Monday, February 28, 2005

Look Who's Talking

I am pleased to announce that Russell (age 2 years, 8 months) has uttered his first words ever! And here they are:

1) "Apple pie" - A good choice, since red is his favorite color and apples are his favorite fruit (to hold, not to eat). I know this is actually two words, but let's not get technical.
2) "Eight" - Chinese consider this number to be lucky, like seven in the West.
3) Whoa" - I have no idea where this one came from.
4) "Uh Oh" - Thank the Teletubbies for this one.
5) "Reagan was right" - Just wishful thinking on my part.

Congratulations Russell!

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Happy Birthday, Punky Brewster

Punky is 6 months old today. He's gotten a lot bigger in just one month. Perhaps it's due to the fact that he's drinking mostly formula now. He is also making all sorts of interesting sounds, and recognizes his mother and father. How do I know this? If he's in his saucer and sees one of us walking away, he usually cries until either Jenny or I picks him up.

Russell is also making excellent progress. He basically understands everything we say (in English), and sometimes whispers recognizable words ("apple pie" in particular) under his breath. Now, he's not actually talking yet, but his behavior is much better. He obeys when we tell him to sit down or come towards us. He knows the alphabet and numbers from 1-10 as well. We can also take him virtually anywhere now without having to bring the DVD player/computer. Just a quick bribe or two of a wheat-free cookie or macaroon, and we are golden. Life isn't so bad after all. Now if I can only get these boys to sleep earlier, then I will be feeling much better.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Pictures of the Day

Punky shows off his serious look Posted by Hello
Russell enjoys a bath with yellow duckies everywhere Posted by Hello

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Clueless Europeans Ask: Can Bush Be Right?

Der Speigel's (Germany) Claus Christian Malzahn has an epiphany of sorts (or at least a severe case of deja vu) when he writes:

Germany loves to criticize US President George W. Bush's Middle East policies -- just like Germany loved to criticize former President Ronald Reagan. But Reagan, when he demanded that Gorbachev remove the Berlin Wall, turned out to be right. Could history repeat itself?

Actually, the answer isn't as obvious as it might seem. President Ronald Reagan's visit to Berlin in 1987 was, in many respects, very similar to President George W. Bush's visit to Mainz on Wednesday. Like Bush's visit, Reagan's trip was likewise accompanied by unprecedented security precautions. A handpicked crowd cheered Reagan in front of the Brandenburg Gate while large parts of the Berlin subway system were shut down. And the Germany Reagan was traveling in, much like today's Germany, was very skeptical of the American president and his foreign policy. When Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate -- and the Berlin Wall -- and demanded that Gorbachev "tear down this Wall," he was lampooned the next day on the editorial pages. He is a dreamer, wrote commentators. Realpolitik looks different.

But history has shown that it wasn't Reagan who was the dreamer as he voiced his demand. Rather, it was German politicians who were lacking in imagination -- a group who in 1987 couldn't imagine that there might be an alternative to a divided Germany. Those who spoke of reunification were labelled as nationalists and the entire German left was completely uninterested in a unified Germany.
This is about the tenth article on this subject that I've seen recently. Not coincidentially, virtually all of them have appeared after the Iraqi elections of January 30. Could it be that liberty is something all people desire, and is a natural right for all? Why is it a surprise to Europeans when Arab people express the same yearning for freedom that Americans gave back to Western Europe in 1945 and Eastern Europe in 1989?

The author almost gets it right. He gives Gorbachev too much credit for the fall of Communism, as all the leftists do. But he realizes that history is on the verge of repeating itself, and it is the dynamic Americans leading the charge and the reactionary Europeans attempting to block us every step of the way.

This, in fact, is likely the largest point of disagreement between Europe and the United States: Europeans today--just like the Europeans of 1987--cannot imagine that the world might change. Maybe we don't want the world to change, because change can, of course, be dangerous. But in a country of immigrants like the United States, one actually pushes for change. In Mainz today, the stagnant Europeans came face to face with the dynamic Americans. We Europeans always want to have the world from yesterday, whereas the Americans strive for the world of tomorrow.
For the Europeans, their nightname scenario--of America being on the right side of history once more--is in the process of becoming reality. And here's something else for you Euroweenies: Our savior act isn't going to happen ever again with your disgraceful attitude. I wouldn't contribute a plugged nickel, euro, dollar, or vote to save your ungrateful butts from the destiny you are goose-stepping towards. Perhaps this time it is the Europeans who need to step back from the abyss, and reach out to America before it is too late.

UPDATE - Here are two recent opinion pieces, one from the Guardian and the other from the International Herald Tribune.

Martin Kettle from the Guardian writes: .
Much of this is summed up in the current transitional fluidity over the politics of Iraq. The war was a reckless, provocative, dangerous, lawless piece of unilateral arrogance. But it has nevertheless brought forth a desirable outcome which would not have been achieved at all, or so quickly, by the means that the critics advocated, right though they were in most respects.
Roger Cohen from the IHT writes:
How many such stories are there? Too many for the Germans and the French to be so comfortable in their conviction that the war was wrong. This war was falsely portrayed, poorly planned, and hurt by hubris. But it was the right war.

Some people in Europe should have the courage to tell that to George W.
Do I sense a pattern here?

The Funeral

We returned to the funeral home early Friday morning after the wake to complete the burial ceremony for my father-in-law. Most Chinese funerals are held with an open casket, and this one was no exception. A large number of flower wreaths contributed by family members and friends adorned the room from front to back. These wreaths consisted of ribbons with Chinese writings commemorating my father-in-law and the names of the contributors. Flanking both sides of the dark mahogany coffin were the wreaths from the immediate family. To the left was the Sui family's wreath with a picture of her father in the center. Jenny pointed out our family wreath, which was the first one to the right of the casket. I could recognize my Chinese name along with Jenny's on the wreath, but that was all I could read.

Once again, the room was crowded with people, most of whom I recognized from last night. There were a few older persons in the back, that Jenny pointed out to me, who had known her father for many years. One of them was the man who introduced her father to her mother. Another was an adopted uncle whose real parents were killed during the Japanese invasion of China. Rounding out the mourners were numerous family friends, cousins and Jenny's aunts and uncles from San Francisco.

Many of the same rituals of the previous evening were repeated, except that Jenny's youngest sister Anna--the only remaining sibling who is not married or engaged --now stood at the head of the family in place of the son my father-in-law never had. The family concluded the ceremony walking in a procession aroung the room three times with Anna at its head bearing a banner with the name of her father aloft.

When the time came to close the casket, I was inevitably struck by the finality of the moment. This would be the last time we would ever see my father-in-law. Wearing a dark suit and surrounded by Buddhist icons, paper money and his Passport to Nirvana, he looked at peace but devoid of the distinct quality that we call life. One by one, family members each took their turn to say farewell to their husband, father, brother, cousin or uncle. I watched as Jenny tearfully said her farewell to her father, telling him not to worry and asking him to let her know in her dreams if he needed anything. Then we stepped away from the casket and bowed our heads. The funeral director directed us not to look, and then closed the lid on my father-in-law's coffin. This was perhaps the hardest moment.

Arriving up front, the pallbearers aligned the casket 90 degrees towards the door, then lifted it from the platform. A mix of young and old, they struggled to carry the heavy casket out to the waiting limousine.

Departing San Francisco on a rainswept Friday morning, our procession of cars headed south towards Skylawn Cemetery in Half Moon Bay, where my father-in-law had decided would be his final resting place. But forty-five minutes later, as we began our approach on Route 92 towards the cemetery, the clouds suddenly parted and the hills surrounding Half Moon Bay were suddenly bathed in bright sunshine. Jenny took this as a sign, as I did, that her father's soul was on his way to heaven and this was his way of telling us.

Chinese cemeteries are generally located on hillsides near the water as this is thought to be good "feng shui". From this perspective, Jenny's father had chosen well, as his grave site at Skylawn was nearly at the top of the hill, facing the Pacific Ocean. Looking around, I noticed that this cemetery did not allow head stones, only plaques at ground-level. Jenny remarked that this made Skylawn less spooky than others.

When the procession arrived at the grave site, the pallbearers unloaded the casket from the hearse and we engaged in a brief ceremony of chanting and burning of incense and paper offerings led by the Buddhist nun who had accompanied us. Even though it was sunny, the ground was waterlogged and we could not help but sink into the muddy grass surrounding the grave site.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the funeral director once again directed us to turn away as workers lowered the coffin into the grave. Family members then each took their turns tossing flowers into the grave, in some cases, whispering a brief prayer for the deceased. A waiting backhoe quickly filled the grave with earth, and it was over. Then the Sui family turned away, leaving the hill and soon the cemetery, to its resident souls.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

We Don't Need No Stinking Quagmires

The mainstream media hates to report this stuff, but the handful of Western reporters left in Afghanistan have to do something. From the Guardian(UK):

One of the Taliban's most senior and charismatic commanders has become a key negotiator as more and more members of the Islamic militia in Afghanistan give up the fight against the Americans.

The commander, Abdul Salam, earned the nickname Mullah Rockety because he was so accurate with rocket propelled grenades against Russian troops. He later joined the Taliban as a corps commander in Jalalabad before being captured by the Americans after September 11.

Now he is a supporter of President Hamid Karzai and is tempting diehard Taliban fighters to accept an amnesty offer and reconcile themselves to Afghanistan's first directly elected leader.

"The Taliban has lost its morale," he said, speaking by satellite phone from the heartlands of Zabul province, a Taliban redoubt.

"But you have to go and find the Taliban and call to them and ask them directly. If they believe they will be secure and safe they will come down from the mountains."

After the Taliban's three-year struggle against a superior US force, there is growing optimism among the Americans and Afghan government that the end is close.
Meanwhile in Iraq, the hundreds of Western reporters eager to report on American casualties and losses may need to find other work as well. From Reuters comes news of Sunnis reaching out to US forces:

U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers are conducting secret talks with Iraq's Sunni insurgents on ways to end fighting there, Time magazine reported on Sunday, citing Pentagon and other sources. The magazine cited a secret meeting between two members of the U.S. military and an Iraqi negotiator, a middle-aged former member of Saddam Hussein's regime and the senior representative of what he called the nationalist insurgency.

"We are ready to work with you," the Iraqi negotiator said, according to Time.

Iraqi insurgent leaders not aligned with al Qaeda ally Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi told the magazine several nationalist groups composed of what the Pentagon calls "former regime elements" have become open to negotiating. The insurgents said their aim was to establish a political identity that can represent disenfranchised Sunnis.
From AP comes related news about Sunnis realizing their mistake in boycotting the recent election:

As the Shiite majority prepared to take control of the country's first freely elected government, tribal chiefs representing Sunni Arabs in six provinces issued a list of demands — including participation in the government and drafting a new constitution — after previously refusing to acknowledge the vote's legitimacy.

"We made a big mistake when we didn't vote," said Sheik Hathal Younis Yahiya, 49, a representative from northern Nineveh. "Our votes were very important."

He said threats from insurgents — not sectarian differences — kept most Sunnis from voting. Sunnis make up 20 percent of Iraq (news - web sites)'s population of 26 million compared to the Shiite's 60 percent.

Gathering in a central Baghdad hotel, about 70 tribal leaders from the provinces of Baghdad, Kirkuk, Salaheddin, Diyala, Anbar and Nineveh, tried to devise a strategy for participation in a future government. There was an air of desperation in some quarters of the smoke-filled conference room.

"When we said that we are not going to take part, that didn't mean that we are not going to take part in the political process. We have to take part in the political process and draft the new constitution," said Adnan al-Duleimi, the head of Sunni Endowments in Baghdad.
It won't be long before we begin hearing the phase "We won the War on Terrorism" as often as "We won the Cold War". Who was it that said "Success has a thousand fathers"?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

This Day in History

The raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima Posted by Hello

Sixty years ago today, more than 70,000 U.S. Marines began their assault on a small volcanic island in the Pacific called Iwo Jima. For the next seven weeks, the Marines and Japanese soldiers fought a battle that would determine the outcome of the Pacific War. When it was over, 6821 Marines were killed and nearly 20,000 came home wounded or maimed for life. The 21,000 Japanese defenders were annihilated almost to a man.

This weekend, Iwo Jima veterans will likely meet for a final time to commemorate the American victory and to remember those who sacrificed their lives. From the Washington Post:

Hundreds of Iwo Jima veterans, most in their late seventies or early eighties, are expected to attend the Reunion of Honor this weekend. The reunion will begin today with a ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico that will include a reenactment of the flag raising. Tomorrow, a ceremony is scheduled at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, with its famed statue of the flag raising.
I wonder if America has the wherewithal to make that kind of sacrifice today? Would America look at those losses this grievous such as at Iwo Jima, after years at war, and figure that we had sacrificed enough? One cannot even fathom the present-day media's reaction to such losses! A headline today might read: "Roosevelt Administration's Claims About Winning the War Called 'Lies' After Iwo Jima".

Over the past two years, Iraq has had too much death and violence but nowhere near on the scale of Iwo Jima (1478 killed, 10,968 wounded to date). But one thing is for certain: the same American valor and courage responsible for victory at Iwo Jima is present today in Iraq and Afghanistan. God bless our troops and veterans.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Picture of the Day

Through the living room window, Russell watches puddles form on the backyard patio Posted by Hello

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Wake

It has been over a week since Jenny's father passed away. At last night's wake, I saw Jenny's mother and her sisters for the first time since we all gathered in San Jose for the last weekend of my father-in-law's life. We had dropped off the kids with Jenny's friends earlier, which made things much easier for us. Aside from the usual formalities, we said nothing to one another as we sat next to one another at the McAvoy-O'Hara Funeral Home in San Francisco. Throughout the crowded, wreath-lined room, there was sadness that a husband, a father of five daughters, and grandfather to three young boys was taken from them prematurely and had suffered greatly.

I had already been to this particular funeral home, which despite its Anglo-sounding name, caters to the Chinese-American community. Chinese funerals in the West Coast are usually based on Buddhist rituals, performed by group of Buddhist nuns or monks. This means the constant chanting of Buddhist scriptures, burning incense sticks, a roaring fire for transmitting items needed for the afterlife, and food & drink for the newly departed. According to Buddhist tradition, the wake and funeral ceremonies will prepare my father-in-law's soul, until now still living at home, for its journey to Nirvana with the guidance of the Buddhist nuns and monks.

My father-in-law's wake began with almost an hour of chanting in unison by two nuns, as newly-arrived mourners walked up to the casket and bowed three times as a sign of respect. The medium-sized room filled up fairly quickly, and virtually everyone was Chinese. From the beginning, I sensed a difference between this wake/funeral and the others I had witnessed. For one, I knew this man much better than others whose funerals I had attended. And so I thought quite a bit about our intermingled lives these past 6 years, beginning from our first meeting at their house in Oakland to more recent family gatherings in San Jose. Time passed quickly as a result.

The family all bowed and prayed for my father-in-law continuously that night, pausing periodically to burn incense and offerings, offer tea to him and at one point, cover him with silk blankets from each family member, including ones from his grandchildren. Of his three grandchildren, only Russell was present to pay his last respects to his grandfather. His babysitter and Godmother Karen had dropped him off with some 20 minutes left in the ceremony, and I picked him up and waited on the side for an opportunity to allow Russell to see his grandfather one last time.

At the conclusion of the wake, Jenny and her sister Cindy gave prepared eulogies in Chinese for their father. Jenny spoke about the struggles that her father had endured thoughout his hard life. She described the sacrifices he had made both in China and the US in order to provide for his family. Jenny's grandfather had died when her father was only 17, and my father-in-law left school after only five years in order to work to support the family. In the US, he worked as a Chinese restaurant chef, retiring just 4 years earlier when his hip joints had to be surgically replaced after years of back-breaking work.

Cindy's eulogy was actually a letter she had written to her father while travelling home from Beijing a week earlier. Tragically, Cindy arrived home in San Jose only an hour after her father had passed away. Over and over again upon her arrival home, she asked her father why he had to go so soon and why he couldn't have waited just a few hours longer. Though she was disraught about missing this last chance to see her father alive, she read the letter aloud to his lifeless body that morning. In her letter, she thanked him for being a good father to her and her sisters and promised him that they would take good care of their mother.

As Cindy's eulogy was ending, Jenny picked up Russell and we headed up front toward the casket. As we walked towards the casket, Russell spotted several Granny Smith apples on the offering table. Just as he does in the supermarket, Russell tried to grab one of apples on his way past the table, but Jenny pulled him away from the table at the last moment. We gently nudged Russell forward in a bowing motion three times, and then placed him in front of his grandfather. Russell recognized his grandfather and without prompting, smiled at him. Then we lined up to receive the mourners who had gathered with us that rainy night. When everyone had passed, we headed out of the room into the hallway where the rest of family was gathering for dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Checking In

Blogging will be light these next couple of days. Work is extremely busy, and we have my father-in-law's wake and funeral to attend. Jenny will be delivering a eulogy at the wake, and I've asked Jenny to translate it into English so I can post it to this blog. I've already heard that her sister Cindy has written an outstanding eulogy as well, and I'll try to get that up too. These should provide readers with interesting background on the life of my father-in-law.

We have a 3-day weekend coming up, so I will try to post more stories from home and some political commentary as well.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Pictures of the Day

Punky Brewster is very excited about the new Teletubbies video Posted by Hello

Russell relaxes after a long day at school Posted by Hello

If I Only Had A Brain

One of the most common quotes falsely attributed to the great Winston Churchill is the following:

If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain.
Too bad, since for the youngish employees of Google, it does seem to be an appropriate description.

As it claws for greater power, the Democratic Party has found a newly rich ally in one of the fastest-growing U.S. companies: Google.

Google employees gave $207,650 to federal candidates for last year's elections, up from just $250 in 2000 when it was still a start-up. And 98% went to Democrats, the biggest share among top tech donors, a new USA TODAY campaign finance analysis shows
Microsoft has apparently matured somewhat from its earlier days:

Google giving is still small compared with other tech donors. At No. 1 Microsoft, workers and its political action committee gave $3.1 million last year; 60% to Democrats. Overall, 53% of the industry's $25.9 million went to Democrats, says the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign finance.
Who was it that said "Youth is wasted on the wrong people"? Now you can add money to that as well...

Friday, February 11, 2005

Gai Hoy Sui, 1939-2005

My father-in-law died yesterday morning at home in San Jose, surrounded by family members who has gathered at his bedside for his last moments on earth. He had slipped into a coma earlier that day, and was barely breathing when my wife Jenny arrived that morning around 9AM. It was before the nurse had arrived for the day, so Jenny put her hand on his neck and could discern only a faint pulse. According to Jenny, he appeared to be at peace when she touched him for the last time. When the nurse arrived shortly thereafter, she checked for his vital signs but could find none.

The previous day, he had been alert but clearly weakened by the cancer and punishing treatments of the past months. Even so, he made the effort to blow kisses towards his grandson Russell and touch his cheeks as Russell kissed his hand. When presented with his youngest grandson Punky, my father-in-law smiled at him and remarked that he "would miss him very much" and was sorry that he had so little time to spend with him. As always, Punky was clearly delighted to see his grandfather, grinning from ear-to-ear and flailing his arms with excitement. Understanding that his time was short, he then bequeathed to Jenny a jade necklace that he had worn for the past few years.

As she changed him for the final time that night, my mother-in-law noted that he was still in pain but that his reactions seemed to have been muted. The next morning, as if by fate, most of the extended Sui family had made the trek to San Jose to bid him farewell. Even though his last days were beset with pain, his last hours were filled with love and respect as the family said their final goodbyes to him.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

North Korea: The End is Near

North Korea's official news agency announced today that the country has nuclear weapons, and is pulling out of the six-nation talks aimed at persuading the bankrupt, starving nation to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Citing what it calls U.S. threats to topple its political system, North Korea said Thursday it is dropping out of six-party nuclear talks and will "bolster its nuclear weapons arsenal," North Korea's official news agency KCNA reported.

This is the first public claim by North Korea to actually possess nuclear weapons.

In the past, Pyongyang has claimed to have the ability and the right to produce them. U.S. officials said in April 2003 that North Korea claimed in private meetings to having at least one nuclear bomb.
Of course, this can only mean that the Kim Jong-Il regime is once again on the brink of collapse, and is rattling the nuclear sword in an attempt to gain economic aid to avert another disaster. It may have worked in 1994 when Clinton was President, but it won't work now with George W. Bush in charge.

From the US comes another sign that North Korea is about to disintegrate, this one from New York Times editorial writer Nick Kristof, who is wrong about nearly everything:

There are two words the Bush administration doesn't want you to think about: North Korea. That's because the most dangerous failure of U.S. policy these days is in North Korea. President Bush has been startlingly passive as North Korea has begun churning out nuclear weapons like hot cakes.

Lately there's been more speculation that North Korea's regime is about to topple, partly because of reports of unrest and partly because Kim Jong Il has apparently sent out instructions that his pictures should be removed from government offices and schools. Maybe North Korea is on its last legs, but I doubt it. I'm afraid that the US will be wrestling with Kim Jong Il and his nuclear arsenal for many years to come. Or even with his son, Kim Jong Nam, and his even bigger arsenal.
There you have it--all the evidence that you need to understand that North Korea is about to implode, from Nick Kristof and North Korea itself. Once again, we should think twice about propping up the North Korea with economic aid, and just let it spontaneously collapse like the Soviet Union did in 1991. We had our chance in 1994, but we blew it. Let's not make the same mistake twice.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

4703: Year of the Rooster

Happy Chinese New Year to all my loyal blog readers! Growing up in New Jersey, Chinese New Year was not a big deal to me or my family. My only memories of the holiday as a child were of my parents playing mahjong with their friends on New Year's Eve--pausing only to raise a toast at midnight--and eating a special dessert made out of red beans, sugar and flour. It was only when I moved out to California when I realized how important the holiday was to the Chinese-Americans living out here. The red envelopes handed out to children, oranges everywhere, the New Year's banquet and San Francisco Chinese New Year parade were all new to me.

From the local rag (SF Chronicle):
Unlike the scale and pageantry of San Francisco's annual Chinese New Year Parade on Feb. 19, Lunar New Year's day is often an intimate family event where traditions are passed down.

Yu's family has feasts to close out the old year and welcome the new one, with separate meals for his mother's and father's families. He'll also wear his red turtleneck or T-shirt or pants, because the color is lucky. Last week at the Chinese American International School, he donned a Buddha mask during the lion dancing, made firecrackers, and learned about Lunar New Year customs.

"I'm excited it's my year," said Lawrence Wong, who lives in San Francisco's Richmond District and is turning 48 in December. "I feel old every time it comes around." He's independent and eccentric, like a rooster, he said.

His family, like many others, gives out red envelopes of lucky money, and refrains from sweeping away the good luck or cutting their hair. "Some of the stuff drives me crazy," Wong said. "Sometimes I'm not sure which day is the new year and I start sweeping, and my mom starts yelling."
It's a tradition that I hope to pass down to my children.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

This Is What We're Reading in the Chen Household

Jenny's been reading this story to Punky lately Posted by Hello

This is what Russell is reading now. The book makes a chirping sound (like a cricket) that Russell likes Posted by Hello
This is what I am currently reading. The true story of someone who survived 10 years in a North Korean concentration camp Posted by Hello
Since Russell is mildly autistic, Jenny is learning about his condition from this book Posted by Hello

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Sad News About My Father-in-Law

Just got back from visiting the in-laws in San Jose. We've been making the weekly trip for several months now. The sad news is that my father-in-law has cancer and doesn't have much longer to live.

My father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer back in June 2004, but hasn't known his true condition until this week. That's because my in-laws and some other relatives conspired to keep the seriousness of his condition from him. Apparently, some Chinese people have this strange belief that older adults--like children--can't handle the whole truth about life-threatening illnesses, so they need to be spoon-fed a less serious version of the facts. Jenny and I have opposed lying to her father about his cancer, but we were overruled by her mom, her sisters and her aunts.

My father-in-law can't speak English, so he has been relying on my sister-in-laws to "translate" the doctors' diagnoses to him. The lies had piled up to the point that my father-in-law believed that he was getting chemotherapy to prevent a reoccurence of cancer after successful surgery to remove a tumor on his stomach. In reality, he had Stage 4 cancer in his stomach, intestines and lymph nodes, and his surgery was halted after the surgeon saw that his cancer had moved far beyond the outer lining of his stomach. Even last week, he was under the impression that he was going to be cured soon.

Then he saw his Chinese-speaking physician who dropped a bomb-shell on him: his cancer had actually been growing despite the chemotherapy, and he did not have long to live. This revelation appears to have made its mark. My father-in-law is now making preparations for his eventual passing, having accepted his fate in a remarkably short time.

While I cannot speak as a medical expert, I believe that lying to my father-in-law may have done more harm than good. For instance, he might have chosen not to undergo chemotherapy if he had known that the chances for success for someone in his condition were virtually zero. Instead, he underwent 6 grueling rounds of chemotherapy that made him feel miserable and perhaps even shortened his life.

Whether they realize it or not, my in-laws seriously underestimated my father-in-law's inner strength and capacity for the truth. As my father-in-law enters the last phase of his illness, Jenny and I pray that he sees a merciful and peaceful end to his life.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
- Psalm 23

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Picture of the Day

Punky Brewster, are you a rooster? Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

North Korea: The Doomsday Nation

Because of the paper's unreliability, I usually don't post anything from New York Times on my blog as factual. This article on North Korea's uranium-based bomb program, however, meets my standards because it makes sense, and a while back I predicted the scenario outlined by the reporters.

Scientific tests have led American intelligence agencies and government scientists to conclude with near certainty that North Korea sold processed uranium to Libya, bolstering earlier indications that the reclusive state exported sensitive fuel for atomic weapons, according to officials with access to the intelligence.

Now, intelligence officials say, extensive testing conducted at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee over the last several months has concluded that the material did not originate in Pakistan or other suspect countries, and one official said that "with a certainty of 90 percent or better, this stuff's from North Korea." One recently retired Pentagon official who has long experience dealing with North Korea said the new finding was "huge, because it changes the whole equation with the North."

"It suggests we don't have time to sit around and wait for the outcome of negotiations," he said. "It's a scary conclusion because you don't know who else they may have sold to."
But not only does the US have to deal with the threat of proliferation, we also have to understand that North Korea also likely has a working uranium-based atomic bomb based on a simple and highly reliable design that doesn't require testing. One only needs to review the history of America's Manhattan Project to understand what North Korea has probably done since its nuclear weapons program first made headlines back in the early 1990s.

Scientists working on the Manhattan Project during WW2 simultaneously pursued bombs based on plutonium and uranium cores for the simple reason that it increased the chance that the US could produce a working bomb design. If one bomb-type proved to be infeasible, the scientists would have the other as a fallback. American ingenuity eventually led to three working bombs, one based on uranium and the other two on plutonium. The scientists were confident that the uranium bomb would work; however, there were too many unknowns in the plutonium bomb, and so they decided to test one of the plutonium bombs in the New Mexico desert. It worked, and so the US was left with two atomic bombs which it soon dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

North Korea's pursuit of both the uranium and plutonium bombs through secret and overt means is likely to be part of a plan by Kim Il-Sung and successor Kim Jong-Il to ensure the survival of their regime. Logically, one might conclude that North Korea would not have signed the 1994 Agreed Framework treaty with the United States if it did not already have a working uranium-based bomb or at the very least, an advanced uranium enrichment program. In retrospect, the Clinton and Bush Administrations should have known that North Korea would pursue both the uranium and plutonium bomb routes, since almost every nuclear power to-date has similarly "hedged" themselves. The Bush Administration--with evidence gathered from defectors, satellite imagery and forensic means--quickly came to this conclusion. North Korea later admitted to this as such at a meeting with American diplomats in late 2002.

Of course, North Korea could be merely bluffing about their uranium program, but they would still have the weapons-grade plutonium fuel rods that they were inexplicably permitted to keep under the 1994 AF treaty. Given the paranoid nature of the Kim regime, I consider it unlikely that North Korea would have voluntarily given up its nuclear program in 1994 without having an "ace-in-the hole" (a working uranium bomb) in reserve.

Many pundits, including my sister-in-law who is a Beijing-based reporter for AFP, believe that North Korea has atomic weapons only as a deterrent and would never use or sell them. I happen to disagree with this Cold War-era logic. North Korea is a nation unlike any other, and its leadership is willing to think the unthinkable. If the North Korean leadership--huddled safely in their inpenetratable underground bunkers--believes that it can gain a military and political advantage by using or selling nuclear weapons, then their eventual use or sale by the North Koreans is a foregone conclusion. In this mode of thinking, North Korea would bank on the first use of nuclear weapons [either by itself, another rouge nation or terrorist group] to force a casualty-averse United States to sue for peace. Given that most Democratic Party leaders are willing to abandon Iraq at a moment's notice, this line of reasoning is not out of the question.