More kabuki in the House

This time, it’s being reported in this piece of syndicated commentary by William Lind.

You can almost hear [the House Democrats’] glee as they offer the anti-war voters who gave them their majority one of Washington`s oldest dodges, ‘requirements’ the Executive Branch can waive if it wants to.

The kabuki script currently goes like this. Congressional Democrats huff and puff about ending the war; the White House and Congressional Republicans accuse them of ‘not supporting the troops;’ and the Democrats pretend to be stopped cold, plaintively crying that ‘Well, we all agree we have to support the troops, don’t we?’

‘Supporting the troops’ is just another dodge. The only way to support the troops when a war is lost is to end the war and bring them home.

I guess “theater” doesn’t sound exotic enough to suit a Beltway hack.

Deconstructing an alleged compliment

Bush administration White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was quoted in the NYT as describing his boss (George W. Bush, for the dim) like so:

“He reminds me of one of those guys at the gym who plays about 40 chessboards at once.”

In my experience with gyms, there is in fact noone there playing 40 chessboards at once. Now, there are chess geniuses who can manage such an incredible feat, but they don’t go to the gym to do it. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that someone wanting to play 40 games of chess at once who thought that the proper venue for such an event was a gym is probably an idiot.

I am reminded of the episode of The Simpsons, in which Bart plays a dozen games of chess, blindfolded, simultaneously. Onlookers are briefly astonished. Bart loses every match.

Homesick for the Easy Living of Fairfax County

Hanging out in Washington can be a drag when you’re in a long distance relationship. Considering only the safe northwestern corner of the District (and that’s all anyone considers, really), the bars, clubs, disco bowling alleys, and $30-a-plate restaurants are built with college students, new graduates, and yuppies in mind. In contrast, Northern Virginia, where I lived from December of last year until June, could offer a suburban paradise of good restaurants and solitary thrills that entertained me during the 10 months or so of quiet stagnation that I spent between Shoko’s departure and our reunification at the end of July. As long as I had a car, I could easily brave the sometimes offensively bad traffic and spend a Saturday picking up groceries at the Korean supermarket, playing Dance Dance Revolution at the mall, and returning to my apartment with dinner from any number of good fast food or carry out places. Five Guys, Chipotle, Krispy Kreme Donuts, hispanic grilled chicken places, or some of the good Vietnamese, Korean and Indian places that have popped up in the area.

This recent Washington Post article reminds me of that time. Though intended as a look at the restaurant business in the Washington area from an economist’s perspective (timely enough as pop economics is all the rage these days) somehow the piece reads as a wonderful nostalgia piece for anyone who has recently left Washington’s “exurbia.”

911 is a joke…to Koreans in the US

I was just watching Korean TV from my posh executive digs here in Washington and a fun ad for a Korean-language emergency hotline came on. I’ll describe it for you:

There’s been a car crash. A besuited Korean man, bleeding but coherent, has called 911 on his cell phone. The music is urgent and dramatic. He speaks in slightly halting but proficient English:

“Hello my name is Park and I’d like to report an accident… no Park is my name! I have a rent-a-car… Hello? No, there has been an accident!”

Then an announcer begins speaking in Korean. The only word I can pick up is “hangukeu” (Korean language). Then an 800-number appears on the screen with some Korean text. End of commercial.

I can’t tell if the hotline is at all government-sponsored, but if there’s a real need for such services maybe it should be. I hope the 800-number doesn’t connect you to an ambulance-chasing lawyer or something.

Kabuki Spreads to the White House

Our latest Kabuki Alert come from Wonkette:

White House Kabuki: The Administration Reacts to the SCOTUS

The Bush Administration’s preliminary reactions to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld are in — and they’re not terribly exciting or surprising.

At a press conference earlier today with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, President Bush got peppered with questions about the decision. Pretty much every non-Asian journalist in the room asked about Hamdan. Bush said that “we take them [the Supreme Court] very seriously.” Glad to hear it; so do we. He also stated that “we will conform to the Supreme Court.” Nothing controversial there.

So the definition of “political kabuki” in this blog post seems to be “reacting to a Supreme Court decision while a Japanese politician is in the room.” We’ve seen it earlier defined as “a meaningless horse and pony show debate in Congress” and “putting off tough fiscal policy decisions to protect one’s legacy as Japan’s reformist PM.” Let’s nail it down people: Just what is “political kabuki”? And where did the term come from?

More than Half of Japanese Men Sit Down to Pee

I’m busy packing now, but I just wanted to direct you to this recent rant from Nikkan Gendai (a sensational tabloid that uber-commentator Naoki Inose has described as a good read on the ride home when you just want to say fuck you to the powers that be). According to the writer’s unscientific observations, more than half of Japanese men are now sitting down to pee.

Question to you: is this true? I’m not sure exactly how this guy was investigating men’s rooms, but find out!

At this one place where I worked (scanning Japanese medical journal articles for the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, MD) what pissed me off in the men’s room was noticing people purposely not flush the urinals, as if they were afraid of the germs contained in the flusher. There were days when I’d notice that none of the urinals were flushed. Granted, these are NIH contractors, so they know a lot we don’t. But that doesn’t give them some pass to “let it mellow” just because they think their immune systems can’t handle it! And anyway, isn’t leaving stagnant urine around a health risk of its own?

URGENT: Want to Work in DC? Can you read Japanese? We have a job for you!

UPDATE: This job opportunity is no longer valid.

As some of you may know, I am leaving my position as a translator/researcher here at a Washington law firm for the hotter, smellier (but nevertheless totally awesome) pastures of Bangkok. However, plans have hit something of a snag since we can’t seem to find my replacement!

So I’ve decided to repost the ad here in the hopes that some of my readers (or their friends) might be up to the task. Here’s the official job posting:

The Washington, DC office of Dewey Ballantine LLP seeks to fill a part time or full-time position with the International Trade Group’s Japan Team. The candidate will work closely with attorneys and other legal professionals in assisting with filings and conducting research both in Japanese and English.

Required qualifications are outstanding English-Japanese bilingual and English writing skills, professional translation experience from Japanese to English, and a strong interest in Japanese policy matters. A brief language test will be given during the interview. Please no J.D. candidates or attorneys.

Please e-mail your resume/cover letter to:
Maki Hishikawa
Director of Japan Research
Dewey Ballantine LLP

Dewey Ballantine LLP is an equal opportunity employer.

Basically, we are looking for someone with native-level English but also very strong Japanese reading comprehension skills — i.e. sufficient to digest any given newspaper article in Japanese and be able to abstract it in well-written English. Feel free to forward this to anyone who might be interested and qualified.

Koreans in Washington Protesting US-Korea FTA

Yesterday and today Starbucks-addled workers in Washington DC have been irked by booming drumbeats and shouts of “tawn dawn FTA!” (I think it means “turn down FTA”?). The people responsible are Korean protesters (see Fox News for the story), the same kind that made their presence felt during the recent WTO talks in Hong Kong. On my way to an appointment today, I literally bumped into the group of about 100 protesters in the crosswalk in front of the White House on 17th Street and H. Of course I got out my brand spanking new camera phone and took some snapshots:

Anti FTA3.jpg

Anti FTA1.jpg

These people are chiefly farmers who don’t want their “crops” ravaged by exposure to free trade. I’m sympathetic to the argument that it’s necessary for a country to preserve a certain amount of farmland just in case the globalized system collapses. And I am not 100% in favor of free trade in every sector, such as entertainment, whose protection allows for business models that foster diverse expression that could easily be stamped out by major countries’ imports. But the fact of the matter is the Korean agricultural interests just want to preserve their cushy government protection at the expense of consumers. They can’t be allowed to derail an agreement that’s going to be crucial for the economies and trade policies of the US and Korea.

UPDATE (6/7/2006): The protester are marching past my office again. The drummers sound like an actual marching band, except I think they’re using some kind of Korean drums. One reason the protests are so small (100 or so) is because many of the Koreans who wanted to join them were denied visas. The irony is that one of the benefits that the US-Korea will be Korea’s addition the State Dept’s visa waiver program, which would make it easy for any Korean who had the notion to come to Washington and protest the hell out of free trade.