Will Kim Jong-Il still be in power come Beijing 2008?

As I am sitting here watching the pundits tear each other to pieces on the FoxNews show Forbes on Fox, I am struck by what should have been a rather obvious point. The Beijing Olympics (a.k.a. China's great coming show) has the potential to make or break the emerging superpower in the eyes of the apprehensive western world. In Nicholas Kristof's brilliant book, and the inspiration for the name of my other blog, China Wakes he descibes a rather gruesome story that was recounted to him by a local party official in Beijing about the extent to which the government was willing to go to ensure the cities selection as the host of the '08 games. In touching detail and sincerity he tells the story of a young man who suffered from downs syndrome and suffered and sudden fits of seizure. This young man's parents' home was located along the route planned for the Olympic Committee's tour of Beijing and local police began to worry that he may unwittingly embarrass the city and cause the country their opportunity at securing the games. The government's solution was to kidnap him from his crying mother's arms and send him to a rural prison camp, where he was subsequently beaten to death without any recourse taken by the local government to compensate the family or bring to justice the guilty party. If the government is that paranoid about the impact a single mentally disabled Chinese may have on the image of their country in the eyes of the world, I find little reason to believe they are going find any benefit in allowing the North Korean leader to stay in power for very much longer. I have yet to see any indication that the US plans to change their policy, which is the obvious goal of the recent brazen tactics of Kim Jong-Il's regime, an thus it seems likely they will continue to flex their muscle and further pressure the Chinese to withdraw their support. Either way, a peaceful solution is quickly fading on the horizon.

An elevator to the stars?

The Standard - China's Business Newspaper

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NASA's most recent public contest failed to produce to viable winner, but it has sparked the imaginations of future inter-stellar entrepreneurs. I have no suggestions on how to better build an elevator from the New Mexico desert to a platform in geo-synchronized orbit, but I link these stories in hopes of inspiring others to ponder these and other ideas that push the boundaries of what we now consider within the scope of human capability.

Skilling faces his fate today, likely to be made example

The Guidelines Now Tougher, Skilling to Face Sentence Today - New York Times

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Jeffrey Skilling will face his fate today for the role he played in the fraudulent collapse of Enron, the former Houston energy giant. I see no reason why the judge will feel any sympathy for Skilling, and I find it hard to imagine he will see the light of another free day once he finds his way to Club-Fed. In many ways I find it difficult not to feel bad for Mr. Skilling, who is obviously a brilliant man, and who was sold up the river by Andy Fastow, the mastermind and most direct beneficiary of the entire accounting scheme that has brought us to this point. Having seen the documentary The Smartest Men in the Room, I am not entirely persuaded that Jeffrey Skilling did anything that merits more than a year or two in prison. Three decades to me is absurd, considering Fastow is looking at likely less than ten.


'Sympathy for the devil' apparently a vote getter in Venezuelan election

Venezuela's Chavez calls presidential race a contest against 'the devil' - iht,america,Venezuela Presidential Race - Americas - International Herald Tribune

It was only last month that Hugo Chavez, whose antics are now officially the most frequent topic of my blog posts, more than insinuated that President Bush is the devil and that the sulfur fumes still emanated in the air around the podium at which Bush had spoken the day prior. I would suggest to the sensational president of Venezuela that the evil odor he smelled that afternoon in New York was more likely the olfactory emanation of mahmoud Amadine-jihad (or just Jihad for short), the fundamentalist president of Iran, who spoke the prior evening after Bush, and who gave an eloquent but frightening speech in which he called for the dissolution of the UN and the creation of a new system of world governance united under the shared acknowledgement and irreverence for a monotheistic god. Basically, I got the sense that Jihad envisions a future international system akin to that of the Holy Roman Empire, with institutions managed by clerics and other theologians from the world's dominant religions. It is difficult to imagine how he hopes to implement his vision, and I can't imagine the Communist Chavez, despite his effective manipulation of Venezuelan Catholics, would embrace such an overtly anti-Communist world view. However, President Bush and his message of democratic sovereignty for the people of the Middle East and end of religiously fueled tyranny that has become endemic in the Middle East since the rise of Israel and the new states oppressive Middle Eastern policies, seems to draw more ire from voters in Caracas. I think we should all heed the words of Mick Jagger in his timeless classic Sympathy for the Devil, in which he states simply,

So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste

Hugo Chavez seems to be doing his part by further flaming the unprecedented culture of hatred around the world for an American president who is almost routinely slandered and dismissed as an idiot by his counterparts in nations of both the developed and developing worlds. It has been many years since the world has been exposed to an evil that rivals the Islamic fundamentalism now faced on the battlefields of the Middle East. If Chavez wants to do the bidding of Amadine-jihad he is showing sympathy for the closest thing to a devil (outside of the Korean peninsula and the mountains of Pakistan) that the world has seen since Hitler challenged for control of a conquered Europe.

Less exciting UN under new Secretary General

Xinhua - English: Ban Ki-moon chosen as new UN head

A couple years ago when I was a junior at DePaul University, my friend Danny Bisbing, who was then a sophomore at U of C, and I bought tickets for an event hosted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations for a speech at the Westin hotel on Michigan Avenue given by the South Korean foreign minister Ban Ki-moon, the man recently selected by the UN Security Council to be the NGO's new Secretary General. I must say, it was close to the most boring experience of my entirely life, with both Danny and myself struggling not to nod off in the middle of his speech, but it was impossible to ignore the substantial presence of South Korean business men and journalists who were beaming with pride for their obviously nervous foreign minister. On substance, Ban impressed us both with his restraint when questioned about the North Korean nuclear issue, showing obvious care when choosing his words so as not to entice the North Korean regime as is consistent with the South's policy of engagement.

He will take over for an administration that has distinguished itself over the last ten years as ineffective and rife with internal corruption under the leadership of Kofi Annan. Despite his obviously questionable ethical approach to his responsibilities as senior diplomat in New York, Annan has won back at least some of my favor with his recent efforts to overhaul the organizations bureaucracy and root out favor-seeking. However, I doubt very much that true reform is possible until a new management takes over in Manhattan.


Losing momentum, seeking inspiration

BLOGGER FORUM, Respected Blog Source About Blogging for Bloggers

As my readers (if there are any consistent readers) may have noticed, I have hit a wall recently, only publishing one post in the last month. I have saved about 40 draft posts, each on topics that I find deeply engaging, but I have trouble writing something that I am excited to publish. This has led me to seek out advice from other bloggers, who I'm sure have encountered similar problems as they mature as writers and commentators on current events. I found the thirty points made in the above linked post very helpful in getting me over my neurotic tendencies.


"Billions of planets fill our galaxy"

LexisNexis News - Hubble Discovery; Milky Way is chock-full of planets

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Does anyone still remember just a few years ago, back when we did not even know if there were any planets outside our own solar system? Now we have been informed that there are probably billions of planets that dot the galaxy, which leads me to believe that it is almost impossible there aren't any intelligent beings out there. I can remember learning in Physics 111 freshman year of college that the Earth has developed and sustained life so successfully largely because of the support provided by Jupiter, which sucks up all of the potentially threatening space rocks (like those in the movies Deep Impact and Armageddon). The Hubble telescope has now found 16 Jupiter-like planets and NASA scientists are now confident that these are only the tip of the iceberg. Mankind has always been mystified by the heavens, and incrementally we have made progress in our understanding of the laws that govern the motions of its many celestial bodies, but never before have we been so close to finding the little blue dot cast up against the vast darkness of space. One day very soon mankind will look skyward with confidence that we are not alone.