may rankle Latino voters.

"This is about attempting to deal with a serious policy problem by going after people's babies…. It doesn't have to become law for this kind of proposal to offend people," said Cecilia Muñoz, vice president for policy of the National Council of La Raza, a Latino advocacy group. "This one really hits a nerve."

The 92-member House Immigration Reform Caucus, headed by Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), wants to attach an amendment revoking birthright citizenship to a broader immigration bill scheduled to be taken up sometime next week. Although several revocation bills have been introduced in the House, the most likely one to move forward would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to deny automatic citizenship to children born in the United States to parents who are not citizens or permanent resident aliens.

There is no official tally of the number of children born to illegal immigrants; unofficial estimates range from 100,000 to 350,000 a year. Smith and other critics of current immigration law say that 1 in 10 U.S. births — and 1 in 5 births in California — are to women who have entered the country illegally.

Upon reaching the age of 18, a U.S.-born child of illegal immigrants can petition to obtain permanent legal residency for his or her parents and siblings. Although it generally takes years for such requests to be approved or rejected, parents who receive visas then can begin the process of applying for full citizenship.

Because of the length of time involved, some immigration experts say that birthright citizenship is not a major incentive for the vast majority of illegal entrants.

"No, absolutely not," said Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. "It's something that a few middle-class professional people do. I have never met a poor person who has his wife walk across the desert at eight months pregnant so they can wait 21 years to be sponsored by their child."

Harry Pachon, executive director of USC's Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, said there were undoubtedly some immigrants for whom birthright citizenship was a significant incentive. "But is it in the hundreds of thousands? I don't think so, and there's no evidence to support that," Pachon said.

Still, opinion polls suggest that many Americans consider it a major problem. A November survey by independent pollster Scott Rasmussen found that 49% of those surveyed favored ending birthright citizenship, while 41% were opposed to any change.

Such sentiments appear to reflect growing ambivalence on the part of many Americans about the economic and social impact of immigration, which appears likely to become a major issue in many 2006 congressional races.

President Bush and many GOP lawmakers are pressing for a broad rewrite of U.S. immigration laws, including steps to crack down on illegal border crossings and to create a temporary guest worker program open to many of the 8 million to 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

But some House conservatives, including those in Tancredo's caucus, want to vote before year's end on a bill that mainly contains tough enforcement measures. They are fighting to include revocation of birthright citizenship among its provisions.

Some opponents of birthright citizenship have assumed that revoking the right would require a constitutional amendment. But others argue that it could be revoked by passing legislation to delineate who is entitled to citizenship and who is not, while leaving the Constitution alone.

John C. Eastman, director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence at Chapman University in Orange, told the House immigration panel in September that the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" suggests that the 14th Amendment does not apply to children of undocumented immigrants because their parents are living in the United States illegally.

In an interview, Eastman said that members of Congress who introduced the 14th Amendment made it clear in floor debate that they did not intend for it to apply to children of noncitizens temporarily residing in the United States. There were no illegal immigrants then, Eastman said, because there were no laws on the books addressing the issue.

"You didn't have a massive immigration of people who were retaining allegiance to another nation and maybe coming here temporarily and then going back," Eastman said. "In 1868, you didn't make that trip across the Atlantic twice."

Advocates for immigrants contend that the revocation debate is designed to pander to public anxiety about immigration, despite what they say is a lack of evidence that it would have a significant effect on illegal entries.

Some of them also say that if birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants were revoked, it could create a large population of "stateless" children whose futures had been compromised because of the actions of their parents. Their citizenship would be determined by their parents' countries of origin; some children might be required to petition another government to establish their legal status.

Supporters of birthright citizenship expressed hope that they could head off the revocation measure in the House, or failing that, on the other side of Capitol Hill.

"There is no support for the concept in the Senate," said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). "There are certain things that we have done as a nation for a long time that I don't think we're going to change. Rolling back the clock is not going to solve the problem of immigration."

Thursday, November 24, 2005

a bird-brained idea

This link popped up in my Korean news search, and it had two headlines smashed together:

When `Animals Predict Disaster;'
Uncovering Korea's Ugly Underbelly

With limited time on the 'Net, I glance over things too quickly, sometimes to my own detriment. When I saw this paragraph...

Another striking documentary shows that the world's bravest filmmakers may be the dissidents in North Korea exporting their work through underground channels. "Undercover in the Secret State," is on "CNN Presents" (CNN, Sunday, 8 and 11 p.m.).
...I put two and two together and thought they were saying something about North Korean dissidents using animals to smuggle in and out their documentaries, notes, and other things.

Um, but that's not what it was.

Animals are not the underground channel. Not even close. And here I am, 100% sober.

But then I thought, "Why not?" Why not train millions of homing pigeons or something to fly into North Korea to deliver messages, videos, letters from loved ones. And then take stuff back.

Of course, this would be expensive to train them all, and there's a danger the birds would be eaten by North Koreans not in the know, or shot by North Korean guards who are in the know, but it would be better than what we have now, which is nothing.

If no one else is willing to try, then I volunteer. Just as soon as I figure out how to apply for a multi-million dollar government grant.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

Mark Twain said that. Many people have quoted him. I'm now one of them.

Where I am now, there is no Internet connection. This is by design (by design that I'm in such a place; the lack of Internet itself is due to an utter lack of design and planning).

For Internet connections, I must rely on randomly placed terminals in shopping malls that allow you to get into site's other than the terminal provider's homepage. That makes it difficult to do answer email, do daily searches for news, and write something pithy.

I'm sorry if this has turned anybody's world upside down, but I can assure you this situation won't last forever.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Bruce Lee fans want money for statue

Bruce Lee fans are trying to get the HK government to pay for an 8-foot, 2-inch bronze statue to mark the martial arts legend's 65th birthday (he died in 1973 at age 32). The plan is to use a pose from his 1972 movie, "Fist of Fury."

I'm not sure about the pose, but if they're trying to do this on the cheap, I hear there's a statue in Korea that may be available soon.

It's a Zaytun Chusok, Charlie Brown!

Bow down before the fruit gods!
Fear their sweet, juicy wrath!
(Happy Chusok, everyone, wherever you may be.
Have a songpyon on me.)

Surf's way up

I know it's crazy, but pictures like this (from Newport Beach) really make me want to learn to surf. I could be a surfer chick! Really!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Gubernator 2: Election Day

The worst-kept secret in California is now official: the Gubernator has told a town hall meeting in San Diego that he's going for another four years. The theme is follow-through.

His popularity is only at 36%, but now that his re-election campaign is official, he might be able to pick up support, not only for his own re-election next year but also for the three initiatives he's pushing in the November 8 special election (my absentee ballot is on the way!).

I'm probably going to vote for all three of the initiatives, but I'm not 100% decided. They are: extending teachers' probationary period to five years from two, imposing a state spending cap, and giving judges, rather than lawmakers, the power to draw their political boundaries. The last one is necessary to make congressional and assembly districts competitive to finally break the gridlock in Sacramento.

California Earthquake the Next Katrina?

I've been out of commission for a while, but this is something on my list...

A 2001 memo by FEMA predicted three most likely catastrophes to hit the United States. One was a terror attack on New York City, second was a super-strength hurricane hitting New Orleans. The third was a major earthquake on the San Andreas fault.

That doesn't seem promising for Southern California, which may not be ready. Here's what the article warns:
In Los Angeles, all but one of 8,700 unreinforced masonry buildings — considered the most likely to collapse in a major quake — have been retrofitted or demolished. The state spent billions after the 1994 Northridge quake to retrofit more than 2,100 freeway overpasses, reporting this week that only a handful remain unreinforced.

Despite these improvements, however, officials believe that a major temblor could cause the level of destruction and disruption seen over the last week on the Gulf Coast.

More than 900 hospital buildings that state officials have identified as needing either retrofitting or total replacement have yet to receive them, and the state recently agreed to five-year extensions to hospitals that can't meet the 2008 deadline to make the fixes. More than 7,000 school buildings across the state would also be vulnerable during a huge temblor, a state study found, though there is no firm timetable for upgrading the structures.
And then there's this problem:

There are about 40,000 structures in California made from "non-ductile reinforced concrete," a rigid substance susceptible to cracking. This was a common construction ingredient for office buildings in the 1950s and '60s, before the state instituted stricter standards. Few such structures have been seismically retrofitted, officials said.

All this makes Idaho seem awfully inviting. Except for the winters and the homophobes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Lesbian kissing not allowed

A lot of Westerners in the Korea blogosphere frequently chide Koreans for their overly prudish ways, but similar stuff in the U.S. and other Western countries goes unnoticed.

In Garden Grove, a major Orange County city, a lesbian high school student named Charlene is suing the Garden Grove School District because she was allegedly disciplined unfairly for hugging and kissing her girlfriend on campus.

The lawsuit alleges that the school principal revealed Charlene's sexual orientation to her parents, two conservative Asian immigrants, and suspended her "while allowing similar behavior by heterosexual couples." She was forced her to transfer to another school.

The ACLU is representing her and she's getting hellp from the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.
Charlene, now a senior, began dating her girlfriend in fall 2004 at Santiago High School. The lawsuit alleges the pair was repeatedly disciplined for displaying public affection despite the fact that their behavior is not prohibited in the school's student handbook. Eventually, Principal Ben Wolf told Nguon's mother about the relationship, and, in March, said the two teens had to attend different schools, according to the lawsuit.

Shortly before the end of her junior year, Charlene transferred to Bolsa Grande High School, increasing her commute from a short walk to a 4 1/2 -mile bike ride, according to the lawsuit.

Charlene, who hopes to attend Stanford University and study international relations, had been a straight-A student in the top 5% of her class at Santiago High. But the commute to the new school, coupled with changing courses midyear, caused Nguon's grades to drop, according to the suit.

"Unfortunately, for Principal Ben Wolf and other staff at Santiago High, all of her accomplishments and exemplary qualities are overshadowed by one fact: that she is a lesbian," the lawsuit alleges. "... during this past school year, Charlene's junior year, Principal Wolf has repeatedly punished Charlene and derailed her academic success, all because she dared to be openly lesbian on campus."
I think it's sad that this kind of thing still goes on in 21st-century America, but it doesn't surprise me. A few years ago, I was kicked off a prominent Korea-related list that preceded Marmot's Hole because of my orientation. Americans in the majority group are fond of talking about how open-minded it is, but if you're in one of the "suspect" groups, things aren't always so rosy. At least in Korea, I could hug or hold hands with another woman (maybe not make out, though).

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blogging...

I have been catching up on a lot of California-related news lately, but I promise, promise, promise to get back to the regularly scheduled Korea-related snarkiness soon.

Buy a Prius, ride in the carpool lane

Congress is on the side of hybrids, giving people one more selfish reason (besides greater overall fuel savings) to get a Prius (or a Civic or Accord): riding in the "diamond lanes"! Cars that get the highest gas mileage in their class and get at least 45 miles per gallon qualify.

Motorists who drive solo in fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles will gain access to carpool lanes in across the country under a $286.5-billion transportation bill approved by Congress. The carpool bill is something California's moderate Republican governor (Arnold Schwarzenegger, you might have heard of him) has been pushing. he called the federal transportation bill "a great victory for California."

Some people criticize this move, though, saying that one person in a hybrid is no better than two people in a car with half as good mileage. But if it gets people to get hybrid cars in general, it can be a positive. But whichever way that goes, the rest of the U.S. should beware, because as California goes, so goes the nation (a lot of the time).

GOP divides on stem-cell research

The GOP seems to be splintering when it comes to the issue of stem-cell research. President Bush's most prominent Senate ally, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, announced that he would break with the White House and support legislation allowing the federal government to finance research using a broader range of embryonic stem cells, which the White House said it would veto.

The Los Angeles Times says this decision exposed deep rifts within the GOP hierarchy that controls the Capitol and the White House, pitting social conservatives, who view the research as immoral because human embryos are destroyed in the process, against people who say the research is warranted because it may lead to cures for diseases.
The announcement by Frist, a transplant surgeon who is considered a likely contender for president in 2008, contradicted recent signals that he would oppose the legislation, and word of his decision Thursday night caught his Senate colleagues and the White House by surprise. It also was an unambiguous sign that politics had tilted in favor of research advocates and against Bush and the social conservatives who are the core of his political base.
Frist sided with scientists, patients' groups, and lawmakers who have said Bush's policy is too restrictive, leaving federally backed scientists unable to work with newer and apparently more versatile cell groups. He said, "the limitations put in place in 2001 will, over time, slow our ability to bring potential new treatments for certain diseases."

To me this is a victory of pragmatic, moderate Republicans over the theocons.

Exchange drain

This is old news, but the Chosun Ilbo says that emigrants from Korea took a whopping $1 billion (1 trillion KRW) in assets with them. This was a 48.7 percent increase over the same period last year.

Part of the reason is an increase in emigrants (like rats on a sinking ship -- hee hee), and part of it is the strong won versus the dollar, which would make any Korean won value 10% higher compared to a year earlier.

My fear is that some Korean media might try to turn this into a rich-bashing, foreigner-bashing, or kyopo-bashing exercise. A sense of egalitarianism and near-socialist social policies make some people think that rich people don't deserve their hard-earned money because, well, it wasn't hard-earned. In the past it was probably true that if someone had millions of dollars, corruption was involved, but nowadays real estate millionaires who have followed the law are not uncommon. I wish I were one of them, but I am probably doomed to be a renter all my life.

Bush talks up "intelligent design"

According to the Washington Post, President Bush has said that schoolchildren in America should be taught about "intelligent design," a view of creation which the WaPo describes as challenging established scientific thinking and promotes the idea that an unseen force is behind the development of humanity.

Expect this to fuel the debate over separation of church and state, with evolution opponents being "invigorated" and opponents to religious indoctrination in public schools angered. I myself always thought that "intelligent design" was an acknowledgement of guided evolution, as the Catholic Church teaches, but some people I know say that it's code for teaching evolution is a hoax.


A long time ago, someone in the automobile industry supposedly said that environmentalists were wack because cows caused more pollution than cars did (Reagan also allegedly said something like trees are the greatest polluters).

Well it turns out that they may be right, at least in my great state's San Joaquin Valley, where ruminating dairy cows are exploding--in number. One of every five cows in the United States lives in the San Joaquin Valley, which means lots and lots of methane. They have surpassed cars (probably about the only time cows will ever pass cars) as the biggest single source of smog-forming gases.

According to the Los Angeles Times, every year the average dairy cow produces 19.3 pounds of gases, called volatile organic compounds, which react with other pollutants to form ground-level ozone, or smog.

The San Joaquin Valley (that's the really big, really flat valley shaped like a giant amoeba in the middle of California) is one of the three worst areas for pollution (along with Houston and Los Angeles). Over the last six years, however, the San Joaquin Valley has violated the federal limit on ozone smog over an eight-hour period more than any other region.

This means the dairy industry will be forced to invest millions of dollars in expensive pollution-control technology in feedlots and waste lagoons, and may even have to consider altering animals' diets to meet the region's planned air-quality regulations.

Got milk?

Friday, July 29, 2005


The BBC reports that Japanese scientists have unveiled the most human-looking robot yet devised, a "female" android called Repliee Q1.

Repliee Q1

She has flexible silicone skin, not hard plastic.The interesting thing, according to BBC, is that she has a number of sensors and motors to allow her to turn and react in a human-like manner. She can flutter her eyelids and move her hands like a human. She even appears to breathe.

Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University says Repliee Q1 is unlike any robot you will have seen before outside of the movies, and he believes one day robots could fool us into believing they are human. She is designed to look human and although she can only sit at present, she has 31 actuators in her upper body, powered by a nearby air compressor, programmed to allow her to move like a human.

Perhaps the Real Doll (not a work-safe link) people will be start working in conjunction with the Japanese robotics engineers and start developing what is in the back of everybody's mind but no one is yet talking about: realistic sex slaves.

Real Doll, Mai version.

Maybe "sex slave" is a little harsh, since they are robots, not humans. Maybe we should call them "Guaranteed Android Sex Partners" (or GASPs). An on-demand sex partner that doesn't require copious amounts of alcohol first.

Okay, there are issues of truly objectifying the female gender (although Real Doll is also available in a male version), but wide availability of GASPs would eliminate much of the demand for a sex industry with real-live prostitutes who often have to be coerced, beaten, or drugged into submission. A lot less STDs going around the hereo community, too. Women could finally go to a bar without being hounded by every guy within a fifty-foot radius.

And don't people already objectify the opposite gender already, even without GASPs?

This could be like "Bladerunner" or "Millennium Man," I guess. Would much of the upper class that can afford GASPs just stop breeding? Would GASPs be utilized as hookers? Would they develop a GASP that serves as many special female needs as it does male needs (the Real Doll people seem to have mastered fellatio but not cunnilingus)? Would you have to pay for an extra seat when you fly with your GASP?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Who knew?

It's always the conservatives and the hard-liners who turn out to be fruitier than a can of Hawaiian Punch. (Hat tip to

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Power to the People...'s Republic of Korea... the "democratic" one

Seoul has said that if Pyongyang promises to give up its nuclear weapons, it will send lots of electrons its way:
South Korea said it had offered to lay power lines into North Korea and provide the Stalinist state with electricity if it agreed to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

South Korea would transmit its surplus electric power to the North through cross-border power lines which have yet to be built, South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-Young said at a press conference.
So, is this giving in to the North Korean threat?

Or is this deft dealing to stave off a crisis?

Is this giving in to dictators?

Will this deal-making boost Chung Dong-young's (the deft jammer himself) bid for the Blue House?

Will the electricity be used for torture?

Will making North Korea dependent on South Korean energy mean it will be easier to keep Pyongyang in line?

In Korea I paid 250 won or so per kilowatt-hour... how much will Pyongyang pay?

And the obvious question, shouldn't we be sending surplus electricity to California?

In related news, Condaleeza Rice said the US has no objection to the South giving sending rice (the staple, not herself) to the North.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Blast on Plast from the Recent Past

NOTE: This is a slightly edited repost of something I wrote on AsiaPages before Jodi switched from Blogspot to Typepad and eradicated her entire old blog. I find out while doing an ego search. It was in response to a post about a Korean CEO wanting to hire Caucasians, I think, which had morphed into the topic of Koreans getting plastic surgery to look Western. This was one of my earlier ventures into blogging, so it's close to my heart.

just several comments that will make my post seem willy-nilly...

koreans getting surgery are not to make themselves look white or western, but to make themselves look different or exotic. when 30% or fewer have double eyelids and 70% or more don't, then surgery would favor the double eyelids or the bigger-looking eyes. it is not about looking western. if people were really to make themselves look truly like someone of european descent -- which is possible -- people would freak out upon seeing her or him.

the jaw and cheekbone shaving is more common than before because of the same reason: a narrower face is considered more delicately beautiful than a wider face. this is not an attempt to look western, either. many koreans look at kathy ireland and think, 'oh my god! how could americans look at that huge jaw and think she's beautiful?!'

white skin being considered beautiful skin is also a concept that predates exposure to the west by centuries. rather than chastising koreans who seek to clarify their skin by removing brown blotches or freckles (which is one of the purposes of the whitening creams), it is insulting to assume that they are giving up their koreanness in favor of a western ideal of beauty. it seems that the people who are so willing to jump to that conclusion are the ones with the inferiority complex.

and that, too, is a good example: freckles. what can be more western-looking in korea than freckles? yet koreans will go to the ends of the earth (or at least the face shop or the department store) to get rid of them. no, the korean ideal of beauty is about having clear whitish yangban skin with interesting slightly exotic looking features. that this coincides a bit with caucasian looking features does not a racist conspiracy make.

now koreans with corn rows on the other hand...

jodi, when people were shocked or in awe that you hadn't had plastic surgery, it was most definitely not an insult. people here don't think it's cool to get plastic surgery, they just think it's acceptable or even normal. what they think is cool is when you can look beautiful without having had any. for what it's worth, take it as a compliment. or at the very least, don't take it as an insult. life in korea is hard enought without searching for shit when it's not there.

as for affirmative action in the states being a justification for this kind of hiring practice in korea, well, at least in california, koreans and other northeast asian groups (e.g., japanese and chinese) and even vietnamese now, i believe, are no longer beneficiaries of affirmative action and haven't been for quite some time. it is simply no justification for doing it here.

Monday, July 04, 2005

United Church of Christ endorses gay marriage

That's right. The intolerant, hate-filled, supposed "Christians" that are the theocons do not have a monopoly on religious faith in America.

The United Church of Christ (UCC) has become the largest denomination to endorse gay marriage. And in Atlanta, no less! The decision was nearly unanimous.

The committee also voted against adopting a resolution declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman.

If the General Synod approves this as is, they expect there may be individuals or entire congregations that may pull out of the church. Several committee members asked that any dissenters be treated with respect and that their feelings be honored. UCC congregations are autonomous, however, so no one group has to follow it.

Anyone familiar with the issue of gay rights and religion knows that the UCC has long supported gays/lesbians. In the 1970s, the UCC became the first major Christian church to ordain an openly gay minister, something many other Christian denominations are unwilling to do even today. The UCC even declared itself to be "open and affirming" of gays and lesbians twenty years ago.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

California busts up South Korea-centered sex trafficking ring

I will write more thoughts ons this later, but for now, here is the news: law enforcement agencies in California have broken up a human trafficking ring that moved sex workers, mostly or all from South Korea, in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. Fifty arrests were made and 150 women are being questioned

According to the BBC, the women were working in brothels disguised as acupuncture clinics and massage parlors in Southern and Northern California. The women were reportedly charged $16,000 to be smuggled into the US and were working as prostitutes to repay that money to the ring organizers. Some of the women are believed to have entered the country through the Mexican and Canadian borders, while others used illegally obtained tourist visas.

US Attorney Debra Wong Yang is describing the recent move as an attempt to protect the women:
This type of criminal organization exploits the hopes and dreams of immigrants.
Tragically, prostitution involving desparate women from South Korea is nothing new. Some of the women end up doing this after their new life in America goes to hell, some willingly and purposefully go to the US to engage in this, and others are duped and coerced. Although Ms. Yang says that none of these women coerced, there were signs that some had been sexually abused.

I just hope the US authorities really do work toward what's in these women's best interests. In the meantime, it's nice to see law enforcement somewhere is not just paying lip service to cleaning up problems associated with prostitution, which will only fester as long as prostitution remains underground in an illegal-but-usually-tolerated state.

Related stories in the Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Times.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Due for a coup?

Up front, let me just say that the Rohster has probably learned why he needs to talk nicely about U.S. and South Korean relations for a while, probably until the end of his single term. When all is said and done, Roh doesn't trust China and he knows that South Korea is far better off in the American camp. But just in case I'm wrong and things lurch too far the other way, here's what Nora the Prognosticator says we're in store for.

The military is under intense scrutiny. The recent massacre in the barracks has brought some harsh light onto the military, which probably thinks things are unfair. South Korea's career military officers are a lot like Colonel Jessup, the Jack Nicholson character in "A Few Good Men," and they believe that some of the mama's boy soldiers need to be whipped into fighters if the Republic is going to survive.

If the idealistic leftists who are sprinkled here and there in the Blue House and the National Assembly decide to go after the military as a way of weakening their lingering power, the military will not take it lying down.

The military was probably not too happy with Kim Daejung's election in 1997 (or, for that matter, erstwhile leftist Kim Youngsam's election in 1992), but they saw that they could do business with him. The world did not end for them just because former military brass were no longer in office.

But President Roh Moohyun is a different story. He shoots his mouth off and a bunch of idealist nutjobs who are a little too familiar with the writings of Karl Marx and Bruce Cumings have his ear. It's not always clear that he has a good idea of how bad things would be for South Korea if it were to fall under China's sway.

But the generals and the admirals know this. They face the enemy every day and they have no illusions about the benevolent nature of Beijing or Pyongyang.

And this is why, if Roh ever starts to show any real indications that he is going to disinvite the American guests, or if Washington shows that they can't tolerate the leftists' crap anymore and are going to disinvite themselves, there will be a coup.

The Republic of Korea is a democracy, one that Koreans worked hard for and are proud of, but many, many people in Korea feel its security is being eroded by leftist idealists who have little practical sense of foreign relations in this part of the world.

And that leads some to ask: Is democracy all-important if it leads you to ruin? The generals would certainly see this as a choice between the lesser of two evils, but ultimately they would choose the one that would cause the least security risk, which is a take-over from within rather than a move to the China camp from which they are powerless to leave.

Many military types probably believe that the leftists in the government now are a greater danger to South Korea's security than anyone else. If they see those leftists' dream of a kicking the Yankees out and going on some tirade against Japan, which will surely cause South Korea to fall under China's thumb, they will take action.

That would likely mean a coup.

Roh scares the crap out of them. They fear for their country's future security. And if it appears that Roh is going to dash the Korean-American alliance on the rocks, they will take command of the ship. They will not let that alliance fail, even if that means removing the democratically elected leader from power.

And many South Koreans would support the coup, as long as things return to the regularly scheduled democratic program as soon as possible.

A bunch of people would be up in arms (figuratively, perhaps literally) about the coup, but most would accept it. Outside of Korea, countries like Washington and Tokyo would be wringing their hands, but they'd secretly be happy.

The military is trained to do whatever it takes to protect the Republic of Korea. Even from themselves.

From "A Few Good Men" (to get an idea of the ROK military brass mindset):

Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like "honor," "code," "loyalty." We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Nora prognosticates: US bases in Vietnam coming soon

Some day people are going to look back at this blog (assuming the memory storage facility is not flooded thanks to rising oceans or zapped thanks to a depleted ozone) and say, "Gee, that Nora really knows her $#!+."

Either that or I will be dismissed as another whacko who didn't know what the hell was going on.

So on that note, Nora the Prognosticator goes out on yet another limb: Within the next decade, possibly even the next five years, there will be a U.S. military base in Vietnam.

What?! you may ask incredulously, the same Vietnam that bled us to death with a thousand paper cuts (right-wing version), the same Vietnam that became the first country to ever defeat us in war (left-wing version), the same Vietnam that fought us relentlessly for a decade just to keep us out of their country? That Vietnam is willingly going to invite the United States military to set up a camp somewhere within its territory?! That Vietnam?!

Yep. That Vietnam.

The same Vietnam whose prime minister was recently the first-ever post-Vietnam War leader of that country to visit the White House. The same Vietnam that has seen the US as a trading partner of increasing importance.

The same Vietnam that is still working out land-based territorial disputes with China. The same Vietnam that is embroiled in maritime territorial issues centered on the Paracel Islands (along with Taiwan) and the hotly contested Spratly Islands (along with Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and possibly Brunei). The same Vietnam that was partly invaded and briefly occupied by China during the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979.

The Vietnamese can feel confident in the "knowledge" that they kicked the Americans' asses out of their country, so the absence of han-like seething resentment has allowed old wounds to heal. Plus the fact that (as seen in the Philippines) the US military as an invited military guest will leave if asked. That all adds up to one thing: the US seems a less fearful nation to side on than China when it comes to security issues.

Vietnamese PM Phan Van Khai's visit was wildly popular back home, seen as a boost to Vietnam's social and economic status. According to the BBC, state-run media have been reporting on how important it is for Vietnam to tap into the US market, and the mood of optimism has people talking of a "new era" for Vietnam. One person wrote this:

I trust that the visit will help improve relationships with the United States in order to bring in more foreign investment and lessen China's influence in the region.
Did you catch that? Lessen China's influence in the region.

So it's clear that the Vietnamese want greater economic ties with the US to counter China, but what's in it for the US?

Days after meeting with a North Korean dissident whose book laid out the inhumanity of the communist regime in Pyongyang, President George W. Bush met with the leader of another communist regime in Hanoi that has problems with human rights, which is why the visit was met with large protests.

Protesting Phan's visit in Orange County's Little Saigon

In Bush-loving Orange County, where the Republican-leaning Vietnamese-American community is centered in Little Saigon, many people are not happy. No wonder, given that they or their parents risked their lives fleeing the same communist regime. And the theocons aren't particularly happy that Bush is breaking bread with the head of a country that still strongly suppresses religious freedom.

Families in Orange County protest visit

But the Bush administration assures us that Vietnam has been improving in this area (in April several religious dissidents were released). Maybe they have, maybe they haven't, but the US has a long-standing tradition of holding its nose when it comes to "allies," and Vietnam could be no different.

That's right... Vietnam could become another ally in the effort to keep Beijing boxed in, lest it ever get the idea to militarily expand, as it was once wont to do.

And don't forget, you heard it first at nora knows nada?.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

How deep an investigation?

Last weekend's massacre of eight ROK army personnel in a unit stationed near the DMZ was a shocking tragedy.

At first there were speculations that it was an accident, then that it was a spur-of-the-moment attack out of anger. Then came news that it was premeditated and planned.

The Korea Times is going with the story that Private Kim Dong-min attacked his superior and his fellow soldiers out of anger for being harshly berated over an incident involving cleaning a bathroom, but that doesn't ring true with a lot of people I talked with.

Okay, in today's society where some teens go over the edge after playing hour after hour, day after day, of first-person shooting games, maybe it's possible for someone to hatch revenge over something so relatively trivial. Maybe Private Kim was mentally unstable and no one saw the signs or, if they did see the signs, wanted to do anything about it.

Whatever the case, the ROK Army said they will investigate and get to the bottom of this. But if it goes where I think it might, will they really reveal this to the public?

From what I've heard from several different people who would know these things, there is a deep, dark secret surrounding some ROK military units: using forced sex acts as a means of humiliation and control. I know what you might be thinking, that in a homophobic society like Korea this can't possibly be the case. I myself was in complete disbelief when I first heard this, and I am still skeptical, but I have heard of it from several different sources. That it comes from different sources could lend credibility to it on the one hand, or it could support the idea that it's merely a Korean urban legend.

I'm really not sure, but when certain news services reported that Private Kim had been "molested," I imagined he might have been a victim of such behavior (although "molest" can also mean "harass" or "abuse" in a non-sexual way). And to me, this would explain perfectly his behavior, much better than being angry over having been yelled at.

Male or female, a victim of sexual assault has gone through an intense trauma. Humiliation and despair can overtake even people who were once psychologically sound. This is why rape victims often become suicidal, reckless, or extremely withdrawn. As I said before in the Michael Jackson post, many people who are screwed up as adults are often people who were sexually assaulted as children. It can have a profound impact on someone.

The Korean military reportedly has a high rate of suicide, although the ROK military may be covering up the details of some cases. This is pure speculation, but I suppose that such incidents could also account for at least part of the suicide rate.

Can it push someone over the edge to mass murder? Maybe if the unit were in on the situation. I don't really know, but I suppose it would depend on what exactly happened. Maybe Private Kim was not a victim of any serious maltreatment. Maybe he did just go over the edge on his own. But I would hope that a real investigation into his actions would see what other factors might be pushing people over the edge to take their own lives as they serve their country.

At the same time, however, I hope the current administration doesn't use this situation as a chance to weaken the ROK military's credibility at a time when some in the ROK military may be unhappy about the direction President Roh may hope to take the country.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Follow directions

Foods you should shake before consuming:
bottled mocha
orange juice
Te Java Royal Milk Tea (shaking optional)
suspicious milk
suspicious soy milk

Foods you should not shake before consuming:
any kind of carbonated soda
hot, open beverages
cereal (shake suspicious milk before pouring)