Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

On Policing – a rambling exploration of violence

June 10, 2016

What is it like to be a police officer?  On the one hand, there is this letter by a police officer’s wife (heavily snipped):

Dear Officer,

I want you to know that I see you.  I see you choose the booth in the restaurant that allows you to have your back against the wall.  I see you walking to your next traffic stop while you hope that it isn’t your last. … I see your cause and I want you to know that I appreciate it.

I need you.  We need you.  America needs you.  I know that the world isn’t making it any easier for you to wake up with the same passion you had when you first started.  I know the world is making it extremely difficult for you to feel like anyone is on your side.  I know the world is making you feel like the only allies you have can only be found in each other.  I know that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to put your life on the line for a world that has seemingly turned their backs on you.

I wish I knew how to fix it.  The only thing I know how to do is support you.  I’m aware that there isn’t a magic solution that will make the world see you for who you are; the amazing men and women in blue.  I just want you to know that I see you. I need you to know that you are appreciated by a vast majority who is in your corner.  I need you to know that you aren’t alone.  I need you to feel the presence of those who love and support you.  We are rallied behind you and ready to defend your character at any given moment.  You are honorable.  You are courageous.  You are worthy of a nation’s support.

And on the other side, police officer tased teen into coma.

police violence

 

The letter is from the wife of a police officer.  I am the son, grandson and husband of police officers.  If my eyes were better, I might be one myself -or at least have applied. The two extremes posted above, plus the killing of Sammy Yatim by police officer James Forcillo in Toronto have made me unsure of where I stand.

Background on Yatim.  The mentally man stepped onboard a bus and threatened the other passengers with a knife.  They were evacuated, police arrived and Yatim was shot by Forcillo:

On August 19, 2013, James Forcillo was charged with second-degree murder. On July 30, 2014, he was also charged with attempted murder. On January 25, 2016, Forcillo was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter, but guilty of attempted murder.

At issue in this case was how much of a threat Yatim was.  The passengers had been removed, but the man had a knife.  How far apart were Yatim and Forcillo? Did Forcillo need to approach Yatim at that time?  It appears he, and other officers, could have waited outside the bus.

I’ll return to this in a moment, but I wrote “unsure of where I stand”.  That is still unclear, even in what line or side I imagine exist to stand on or in.

There is one more bit of history to include. My own father was investigated for a shooting.  This was long ago and I do not know the details. Maybe it is better I don’t.  Maybe the question here is, ‘Am I brave enough to learn family history?’

What I think I recall is my father and other officers had a man in a car surrounded. I think he was an escaped convict or possibly a suspect in a violent crime.  It was suspected that he was armed.  In the course of events (how neutrally I phrase this), the man’s hand dipped out of sight and someone (this is not an evasion – I don’t think anyone knows who it was) fired.  At this point, every officer emptied his pistol.

One important point I can add for the education of any  readers. To fire less than every bullet in a revolver or automatic gun requires more control than firing two or three.  If a person thinks his/her life is at risk, there is no benefit to a halfway measure.  The dead don’t get any more dead so firing more shots than needed has no downside.  In any case of a killing by firearm, the fact of the killing is important and should be legally actionable, but the bullet count is not important.

This is a key difference between the Ontario Provincial Police (and probably police in all of North America) and at least one police group in South Korea.  Here in South Korea, officers are trained (how well, I cannot say) to wound, to aim for a leg or arm.

Back to my father.  The killing was ruled justified and aside from nightmares, my father and the other officers received no punishment.

Training now is far different for police officers.  in the 1960’s, my father was hired either right out of high school or soon afterwards.  Police today are often university degree holders and older hires, late twenties or so, are preferred.

Fifty years ago, a few members from every detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police were sent to Wasaga Beach for a long weekend holiday in May -known as the May two four weekend.  They weren’t there to relax but to rein in the motorcycle gangs that converged on the otherwise quiet village.  I am too young to recall, but my father would return home bleeding at night on occasion.  Who were these bikers to disrespect the law and who were these officers who did not have the confidence to stamp the problem out? For that matter, who were the general public that didn’t give enough support to the police to handle the matter safely for all concerned, especially the police that were wounded in such battle?

I imagine if a similar problem presented itself today, enough force would be found to charge all gang members at the location and people would accept the rationale for the arrests.

Today, police in Canada are armoured more by their badge than their vest or weapons. If a police officer is threatened, the public normally sides with the officer.

They didn’t side with Forcillo and his position was no defence at sentencing.

The mandatory minimum prison sentence for attempted murder with a restricted firearm was never intended to apply to police whose job is to protect the public, a lawyer for a Toronto officer found guilty in the shooting death of a troubled teen argued Thursday.

But the judge who will decide Const. James Forcillo’s sentence for attempted murder said he saw no reason why police officers should be exempt from the minimum of five years behind bars.

“It’s not a licence to kill,” Justice Edward Then said of police-issued guns. “Police officers are entrusted with the use of a gun for a particular purpose. In this case the jury has found that it wasn’t to serve and protect but it was with the purpose of attempting to kill.”

I feel Forcillo’s profession, and it is a profession now, unlike in my father’s day – does earn him special consideration when on trial for actions done while on duty.  I am definitely not talking specifically about Forcillo, as I know only some of the details available to the public. Here is my reasoning.  In the past, and probably still, killing a police officer who had identified himself as such, was a greater crime than killing someone who wasn’t a police officer.  I feel this is fair because police are required to approach danger while others are welcome, even encouraged, to move away from danger.  Making the killing of a police officer a more serious crime was a way to protect people who worked to protect us.  In the same way, giving the police some greater leeway when they use force seems fair.  They aren’t supposed to retreat from danger the way I, for example, am.

I don’t feel the police should get a free ride, should be able to murder with no consequences.  But I do feel reduced consequences are reasonable.

Hmmm. I do feel I cleared up at least one point in my own mind. “But the judge who will decide Const. James Forcillo’s sentence for attempted murder said he saw no reason why police officers should be exempt from the minimum of five years behind bars.” He definitely should not be exempt. But the possibility of a lower sentence should be open.  If the standard sentence is five to ten years, I feel Forcillo should be looking at three to ten years.  He should not be exempt from a long sentence, but his position as a person who could not run away should mean something.

Now, in reading Boingboing, one might come to the conclusion that police already are free of many legal restrictions and punishments we civilians are bound by. That link is to posts tagged with ‘police’ and a few are not relevant but most are.  I can only hope they are American poli… Not, I don’t want any police officer or department to be so poorly overseen. For the police to be protected, the public has to have faith in them.  I have faith but not quite as much as the wife that wrote the letter excerpted above.

I will finish with this thought.    My father was a patient man with me but also an angry man in general.  Kind-hearted, generous and friendly, but so often angry.  I know what it is like to be a police officer’s son and we heard from the wife of a police officer.  I wonder if police themselves are able to talk about such things.  How do they stay professional – or what makes their professionalism break down?

What is the Korea Times for?

May 1, 2014

Updated:  This is how it should have been written!

 

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Terrible editing casts doubts on the paper’s raison d’etre (The online version has this error corrected).

coast guard 1

It would be nice if the jerk at the Korea Times did some research before writing his editorial.

In this attack piece the author either has an ax to grind or has no critical thinking ability.  Let’s dig in:

They did save people ― the captain and the crew. It is an ABC of maritime rescue that the crew should be the last to leave the ship not only for moral but for realistic reasons too: they should help the relief squad, mainly by informing them of the structure of the vessel. The Coast Guard should have told the crew to go back to the ship, as was the case of Italian rescuers years ago. Again, the officers said they could not tell passengers from the crew, but the latter would have been recognizable due to their clothing.

Here is the captain.  Would you recognize him as such?  Image from Channel Asia News.  He is wearing a sweater and boxers.  To be fair, they are navy boxers.

We are lost for words after hearing that an officer reported that the Sewol was sinking to the Mokpo Coast Guard by means of a “ax”[sic] instead of using a telephone. More surprisingly, when the Mokpo office received an SOS call from a student, it asked him to provide the “latitude and longitude” of the location.

I’m pretty sure the print edition had the word “fax”.  At 8:00PM Thursday night, the online edition still had “ax”.  Why by fax?  I can’t say for certain, but numbers and letters are more easily sent in print than aloud.  People read faster than they speak.  I could only wish the editorial-writer were lost for words.

Why would the Coast Guard ask for latitude and longitude?  It doesn’t take much thought offer ideas. 1) There were fake calls after the disaster.  It doesn’t seem unreasonable to imagine that there have been other false alarms.  2) The Sewol was way off course.  To be told the ship was near islands and might have hit one would reasonably be greeted with skepticism when there were no rocks on its intended route.

[A] Coast Guard executive stunned people by saying, “We did our best. Rescuing 80 people is no small feat.” The other 94 people were saved by fishermen on vessels smaller and older than those of the Coast Guard.

There was a lot of confusion during the initial stages of the rescue.  The Coast Guard is not blameless and there is always room for improvement.  Still, there were many fishing boats; it was not one vessel crewed by old sea-salts that somehow loaded 94 in their boat.

I approve of a free press and would not want to see it muzzled.  On the other hand, if the author really wants the Coast Guard to be the subject of” a vast and meticulous report on who did what (wrong) with respect to this tragic incident, not omitting even a single and minor mistake or misdeed”, perhaps the Times should suffer the same.  After all “What matters is not a lack of manuals or agencies but those of training and experts” and the Times appears to be lacking both.

 

Domesticated, feral, and wild animals

March 21, 2013

2 updates at the end of the post

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Original:

Why do we have pets? I grew up constantly having an animal companion. We almost continuously had a dog and cat, but also for short periods, a turtle, a salamander, newts, a hamster, a guinea pig, and/or goldfish. The ideal home for me would be one like Farley Mowat’s.   I don’t know if I could properly or with-scientific-references defend the idea that pets are good for their owners. I definitely believe this is the case, though.
Is it good for the pets themselves? This time my affirmation is less confident. Michael Pollan offers the great success of chicken and other fowl as part of his support for eating meat. If we didn’t eat meat, chicken would likely be extinct.
Ted Kerasote might offer an opposing view in his book Merle’s Door, an account of his attempts to offer his dog as much freedom as possible and how pets thrive when they aren’t treated as modern-day pets. The life of a modern pet is long periods of boredom mixed with attempts to be stimulated by their owners.
As part of this long introduction, let me ask a different and more specific question, one that I cannot answer. Should we have pet cats?
I love cats; there is one sitting at ease just outside my doorway, and my son would need therapy if I got rid of it. The negative points are more important to my post today so let me focus on the positives first. They entertain and comfort us. Some kill pests. They are little burden and bring great joy.
This post is not about the sadness that comes with the inevitable death of a beloved pet. This is a serious concern and my son is already asking questions about lifespans and death.
No, this post is principly about feral cats and secondarily about wildlife mortality caused by pet and feral cats.

According to National Geographic News, last week,

” Ted Williams, then editor-at-large for Audubon Magazine, advocated for trapping and euthanizing feral cats due to their rampant hunting of birds and their reputation for carrying diseases like toxoplasmosis.”
More from the article:
Over 80 million pet cats reside in U.S. homes and as many as 80 million more free-roaming cats survive outside.

To David Ringer, director of media relations for the Audubon Society, the dust-up shows “that we all need to work together on effective strategies that will address the very serious harm cats inflict on birds and other wildlife and that are also truly humane toward cats,” he told National Geographic by email.

“Cats do a great deal of damage to birds and other wildlife, and it needs to be addressed, but Audubon absolutely rejects the idea of individuals harming or poisoning cats.”

From the comments, I find myself agreeing most with Pete McLean who argues against protection all cats at all costs. “The entire argument is a stupid juvenile argument from lovers of stuffed toys.”
The article discusses some methods of feral cat population control. Apparently, Tylenol is unusually toxic to cats and could be used as a relatively specific poison that wouldn’t do much harm to other animals. Another proposed method is neutering or spaying.
Before going into my opinions, let me quote articles from South Korea that I discussed three years ago.  There I quoted from a touchingly sensitive article in Yonhap News.

 “Controversy over treatment of cats often makes headlines. In 2006, residents of a Seoul apartment culled scores of stray cats by driving them into the basement of their building and cementing over all exit holes.

Last year, the local government of Geomun Island off the southwestern coast moved to cull hundreds of feral cats overpopulating the fishing region, a controversial decision that was changed at the last minute to neutering them.”

Alright, first, the problem is not merely feral cats; happily domesticated cats are mixed in too. Tylenol might specifically kill cats but it will not further specify only feral cats. Feral cats are not the only predators of urban wildlife either. In all the time we had a cat, it typically wanted out in the evening and in again in the morning, often trying to bring the night’s kill in with it. And these were well-fed cats who needed to kill only as much as most North American human hunters.
I guess neutering or spaying would work in the long term even though new feral cats and fully potent domesticated cats are often entering the equation. I wonder if proponents of spaying would insist on a human-sort of tubal ligation so that the cats could continue to enjoy the attempts to procreate? In this case, clearly neutering males would be seen as equally evil: vasectomies all round!
I gotta say, I am for a humane cull. I would prefer it if humans could adopt every last feral cat -which are unlikely to make good pets -but an entirely reasonable, though distant, second best option involves poison, live traps leading to identification and killing (feral cats) or releasing (actual wildlife) or return and fines (loose domestic cats). I would even go so far as to train the killers (I don’t want use the euphemism of harvester or collector) to kill onsite with cheap, scalable techniques. There is no more reason to have an expensively trained trained vet use (expensive?) injected poisons with cats than there is with chickens, pigs or cattle.
At the same time, cat owners, be responsible and care for and give away your pets properly. That last paragraph was hard to write and I don’t want my little friend to ever suffer like that.

 

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UPDATE 1:
Ted Williams lost his job for posting concern over the number of feral cats and how to reduce that number.  Well, he lost his job briefly.  I don’t know if this is an apology (or that he needed to apologize) or simply a better explanation than he included in his article.  Here is an excerpt:

 “In my recent op-ed I reported that a common over-the-counter drug, an effective and selective poison for feral cats, had not been registered for this use because of pressure from feral-cat advocacy groups.”

“While the statement was not inaccurate, it was unwise because readers might construe it as a suggestion to go out and start poisoning feral cats. What’s more, the statement could be, indeed was, manipulated by feral-cat advocates into something I didn’t write or intend.”

Update 2:

Scientific American has an article that relates more to my commentary than Mr Williams’ predicament.  3,000 feral cats have been culled to protect an endangered species of bilby.

Unfortunately, the sanctuary is located in a relatively remote region of Currawinya National Park. Flooding in the park not only makes the sanctuary occasionally unreachable by humans, it also apparently damaged the fence last June, allowing several cats to make their way into the enclosure, with devastating results. “We estimated we could have had around 150 newborn bilbies inside that fence, and [the cats have] cleared the lot out,” Frank Manthey, co-founder of the Save the Bilby Fund, told the Australian network news show 7.30.

The fence has since been repaired, but Manthey says the surrounding countryside is still besieged by feral cats and has appealed to the government for help in reducing their numbers. Feral cat populations have actually risen in the past two years, an unintended side effect of government efforts to control dingo populations. Dingoes, which compete with cats and other predators for food, have been poisoned to protect agricultural sheep, but Griffith University researcher Jean-Marc Hero told The Australian last September that this approach gave cats and foxes a chance to fill the ecological gap the dingoes left behind.

A lesson from Springwater Provincial Park for Arrowhead

March 20, 2013

Thank you very much, Emily Mckiernan for your corrections and advice regarding a year-long all-parks day pass for Ontario Provincial Parks.  Summer and year-long passes can be found here.  Thanks also to Lisa Fleming who linked to my previous article about Springwater Park on the Facebook Save Our Springwater  page.

I hope their work goes rewarded although, as I’ve previously noted, I have not been in the area long enough to be greatly invested in the park.

I need to correct a mistake I made in my previous post. I wrote that I had been to Springwater two times but I have since learned that my parents took me there many times when I was a young child.  I don’t remember this at all.

A new article in the Barrie Examiner suggests that the work to close the park is continuing.  The article describes plans for the animals currently in the park to be moved to new locations.  Ah, the article describes the animals as ‘wildlife’, and the animals mostly fit that definition but these are animals:

“… that have been injured in the wild, or are unable for a variety of reasons, unable to survive in the wild. This makes it [Springwater] unique among parks and an especially valuable treasure: one of a kind. It is a legacy for future generations,” Miller said.

They are not removing every squirrel or free wild animal.  That would be a little creepy.

Also in the article:

Springwater is the only provincial park with an animal sanctuary,…[and has] 29 animals, including Monty the bobcat, a black bear, a timber wolf, two foxes (one red and one silver), two raccoons (one of them albino), two wild turkeys, a turkey vulture, a great horned owl, a peregrine falcon, a rough-legged hawk, a trumpeter swan, two mute swans, three Canada geese, four white tailed deer, two lynx, two bald eagles and two skunks

Finally

Two groups are leading the charge to keep the park operational.

They include the Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition at www.SpringwaterParkcc.org and the Friends of Springwater Provincial Park at www.friendsofspringwaterpark.ca.

 

I think other Provincial parks need to take heed.  Algonquin, in my opinion, will always be here.  It is giant, famous and historic and just close enough to Toronto to be a daytrip.  Parks that I like and think are lesser known are Awenda and Arrowhead.  Arrowhead, get a Friends Of… group, get a real website, a Facebook page and more.  If you already have these things, I need to tell you that a Google search didn’t find them on the first page.  I did find this wordpress blog that looks like it is updated annually and dryly informative.  It does have a facebook page that looks well used.  Awenda could use one; this page needs work.

 

These are suggestions only.  I wonder how saturated people are with wilderness-based advertising.   Algonquin Outfitter’s Facebook page is updated nearly hourly. as is Pure Muskoka.  Well, even if the Facebook pages or other online content doesn’t attract many new visitors, it does a good job of maintaining the enthusiasm of longtime patrons.

What is RTO7 –Ontario Ministry of Tourism’s designation for the area (Regional Tourism Organization 7) doing to help Springwater – or Awenda?  And RTO12 for Arrowhead?

 

I am too newly returned to help Springwater in the way I would like, but I will do my best to post a Provincial Park image every day.

The closing of Springwater Park

March 19, 2013

On Saturday, my son and I visited Springwater Provincial Park. along with a few hundred others, to show support for the continued existence of the park which is slated to lose its status at the end of the month.  It is a great little park and everyone there had fun.

Springwater links:  Facebook, Barrie Examiner.

I will be sad to see the park go but I can’t claim to be heavily invested in it.  It is a great local park for Barrie but I have only visited it twice.  I guess I won’t be visiting it again as it will become a ‘non-operational’ park the beginning of April.  I think that means the cross country hiking or ski trails will continue to be open but the animal sanctuary, the unique part of the park, will be no more.

Animal sanctuaries are my thing.  I love seeing local wildlife close up and even as a young adult would call strangers walking down the street to see some raccoon or snake I had found.  The Robertcats (I convinced my son that it was too informal to call them ‘bobcats’) and lynx were the first I had seen ever. I even loved the “site vacant” signs with their explanation that the park did not buy or collect animals but only provide a home for those unable to return to the wild. This kind of viewing opportunity needs to be preserved.


The thing is, from a numbers standpoint, the park really should be shut down.  I said that several hundred people attended the Saturday gathering, but that is probably the same number as visited the park in two or three months last year.  This is a local secret that people only seem to learn about from word of mouth.

I hope Springwater stays open but I also hope other people and parks are taking a second look at marketing and public awareness.  I’ve been out of the country for thirteen years so perhaps my ability, or lack of, to name parks is no indicator of the average Ontarians’.  I looked at the Ontario Provincial Parks website and was happily surprised to see how many there are, and how many I didn’t know about in my neighbourhood.  Well, I might be a little upset, too.

Why aren’t these parks better known?  Springwater is a great park that I suspect no one knew about three months ago.  I only recently learned that Springwater has cross country ski trails.  Wish I’d known that in early February.

As I’ve repeatedly written, I’ve been away.  I am not sure what the responsibilities of a park are compared to the responsibilities of the “Friends of…”  Who is involved in marketing?  How professional are these groups.  Back in the nineties, I had thought “Friends of Algonquin Park” was a volunteer organization of enthusiasts.

The thing I want is for those responsible for Awenda Prov Park and Arrowhead Prov Park to be sure they are keeping their parks in the public’s eye.  These are two great places that I know about that don’t get much attention. I know nothing about Bass Lake, McCrae or Mara Provincial Parks even though I drive within 50kms of them twice or more a month.  Explorer’s Edge, are these parks are in your region of responsibility?

What advice can I give to the marketers?  Well, I have a few ideas.

First, when you make a website, Facebook page, Google+ or Twitter account, Keep Adding Content!  The Wye Marsh, a great place that also needs to be aware of its marketing, offers both a good and bad example.  The Facebook page Wye Marsh has four friends and five photos (all mine!).  It has been in operation for two years with no apparent support from Marsh management.  The Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre, another Facebook page, is full of what appears to be daily content.  Attention seems to attract attention.  Next to actual Wye Marsh generated content is more content made and prepared by the public.  Win-win.

Second, make sure you have accounts with the three media above (and more) and your own website.  Link between them.  Really, these two steps are all that is needed for basic Search Engine Optimization.

Third, plan some events and write about them now!  Don’t wait until news comes that your park will soon be shut down. Do it now.

North Korean aggression – an attempt at big picture thinking

March 15, 2013

This woman may have stolen my thunder:

Lately, the threats have been more jarring than in years past. However, like many Koreans, most of the expat community shrugs it off, likening the threats to whining from a petulant child.However dismissive we are to news of Kim Jong-un’s (김정은) newest tantrum, we quietly acknowledge that the threats are not completely empty. There is a danger of escalation. We simply keep an eye out for that email or phone call from the embassy telling us it’s time to go (or hope we will have the luxury of time and notice to do so).

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I have been in the small town of Penetanguishene, Ontario for about six weeks now and feel settled.  The times I get confused here and have to explain that I have lived abroad for many years have decreased and I mostly understand how things work.
The opposite is not true. When people hear that I am from South Korea, and they have time to care and talk about it, they ask about North Korea’s recent belligerent threats.  Here is what I would tell them if my thoughts were properly organized and they really wanted a lecture on the subject.  People who have lived in Korea for any significant length of time may choose to skip the rest of this post.

For ex-pats with some experience in Korea, the USFK are a great comfort and much beloved.  Yes, individual soldiers do stupid things, but no more frequently than individual English teachers.  As a group, as a military force, they are on the side of angels.

I need to belabour this point a little.  I think the reasons behind the second Gulf War were petty, deceptive and have hurt America’s image worldwide.  The American-led attacks in Afghanistan started for good reasons but the military and political leadership are doing stupid things and their coverups are only making things worse.  Bush Junior started digging a hole to bury America’s reputation and Obama is using drones to deepen it.

There’s a lot I don’t trust about American foreign policy.

Regarding Korea, I believe nearly every word.  Often, I trust the American reports over Korean ones.

I have lived in, and watched carefully, Korea for about a quarter of its sixty years of armistice.  What I have seen in sixteen years is an excellent example of the whole.  I arrived in Korea just after a North Korean submarine ran aground near Gangneung,a place where I would work for seven years.  The crew and their cargo of commandos slipped inland and evaded capture for two months before being killed or captured.  They killed many South Koreans during this period.  More recently, the North Koreans sank a South Korean naval vessel and fired artillery shells at an island of civilians.  The BBC has a timeline of attacks but it is outdated as it does not include the Baeknyeong Island shelling of 2012.

Now, they are making threats of more, and more violent, action.  My Canadian friends don’t understand why.  To some extent, I join them.  Nobody really understands what happens in North Korea.  This is what my friends and I think is happening.

From 2000 to 2008, presidents Kim Dae Jung and Roh Mu Hyun pursued a ‘Sunshine Policy’, that of giving North Korea vast amounts of aid and not watching to see where it was going.  Kim won the Nobel Peace Prize for it.  However, many felt that the lack of oversight meant that the aid was going nowhere or nowhere useful.  Now, I must admit to descending into rumour: I have heard that when bags of rice are sent into North Korea, the bags are labelled “Product of South Korea” or “A gift from the USA” and the rice then either emptied into new bags with North Korean labels or described as war reparations from these countries.  I place slightly more stock in the latter scenario but both are believable.

From the New York Times:

Tired of giving billions of dollars of aid and trade to the Communist North but getting little in return, South Koreans in 2007 abandoned the policies of Mr. Kim and his successor, Roh Moo-hyun, by electing Lee Myung-bak, a conservative leader who promised a tougher stance on Pyongyang.

With Lee Myung-bak came restrictions on aid and a return to violence by North Korea.  Although not precisely admitted as such, it sure appears that the North Korean government is saying give us aid or we will kill South Korean citizens.  This is a protection racket writ large.

The Daily Maverick has it right in an article titled North Korea: Eccentric, yes; Irrational, no.

Contrary to what is often said about North Korea’s leadership, it is not irrational. The Pyongyang leaders pursue highly rational goals in a highly inhospitable environment. They are not zealots of a mechanistic ideology or religion; rather, they are a hereditary oligarchy where a young king, Kim Jong-Un, is surrounded by aging lords whose forefathers once served the kings that came before,” writes Andrei Lankov in Asia Times. “These people have not the slightest desire to initiate a nuclear holocaust and bring the threat of nuclear annihilation merely for the pleasure of killing a few ten thousand Americans, Japanese or South Koreans.”Lankov argues – and it’s hard to disagree – that the real point of the nukes, and the bravado, is self-defence, and diplomatic blackmail. “Without nuclear weapons it would be virtually impossible for them to attract international attention and squeeze unconditional aid from the international community,” continues Lankov.

 
Finally, this account has caught up to current events.  North Korea has threatened to tear up the armistice agreement and attack both the US and South Korea.  Is this the same ol’, same ol’?

I think so.  The novel part of the situation is that we have two new players or perhaps two new leaders of the original players.  Both North and South Korea have relatively inexperienced leaders and who can say what the testing will reveal.

From the above-linked Daily Maverick article:

Park Geun-hye was inaugurated just a fortnight ago, and already she’s had to deal with an opposition that keeps blocking her cabinet appointments, plummeting opinion polls and a major escalation in hostilities with North Korea. It’s been less a baptism of fire than a baptism of impending nuclear apocalypse, and so far it is her equally inexperienced North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-Un that seems to be holding all the cards.

Lee Myung Bak claims to have been held back by the Americans and Southern generals appear prepared this time to retaliate rather than merely bluster.  Nobody calls an evened scale revenge.  You always have to reply with interest and who knows how quickly that interest will compound?

Kim JongUn and Bak GeonHye are new to their posts but their respective military leaders aren’t.  My prediction is caution with a chance of stupidity.  I rate the possibility of localized violence over the next year as around 10% and wider action as well under 1%.

I saw the completion of the 4-rivers project.

January 22, 2013

I’m leaving soon.  I depart on January 31 and don’t know if I will be back.  As I wrote on Facebook (names removed),

“My work these past three years -and also at Kwandong before that, has been great but I am returning to Canada next year. I can’t say for how long.

The Little Guy’s English is barely sufficient for day to day conversations with me and falling far behind his Canadian cohort so we (TLG and I; my wife will remain in Korea) are moving to my mother’s home in Penetang for at least one year. TLG will attend school and I will look for some kind of work. If I find useful and valuable work, my wife will emigrate and join us. If not, we will return to Korea to work I love and have shown an aptitude for but with the real concern about what high school will be for TLG- and any Korean child.”

I am not ready to talk about Canada, but that will come.

I am ready to talk about my long stay here and how connected I feel to Korea, even if only as a foreigner.   Case in point, my views on the Four Rivers Project.  I started blogging only a year before Presidential candidate Lee Myungbak proposed a crazy project, then withdrew it in favor of the Four Rivers Restoration Project.  I was here during his transition and throughout the Four Rivers work.  I also learned about flooding (one thing his project was designed to reduce) caused by North Korea.  Although I am not at all satisfied with the result of the project, I feel a strange satisfaction in my deep understanding of it.  I’ve been here long enough, and been aware long enough, to have real opinions on the subject.  I remain impressed with the bike trails built along the rivers and experience a thrill when I see the “Andong, 380km” sign near my home at the mouth of the Nakdong River.

For the record, I still have no opinion on who owns Dokdo.  I don’t know how long I would have to stay in the country for that to happen (Hans Island is, however, clearly Canadian).

I feel so connected to farming in Korea.  Even though I am unable to plan or schedule when or what crops should be planted, I have been involved in that work for several years.  I don’t love rice like my wife does, but I know it grows.  I don’t know how hot my in-laws’ peppers are but I know how productive the plants are and hot to recognize a pepper from a leaf at a metres’ distance.

I even sorta understand why Korean lifeguards are so cautious about letting people swim here.  Full understanding is beyond me, but I have seen so many non-swimmers launch themselves in tubes into deep water that I would be equally draconian in running a beach.  I now only grimace when I see a two-metre deep pool only filled to 1.4 metres so non-swimmers are safe.

Maybe I am leaving just in time.  Everytime I see a car or truck running a red light, I plot about bringing a realistic doll to the intersection and tossing it in front of a red-light-running vehicle.  I have held back because I can imagine the result of a car swerving wildly to avoid the ‘baby’ and because I don’t have such a doll handy.  I’ll leave it to you to guess which influence is greater.

I don’t know if I will write a ‘_-things I love in Korea” or a “__ things I hate in Korea”.  With my current blogging regimen it will be July before they finish. Still, I should take some time to review my time here and my future plans at such an obvious demarkation point. What better place to put my private thoughts then on a public blog?

The Games start soon!

July 27, 2012

Tomorrow night, my son and I will be watching Olympic swimming, and probably other sports and events.  I’m excited to see what the swimmers can do but also am envious of my son’s idealistic view of The Games.

If I were to write down my own version of an Athlete’s Credo, it would describe wanting to do my best but also wanting the same for my competitors.  I would prefer to win or lose and be secure in my belief that the outcome was correct.  If I were to win, I would want my opponent to say something like, “I did my best and you were better” rather than “If I’d had a better start…”.

Of course, I won’t be there competing and perhaps people who have put enough effort into getting there have different priorities.

Back to contrasting my son’s view of The Games with mine.  He doesn’t notice all the politics involved.  He happily sings the jingles of the Olympic-themed advertising.  He doesn’t know that one of Korea’s IOC representatives is a convicted felon who was pardoned specifically so as to improve Korea’s chances of hosting the ’18 Olympics.  He hasn’t read The New Lords of the Rings.  Again, I envy him.

I will not be burdening him with my views of the games for a decade or more.  Unlike Santa or Jesus, the idealism of The Games is not  imaginary.

I’ll probably share this story with him.

Kang Seung-woo gets it.

In my time zone, it looks Like Bak Tae-hwan is swimming 400 free at 6:52 tomorrow night. Finals around 4:00am Sunday morning.

Serious issues spoiled by incoherent ranting style

July 17, 2012

Child Abuse camp as advertised on the Democratic United Party blog and protected by corrupt police soon to be exposed

By [name redacted] and translated by Surprisesaplenty

My ‘translated by’ claim above is snarky, but I am starting from the man’s Facebook claims and following other links.  His writing is … challenging.

A sample from various locations (1,2) on Facebook (these are from large groups on Facebook so I don’t think they are private utterances.  The latter link is to “Every Expat inKorea” which sounds like it should be considered a public space):

“Korean Conman with no degree is touted as professor on the Korean Democratic United party blog, that also names his business that prior to that time had been in the papers (Korean Herald) for human smuggling US citizens with fake visas to work for free in his illegal unlicensed English camps the Jeju City Office of Education yet again has filed more changes against this week.

The full truth is not in the 1000s of newspaper report about this illegal business 제주국제영어마을 – that it includes pedophile activity and stupid foreigners who profit from job ads saying they get bonus money for working their kids, which should have been a know brainier that that is against the law.”

A “know brainier” indeed.  These 100+ words  in two sentences were separated in the ellipses by a citation.  Oh, alright, here it is: As seen On KBS News and 제주가 보인다 2012.2.1.

Still, [redacted] is passionate about his claims; so much so that I had to dig in and try to understand them.

Okay, I’ve looked into the claims and they are too hot – criminally hot – for me!

At 3 Wise Monkeys is a good description of the problem.  Giving real names and identifying businesses , even if the claims made are true, is considered libel.

The Korea Herald has reported as much as it dares here.  Dare I say it, the reporting is as well done as it could be without risking exposure to libel.

A second problem with discussing [redacted]‘s problems are their variety.  3WM and the Herald discuss (1)immigration and contractual issues, but [redacted] also claims (2) sexual abuse of the students, corruption among the (3) police (The Herald article looks at this) and (4) a political party and (5) death threats he has received*.  They might all be true but if too many claims are stacked like this, why not add one more: “(6)And he cancelled Christmas!”

I feel there is something wrong here and that [redacted] has been mistreated, possibly criminally, but I am honestly afraid to write further.  Korea’s libel laws are clear.

This is a serious issue and I feel for [redacted] but at the same time I must retreat into snark again and say that if his writing is a good example of his English communication skills, I would not much want to hire him either.

* Search for information from 3WM… You can find this claim if you wish.

Creationists in Korea: They’ve hit the big-time!

June 6, 2012

Updated again: Ask A Korean has looked into the changes and feels, as Gord Sellar does (below), that the changes are more cosmetic or for purposes of updating the texts.

The group that represents these creationists, called Society for Textbook Revise (STR), has attempted to attack the references to evolution in Korean science textbooks in any manner possible.

What STR did manage to pull off with three textbook publishers was this: STR convinced those publishers that two diagrams in their books — one about the evolution of horses, and the other about archeopteryx — and the text accompanying them were scientifically incorrect. Notice the claim here:  the claim was not that the diagrams were against creationism. The claim was that the diagrams were scientifically incorrect.

Updated: Resistance to the proposed changes has emerged:

Conflict between pro- and anti-evolutionists has escalated half a year since several major publishers were approached by a local organization to delete or revise examples explaining the process of evolution from science textbooks for high school students. 

In turn, the dormant evolutionists and biologists here have mobilized. On Wednesday, academics and researchers from the Paleontological Society of Korea and five other scientific associations gathered for the first meeting of the Committee to Promote Evolution to debate the issue in question, which is whether or not the archaeopteryx, a prehistoric bird from the Jurassic Period, was a transitional species between reptiles and birds. 

————–

Two weeks ago, I wrote about changes to Biology Textbooks in Korea.  At the time, I was of the opinion that the changes were merely updates: one example of evolutionary change being replaced by another.

Gord Sellar recently wrote about the changes and earlier errors – were at least partially the result of conservatism among the publishers.  The industry receives five-year contracts  and if a publisher has won such a contract, it won’t want to make any changes beyond what is required.

The problem, as a friend explained Miss Jiwaku, is that a lot of Korean biology textbooks have outdated material when it comes to evolutionary theory; the explanation of horse evolution was so old that it had actually been badly needing updating. This, of course, is a deadly situation when you have religious nuts around fighting a holy war against science.

So they struck. Sometimes it’s embarrassing how ignorantists can be so coordinated, so organized, so clever about this stuff.

…[big ellipsis here]…

textbook companies normally do not take risks when it comes to content and their potential inclusion on the Ministry of Education’s textbook lists for public schools. They are, indeed, so risk-averse that they will publish outdated material just to avoid being left off the list. This is because exclusion from the list means a loss of billions of won (ie. millions of dollars) of revenue

Well, this morning, my Google Newsreader was full of international attention to the subject.

The Friendly Atheist:

The National Center for Science Education isn’t surprised by the move — acceptance of evolution in the country is relatively low compared to other countries… (excluding the U.S., because we’re full of science denialists)

The Sensuous Curmudgeon (quoting from Nature) (SC added the bolding):

The campaign was led by the Society for Textbook Revise (STR), which aims to delete the “error” of evolution from textbooks to “correct” students’ views of the world, according to the society’s website. The society says that its members include professors of biology and high-school science teachers.

The relationship between Korea and the journal Nature is an interesting one.  I wonder which report is more embarrassing for Korea: This or the Hwang Woo-seok cloning scandal?


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