Monday, October 29, 2007

American Gangster IMDB LINK

Opens in Korea. December 27 2007

How I saw it. Leaked DVD Screener.

Plot. huge spoiler alerts

Before I review the film, I would like to ask a question? Is someone trying to destroy this films Box Office total. My copy of the film was excellent and I would like to know why, was I in Korea, able to obtain a darn near perfect copy of this film?

I have been waiting for this film for awhile, so when I had the chance to get a perfect DVD screener, I took it.

There has always been a very fine line from what makes a good movie into a great one and sad to say this film it was very easy to see what was keeping this film from becoming a GREAT ONE. The film suffers from a very bad edit and had a lot of unnecessary plots that could have easily been removed.

Now for the 2 things that were right about this film, Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas and Russell Crowe as Richie Roberts. When these 2 actors are on their game the film shows its strength's. It was awesome to notice the little mistakes that Lucas made that eventually leads to the ending of the film. It was great to see Crowe play a honest cop who finds over $900,000 and return it to the NYPD.

The film is good and is definately worth the price of a ticket. It was just frustrating to know that this could have been a great film and it just misses that by a bad edit.

Grade B+

Frank Lucas: It don't mean nothing to me for you to show up tomorrow morning with your head blown off.
Detective Richie Roberts: Get in line. That one stretches around the block.
Gone Baby Gone IMDB Link

Opens in Korea. Unknown.

How I saw it. Cam Copy

Plot: heavy spoiler alert!!

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

What if you knew that, by doing the right thing, you are doing the wrong thing?

To be honest, I had no real idea about Ben Affleck's directors debut. After it was over, I sure wanted to go see his next film.

The film is everything that you ask of a film, great stories, a believable plot, great acting and a wicked ending. If you like this type of film, then this is the film for you. After the film was completed, I still was not sure if I actually saw everything that went down in this film.

Please see the film when it comes to Korea.

Grade A.

Patrick Kenzie: He lied to me. Now I can't think of one reason big enough for him to lie about that's small enough not to matter.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I do apologize for all of the cartoons today, I wanted to say something and I needed the cartoons to help me along with it.

As a few of the people who read this blog know is that I do read the comics and it helps to stay in touch with back home. One that I read since the 1980's has been Funky Winkerbean I have always laughed at the stories of one character, Les Moore.

The reason was very simple, I saw alot of me in this character. If you read his history, a few of my older friends will get the connections real fast.

All of my life I have always pulled for the underdog, for the geek character to end up a nice wife and to be happy (In the comic strip Luann I am pulling for Brad to finally connect with Toni.) To be honest, I have never been much of a ladies man. If they were to ever write a book about my dating skills, it would be called "Do not do anything that Mike McStay does."

A few years ago, I lost my father due to cancer. So when I read that they were going to kill Les' wife "Lisa" it almost made me not want to read the comic strip. I knew that by reading it that I would be reminded of how I lost my father. I decided to stick it out and read the comics.

On Oct 4 2007, they printed the strip that Lisa died in. I soon fell back into the memories of how I lost my dad. I did find it interesting that they did a strip that Les is watching some tv shows that Lisa liked, it was like she was still their with him. It reminded me of some of the things that I still do, watch boxing or certain films that my dad watched. I still talk to him, as he is there watching it besides me.

That has been one of the problems with me and the baseball games here in Daejeon. He used to take me and my brother, james, to see the El Paso Diablos, play when we were stationed in Ft Bliss. I see the fathers taking their children to the games and it like another huge hole in my heart opens up and no mater what I do, I can't seem to close it. I can not watch the games with my dad because he is dead and I can not bring my 2 children to the game so that they can watch it with me, because I have no idea where in the world that are at right now.

I have recently stopped drinking again and this time the quiting is scarring me. I was shaking the last 2x times that I was at a bar this week. I had zero beers but I think that I will stay away from bars for awhile.

When they killed Lisa off, I saw Les collapse but now the comic had jumped 12 years into the future and I have no idea whats going on with one of my favorite comics. I did want to see him try and deal with it, the first main holidays without, the looking at a place at a table and want to see someone and you know that they are not walking through the door.

My fathers birthday was December 24, Thank goodness the last few years I have had people near me. It has helped. The cartoon opened alot of emotions in me that i thought that I has buried and now I am dealing with it all.

PEOPLE IF YOUR PARENTS ARE ALIVE, call them and tell them that you love them and that you miss them. If you have children, hug them and tell then that you love them. If you have that special someone, tell her or tell him that you love them. Maybe one day I will find someone, if not, just try and find help in anything besides a bottle or a mug of beer. I can help the whole world but I am useless with the man in the mirror.

legacy is the link so that, if you want to, you can buy a copy of the book about Lisa's legacy. I will order it in November and hope that they ship to Korea.

ENJOY THE COMICS...........................................

Saturday, October 20, 2007

NFL buffoons leaving terrible legacy

I have always liked this writers columns. Once again, he pulls no punches.

You get one NFL Truth today. Watching Chad Johnson and Larry Johnson undermine their respective head coaches, Marvin Lewis and Herm Edwards, on Sunday gave me a singular focus, forced me to contemplate an uncomfortable truth.

African-American football players caught up in the rebellion and buffoonery of hip hop culture have given NFL owners and coaches a justifiable reason to whiten their rosters. That will be the legacy left by Chad, Larry and Tank Johnson, Pacman Jones, Terrell Owens, Michael Vick and all the other football bojanglers.

In terms of opportunity for American-born black athletes, they're going to leave the game in far worse shape than they found it.

It's already starting to happen. A little-publicized fact is that the Colts and the Patriots — the league's model franchises — are two of the whitest teams in the NFL. If you count rookie receiver Anthony Gonzalez, the Colts opened the season with an NFL-high 24 white players on their 53-man roster. Toss in linebacker Naivote Taulawakeiaho "Freddie" Keiaho and 47 percent of Tony Dungy's defending Super Bowl-champion roster is non-African-American. Bill Belichick's Patriots are nearly as white, boasting a 23-man non-African-American roster, counting linebacker Tiaina "Junior" Seau and backup quarterback Matt Gutierrez.

For some reason, these facts are being ignored by the mainstream media. Could you imagine what would be written and discussed by the media if the Yankees and the Red Sox were chasing World Series titles with 11 African-Americans on their 25-man rosters (45 percent)?

We would be inundated with information and analysis on the social significance. Well, trust me, what is happening with the roster of the Patriots and the Colts and with Roger Goodell's disciplinary crackdown are all socially significant.

Hip hop athletes are being rejected because they're not good for business and, most important, because they don't contribute to a consistent winning environment. Herm Edwards said it best: You play to win the game.

I'm sure when we look up 10 years from now and 50 percent — rather than 70 percent — of NFL rosters are African-American, some Al Sharpton wannabe is going to blame the decline on a white-racist plot.

That bogus charge will ignore our role in our football demise. We are in the process of mishandling the opportunity and freedom earned for us by Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Doug Williams, Mike Singletary, Gale Sayers, Willie Lanier and countless others. And those of us in the media who have rationalized, minimized and racialized every misstep by Vick, Pacman and T.O. have played an equal role in blowing it.

By failing to confront and annihilate the abhorrent cultural norms we have allowed to grab our youth, we have in the grand American scheme sentenced many of them to hell on earth (incarceration), and in the sports/entertainment world we've left them to define us as unreliable, selfish and buffoonish.

I take you to Arrowhead Stadium this past Sunday when two competent and respected black head coaches led the Chiefs and the Bengals in battle, and their efforts were periodically sabotaged by Chad and Larry Johnson, the two players Lewis and Edwards have defended the most.

Football fans are aware of Lewis' love affair with Chad Johnson, the Flavor Flav of the gridiron. Johnson's insistence on conducting a minstrel show during games has long been reluctantly tolerated by Lewis. Johnson, I guess, is just too talented, productive and well-compensated for Lewis to discipline. So Lewis has chosen to enable, going as far as making excuses when Johnson's selfish behavior extended to an alleged locker-room shoving match with coaches (including a swing at Lewis) at halftime of the Bengals' Jan. 8, 2006 playoff loss to the Steelers.

Coming off an 11-5 regular season and having been crowned the toast of Cincinnati, Lewis responded to that Johnson meltdown by vowing to cut the player who leaked the fight information to the media.

Since then, the Bengals have been one of the league's biggest disappointments, finishing 8-8 last season and starting 1-4 this season. Injuries have played a significant role in Cincy's troubles, but so has a lack of on- and off-field discipline and focus. Lewis' coddling of Chad Johnson has destroyed the chemistry that made the Bengals a playoff team in 2005.

On Sunday, with the Bengals trying to rally out of a two-score deficit, Johnson failed to finish a pass route, which contributed to Carson Palmer throwing an interception.

Not to be outdone, Larry Johnson continued his season-long pattern of immature behavior, spiking the football in frustration with 4 minutes to play and the Chiefs attempting to run out the clock. The Bengals were out of timeouts and the spike stopped the clock, giving Cincy one last chance to make a comeback.

Pacman Jones' off-field legal troubles are indicative of a larger cultural problem. (Brian Bahr / Getty Images)

Johnson, despite receiving a new $45-million contract, has brooded, pouted and complained all season. He spent the off-season promising to be a leader and has spent the first six weeks of the season spreading locker-room cancer. Edwards-coached teams have traditionally been the least-penalized squads in the NFL. This year's Chiefs are one of the most-penalized squads. Nickel back Benny Sapp drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Sunday, had to be dragged off the field by Donnie Edwards, and was spotted on the sideline arguing with players and coaches.

Race is not the determining factor when it comes to having a good or bad attitude. Culture is.

Hip hop is the dominant culture for black youth. In general, music, especially hip hop music, is rebellious for no good reason other than to make money. Rappers and rockers are not trying to fix problems. They create problems for attention.

That philosophy, attitude and behavior go against everything football coaches stand for. They're in a constant battle to squash rebellion, dissent and second opinions from their players.

You know why Muhammad Ali is/was an icon? Because he rebelled against something meaningful and because he excelled in an individual sport. His rebellion didn't interfere with winning. Jim Brown, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, etc. rebelled with dignity and purpose.

What we're witnessing today are purposeless, selfish acts of buffoonery. Sensible people have grown tired of it. Football people are recognizing it doesn't contribute to a winning environment.

Whether calculated or not, the Patriots and the Colts have created settings in which Brady and Manning can lead and feel comfortable. I remember back in the 1980s when some black sports fans accused the Celtics of being racist for having a predominantly-white roster when Larry Bird was the star. No one remembered that Red Auerbach occasionally fielded an all-black starting lineup during Bill Russell's heyday.

My point is that it makes sense to cater to your stars. And it makes even more sense to fill your roster with players who don't mind being led, even if you sacrifice a little 40-yard dash speed.

If things don't change quickly, we're going to learn this lesson the hard way.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


OK – child abuse is not funny.

Still, is his name seriously...Chester?!

 Cnn 2007 Us 10 16 Rape.Tape Art.Stiles.Mugshot.Lvpd

Anti-Foreigner Backlash in 5...4...3...2...


Now, let's not forget that there hasn't been a single proven allegation of any foreigner molesting children to date – oh, and we can be certain that if there were one, the yellow journalists who call themselves the Korean media would have been all over that like flies on doo doo – but now that a serious Chester has been found to have lived in Korea, it's going to be a media field day. (Like here and here and here and here...)

But before the games begin, let's not forget that even this seriously crazy fucker hasn't actually been accused of molesting children in Korea, nor as part of any English teaching. Not that that makes him any better of a person, but let's remember: the Korean media is going to use this as an excuse to paint all foreigners with the "Chester the Molester" brush, the non-scandal of the English Spectrum-gate (and that dumb post of as single dumbass) is going to be dredged up and polished off yet again, and the allegedly low sexual morals of foreigners is once again going to take center stage.

This, in a country in which sex with minors for pay actually is a well-known concept and word (the "compensated dating" that is wonjo kyojae), you can regularly read about teachers, professors, and other Korean men of good repute getting caught having sex with minors in "love motels," and even in popular culture, you can actually have plots that involve teachers wanting to have sex with their students passed off as acceptable fare (Eorini Shinbu).

I won't even go into a spiel about the many times I've heard about male teachers who inappropriately touch their students even today, and you can ask just about any Korean female over the age of 40 about whether or not they had a teacher touch them or their friends in public, without even trying to hide it, since back then, even parents trembled before the word and reputation of the lowliest of teachers.

And the Korean media will appropriately forget just who should be embarrassed here, as Korea continues to be the place that wants to pay bottom dollar (yet that pay's still pretty good) for any native speaker with a pulse.

Although this is old ranting material for regular readers of my blog, the Korean media should also ask the question of why white skin is a passport for good living in Korea – is it any wonder that a molester on the run was in Korea? 'Cause if you're a foreigner with no qualifications, a background you don't want checked, and employers who don't want to know and don't care about quality, anyway, then Korea's the perfect place to hide out.

Or, at least the perfect place to live a straight life and earn money to support your molestation habit for vacation time in Thailand.

This is not to say that this is typical of all or even most of the foreigners who live in Korea; I'm simply pointing out somewhat of the opposite – that given the lax controls, the desire for cheaper rather than better teachers, and the easy monies and silky honies that can be had with white skin – is it any surprise to find someone like this in Korea?

And whose fault would that be? The vast majority of law-abiding, normal foreigners? Or the results of a system that is so lax, unregulated, and out-of-control that you get the occasional crazy show up here?

But no, the searing light if social criticism will instead be a blinding light of racist stereotyping for a scandal that has yet even to happen. Well, the truth doesn't matter to the Korean media, anyway – hence, media outlets don't even print retractions. Perhaps that's because if they held themselves to that standard, the pages of corrections and retractions would have to occupy and entire section of the paper itself.

Anyway, some predictions:

1) More calls for background checks on foreigners that won't ever happen, and won't affect anything, anyway.

2) More "stories" printed about the allegedly lower sexual mores of foreign men.

3) No actual stories of foreign teachers having been caught doing anything with a minor, unlike what you can hear about every day in the society section of any Korean newspaper.

You can read about what I think would improve the quality of teaching and life for foreign teachers and their students alike, but it's all fantasy, since it'll never happen in a Korea that treats foreigners, no matter what we do, like walking, talking dictionaries.

"Daehan minguk!"


Re: "You may turn out to be right about the (potential/likely) media reaction, but at the moment it seems you're jumping the gun a bit. Just sayin'."

Last night, MBC News spent an entire 10 minutes of their news program covering this story as well as yet another version of ye olde "English teachers are nothing but pot-smoking, needle-using, (pure Korean blood) skirt chasers, and now pedophiles to boot" story complete with highly insinuative, flame-fanning pictures and video clips, I'd say Michael was right on target with predicting the Korean yellow journalism reaction to this story.

Yet, on last night's news, there was not a peep about:

-Korean men going on underage sex tours in SE Asia
-drug use by Koreans (unrelated to English teachers)

So, you're left to believe foreigners (especially English teachers) are the root of all evil in modern Korean society.

Wanted Pedophile Taught English in South Korea

Interpol is hot on the trail of a man suspected of molesting some 12 Southeast Asian boys and posting the photos on the Internet.

And what do you know — he’s an English teacher in Korea:

A week ago, the investigation into a man suspected of molesting at least 12 boys in Southeast Asia was nowhere. Desperate, Interpol issued a worldwide appeal, posting a wanted poster online. The organization said the move was unprecedented — usually, national authorities decide whether to seek the public’s help.

Today, Interpol’s chief announced some significant progress: Tips have led investigators to a name (as yet undisclosed) and a place (Thailand). A few days after a media blitz that included an item on this blog, airport security cameras evidently caught him fleeing South Korea, where he teaches English, Interpol said.

The Register posted the Thai immigration authorities’ photo of the man, too. I’d post it, but to do so might actually be illegal in Korea, so just follow the link.

The man, whom Interpol declined to publicly identify for “investigative reasons,” was photographed by security cameras at the Bangkok airport last week. He had been working as a teacher of English at a school in South Korea but was forced to flee shortly after the international police organization issued a public appeal for help in tracking him down. Police say they have determined the man’s name, nationality, date of birth, passport number and current and previous work places.

The man had altered his photographs on the Net to make his face unrecognizable, but Interpol had managed to find a way to restore the photos to their original state.

In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t appear the Korean press has caught on yet. But they will. Don’t worry. Not that it will lead the authorities to review whether it’s such a good idea to let virtually any white person with a pulse into the country to teach English or anything…

(HT to reader)

UPDATE 1: More from AP.

UPDATE 2: It still doesn’t look like the local press has caught on. But on a related note, Yonhap reported on Oct 12 that an American English teacher was charged — but not detained (!) — for sexually molesting a 6-year-old girl during class at a Seoul English school for children.

The guy is suspected of having placed his hands up the little girl’s skirt. The teacher vigorously denied the charges against him, but prosecutors submitted as evidence CCTV footage. Or so reported YTN.

Prosecutors initially asked for a detention warrant, but the court turned it down, saying — and sit down for this — that the client wasn’t a flight risk.

I’ll say that again — the court turned down a detention request for a guy allegedly caught on tape sticking his hands up a 6-year-old girl’s skirt because the suspect — a foreigner, no less — WASN’T judged to be a flight risk.

WTF? And judges wonder why someone might want to shoot them with a bow and arrow…

UPDATE 3: Yonhap just got the story:

There is shock that a man wanted all over the world on charges of traveling the globe molesting children has worked as a teacher in Korea.

Expect more on this later.

UPDATE 4: The Age is reporting that the suspect is a 32-year-old Canadian teaching English in Korea, although he is currently believed to be in Thailand. (HT to Bradley)

UPDATE 5: The suspect’s name has been released. Also, he fled Korea only last week. (HT to reader)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lake Fenton High's 'King Eli' loses fight with leukemia


Nine days after he was crowned homecoming king at Lake Fenton (Mich.) High School, Eli Florence died Sunday afternoon at his home. He was 15.

Eli became the emotional center of attention in the Flint, Mich., suburb and beyond when, on Oct. 5, five of his friends at Lake Fenton High -- four football players and a golfer -- opted to forgo their own chances to be the school's homecoming king and agreed as a group to honor the terminally ill sophomore and former teammate.

Eli Florence

Tri-County Times, Fenton Michigan

King Eli and part of the Lake Fenton royal court.

Eli had suffered from acute myelogenous leukemia for five years.

"He was a funny, outgoing kid," said Jake Kirk, one of the Lake Fenton football players who decided to give up his homecoming king candidacy so Eli could reign. "He loved to make you laugh."

Kirk spoke Sunday afternoon from the high school, where a benefit was about to get under way.

The gathering, catered from donations by 30 area restaurants, was intended to help Eli's family cover some unpaid medical expenses. After the news of Eli's death, it was expected to turn into a celebration of his short life.

Lake Fenton High principal John Spicko said at least 500 people were expected to gather in the school commons.

But, said Kirk, "Now, there may be more people than that."

The end came at Eli's home, surrounded by his parents, an aunt and uncle, one grandmother and some friends. He spent his final days there after being told in mid-September that no treatments could extend his life. He was a former junior high football player and longtime youth baseball player.

The act of kindness by the five Lake Fenton seniors -- football players Kirk, David Bittinger, Lucas Hasenfratz and Matthew Tanneyhill and golfer Ethan Merivirta -- triggered many comments from across the nation on a Web site created by Eli's friends and family.

Eli was scheduled to visit the sideline at the University of Michigan's homecoming game Saturday and meet coach Lloyd Carr, running back Mike Hart and others. But Eli wasn't strong enough to make it or receive a football that had been signed by Wolverine players.

Kirk saw Eli on Saturday night.

"He knew I was there,'' Kirk aid. "I told him goodbye before I left."

Funeral arrangements were pending.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Another Reason I dislike Roh

Well, well, well. President Roh, still giddy from his recent meeting with Kim Jong-il, had this to say about the Northern Limit Line:

“There are people in this country who think the NLL issue is directly related to territory,” Roh told reporters. “That’s an idea that is sure to mislead the public.” He said the South Korean Constitution states that the North is also Korean territory and therefore the North is an entity that “we should cooperate with, not confront.” “Why call a line drawn within the same territory a territorial border and have concerns for territorial sovereignty?” he asked. “Isn’t this a confusing term for everyone?”

Mr. President, with all due respect, I think you’re the only one that’s confused. With that statement, you’ve spit on the sailors who bravely gave up their lives and dreams to defend that line. Oh, maybe you didn’t hear about that, since you didn’t bother to show up for the fifth anniversary memorial service for those very sailors. You’re so eager to kiss ass and make your small, insignificant mark on history that you’re willing to make a mockery of the sacrifices that your young men in uniform made and are still making to this very day. Shame on you, Mr. President.

Update: I see I’m not the only one that was upset over Roh’s remarks.

1 comment by Dumpling...

Pretty much the only place I read about Korean politics is on this blog and I have to say Roh makes me sicker and sicker with each passing news item that I read about him. He is absolutely delusional. To the point that I have to either question his intelligence, mental health, or ulterior motives (or a combination of all three?!). I don’t claim to be astute in the topic of world history or world events, but Roh just doesn’t jell. I don’t think you have to be a brain-box to see that. I sincerely hope and pray that his opinions and views are not representative of the majority of the South Korean people. Without a doubt, if Roh were an American politician he would be up the ass of Al Gore, Barack Obama, Ted Kennedy and all the rest of the bleeding-heart democrats who are just as mindless and delusional about the state of the world as Roh appears to be. His attitude towards Kim Jong-il and the North is parallel to the attitudes of most American democrats towards Islamic fascism. He would fit right at home with the American blue state-ers and their philosophy of “let’s hold hands and seek understanding” with violent oppressors and dictators. Roh needs to go…and quick!
Eagles Win in Round 1


Paced by Lee Beum-ho’s two home runs and a gutsy 3 1/3 innings thrown by Tuesday’s starter Ryu Hyeon-jin, the Hanwha Eagles advanced to the second round of the KBO playoffs with a 5-3 victory last night.


Hanwha got to Samsung starter Rick Mazone early with two runs in the bottom of the first. Lions manager Sun Dong-yeol wasted no time in pulling Mazone on an evening that would see no less than eight Samsung pitchers take the hill.

The seventh of those pitchers, closer Oh Seung-Hwan was brought early in the 7th inning in an effort to stop Hanwha from getting insurance runs. However, the plan fizzled as Oh was taken deep for Lee’s second home run, and then again in the 8th off the bat of Goh Dong-jin.

Samsung would rally for one run in the 9th off Ryu, who was named MVP of the series, to make it a 2-run game, but Hanwha closer Koo Dae-sung was brought in to close the door with 1/3 of an inning.

Hanwha will now head to Jamsil Field in Seoul to take on Daniel Rios and the No. 2 seed Doosan Bears. No word yet if Hanwha manager Kim In-shik will throw the 20-year-old phenom Ryu for a third time in a single week.

High school football players 'fix' vote for leukemia-stricken king


It was halftime at the Lake Fenton-Mount Morris game, seemingly just another high school football contest during another homecoming week on another October Friday night in another American suburb.

But this time the fix was in.

Four Lake Fenton (Mich.) football players and a co-conspirator on the golf team arranged it. Seniors all, they'd used their cell phones to hatch and agree on the plan, and then met outside the school building the afternoon before the big homecoming game to nail it down.

Lose on purpose?

Jake Kirk, the ringleader and a Blue Devils' running back, saw the decision differently: "We knew we'd all be winners if we did it."

By game's end, they'd done it. The scoreboard at Lake Fenton Stadium claimed the Blue Devils lost to Mount Morris 37-20, their lone defeat of the season so far.

But scoreboards can lie.

Last Friday, Kirk and fellow seniors David Bittinger, Lucas Hasenfratz, Matthew Tanneyhill and Ethan Merivirta scored one of the biggest victories of their lives.

Candidates for the senior royal crown, they each gave up the chance to become Lake Fenton's homecoming king.

Eli Florence

Tri-County Times, Fenton Michigan

Eli Florence, a former offensive lineman, receives a football from a player on the Lake Fenton team.

They fixed it so Eli Florence won instead.

Eli is a 5-foot-7 former offensive lineman. He's only a sophomore. The doctors say there's nothing more they can do for him. He's at home, barely able to speak, getting regular blood transfusions. Eli Florence, 15, is dying of leukemia.

"I'm praying for a miracle now," said Trina Florence-King, his mother.

In these days filled, it seems, with it's-all-about-me athletes and iPod-wearing, text-messaging teenaged zombies, these Lake Fenton High athletes did something special for a special classmate.

"He's taught us never to give up," Kirk said. "And if you keep fighting, you can overcome the odds. We're happy he's still around because he wasn't supposed to be."

It's etched in her memory: Aug. 20, 2003, Hurley Medical Center, Flint, Mich., a short drive from Lake Fenton.

That's when Trina Florence-King learned her son was suffering from acute myelogenous leukemia.

That day, her wise little boy boldly consoled her.

"I've got something to tell you," she remembers him saying. "Me and God, we had a heart-to-heart. I told him I was available for whatever he needed."

And Thursday, Trina Florence-King told "Since then, I've seen him working on other peoples' lives, working on people for four years. I'm not saying this because I'm his mother, but this is a special boy."

From one remission to two cutting-edge stem cell transplants to one stint of 13 straight months in the hospital, from Flint to Ann Arbor to Minneapolis and now back home, Eli Florence traveled and endured.

"Eli has become an icon for strength and perseverance and character for this entire community, and especially our student body," said Lake Fenton principal John Spicko.

But last month, the awful, final, numbing news came. Eli's mom reported it on a Web site set up by friends to monitor Eli's health.

"Tonight I come with a broken heart," she wrote. "Eli has been given just a few weeks to maybe one month to live here on this Earth with us. … This process of 'losing my son' is going to be very soon. When I look at him, even today, it just doesn't seem possible."

That was Sept. 16. Word spread around the school and the town of about 5,000.

The nicest kid in school, the one who's out of class so often, was fading.

Then, it came to Jake Kirk, as crisply and clearly as his two syllable name: Eli should be homecoming king. King Eli.

It felt so right.

On Oct. 4, on his way to school, Kirk got the plan under way. A neighbor had given him an orange ribbon -- orange is the color of leukemia awareness -- and it triggered Kirk's vision.

"It had been in the back of my mind," Kirk said Thursday via phone from the high school. "I've had people say, 'Wouldn't it be cool if Eli could get to be king?' I thought, 'Wouldn't it be cool if the five candidates gave it to Eli?'"

Kirk phoned Tanneyhill. Tanneyhill was with Hasenfratz. Before Kirk even got the entire concept out of his mouth, "They immediately said, 'Yes!'" Kirk said. Soon after, the other two senior candidates for homecoming king agreed.

King Eli

Go here to see more photos of Eli Florence and the special night that five Lake Fenton athletes organized to honor him as homecoming king.

Photo gallery

By lunchtime, they'd planned their announcement for what was to be the king candidate-selection assembly.

Kirk took the microphone in front of the entire student body of 538 students and said there wouldn't be any vote this year for king.

"We, as the king's court, decide there is nobody in this school who deserves this more than Eli Florence,'' Kirk said. "This year's homecoming king is going to be Eli.''

The entire audience cheered and clapped in unison.

But Eli was too sick to be in school that day.

"The whole school knew, but Eli did not know," said Sticko.

That night, Trina Florence-King received a text message on her cell phone.

Eli would be crowned the next night at halftime of the football game.

She didn't tell her son.

There was a problem. Halftime was approaching and the king-to-be was at a local clinic receiving a necessary blood transfusion, getting energy, getting life. He was scheduled to escort his friend, Ashley Look, a member of the sophomore royal court, to midfield. He didn't have a clue he would be the center of attention.

Barely in the nick of time, Eli, in a wheelchair, and Ashley joined the other members of the court and their parents at midfield, surrounded by the Lake Fenton band, clad in blue and white.

The public-address announcer said: "Your 2007 king, as designated by the five candidates is … is Eli Florence."

The king was stunned.

Eli Florence

Tri-County Times, Fenton Michigan

King Eli and part of the Lake Fenton royal court.

"It's like he heard his name, but it was sort of surreal," his mother said.

"But I'm not a senior," Eli told others around him. "I'm not a senior."

The crowd of 2,000 people, including homecoming queen Brooke Hull, 17, stood. Many cried.

The four Blue Devils football players who ceded their kingship opportunity to Eli missed the moment. They were in the locker room trying to make adjustments for the second half to hold off Mount Morris.

Eli's mom brought the telephone to Eli in his bed Thursday morning.

He spoke softly of the five boys who honored him.

"It was definitely a sacrifice to take that step down to let someone else get it, to be homecoming king," he said. "The guys were really sincere. They honestly were OK with it."

Even Spicko, who sees a lot as a high school principal, was taken aback by the action of the Lake Fenton Five.

"There's not much that surprises me, but that did," he said. "We can't lump all kids into the same bucket. We see so much character development in so many kids in so many ways. This was just amazing."

Said Trina Florence-King: "I'm so proud of those boys. They wanted to honor him and make him feel special."

Saturday, Eli has another football date. Through a friend, he's been invited to visit the University of Michigan bench before the Wolverines' game against Purdue.

"It's going to be really cool," Eli said.

It's Michigan's homecoming game, the perfect place for the toughest little homecoming king of this, or any, football season.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Rockies to share postseason payout with Coolbaugh's widow

Besides their surprising 14-1 finish to the season, the Colorado Rockies are giving baseball fans another reason to cheer for them this postseason.

The widow of Rockies minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh, who died after getting hit by a line drive this season, will be granted a full share of the team's playoff winnings after a team vote.

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said the gesture spoke volumes about the quality of the character in their locker room.

"I was passed on the information that they voted Amanda Coolbaugh a share, a full share, which I found speaks to their awareness, speaks to their passion, speaks to every good thing about them," Hurdle said.

Coolbaugh, who is 32 and pregnant, won't attend Saturday's Game 3 of the NLDS between the Phillies and Rockies at Coors Field. But her two sons, Joseph, 5, and Jacob, 3, will be in attendance and will throw out the first pitch.

"When I heard about what the players did, I almost cried," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "This was the players' idea. I think it's remarkable."

Mike Coolbaugh was a first base coach for the Tulsa Drillers. The former major leaguer was killed July 22.

Shaken by Coolbaugh's death, Rockies first base coach Glenallen Hill now wears a helmet.

Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said awarding the family a share was the right thing to do.

"We're obviously happy with the decision,'' Tulowitzki said on Thursday. "I hope they are, too, and I'm sure they will be.''

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Update with North and South Korea Summit

The United States said on Tuesday it had approved a tentative deal for North Korea to disclose all its nuclear programs and disable its Yongbyon atomic plant.

“We have conveyed to the Chinese government our approval for the draft statement,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. Separately, the top U.S. negotiator with North Korea said he expected China to announce the deal, hammered out over the weekend in talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, in the next day or two. [Reuters]

There aren’t many details out there about the new Agreed Framework 2.2, but the basic outline of it seems to be that North Korea will fully “disable” Yongbyon and fully declare all of its nuclear programs by the end of the year. It’s not clear whether this is a hard deadline, or whether it’s reduced to writing. Nor is it clear whether or how numerous technical disagreements over the meaning of “disable” have been resolved, or whether North Korea is back to admitting that it has been enriching uranium (although it recently did admit purchasing the equipment to do so).

Whatever the Israelis found and destroyed in Syria appears to have dissuaded neither North Korea nor the United States from continuing with this deal. No reports are yet suggesting that North Korea will be removed from the terror list immediately.

My problem with all of this is a much simpler one than of the devil hiding among details. My problem is that I can’t suspend my disbelief of anything the North Koreans say. The word of the North Koreans will never give us any security; we’ll always worry about what they haven’t declared and won’t let us inspect. Given North Korea’s extensive network of underground facilities, we won’t even know what doors or hatches to knock on. In America, the debate over this deal is divided into two camps: those who can’t suspend their disbelief, and those who are determined to find a way in the name of some illusory “greater good.” Everyone shares the disbelief. It’s just a question of how far you’re prepared to go to rationalize it away.

See also:

* In Congress, members from both parties have introduced a bill that seeks to force North Korea to account for some specific terrorist links and acts before it can be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. A reader was kind enough to forward the full text of the bill. It contains some fairly shocking assertions, including claims of links between North Korea and Hezbollah. One of the bill’s conditions is the release of the Rev. Kim Dong Shik, whom North Korean agents kidnapped in China in 2002 while he was assisting North Korean refugees. In his new book, Andrei Lankov claims that Rev. Kim died during interrogation, shortly after the North Koreans abducted him. Let’s hope this bill does better than previous efforts.

* Here’s some perfect timing: the Daily NK reports that a shipment of North Korean arms was intercepted recently before it reached the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a listed terrorist group.

* Is it me, or does Kim Jong Il appear to take Roh Moo Hyun about as seriously as I do? If the media have no substance to talk about, they will talk style. The style story here is one of Roh receiving a welcome fit for a new ambassador from Burkina Faso. I can’t imagine how this will boost Roh’s preferred successor in the polls — especially since one hasn’t been selected yet — but I could be wrong. More here.

* LiNK has recently received some substantial donations, and like any smart advocacy group, it’s seeking to use its new wealth as seed money with a traditional Washington fundraiser where it hopes to attract wealthy donors. The venue and program look impressive. You can purchase tickets here. It’s clearly a big financial risk they’re taking, and I wish them great success.

* ABC News reports that underground railroad worker Steve Kim has been released from a Chinese jail. If you think ABC should do more stories about this, please leave a comment. While the coverage is sympathetic, I saw a glaring omission in the report.

* This humble blog is ranked Number Nine among Korea blogs by this calculus, whatever it is. While the numbers and weighting look like witchcraft to the uninformed (me), it’s nice to see that someone is paying attention, especially given that may of those higher on the list are about food, technology, society, or other things that this blog doesn’t talk about.

* I’m suspicious of the Eugene Bell foundation, because it recently received a “frienship” medal from the North Korean government, and because you don’t win Kim Jong Il’s friendship by asking hard questions and without paying for it. Based on this document, I infer that the Bell foundation is having some success at convincing Democrats in Congress, particularly Carl Levin, to start a U.S. counterpart to the “family reunions” that South Korea does. They’re tightly monitored and controlled, and South Korea pays plenty for them. Still, I favor even tightly controlled reunions as long as the North Korean goverment doesn’t earn income from them. Incidentally, if you’re in Washington, Stephen Linton of the Bell Foundation will present a program on what rural North Koreans know about the outside world.

* The North Koreans caught a guerrilla cameraman, and part of their torture of this man was — literally — to hamstring him. For a moment, I was tempted to believe this was a trend toward liberalization from the usual, but then I asked myself how long a man who can’t walk will last here. The answer: probably longer than he’d want to.

Another Reason for me to really hate the UN. When good men do nothing, in the face of evil, then damed all of the good men to hell.


Updates below:
  • 9/21: Original post, background of the protests.
  • 9/22: Monks march to Aung San Suu Syi’s home in record downpour; 10,000 protest in Mandalay.
  • 9/23: Protests hit 8 cities; Rangoon turnout at 20,000; World leaders speak out against use of force to quell protests, but the U.N. is silent.
  • 9/24: Rangoon protests draw 100,000; Their hold on power seriously threatened, junta generals threaten to use force; Bush to announce new sanctions before U.N. General Assembly; Burmese entertainers join the opposition.
  • 9/25: New protests launched; Rising fears of a crackdown; Government declares curfew, sends troops to key locations.
  • 9/26: 5,000 monks and 5,000 students continue to defy ban; police beat, arrest 300 monks, fire tear gas and warning shots, then fire on crowds, killing between 1 and 8.
  • 9/27: 70,000 protestors risk death to demand freedom.
  • 9/28: Death toll rises to at least 10, possibly scores; Japanese journalist killed; bloggers and journalists smuggle out photos and video as government cuts off internet access; despite rumors of turmoil within the junta, the crackdown appears to be working.
  • 9/30: The rebellion is crushed; probably scores dead; monk’s body seen floating in the Irrawaddy; all peaceful means of change are exhausted.
  • 10/2: Senior defector reports thousands of monks, students massacred; others imprisoned pending transportation to remote areas. U.N., world do nothing.

Original Post, 21 Sep 07:

If you remember that the bemedalled thugs who rule Burma shot down 3,000 people in the streets of Rangoon in 1988, then you understand how much courage it must require to go back into those same streets to protest what may be East Asia’s second most brutal regime. Just as North Korea’s mongrel ideology blends Stalin, Marx, Confucious, State Shinto, and extreme nationalism, Burma’s ideology is a mixture of Marxism, Buddhism, and nationalism. Its own version of Kim Il Sung was the ruthless old general Ne Win, branded his local juche as “the Burmese Way to Socialism.” Despite the regime’s nominally Marxist character, Burma remains devoutly Buddhist, and monks are still revered and highly sought for the exhange of alms for blessings.

That means that shooting them down is an option the regime would rather avoid. Burma is not North Korea. Flickers of dissent do survive, and religion competes with the state for the fidelity of the people. In recent Burmese history, economic downturns in that disastrously mismanaged economy have been the triggers of unrest.

The media haven’t been paying nearly enough to this story. It started in mid-August, when the government announced drastic fuel prices increases — the price of gasoline rose 80% and the price of diesel doubled. The protests started on August 19th, when 500 protestors marched in the streets of Rangoon. By August 22, the protests had taken on an overtly political character, when pro-democracy activists joined the protests. The government responded by sending its thugs into the streets to beat them; dozens have been arrested, perhaps even hundreds. On Wednesday, the government upped the ante with tear gas and warning shots.

The monks have reacted by refusing alms from the military, the regime’s base of power.

Since the protests began a month ago, authorities have arrested more than 150 people, but Win Min, another Thai-based analyst, said the generals were cautious about stirring a public backlash if they acted against the clergy. He said the monks’ refusal to accept alms from the military was religiously significant.

“Without Buddhist merits, you are going to hell. If monks refuse your alms, it means you will suffer,” he said, adding those whose alms are rejected lose all chance of attaining nirvana, a state of enlightenment. “It’s a dilemma for the junta. If they don’t crack down on protests by monks, more people will join protests. But if they do, it could trigger massive public outrage against the government,” he said. [AFP, Shino Yuasa]

President Bush and the European Commission have denounced the crackdown. Ban Ki Moon, who has proven himself to be every bit as worthless as I had predicted, has had so little to say that Laura Bush, in unusually strong language, prodded him to grow a pair and speak out. The Burmese diaspora has been active, however. It has protested the crackdown at Burma’s embassies in Bangkok, Manila, Auckland, and even Seoul; and the regime accuses it of orchestrating the protests. You can see images of the protests at those places, and in Rangoon, at this slide show. A sample; all photos from Reuters:

burma-5-reuters.jpg burma-3-reuters.jpg burma-2-reuters.jpg

burma-9-reuters.jpg burma-8-reuters.jpg burma-7-reuters.jpg

Yet in Rangoon and elsewhere, the protests have not just persisted, they have grown. The city of Pakkoku has been another hot spot of dissent, and there have also been large protests in Mandalay. Today, the protests are still small — much too small to topple the regime — but they are growing. The latest reports say that 1,500 monks marched in Rangoon, the largest number reported so far. In some cases, up to 2,000 onlookers came out to support the monks.

burma-protest-map-afp.jpg[23 Sep 07: Here’s a graphic, via APF, of the cities and towns where protests have been reported.]

No one yet knows whether the protests will continue to grow or whether they will lose steam. No doubt, the regime would prefer to dispose of the leaders quietly without spilling more blood on the streets. But the fact that it’s fully capable of doing so means that we should be watching more carefully, in the hope that we can deter the regime’s brutality just a bit more.

Update 1, 22 Sep 07:

Everyone knows how gasoline can spark a conflagration. What began as a small disturbance by citizens angry over the price of fuel has become a swelling nationwide democratization movement. It is now too large to crush quietly; indeed, its momentum seems to be gathering rapidly. The regime is now deciding whether it’s once again prepared to shoot down thousands of its own people, including Buddhist monks, to keep itself in power. It may come to that, if the soldiers will fire.

In the city of Mandalay, ”witnesses” claimed that a protest drew ten thousand people, including 4,000 monks. If true, that would be the biggest anti-government protest since 1988. In Rangoon, a thousand monks and 800 supporters marched in the rain

[23 Sep 07: Actually, a downpour of 11.54 inches, a 39-year record. This AP photograph shows monks sloshing through flooded streets:]


The monks came to the police roadblock on University Avenue, the one that keeps the home of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi sequestered. Then, something strange happened:

Police unexpectedly let more than 500 monks through at a roadblock on University Avenue where Suu Kyi’s house is located. The monks stopped briefly in front of Suu Kyi’s house and said some prayers before leaving at the other end of the street, said a resident, who asked not to be named for fear of being harassed by the authorities.

“Today is extraordinary. We walked past lay disciple Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s house today. We are pleased and glad to see her looking fit and well,” a 45-year-old monk told about 200 people at Sule Pagoda in downtown Yangon. “Daw” is an honorific used in referring to older women.

“She came out to the gate and paid obeisance to us and later waved at the crowd when we left,” said the monk, who did not give his name.

Suu Kyi, 62, has been under detention for more than 11 of the last 18 years, and continuously since May 2003. She is the leader of the National League for Democracy party, which won a 1990 general election but was not allowed to take power by the military.

That small victory will have immense symbolic significance and will greatly encourage more wavering citizens to join the protests in the hope of glimpsing the woman they voted for. Why that strategic barricade unexpectedly opened is a very interesting question. When I spoke of the Ceaucescu Moment, I spoke of how the currents and switches of history can run through the neurons of one mind, in one man whose destiny is to be forgotten.

Worse yet for the regime, the monks have banded together within a nationwide organization with an overtly anti-regime political agenda:

Meanwhile, a monks’ organization for the first time urged the public to join in protesting “evil military despotism” in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

“In order to banish the common enemy evil regime from Burmese soil forever, united masses of people need to join hands with the united clergy forces,” the All Burma Monks Alliance said in a statement received Saturday by The Associated Press. Little is known of the group or its membership, but its communiques have spread widely by word of mouth and through opposition media in exile….

“We pronounce the evil military despotism, which is impoverishing and pauperizing our people of all walks including the clergy, as the common enemy of all our citizens,” the statement said. [AP]

Reader and Burma-watcher “Editor” notes that some of the disturbances in the city of Akyab have taken on an ethnic character, but the inspiration for these large protests is clearly something that transcends ethnicity.

The collapse of the Burmese regime would a great thing for the people of Burma, and it would also be more than that. Burma has made itself a strategic ally of China in the Indian Ocean and is allowing China to build naval bases along its coast to control shipping lanes that feed oil from the Middle East to the rest of East Asia. The Burmese regime, which is expanding its military at an alarming rate despite the absence of external threats, is a suspected customer for North Korean arms sales. That relationship may even extend to the proliferation of a nuclear reactor. U.N. Security Resolution 1718 prohibits North Korea from trafficking in major weapons systems or WMD components.

Burma is also completely inhospitable to North Korean refugees, who travel all the way through China clandestinely to escape the oppression in their homeland. For now, when Burma catches a North Korean, it sends him back to Kim Jong Il’s death camps by way of China. If Burma becomes a new station on the underground railroad, the overthrow of the Burmese regime could have a significant ripple effect in Pyongyang and would greatly weaken China’s influence in Southeast Asia.

Update 2, 23 Sep 07:

Led by Buddhist monks, some 20,000 people protested against the junta on Sunday and shouted their support for Suu Kyi, who made her first public appearance in four years on Saturday when a crowd of monks and sympathizers was permitted to pass her house.

On Sunday, a small crowd of about 400 — about half of them monks — split off from the main demonstration and tried to approach Suu Kyi’s home again but abandoned the attempt after their path was blocked by riot police and barbed wire barricades. The monks carried carried a large yellow banner that read: “Love and kindness must win over everything.” [AP]

As I had suggested above, allowing the protestors to get through to Aung San Suu Kyi has charged the protests with a burst of fresh energy. Via The Irrawaddy, here’s a photograph of that moment, apparently taken by a Reuters stringer:


This time, the police made sure it didn’t happen again.

Today’s is a very large crowd for a regime that repressive, although it appears that the 20,000 estimate may be an aggregate of multiple protests. Even so, these protests are now a real threat to the regime’s hold on power, perhaps greater than in 1988 in one important way. The Burmese are an extremely spiritual, even superstitious people (numerology, for example, holds great sway there). It would be very difficult for soldiers to shoot at monks and nuns.

Here are some new AP photos. Bonus points for spotting the ethnic anomaly!


burma-13-ap.jpg burma-11-ap.jpg

burma-12-ap.jpg burma-10-ap.jpg

I admit it. I’m envious of anyone who witnesses history up close and joins it. Wondering if this person could have an English language blog, I googled around, but in vain.

The Washington Post adds to the growing ranks of those who wonder what rock Ban “Slippery Eel“ Ki Moon has slithered under to hide from this controversy. The man must be either a timid invertebrate (yes) or a Chinese puppet (ok, both). It’s not fanciful to think that a nation rising to superpower status and which has already bought both Clintons could buy the U.N. A bloodthirsty Arab despot could do that much. The Post puts it more diplomatically than I would:

The global response thus far has been lackadaisical. The U.N. Security Council held a briefing Thursday, but the U.S. representative emerged with no message of particular urgency. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy has yet to announce a date to visit Burma. Some talk about the need for more studies of the humanitarian situation inside Burma — as if the humanitarian disaster, and even more its cause in political misrule, were not already well known.

What needs to be done is clear. The regime must release all political prisoners, starting with Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, so that a negotiation toward democracy can begin. President Bush, who has spoken eloquently of Burma’s struggle for freedom, needs to engage in strenuous diplomacy — above all with China — to make clear that this is a U.S. priority. And China, which has more influence in Burma than any other country has, needs to decide whether it wants to host the 2008 Olympics as the enabler of one of the world’s nastiest regimes or as a peacemaker. [WaPo editorial]

Not that the Burmese people are foolish enough to hold up the U.N. as their beacon of liberty. The latest protests made sure to pass the U.S. Embassy, which makes perfect sense; after all, the Burmese aren’t a free and prosperous people we made free and prosperous. It’s enough to make you think that the key to being loved is spreading oppression and poverty. I say it’s worth an experiment and propose we start with Belgium.

For more information about the Rangoon Autumn, the Gateway Pundit is also following this story closely; thanks for the link, Jim. The excellent Irrawaddy has more coverage and some superb protest photographs.

Update 3, 24 Sep 07

The number of marchers has now swollen to as high as 100,000:

From the front of the march, witnesses could see a one-mile stretch of eight-lane road was filled with people.

Some participants said there were several hundred thousand marchers in their ranks, but an international aid agency official with employees monitoring the crowd estimated said the size was well over 50,000 and approaching 100,000. [AP]

The odds have now shifted. People aren’t afraid anymore; they’re coming out into the streets to join the monks. Indeed, these marches may now be even larger than those in 1988. The numbers will probably continue to grow until the streets are paralyzed and the regime’s power structure fractures.

The only alternative now is force, and the surprising restraint on this is China. In the year before it hosts the Olympics, China is already under extreme pressure over its support for the world’s most loathesome regimes. As Burma’s primary protector and benefactor, it knows that it will be blamed if there’s another massacre. In fact, China probably wouldn’t otherwise case about a slaughter in Burma and probably wouldn’t punish the generals for committing one. Burma’s generals may count on that. But a second massacre directed against Buddhist monks and nuns would result in intense economic and political pressure on the regime.

Update 4, 24 Sep 07: More details on the latest protests:

More than 100,000 people flooded the streets of Myanmar’s biggest city Monday, joining Buddhist monks in the strongest show of dissent against the ruling generals in nearly two decades. Two major marches snaked their way through the nation’s commercial capital led by robed monks chanting prayers of peace and compassion, witnesses said. Some of the people marched through the rain under a banner reading: “This is a peaceful mass movement.” Others had tears in their eyes. The protests lasted nearly five hours, ending with prayers at pagodas before the crowds returned to their homes. [AFP]

Once again, there were protests in other cities, too, including Mandalay, Sittwe, and Pakokku. More countries and institutions are calling on the generals not to use force.

“We are consulting with allies and friends in the regions on ways to encourage dialogue between the regime and those seeking freedom,” said US national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe. Germany and France added their voices to the chorus, with the foreign ministry in Paris warning that the junta would be held accountable if there were any harsh crackdowns on the streets of major cities. Closer to home, Malaysian lawmakers urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to use its influence to push Myanmar, itself a member of the regional bloc, to reform.

The spell of terror is broken. Even prominent personalities who could not hope to remain anonymous are joining the movement.

Two of Myanmar’s most famous actors, comedian Zaganar and movie heart-throb Kyaw Thu, came to Shwedagon earlier to bring food and water to the monks, who have been protesting every day for nearly a week.

The questions of the hour: Will the generals order the soldiers to fire? Will the soldiers obey? If they do, what will be the reaction? This movement has too much inertia to expire quietly. The government won’t survive unless it uses force, but using force against monks and nuns would make the regime a domestic and international pariah.

The BBC has video here (ht: Gateway Pundit).

Update 5, 24 Sep 07: Here are the latest images, from the AP:

burma-16-ap.jpg burma-17-ap.jpg burma-18-ap.jpg burma-19-ap.jpg

As I had feared, it looks like the regime is considering the use of force. Tear gas and billy clubs can’t stop 100,000 people, and we know how things ended last time. So threats like this have to put a dreadful clench in your gut:

burma-20-ap.jpgHours after the protest ended peacefully, Myanmar’s military government broadcast an ominous warning, telling senior Buddhist clerics that unless they restrained their juniors, the government would take action on its own against those it said were instigated by the regime’s domestic and foreign enemies….

[A] state television broadcast on Monday night showed of Brig. Gen. Thura Myint Maung, the religious affairs minister, meeting with senior monks at Yangon’s Kaba Aye Pagoda.

In the broadcast, he said the protesting monks represented just 2 percent of the country’s total, but were instigated to cause trouble by the opposition National League for Democracy party, the 88 Generation Students activist group, and agitators from the West, including foreign media.

But the statement explicitly linked the protesting monks to groups the government had long treated as enemies, subject to arbitrary detention. [AP]

If the protestors get 400,000 or 500,000 people onto the streets, I don’t know how the government could ever stop them. Then, even a rumor of gunfire anywhere could lead to the spontaneous sacking and burning of government buildings elsewhere. Certainly not all of the forces charged with protecting every installation in Rangoon would fire on a crowd filled with monks, even with orders to do so.

What makes this situation so unpredictable is that Burma’s generals have a tendency to make decisions based on the advice of astrologers. You may have heard the one about moving the capital from Rangoon to an empty, off-limits spot in the jungle near Mandalay. But that’s my best guess at the moment, of three most likely outcomes:

  1. Most likely (40-60): The regime will give orders to shoot/tear gas/beat/round up the crowds, but obedience is spotty, and a severe backlash infuriates the crowds and splits the military. The regime meets a bloody end.
  2. Next-most-likely (30-70): They start shooting now and terror is restored, though it may already be too late.
  3. Next-most-likely (30-70): Protest attendance crosses the magic number of 500,000 without significant bloodshed. The nastiest generals and their families take a midnight flight to Beijing, leaving power in the hands of some “Big Minh” caretaker figure, who will negotiate and orderly transition. If only…

And even then, the odds are probably 1 in 3 that the remaining regime figures manage to reassert control, at least for a few years. Joy and hope don’t last long. The period following a democratic revolution is always chaotic, and people who are used to being handed even meager provisions find eating them a hard habit to break. Foreign investment doesn’t revive economies overnight. New democratic governments are vulnerable in that period before it does.

More at Gateway Pundit.

Update 6, 24 Sep 07: President Bush will address the U.N. General Assembly and announce new sanctions.

Beyond fresh U.S. sanctions, White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley said Bush “is going to announce that there will a visa ban to key individuals associated with the negative activities of the regime, including their families.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States would step up pressure for action on Myanmar by the U.N. Security Council to support the demonstrators. “The international community’s got to stand up much more than it has,” Rice told Reuters. “What the Burmese junta is doing is just a reminder of how really brutal this regime is.”

Not that I’m complaining about this — it’s a strong show of support at the critical hour – but if it were me, I’d theaten to drop the hammer and cut off the regime’s access to the international financial system … if it uses force. I would also provide weapons and training to deserving Burmese resistance groups if peaceful methods prove futile, and I’d make that a matter of public record.

Yet as the signs point toward a crackdown, the protests’ momentum still grows. You can see it in the monks’ expanding list of demands:

“There’s no prospect now of the monks just deciding to abandon this. They are getting braver every day and their demands are getting greater every day, and it’s much more overtly political,” a Yangon-based diplomat said. “It’s now about Aung San Suu Kyi, it’s about reform,” the diplomat said. “The monks have got numbers and, if not immunity, then certainly it’s much more difficult for the government to crack down on them than ordinary civilians.” [Reuters]

You can also see it in the continuing defection of popular culture from the regime to the opposition:

The country’s biggest stars of the stage, screen and music, including Tun Eindra Bo — Myanmar’s equivalent of Angelina Jolie — have formed a “Sangkha Support Committee” and pledged to provide the monks with whatever assistance they need. [Reuters]

Resist the temptation to compare Burmese entertainers to Sean Penn or any other member of the Film Actors’ Guild. Burmese entertainers who express their views demonstrate actual courage. They know that if the protest movement fails, their best case scenario is never to work again.

Update 7, 25 Sep 07: More protests today:

The monks, cheered on by supporters, marched out for an eighth day of peaceful protest from Yangon’s soaring Shwedagon Pagoda, while some 700 others staged a similar show of defiance in the country’s second largest city of Mandalay.

“The protest is not merely for the well being of people but also for monks struggling for democracy and for people to have an opportunity to determine their own future,” one monk told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals from officials. “People do not tolerate the military government any longer.”

The demonstrations came despite orders to the Buddhist clergy to halt all political activity and return to their monasteries, and as pro-junta supporters in pickup trucks cruised Yangon warning that large crowds were illegal. [AP]

No crowd estimates were available for Rangoon, although the Mandalay crowds seem to have shrunken from two days ago. Rumors of a crackdown may have kept some people home. Behind the scenes, Army troops were assembling in neighborhoods from which they could be called in quickly.

You can see this apprehension at this BBC story, which includes a comment page for Burmese.

Over at The Irrawaddy, there are several videos of yesterday’s large demonstrations.

Update 8, 25 Sep 07:

Fear appears to be gaining the upper hand again:

Myanmar’s military leaders imposed a nighttime curfew and banned gatherings of more than five people Tuesday after 35,000 Buddhist monks and their supporters defied the junta’s warnings and staged another day of anti-government protests…. [S]oldiers in full battle gear were deployed Tuesday in the country’s largest city, setting the stage for a showdown with a determined pro-democracy protest movement….

Authorities announced the ban on gatherings and a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew through loudspeakers on vehicles cruising the streets of Yangon, the country’s biggest city, and its second city, Mandalay. The announcement said the measures would be in effect for 60 days.

Earlier Tuesday, the army began deploying troops in the heart of Yangon after tens of thousands of people led by barefoot monks in maroon robes defied orders to stay off the streets and marched for the eighth straight day against the junta. Troops were also seen gathering at a military center in Mandalay and military trucks rumbled through the streets of both cities late into the night, witnesses said. [AP]

All is not lost. Although the numbers are smaller, these are the hard-core believers among the monks, and they’ve just defied that curfew for the first day. They know that the government doesn’t want to do them harm before the eyes of the world. A who’s who of world leaders and human rights groups have spoken up. With the predictable exceptions of the U.N., the Russians, and the Chinese, everyone you expect to speak up has. Today at the U.N., President Bush was talking about Burma:

President Bush announced new U.S. sanctions against Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, accusing the military dictatorship of imposing “a 19-year reign of fear” that denies basic freedoms of speech, assembly and worship. “Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma,” Bush said in an address to the U.N. General Assembly in New York. Bush said the U.S. would tighten economic sanctions on leaders of the regime and their financial backers, and impose an expanded visa ban on those responsible for human rights violations and their families.

China is under intense pressure, and is making noises like it’s putting pressure on the generals, but those noises merit a skeptical hearing. Much will depend on what happens tomorrow … maybe everything. If the monks succeed in defying the regime for another day, the rule of fear will suffer another great setback. If the regime cracks down — an option that’s clearly under consideration — I’m guessing the civilians would be enraged, but are not quite sufficiently emboldened to risk it all. Burma’s fate is in the balance. The obedience of the Army and the courage of the monks form the fulcrum.

More here.

Update 9, 26 Sep 07: The number of protestors declined for a second consecutive day, but there were also signs that the junta’s heavy-handed tactices were inspiring a backlash:

Security forces fired warning shots and tear gas canisters while hauling Buddhist monks away in trucks Wednesday as they tried to stop anti-government demonstrations in defiance of a ban on assembly.

About 300 monks and activists were arrested across Yangon, according to an exile dissident group, and reporters saw a number of monks — who are highly revered in Myanmar — being dragged into trucks. […]

A march toward the center of Yangon followed a tense confrontation at the city’s famed Shwedagon Pagoda between the protesters and riot police who fired warning shots into the air, beat some monks and dragged others away into waiting trucks. […]

On Wednesday, about 5,000 monks and 5,000 students along with members of the party headed by detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi set off from Shwedagon to the Sule Pagoda in the heart of Myanmar’s largest city but were blocked by military trucks along the route. Other protesters at the Sule Pagoda were confronted by warning shots.

Yet some of the monks could not be moved even by this:

About 100 monks stayed behind at the eastern gate of the Shwedagon, refusing to obey orders to disperse after riot police there failed to dislodge them despite employing tear gas, batons and warning shots.

And there are the first signs of a reaction, as “[w]itnesses said an angry mob at the pagoda burned two police motorcycles.”

The Army is employing similar tactics in Mandalay, and presumably other cities. The authorities are also rounding up celebrity dissidents:

A comedian famed for his anti-government jibes became the first well-known activist rounded up after the curfew was imposed. Zarganar, who uses only one name, was taken away from his home by authorities shortly after midnight, with family members saying authorities told them the 45-year-old had been “called in for temporary questioning.”

Zarganar, along with actor Kyaw Thu and poet Aung Way, led a committee that provided food and other necessities to the Buddhist monks who have spearheaded the protests. He earlier had been imprisoned twice and his comedy routines were banned for their satirical jokes about the regime. The fates of the actor and poet were not immediately known. [AP]

It seems that people are balanced on the edge between fear and anger. For now, fear is winning.

Update 10, 27 Sep 07: I came home late yesterday after an exhausting day, and when I read that the soldiers had fired on the crowds and killed somewhere between one and eight people, I didn’t have it in me to write about it.

Myanmar security forces opened fire on Buddhist monks and other pro-democracy demonstrators Wednesday for the first time in a month of anti-government protests, killing at least one man and wounding others in chaotic confrontations across Yangon. Dramatic images of the protests, many transmitted from the secretive Southeast Asian nation by dissidents using cell phones and the Internet, riveted world attention on the escalating faceoff between the military regime and its opponents.

Clouds of tear gas and smoke from fires hung over streets, and defiant protesters and even bystanders pelted police with bottles and rocks in some places. Onlookers helped monks escape arrest by bundling them into taxis and other vehicles and shouting “Go, go, go, run!” The government said one man was killed when police opened fire during the ninth consecutive day of demonstrations, but dissidents outside Myanmar reported receiving news of up to eight deaths. Some reports said the dead included monks, who are widely revered in Myanmar, and the emergence of such martyr figures could stoke public anger against the regime and escalate the violence. [AP]

Yet the people fight on, though clouds of tear gas and through gunfire.

On a broad avenue near the temple, hundreds of people sat facing a row of soldiers, calling out to them: “The people’s armed forces, our armed forces!” and, “The armed forces should not kill their own people!”

Tens of thousands of people were reported to be demonstrating in the streets of Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city. [NYT]

And today, the backlash against the slaughter is materializing. The number of protestors on the street — 70,000 — is the second-largest of the month, second only to Monday’s gathering of 100,000. That’s an amazing figure when you see the risks. The advantage has shifted back to the people.

Soldiers fired warning shots Thursday above an estimated crowd of 70,000 anti-government demonstrators defying a crackdown that has drawn international appeals for restraint by Myanmar’s ruling junta. Some protesters shouted “Give us freedom, give us freedom!” at the soldiers.

Witnesses said at least one man had been shot, though the weapons fire did not appear to be aimed directly at the crowd that had gathered at Sule Pagoda. The demonstration followed early morning raids on Buddhist monasteries during which soldiers reportedly beat up monks and arrested more than 100. [AP]

People feel safer in big crowds, and 70,000 is probably an aggregate of many large crowds. This may draw more wavering dissidents and double-thinkers out to the streets. People will sense that this is their only chance for a better life. Unless the government is prepared to accelerate the use of force further, the protests will grow. Any use of force that falls short of complete ruthlessness will probably just fuel the backlash.

The Burmese government must have outsourced its spokesmanship to North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun:

“Saboteurs from inside and outside the nation and some foreign radio stations, who are jealous of national peace and development, have been making instigative acts through lies to cause internal instability and civil commotion,” The New Light of Myanmar, which serves as a mouthpiece for the military government said Thursday.

In addition to hundreds of monks, the regime is also arresting what opposition leaders still remain more-or-less free. Even Aung San Suu Kyi has reportedly been moved from house arrest to prison.

For whatever it’s worth, the world is reacting with outrage (Condi Rice used the word “outrageous“). Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement supporting the protestors, but nothing from Harry Reid so far. The EU and the United States actually released a joint statement expressing solidarity with the Burmese people and prodding the U.N. to actually do something (here’s the full statement). Is it fair to say that the U.N. has ceased to be an effective force for human rights when even the European Union is telling you to grow a spine? But besides a meek statement from Ban Ki Moon urging the generals “to exercise utmost restraint,” the U.N. has done nothing, and probably won’t do much of anything until it’s too late. China, which is probably responsible for the U.N. inaction, is feeling growing pressure, too.

China must use its “special relationship” with the junta to arrange the release of Ms. Suu Kyi and hundreds–if not thousands–of other political prisoners. Once this is achieved, world leaders should join President Bush in calling for an end to military rule and the peaceful transfer of power that should have taken place in 1990. We are all painfully aware of the carnage in Darfur…. That awareness has lead to highly effective campaigns to divest from the Chinese oil giant, PetroChina, that does business with Khartoum. There have also been repeated calls to not support the “Genocide Olympics” to be held in Beijing next August. [WSJ, Jody Williams]

The EU may also be contemplating new sanctions.

Update 11, 28 Sep 07: This will have to be an abbreviated post. I’ll give you my general take and send you elsewhere for details. You can’t fault the courage of the Burmese people. The Army is on the streets, and enough of the troops are obeying orders to fire, beat people to death, arrest monks, and ransack monasteries that the monks no longer appear to make up the larger portion of the demonstrators; now, most are ordinary angry citizens. Protest numbers and momentum are now harder to measure, as the large crowds have now become smaller, more widely scattered ones. AFP thinks there were 100,000 people on the streets yesterday. If so, that’s astounding.

Among the dead: a Japanese journalist.

There are tantalizing but unconfirmed rumors that the regime is fractured and that a key general has been sidelined. Clearly, we have no way of knowing if there’s any truth to this. I have my doubts.

Overall, however, it appears that the crackdown is reducing the number of people on the streets. My guess is that the regime will try to do this in two stages: first, get the monks out of the picture; then, the real shooting will start.

The latest: the soldiers have barricades the streets and occupied monasteries. They’re now battling smaller crowds in the streets. The regime is cutting off Internet access. Diplomats are hearing rumors that scores have been killed. A U.N. envoy should be arriving about now, for whatever that’s worth [AP]. China has blocked the closest thing that exists to effective U.N. action [NYT].

Burmese blogs are revealing the junta’s lies for what they are [NYT], but the regime is succeeding at cutting the links between its people and the outside world [NYT] [Canadian Press].

There’s much international condemnation, including surprisingly strong words from ASEAN, and predictable obstructionism from Russia and China. It’s doubtful that mere words will mean anything to the generals. [AP]

Burmese blogs and dissident sites: The Irrawaddy; Zin Media; Mizzima News; Facebook; The Guardian; Ko Htike; Democratic Voice of Burma; Global Voices.

Flickr Photo blogs: Naingankyatha; Soulspiirit; racoles; all via Webs@Work.

Photo galleries: AFP; BBC; More BBC.

Video: BBC; CNN.

Update 12, 30 Sept 07: It’s over. The tyrants have won. The rebellion was effectively crushed by Saturday, Rangoon time. Yesterday, with the blood of the Burmese people washed safely into the Irrawaddy by fire trucks that followed the soldiers, a U.N. envoy landed to make a farcical display of concern and hold a tightly controlled, tortuous meeting with the imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi. Twenty thousand armed troops filled the streets of Rangoon. We have no idea how many have died.

The government says 10 people were killed in last week’s violence but independent sources say the number is far higher. Truckloads of armed soldiers on Sunday patrolled downtown Yangon near recent protest sites and along the city’s major streets. A nearby public market and a Catholic church were also teeming with soldiers.

The atmosphere in the city was intimidating but not always menacing. One witness said soldiers sat inside trucks and on sidewalks chatting, munched snacks or walked around looking bored. Still, a video shot Sunday by a dissident group, the Democratic Voice of Burma, showed a monk, covered in bruises, floating face down in a Yangon river. It was not clear how long the body had been there. [AP]

Today, the regime’s police are hunting down every monk, blogger, actor, and citizen who dared demand freedom or speak the truth. With the Internet connections cut, the generals know we’ll never hear the cries of their tortured victims. The world has failed Burma; its protests have been muted by the regime’s sponsors in Beijing, who then shrug their shoulders and tell us they can do nothing. And then send more ammunition.

This is how our world will be as long as a monopoly on the supply of ammunition means membership in good standing in the General Assembly, membership in the General Assembly means membership in the civilized world and the global economy, and the global economy is a place where that monopoly can be bought for the sweat and blood of a people. Welcome to Ban Ki Moon’s world, brought to you by Hu Jintao.

The world’s most compassionate people – it is an unhappy accident that they are often some of its least clear-headed — wring their hands for lack of “effective” options. But the removal of every peaceful means of ending Burma’s slavery does have the effect of clarifying what the answer must be. It will not come from any body where China holds a veto. Change will only come to Burma when the people have the means to resist. Their courage and our admiration are not enough. But their courage and our weapons are.

myanmar0110_468x361.jpgUpdate 13, 2 Oct 07: The news comes in two flavors: depressing and maddening. Take your pick.

Depressing: One of the generals defects and tells of the wholesale massacre that’s going on now, as we do nothing.

In Rangoon, despite agreeing to see Gambari, the generals continued posting troops and police across the city and dispatching pro-junta gangs to raid homes in search of monks and dissidents on the run. “They are going from apartment to apartment, shaking things inside, threatening the people. You have a climate of terror all over the city,” a Bangkok-based Myanmar expert said. US charge d’affaires Shari Villarosa said arrests continued unabated.


[A]s attempts at talks continue, it was revealed that thousands of monks detained in Burma’s biggest city will be sent to prisons in the far north. About 4,000 monks have been rounded up in the past week as the military government has tried to stamp out pro-democracy protests. They are being held at a disused race course and a technical college. Sources from a government-sponsored militia said they would soon be moved away from Rangoon. The detained monks have been disrobed and shackled, according to sources quoted by BBC Radio’s Burmese service.

The reports follow claims from a former intelligence officer in Burma’s ruling junta that thousands of protesters have been killed and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle.


The most senior official to defect so far, Hla Win, said: “Many more people have been killed in recent days than you’ve heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand.” Mr Win said he fled when he was ordered to take part in a massacre of holy men. [Daily Mail, London]

The secret is poorly kept. Sylvester Stallone was in Burma filming Rambo IV when disfigured victims started streaming into his film set. I’ll forgive Stallone for being in Burma in the first place if he tells the story truthfully. Investors’ Business Daily sees the lesson that they’ve taken from this in Khartoum, Tehran, Beijing, and Pyongyang: brutality works and comes without meaningful consequences. Universal revulsion is not a meaningful consequence when the world is ruled by people with no principles, no spine, and no sac. A year from now, compare the amount of google hits on “Burma massacre” to “Abu Ghraib.”

Maddening: Watching the U.N. taken seriously by itself, the news media, and absolutely no one else who matters.

Maddening: The idiots who want to run the world and eventually may are not only failing to recognize the only thing that can stop massacres and genocides — an armed victim — they’re trying to shut down the global trade in small arms. It’s a perfect formula for keeping that which comes from the barrel of a gun in the hands of those who flout every standard of civilized behavior, including U.N. nannies. Brought to you by the same people who gave us the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Bosnia arms embargo. (ht)

The most pleasant note on which I can close is that the lead thug in the junta, Than Swe, is 74 and may have cancer. Finally, a reason to be happy about cancer….