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    Missile Defense

Russian military leaders have expressed concern about US plans for a national missile defense system. Will defense technology be limited by possibilities for a strategic imbalance? Is this just SDI all over again?

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rshowalter - 08:36pm Mar 26, 2001 EST (#1555 of 1567) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

A central problem is that large groups of people can be, by objective standards, deeply out of touch with reality. The case of North Korea is an example.

NORTH KOREA, TV NATION .... by Russell Working reveals a pathetic, if dangerous culture.

Dandog China For most of the day presumably when there is no electrical power to spare there is nothing to see on North Korea's state television network. No reruns, no test patterns, nothing but static.

Then in the late afternoon, the viewer flips on Channel 22 to find the camera panning a hall full of teenagers in dark suits or traditional Korean dresses. Iron-faced, they watch an awards ceremony. Half of them take home red banners extolling the leader-god Kim Jong Il. The rest win red accordions. And so begins another evening of entertainment from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

I was watching from Dandong, China. The Hermit Kingdom is one of the most secretive nations on earth, banning most foreign visitors and eschewing contact with the outside world. But every evening here in Dandong, a port city of 700,000 on the Yalu River separating China and North Korea, a closed society reveals a little more than it may realize to outsiders who flip on the television. You don't have to speak Korean to come away a little spooked by the experience.

Day after day, North Korea's TV network devotes hours to Mr. Kim's tours of factories. A narrator with the voice of a castrato speaks in trilling, almost hysterical tones as Mr. Kim makes his rounds. The people he meets bow from the waist. Crowds make fist-clenching salutes and beat their chests, or they wave both hands in the air, jumping as if in ecstasy. Mr. Kim never seems to ask a question; rather, he lectures the experts. He snatches pointers to jab at maps or diagrams. Oddly, his voice is never audible only the narrator's is.

In one clip, Mr. Kim tours a factory that produces syringes. Do the broadcasters even notice that the managers are inside wearing winter coats and astrakhan hats? Or perhaps they counted on North Koreans millions of whom live and work in unheated quarters to consider such details unremarkable.

There are moments of near hilarity, as when Mr. Kim tours a collective farm populated with ostriches. Ostriches in North Korea? And yet there they are. There is literary content: static shots of the day's newspapers, page by page. And children's programming appears in the form of a cartoon in which a boy hero is captured by the Japanese, beaten severely and bound with a stick jammed in his mouth to prevent him from screaming for help.

Strangest of all is the North Korean idealization of labor. While the narrator enthuses, thousands of workers strap boulders to their backs and run to a dam, where they thump down the rocks and sprint back for another load. In close-ups, the workers' faces are frozen in rictus grins, but their eyes reveal a leaden terror. It is as if Stalin thought that broadcasting the construction of the White Sea Canal by gulag laborers would inspire his countrymen.

In fact, much of North Korean TV might feel familiar to Russians of Stalin's generation: parades of tanks, goose-stepping soldiers, Soviet-style choruses. But if the programming offers a nation's most grandiose boasts, consider what its darkest secrets might look like.

Russell Working is an American writer living in Russia.

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    Speaking in strictly military terms, such a culture cannot be hard to outmaneauver.

    This is one of our must feared enemies -- and Saddam's Iraq the other?

    Could the North Koreans be the only ones out of touch with reality?

    rshowalter - 08:46pm Mar 26, 2001 EST (#1556 of 1567) Delete Message
    Robert Showalter

    Right and Wrong: rshowalter "Science in the News" 12/29/00 6:18am

    " When an individual, or group, acts in its own percieved or psychic interest, but in a way that cuts off opportunities, or causes damage, on a wide scale, to a wider interest, most "readers of the New York Times" and writers on it, too, act as if they think that's "wrong." For a lot of things, I feel that simple standard, applied to specific cases, works pretty well. "

    Is U.S. military policy justifiable, on the basis of arguments about proportion, and right or wrong? Based on checkable facts? Or are we manufacturing enemies -- sometimes working hard to manufacture enemies, to sustain the "military industrial complex" Eisenhower warned of so long ago?

    The arguments for a missile defense seem grossly disproportionate, and if there ARE valid arguments - they are "secret."

    It is quite possible that our intelligence service, as well as the KGB, lived in a "dream world." The fact that a group of people feels "sure of its ground" does not make it right or, if they refuse checking, even worthy of respect.

    lunarchick - 08:52pm Mar 26, 2001 EST (#1557 of 1567)

    Canadian PM is involved in a conflict of interest : used political position for financial gain : helped secured a loan related to a golf course in which he has shares.

    Canada has a federal ethics committee --- is there a USA comparable body?

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