Archive for November, 2011

All Men Are Brothers?

November 27, 2011

Lunghu finds it quite intriguing –and quite impressive– that Yonhap News Service can provide a photo of Park Won-soon and Kim Moon-su side-by-side within two days of that blog post about Kim Ou-joon and the upcoming Korean presidential elections.

Two months ago, Park Won-soon wasn’t even wearing neckties.  However, as Mayor of Seoul there are certain expectations –not all of them sartorial.   Mayor Park’s smile seems a trifle strained in addition to being somewhat restrained.  How will he maneuver within the constraints of a Confucian ministerial system?  Will King Yŏngjo be his exemplar?

Matching neckties? This can't be good...

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Laugh, and the World Laughs With You

November 22, 2011

Who’s the most dangerous man on the Korean peninsula right now?   If your answer was Kim Jong-il, you’ve revealed yourself to be a conventional thinker, a dupe of running-dog imperialist propaganda — and just plain wrong.   That’s because the real threat to established order in the Hermit Kingdom isn’t some pudgy old guy with inexorable kidney failure, a volatile temper and a half-assed nuclear weapons program, it’s an angry young(ish) satirist with a nationwide broadband podcast audience.  Think Jon Stewart plus kimchi — and minus the AIPAC scriptwriting crew.

credit: Matt Douma

Well, OK:  maybe not so young.   Kim Ou-joon is forty-two, and as an Internet veteran with more than a decade of web-based comedy behind him, he’s no flash-in-the-pan overnight sensation.

In 1998, Kim launched a political parody website called Daily Tackle, where he posted images showing the heads of politicians grafted onto the bodies of bikini-clad women.

Now, his free weekly audio podcast “I’m a Weasel” …

… ranks as the world’s most popular political podcast, with 2 million weekly downloads.  Kim uses digital media –in a format that is equal parts talk show, rant session and comedy skits–  to rally disenfranchised youths in a challenge to the status quo, and caught the establishment flat-footed.  The [podcast refers] to Lee Myung-bak as “His Highness” and “our morally perfect president.”  One recurring character belittles Lee, who is a Protestant church elder, by singing bawdy songs to the tune of church hymns.

Kim’s humor is considered [outrageous] in a nation where anyone younger than 40 is expected to respect their elders. That explains why “I’m a Weasel” has triggered a political backlash, even legal repercussions.   …  Analysts say Kim was largely responsible for the decisive turnout of young voters in Seoul’s recent mayoral election, in which the ruling Grand National Party candidate was soundly defeated by a little-known left-wing activist [Park Won-soon].
   [As a result,] Kim and his co-hosts have been indicted for allegedly spreading false information that the ruling party’s unsuccessful [female] candidate in the mayoral race ran up a $100,000 annual bill at a skin-care clinic.

The GNP’s approach to digital media is more traditionalist:  in addition to its influence with major print and broadcast media outlets, it employs its own version of the Chinese “water army” to flood online discussion boards with messages favorable to the party and its minions.   However, this massive cyber-deployment appears to have been outflanked and outmaneuvered by dissident voices who are using the growth of mobile broadband to open new communication pathways among the unwired masses.   All comedy involves the loss of dignity, so political parody accelerates the process of replacing deference to power with contempt and outright defiance.  Which is a good thing for humanity in general.

Satire or not, things don’t look so good for the GNP in next year’s Presidential election.  Seoul and Gyeonggi Province (with almost half the country’s population) are customarily the swing districts in national elections, so a candidate from GNP’s Daegu or Busan strongholds just ain’t gonna cut it.  Park Geun-hye has been trying to burnish her international credentials among Korea’s America-oriented elite (most recently with her byline over a ghost-written policy piece in this month’s edition of Foreign Affairs), but that approach isn’t going to win many votes among the young and restless.  Gyeonggi governor Kim Moon-su is younger and has labor-activist credentials that he doesn’t hesitate to emphasize:  he may end up as the GNP candidate if Korean chaebol oligarchs can be assured that he’s sufficiently pliable.

Regardless of how next year’s presidential election turns out, Lunghu has a warning for Korea-watchers:  note the resemblance of Kim Ou-joon to one of Choi Min-sik‘s more memorable portrayals, and consider the possibility that ‘Old Boy‘ is less a cinematic fiction about a single character than a prescient parable about an entire nation.

 

Evergreen Old Boy

Five-Ring Circus

November 15, 2011

In the shadow-world, some accusations actually constitute an implicit admission of guilt on the part of the accuser himself.   That’s because one chapter of the secret playbook circulating among the international brotherhood of villains, thieves and scoundrels has long advocated a preemptive defense-by-offense:  accuse your adversary of precisely the sins you yourself have committed.  Your opponent will then be occupied with protesting his own innocence, and thus be unable to credibly accuse the (more) guilty party.   Some readers may be acquainted with this strategem in its quasi-blasphemous, axiomatic formulation:  “Do unto others before they do unto you.

Is Lunghu referring to the Herman Cain affair?  Nope.  Instead, he’s noting the recent remarks of Britain’s Olympic Games pointman:

Colin Moynihan, chairman of the British Olympic Association, claims the World Anti-Doping Agency has failed to achieve its objectives since its creation 10 years ago. He calls for a “fundamental review” and independent audit of the Montreal-based body.  “Never have the sanctions against the hard-line cheats been so weak since the end of the Cold War.”

 

To Lunghu, this level of invective (coming as it does in the months before Britain’s make-or-break London Olympics) should not necessarily be taken at face value.   Instead, Moynihan’s polemic may be an indication that the WADA is coming uncomfortably close to uncovering the specific characteristics of doping technology that’s been circulating among the top-tier Commonwealth nations (Britain, Australia and Canada) during the past few years.   Lunghu doesn’t know whether the relevant mechanisms involve oxygen uptake, metabolic enhancement, muscle-fiber regeneration or all of the above, but something has been rotten in the Anglo-sphere for at least five years now.  Is the good ole USA in on this action?  Lunghu doesn’t think so:  we’ve got our own pharmaceutical industry to rely upon.

So one wonders — does this have anything to do with WADA’s long-term agreement with GlaxoSmithKline (signed June 2011) to share information about chemical compounds identified in early-stage pharmaceutical research?

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has signed a long-term agreement with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) that will help the agency create early detection methods for medicines that have performance-enhancing potential in sport.  The historic partnership, which was officially ratified in London on June 21, will see GSK supply WADA with confidential information about medicines in early stage development that could be abused by athletes once they are licensed for appropriate patient use.

In fact, the more plausible doping scenario would be “leakage” of experimental compounds from the lab to the locker room before “they are licensed for appropriate patient use” (and thus before any detection mechanisms are devised).   This is probably what has actually been occurring in Britain and elsewhere.   The threat to the sports doping industry is that the WADA-GSK contagion may spread:  other pharmaceutical research firms may follow GSK’s lead and sign similar agreements with WADA.  This is exactly what WADA has in mind:  take a look at Objective #6/Strategy # 2 in their strategic plan (note page 13 as well).

Let the Games begin!  May the best biochemist win!

Hierro Today, Gone Tomorrow

November 12, 2011

Lunghu has been keeping an occasional eye (metaphorically speaking) on seismic developments in the Canary Islands.   El Hierro Island is furthest south and west in the island group, which means that there’s nothing but ocean between them and us [North Americans].

What:

Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN) reported that during 2-8 November the submarine eruption continued south of El Hierro Island. Tremor amplitude reached higher values than during previous weeks….  During 2-8 November, 364 seismic events were recorded, most of them located offshore to the N of the island, at depths of 16-23 km.

The massive Hierro shield volcano is truncated by a large NW-facing escarpment formed as a result of gravitational collapse of El Golfo volcano about 130,000 years ago. The steep-sided 1500-m-high scarp towers above a low lava platform bordering 12-km-wide El Golfo Bay.

So what:

Lunghu’s not gonna claim that this is a widely-held belief among paleo-geologists, but to his eye the landscape of New York’s Long Island and the New Jersey coastal plain suggests the possibility that the low, rolling sandy hills to be found there were long ago formed by a massive tsunami originating somewhere “way out there” to the southeast.  Somewhere like the Canary Islands, perhaps.

Just sayin’ …

image: G00gle

Dis-Oriented

November 8, 2011

Faithful readers will know that Lunghu is not a fan of Cousin Nicky –he’s just another duplicitous quarryman, after all– but at least he’s somewhat candid in conversation with a lodge brother.   Leaving aside (for the moment) the question of whether the “overhear” was heartfelt and impromptu or carefully scripted, let’s briefly consider what the actual impact on international relations will be. … Okay, that’s enough time pondering:  the answer is –not much.  Unfortunately.

Cousin Nicky meets King Candor

But how about the impact on domestic French electoral politics?  For Nicky, that’s what really counts, now and throughout 2012.  Although DSK is out of the way, his pudgy successor/rival François is now the beneficiary of the nation’s mounting malaise français.  That isn’t good for Nicky’s re-election prospects:  he’s got to make it through to the second round of voting in order to ultimately triumph as the champion bulwark against godless socialism.  To do that, Nicky needs to repeat his 2007 strategy of siphoning votes from the National Front by playing to the fears and prejudices of conservative French voters.

Step 1:  [2010] round up the usual suspects the Roma/gypsies/zigane.

Step 2:  [2011] Reconquer North Africa.  Algeria and Morocco are wonderful trading partners with (mostly) accommodating governments, but Libya! Libya!  C’est incroyable!

Step 3:  [2011 & beyond] Awaken the sentiments of anti-Semitism that lightly slumber in the bosom of many a faithful French patriot.  This tactic needs a particularly subtle touch since Nicky himself is Jewish on his mother’s side of the family, and all of France knows it [hence his frequent and fervent professions of his patrimonial Catholicism].   Calling Benny (a man even Israelis hate) a liar in front of the world press is truly a masterful stroke!  Getting Obama to agree and commiserate is just glaze on the ham.  Nicky gets to have it both ways:  French Jews don’t like Netanyahu either, and French anti-Semites have to grudgingly admit that at least Nicky’s no momma’s boy.

Will it be enough to get Cousin Nicky another five year lease on the Élysée Palace?  That remains to be seen.  The campaign has just begun.  La guerre n’est pas fini.

Día de los Inocentes

November 1, 2011

Step 1:  Tentatively accept (as a working hypothesis, of course) that systematic mortgage finance fraud, credit default swap 3-card monte, posturing over currency valuation, and shameless maneuvering associated with Eurozone debt workout are merely the tactical expedients of global economic warfare waged by the usual suspects.

Step 2:  Understand that you  –yes, you–  are merely collateral damage.

Step 3:  Identify the protagonists who profit from this turmoil.

Step 4:  Hold them accountable.  Before the heroes of Liangshan Marsh impose their own brand of justice.

orange marigolds are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings.

Tomorrow:  Dia de los Muertos.