Saturday, January 29, 2005

My Govrenment In Action

Like many men, one of the biggest role models in my life was my father. One of the sayings of his I took to heart (likely passed down by his father) was, “Thank god the government is inefficient. If it really could all things it says it could we would really be in trouble.” I was reminded of that saying as ABC did a special all the things the government is doing to try to track terrorist.

Now it may shock some of you, but even with a strong libertarian streak I have no fear about idea cards or my government ttempting to keep tabs on me. Why? Well first off America is too free of a society in general. No matter what obstacles the US government puts up, the American people will industriously find a way around them. Just look at all the industrious ways American found around prohibition.

Moreover what helps me not flinch at intrusions into my privacy is my fundamental belief that Governments NEVER do anything well. I mentioned the ABC news report, look at these quotes from their website:

In April 2000, Nicole Robinson, of suburban Maryland, allegedly had her identity
stolen by a woman in Texas who had the same first and last names. To date, at
least 65 different addresses and 42 different names have been used in
connection with her Social Security number.

Nearly five years later, she is still unable to clean up her
credit record and establish definitively who she is, even though the woman in
Texas has been arrested.

And if Nicole from Maryland is now somewhere in the
government computer system, for whatever reason, the government may not be able
to figure out precisely who she is.

David Fathi, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties
Union who has been told he is on a government "no fly" list. Fathi
has been detained at airports 10 times in the last year and a half. He thinks
it may be his name, which is Iranian…Fathi is also alarmed that the
security system -- managed by the government in partnership with private
airlines -- doesn't catch him every time.

According to its own analysis, the Department of Homeland
Security has failed to merge 12 separate terrorist watch lists currently being
used by nine federal agencies.

In recent years, the federal government has launched more
than 100 separate data analysis systems in 52 federal agencies.

Now look at all these. We have:

  1. A woman who the government is unwilling to accept out of bureaucratic inertia she exists

  2. A man on a “no-fly” list who is regularly allowed to board planes with no more than a standard cursory check.

  3. The government office IN CHARGE of security who cannot only just cut and paste 12 Word documents but for that matter cannot even make an inter office memo to 9 other people saying “Watch out for these people!”

  4. In a bid to do one simple thing, keep track of people of various sorts, the government has 100 separate computer systems for 52 agencies, do the math that is TWO SEPARATE DATABASES PER OFFICE!

To add I personal story to this, I needed my daughters Social Security Number for my tax forms. Now I know somebody at the Embassy, and I mistakenly thought that in this day and age some of this is all linked together. I could just call up the embassy, get him to punch in my name, listed in there would not only be my name and social security, but also the number of my dependants.

Not so, first he does not even have access to my daughters SSN, he does not even have access to MY SSN (most likely just my passport number). In order to get such I have to go to the embassy, fill out a form, SEND IT TO MANILA, PI, wait for it to be processed, they then send up a sealed envelope, which I have to pick up in person after proving I am me.

In the end, much like the industrious American I referred to, I solved the problem by leaving my daughter off my list of dependants for my tax returns (which is legal as far as I know). That was simply much easier than putting up with all
that crap for a lousy $2,000 deduction or so that I don’t really need in the first place.

So lets take the libertarian nightmare, let’s say that the government requires all of us to have RF microchip implants to track us. I am sure the following things will happen:

  1. A number of chips will not work at all since the US government contracted out production to the lowest bidder.

  2. Since this is government program, every 5 installers will have a supervisor, every 5 supervisors will have a manager, every 5 managers will have director, etc. etc. Also this program will have to hire on an accounting team, a quality assurance/audit team, and a diversity coordinator…you get where this is going.

    So due to all these people who need to manage/supervise/have a desk. There will only be about 1 installer for every 400,000 people in the Untied States (don’t laugh, if I told you there would be 1000 installers you would get worried, and for no damn good reason)

  3. Between the fact that the installers were former McDonalds employees, and are paid by the hour, each installer
    will be able to install only two people per hour (stupid enough for the job, but smart enough to know that if its by the hour it does not matter how many you serve). The installation centers will be open form 10:30-11:30 and 1:30-3:30 and closed on Thursdays. Do the math at that rate we will all be chipped up and safe in about 350 years!

  4. It will be found by some guy that due to the design of the chips (remember cheapest bidder), if you walk around with a FM radio the chip signal will effectively be blocked.

  5. It will be found that the hand held scanners carried by law enforcement persons increase the risk of fingertip cancer by .0005% workman’s comp and trial lawyers have a field day!

  6. The Supreme Court rules that police are profiling since they are only stopping people who are too poor to buy
    an FM Radio.

You get the idea. God bless the USA for being the way it is, or else we would all really be in trouble.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

GNP vs. Post-Civil War Democrats

I want to start a conversation of sorts with this rather
than a post. I know that in the blog constellation I occupy there are quite a
few not only GOP minded people, but politically minded people as a whole.
Moreover, I would like to have a more comparative discussion on Korean
politics, and how it fits with the political systems of other countries.


Being a conservative Republican I do not really know what to
make of this story in the Joongang:


victory inspires GNP to read


Apparently the brain trust at the GNP has decided to study a
book on the rise of conservatism in the US in order to find a way back to
power. The most obvious thing to point out at this point is “How Korean
is this!?!”. The idea that studying a book about something, particularly
something foreign and successful, seems to me a rather Korean solution.


Getting past that, I think I join those of GOP minded Korean
Blog readers/writers to say that the two situations are very, very different.
Most notably is the notion of what is “conservative”. While both
the Korean GNP and the GOP are commonly referred to as the “right”
and “conservative”, one has to wonder in relation to their
societies if these are true. Most notably the conservative moment in the US at
this moment are challenging the current orthodoxy on foreign policy, spending,
and taxes.


Meanwhile, Korean conservatives resemble the more proper
definition, the simply are resistant to change. Perhaps, and this is what they
could possibly learn from the book, their opposition is not out of inertia, but
rather a total lack of policies. However, this is not really the case. One
could compare the inertia of the GNP with the GOP in the 60’s. Yet, one
must remember that politics does not take place in a vacuum. The only reason
why there was a moment to change the GOP entirely into a Goldwater/Reagan
philosophy were the polices of the Dems in the early 60’s that seized not
only the agenda, but the imagination of a nation (the Kennedy model of
expansionistic foreign policy, continuation of New Deal activism, and, shock
and horror to current Dems, tax cuts and deficits to stimulate the economy).


So then in order to see if such a simple concept as new
policy/philosophy will help the GNP, we need to look at the opposition, the
Uri-nation. Yet there, one sees almost the same polices as the GNP. In fact I
would wager that if it was not for certain buzzwords, one could not separate
the plans of both parties (correct me if I am wrong, please). The only profound
difference between the two is on policy towards North Korea, yet this is only
superficial. Neither party wants to actively destabilize the North (notice the
GNP’s comparative silence on defectors, and their unwillingness to
actively attempting to block things like Kaesong or Kumgang). Even on the other
side of the coin, while the Uri-nation is more actively anti-American, one
cannot help but notice the strong working level relationship they have with the
US. Also in that score, one cannot help but not to notice the embarrassed
grudging acceptance the GNP has to the idea that the US Army (a bunch of
long-nosed foreigners) is needed to protect the South.


Perhaps a better historic precedent for the GNP is not the
GOP of the 1960’s but the Dems of the 1860’s. While this may seem
too much of a reach, perhaps consider the reality back then:


  • A
    country mentally, economically, and in some sense physically divided at
    the end of brutal civil war.

  • The
    Democrats in that vouched for a “ignore the south” strategy,
    while the GOP wanted engagement and reconstruction of the south.
    Admittedly it is very weak to compare the “sunshine policy”
    with reconstruction, especially when you compare the polices specifically,
    however I think there is a superficial serviceable comparison here on the
    major issue of the day.

  • Despite
    the difference on the south, the two parties agreed to similar polices,
    which happen to mirror Korea amazingly well:

    • Isolationist
      Foreign Policy

    • High
      Tariffs to Foster Domestic Industry

    • Shockingly
      lazier-fair economy polices, even the face of increasingly worse banking

    • A
      very selective anti-immigration policy. In explanation, Korea seems to
      less and less willing to allow non-northeast Asians to work in Korea,
      even in DDD jobs. In fact one could argue that the Kaesong project is an
      immigrant killer since such work normally done by foreigners is now done
      by North Koreans. The US intern was relatively open to European
      Immigrants, yet maintained the Chinese Exclusion Acts effectively cutting
      off mass immigration from Asia.

    • Increasing
      worry of European powers ensconcing themselves economically in the US,
      and the Americas in general (Comparable to the Korean worries about
      foreign investment, and foreign ownership).

  • Farmers
    and rural areas (the Grange and Free Sliver movements) supporting the
    Democratic Party. Similar in a way to the Farmers finding friends in the
    GNP for sake of “Korean tradition”


This last point is perhaps the seeds of where the GNP can
gain some traction. Farmers are not only carping about the free trade pacts and
the reduction of tariff barriers, but many feel betrayed by the Uri-nation from
Uri’s failed capital relocation plan and general deceptive supportive
rhetoric on their plight. Such would play to the GNP strengths of dictionary
“conservatism” but also give them an effective too in campaigning
(which was later masterfully used by FDR).


However, again, one must contrast this all with the
Uri-nation. In short, the farmers want economic isolationism (In difference to
the social/economic activism of the Grange and Progressive movements) that
brings us back to square one, both parties want the same thing.


Perhaps they could literal take things out of the Dems'
1860’s playbook, economic reform (started by the Free Silver movement).
However once you look at the constituencies, this breaks down. The Dems' by
1890 (when the movement really took off) were no longer seen as the party of
big business, and so has little business constituency, not so the GNP. Furthermore
the Free Silver movement itself (as well as the Grange movement) was, in a
fashion, a plea for balanced development; unfortunately the vociferous
rejection of the GNP to the capital relocation makes that difficult.


More of a bit of sidelight, and I wonder if such is needed
for Korean politics after all I have seen, the GNP moreover needs a leader who
is truly committed to their polices (what ever they decided them to be). There
is no Goldwater or Reagan neither in the wings, nor for that matter a Samuel
Tillden or a William Jennings Bryant. No doubt this has to do with the cultural
tradition of backing your leader 110%. Perhaps what the GNP needs is a strong
leader, that not only truly believes in their polices, but also is willing to
look like a kook for a while, and more over the GNP needs to tolerate that kook
for the sake of party diversity.


And that only leads me back to my original query, what the
hell can the GNP really learn form the rise of the modern GOP majority in the
US? For the rise was due not to a GOP plan, but for a couple of puckish
radicals that everyone thought were kooks who challenged the GOP orthodoxy at
the time, got the support of GOP voters at large, seized the agenda, and most
importantly captured the imagination of the people.


Ms. Park do you have AuH2O, or are you a Whig?

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Family History

Thanks to his daughter’s school project, a cousin of
mine has been looking though records and family history to determine our
“roots”. On thing that has struck me as I travel in and out of the
Untied States is how obsessed we Americans are with our personal family
histories. My Korean wife metaphorically shrugs her shoulders when I ask
questions about the past. Ironic given how much respect is paid to the long
dead here.


One of the artifacts uncovered, and collaborated by my
cousin is an old “family history” given by a great-great-great(?)-grandfather
on my father’s side. He gives his story of being born in Germany in
around 1820, and his move and travel around America starting in 1840. I do not
know if it is genetic, or just how people were back then, but he seems to carry
the family trait of an unsentimental view of life.


Or perhaps it is better to say, based on personal experience
with the family, a very deeply hidden sentimentality are romanticism that is
hidden deep in the soul. One would have to be hopeless romantic in someway to
take off from Europe at 17, and go to a land far away. Either that, or be
really stubborn (another family trait). Whatever the reasons, I (and quite a
few of us expat Americans here) can sympathize with voyage. Perhaps the choice
of immigration, passed down through generations, is the reason for
America’s almost limitless optimism.


A disappointing admission in the diary to me is how he felt
about the events of the day. Most notably, what did he think of the Civil War?
Or rather what was it that much of an issue where he was in Wisconsin at the
time? What about the grange movement? Free silver? Rutherford Hayes’s
brokered election?


Conversely, will my decedents care what it was like living
through the major events of my life (almost 30 years and counting)? What was it
like when the Berlin Wall fell? The Internet just starting out? The election of
2000? 9/11 and the War on Terror?


That does make me think, and appreciate what I have gone
through in my life. I am among the last to live under the threat of a nuclear holocaust
(knock on wood). Will it be of interest to my decedents that I used to see blue
Air Force vans from Ellsworth AFB shuttling men to and from missile silos? Will
they understand that the LA riots were in a limited area, or will they think I
spent it in my house barricaded fearing for my life? (Maybe they will think I
went out and got a new TV instead).


Perhaps they would want to know some event that would be
important in the future, but unimportant today. The opening of Japan in 1854,
when the issue of slavery was beginning to boil over in the US probably seemed
like a worthless footnote in history at the time. Just think how trivial it was
at the time for say, the founding of the American Federation of Labor in the
1880’s? Or for example, who knew that the unification of Germany in 1889(?)
would have such a profound impact on the 20th Century?


A few family tidbits I found out that seem interesting to
me, but unimportant to the family members involved revolve around famous
people. My Grandmother grew up with Ronald Reagan spinning records in a dance
hall in Des Moines, Iowa. She did not like him then, did not like his movies,
and defiantly did not like him as President (which drove my grandfather a
little crazy). My father apparently was in the crowd for the last performance
of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. The musicians boarded a
plane later that snowy Iowa night and crashed into a cornfield. While he did
not say it, I could tell none of them put on a good show that night. Anyway,
have there been any interesting tidbits so far in my life that I think


 Granted some of
this is merely conjecture on what may happen in the future. As I think of this,
I noticed how much ones view of the world affects this thought. Moreover, I
think of the past more than the future. I think, “Will I be the
last…” Which is strange given the optimism that marks Americans.
Perhaps I should think “I will be the first…” but then that
is so much mentally in the future that it’s tough to guess. Perhaps, the
first to go to space (as a tourist).



Saturday, January 15, 2005

School Lunch Scandal

Something has been bothering me of one of the latest
scandals hit Korea. No its has nothing to do with sex, but food. Apparently somebody
complained about the free school lunches given to needy children in Kunsan
The government official in their defense pointed to the fact that they had to
feed all sorts of new children due to the laws. Accordingly the amount per
student they could spend was only 2,500 won per lunch.

In its aftermath new reforms are in place, as well as more
funding for lunches. Story is over right? We can all go home? Wait a minute
buckaroo; there is more going on here than meets the eye. Once again nobody is
asking the right questions.

What struck me as odd was the amount, 2,500 per lunch. That
lunch consisted of kimchi, pickled radishes, quail eggs, and cookie like
biscuits. I assume as well, that would include rice, since a meal in Korea is
not a meal without rice. Now at one of my favorite places for cheap eats I get
a generous serving of a “chigae” (a stew), a noodle appetizer,
rice, and five different side dishes (and one of those in invariably a meat
side dish). All of this costs me only 3,500 won.

Consider the cost of the student meal based on grocery store
prices from the Lotte Mart (portion size a guestimate based on what I saw on


4.5kg 19,000 won (200g serv.)

863 won

Picked radish

550g 1,500 won (est. 8 serv.)

188 won

Quail eggs

30ct. 1,000 won (4pc serv.)

133 won


210g 1,000 (est. 12 serv) Note: cannot find the same

83 won

Total Cost of Meal

1267 won

As you can see the total full retail price for these items
is much less that the 2,500 charged. And that is at retail, this does not take
into account the volume discounts for buying enough for 250,000 meals.

Now lets think labor. The cooking for this is almost nil.
The only cooked item is the quail eggs, which you can easily do in bulk in a
few large pots (there only boiled eggs for god sakes!). A guestimate that it
takes about 10 seconds to plate each meal. Considering the skill involved I do not think the minimum
(3,000 won/hr) is too outrageous to assume. That makes labor costs per meal
about 5 won, again basically negligible portions of that 2,500 won per meal. To
be charitable lets round up, 1300 won per lunch total.

So somehow we are supposed to believe that the 48%
discrepancy between he FULL RETAIL PRICE and the price the government paid was
simply packaging and distribution? Again keep in mind, the margin would be even
better in reality because they are buying in bulk.

Ladies and Gentlemen what we have here is NOT a food quality
scandal, but a corruption scandal, AND ONE PURPETURATED ON POOR NEEDY CHILDREN