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Archive for November, 2005

The Kid with the 200 I.Q.

Posted by Brian on November 8, 2005

Anyone else suspicious of this so-called prodigy named Song Yoo-geun? The kid is 8 years-old and just entered Inha University as a freshman; his major is Physics.

The Korean media is all over the story, of course, but something just doesn’t seem right about what I’m reading. For example, there’s this:

It seems it’s never too early to begin a college education. That is, if you are as smart as Song Yoo-geun, an eight-year-old boy who has been just accepted at Inha University. A school official said yesterday that in an “in-depth” interview with professors that lasted all of 20 minutes, Yoo-geun cruised through the grilling, answering questions on topics such as Schrodinger’s equation; a math formula used in physics and most of chemistry to deal with problems involving the atomic structure of matter. The boy is expected to enroll in a special program the university launched this year with the express aim of producing the country’s first Nobel Prize winner in science.

How “in-depth” can a 20 minute interview be?

The Korea Herald wanted to interview the kid as well. But:

The interview was conducted mainly with the senior Song since Yoo-geun is lacking in his ability to communicate with adults.

And then the interview continues with lots of brainy quotes from Song’s dad, but nothing from the child prodigy himself. But if he can wow a group of college profs with Schrodinger’s Equation, how come he can’t handle a lone Korea Herald beat reporter? I’ve seen several articles on this kid and they’re all the same: plenty of quotes from the father telling us how smart his kid is, but nothing from the kid himself.

But why? What’s the motive here? Perhaps this explains it (from the same KH interview):

It’s no wonder then that Yoo-geun is now a national figure and the focus of media attention. People are curious about his mental capabilities and how he will be taught at university. They also want to know how he is different from ordinary children and how he has been brought up.

Just think of the financial opportunties here. We’re talking books, videos, hagwon endorsements, additional funding and attention for the schools he goes to. He’s a walking gold mine.

Of course, I could be full of shit on this (wouldn’t be the first time). After all, if he was just an average kid there’s probably no chance that he would be able to get by a college interview. But I can’t help but wonder if all the hype is pushing people to make judgements about the kid’s intellect that are off simply not supported by the facts. Perhaps he’s merely above-average in intelligence and is able to put on a pretty good front has a kid genius. I could be wrong, but color me skeptical on this one.

Posted in Korean Issues | Leave a Comment »

The Equivalency Game

Posted by Brian on November 8, 2005

Via This Modern World, from BTC News:

Davis plays the equivalency game: for every Republican sin, he has to offer up a counterweight Democratic one. But Republicans have owned the government for five years now; there is no equivalency. There are no powerhouse Democratic lobbyists under indictment, if only because Tom DeLay has been so successful in purging Democratic lobbyists from K Street. There are no powerful Democratic Congressional leaders under indictment, if only because there are no powerful Democratic Congressional leaders. Democrats didn’t out a covert CIA agent; Democrats didn’t drag the nation into an illegal war based on bogus intelligence (although more than a few are complicit in the effort); Democrats didn’t institutionalize torture or strip US citizens of basic constitutional protections.

There is a national security issue here. Republicans are demonstrably more corrupt than Democrats. Hell, this isn’t even the only occasion on which the administration have blown the cover of a secret intelligence asset from purely political motives: in August of last year, the administration infuriated British and Pakistani intelligence services by leaking the name of a highly placed al Qaeda informant in order to justify an increase in the terror alert level, and in the process ruining counterterrorism operations in Britain and Pakistan.BTC is responding to a New York Times piece by former Clinton aid Lanny Davis, in which he places the sins of the GOP and the sins of the Democratic Party on two ends of a scale and calls it even. BTC rightly points out… they don’t.

The protests of the usual crackpots (Michelle Malkin et al.) aside, the modern day Republican Party has been absolutely corrupted by their absolute power. At this point, that simple doesn’t appear to be a debatable conclusion. Controlling the White House and Congress, and with their peers across the aisle utterly marginalized, they’ve taken to milking the government for everything they can, and there is quite literally nothing to stop them. Along with the arrogance of unchecked control, they’ve also taken to brutal political payback when things don’t play out as they have planned, hence the (illegal) outing of Valerie Plame as an intelligence agent. Hence Richard Clarke being villified after decades of honorable government work

Their usual defense, which is exactly what Davis is doing above, is holler about Dem malfeasance. Of course, they have to turn back the clock to the 90’s to make their case, but there you go.

This helps explain the right-wing pundit’s non-stop onslaught on liberals as “evil,” “crazy,” and whatever pejorative of choice you want to apply. By convincing themselves that liberals like myself wake up, eat breakfast, and kill a cute puppy before going off to work, they are able to better ignore their party’s own drastic failures. We’re the devil’s minions, while they are merely flipping undercover agents, starting wars on flimsy evidence, and trashing the government’s fiscal stability. Whose side do you want to be on?

I’ll surely be slammed as a partisan hack for writing this, which again, is part of the M.O. of the knee-jerk lib-bashers of the modern right. What these critics don’t get, according to Jay Ackroyd over at the TPM Cafe, is that “most people, even most democrats, aren’t really interested in their side doing well as they are in things being done well.” Would I be any less pissed if a Democratic President were in charge of the federal government’s appalingly bad handling of the Katrina disaster? No, I wouldn’t. I’d be just as angry about Democrats making a mess of things, but as BTC News writes, Democrats are so far removed from the halls of power that there really isn’t much to gripe about unless one is willing to blow minor things monstrously out of proportion (see Michelle Malkin and her ridiculous vendetta against Air America).

The obvious retort is that the Republicans keep winning elections so they must be doing something right. I’d attribute this to a fundamentally dishonest mode of campaigning that the Republican Party has honed to a science. As Thomas Frank explained in What’s the Matter with Kansas, Republicans run (generally speaking, because there are exceptions) on culture issues (abortion, gay marriage, etc.) and govern on economic ones (tax cuts, big business kickbacks, etc.). The end result of this is an odd merging of the economic elite and down-home Christianity, with the latter group busting their asses to ensure tax cuts for the former while getting next to nothing in return. But every year or so around election time, the GOP brings up horror stories of drive-through abortion clinics, faggots getting married, and sex-ed in schools, and the fundie Christian mob gets all in a tizzy and once again goes to work for the same people looking to cut their salaries, their health benefits, and their right to unionize in their workplace. In the end, the GOP, big business, and the rich win… while their shocktroops are left with nothing but the faint echoes of promises to take care of the issues that matter to them (and hey, if you think the GOP really wants to ban gay marriage and abortion, you’re just not cynical enough; they have far more to gain politically by raising the spectre of legalized gay marriages and easier access to abortion than they do in putting a stop to such things). Theirs is a strategy that depends on voter apathy and selfishness to win… and it seems to work. Meanwhile, Democratic candidates need to jump through the hoops of explaining how spending the taxpayers’ money is good for the taxpayers and good for the society as a whole. Try to reduce that down to a 8-second soundbite.

Nevertheless, I still find their electoral success baffling. The Republican governing philosophy seems to be a mish-mash of contradicting ideas that just don’t make up a coherent whole. They’re “pro-life,” yet they support the death penalty (say what you want about the Catholic Church, but they are consistent on these issues). They rail against judicial activism, yet were in favor of it when Terry Schiavo’s husband was trying to exercise his right as her husband to let the poor woman pass away in peace. They claim the mantles of “fiscal responsibility” and “small government,” yet the Bush administration is spending this country into oblivion (“Federal spending has grown twice as fast under President Bush than under Bill Clinton,” according to the conservative Heritage Foundation). They claim to be opposed to “nation building,” yet here we are, stuck in the sands of the Middle East doing just that (and not too successfully, I might add). Down the line, they claim X, but do Y. Where’s the blowback from the people voting for X?

Here’s what’s going to happen. The blowback will come in 2008 when the people decide they want a fresh start in the White House. A democrat will win, and he’ll be forced to clean up after the 8-year GOP blow-out party in the penthouse suite of Hotel America. The carpet will need to be cleaned, new furniture will need to be bought, and the walls will require a new coat of paint. Of course, the government will have to pay for this renovation, so the Democratic president will have to raise taxes to cover the costs. They will make some progress in cleaning up the mess, but in 2012, he’ll be labeled a tax-and-spend liberal by his Republican opponent who may very well sweep into office on that very charge. The party will start all over again… and so it goes.

Mind you, I would never argue that Republicans should be locked up and their “way of thinking” should be eliminated (as a few on the right would argue when it comes to my right to free speech). In theory, having competing ideologies is good for America because the importance of “the middle” should keep both sides fron straying too far in one direction or the others. The problem with the current climate, as political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have argued in their new book Off-Center, is that the Republican Party has managed to put together such a well-oiled political machine that spans the media, think-tanks, and Washington, that their party has been able to move rightward without the resulting backlash from the electorate straddling the middle. With more shills in the American media than you can shake a stick at (some on the payroll; some not), they’ve been able to obfuscate their rightward shift without the voter being any wiser. The answer to this, of course, is a better job by our media and for the Democratic Party to get their shit together to act as a counter-balance.
To close this meandering mess, the Dems will get their chance to run the country because the Repubs blew theirs. The temptation will be to exploit their time at the reigns in Washington just like the Republicans did, but I believe that the Democratic leadership will view the coming Republican collapse as a warning for any party that thinks they can roughshod over this country, its institutions, and its people. They should promptly establish themselves as the party of moderation, fiscal responsibility, real American values, and accountability, and America will be a better country because of it.

Posted in American Issues | 1 Comment »

Cover your Ears

Posted by Brian on November 2, 2005

Korea’s latest musical abomination: K-pop super groups with 12 and 13 members. The 12-member boy group is courtesy of SM Entertainment, former home of SES, H.O.T. and midnight runs to America by the CEO to avoid corruption charges. The 13-member female version goes by the name of i-13, and is the stillborn brainchild of Lime Music. If the thunderous dud that was the appearance and quick disappearance of Seven Princesses is any indication, i-13 may have their work cut out for them. However, the guy group, Super Junior, has SM Entertainment behind them, notable masters of marketing dog shit as music. They have a shot.

In other news, youth unemployment dropped by 0.8 percent.

UPDATE: Here’s a pic of i-13:

Posted in Korean Issues, Music | Leave a Comment »