Archive for March 12th, 2004

Julia Roberts Arrested for Crack


11–We’re not sure if anyone keeps track of such things, but Julia Roberts
may be the country’s oldest alleged crack dealer. The 96-year-old
North Carolina woman–that’s right, 96–was busted Monday along with
a few younger relatives/cohorts for running a drug operation out of
her home. As noted on the below Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office report,
Roberts is facing a felony distribution charge and a misdemeanor drug
paraphernalia count.
from The Smoking Gun

More Inside Dope from Seoul


Seoul is in turmoil as President Roh is removed from power
for what to us Westerners seems an insignificant verbal transgression;
in a television interview last month he said he "would do everything
legally permissable" to help elect legislators from the party which supports
him in upcoming congressional elections.  Unfortunately, the Korean
Constitution requires the President to stay neutral on all other elections.
And for this he is being impeached?

Tom Coyner, publisher of the free subscription newsletter Korea Economic
Reader (Email:  coyner at has an interesting take on why the impeachment
went forward on such a seemingly flimsy charge. After first noting these
statistics from the International Herald Tribune:

In a recent poll by the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, 61 percent of the
737 South Korean respondents said they thought Roh should apologize
for the comments
that triggered the dispute.

Seventy-six percent said that if he did apologize, they would oppose
his impeachment.

Coyner’s Comment: A considered, if not printed, opinion of some journalists
here is that this whole affair is a trap set by Roh to discredit his
opposition since most people doubt the Constitution Court will uphold
the impeachment given the overall case by the conservatives comes across
as weak and cynical.)

He also has a dynamite web log Coyner
@ Home in Seoul Korea
, but you gotta subscribe to the news service to get the latest articles and analysis. No RSS feed visible.

The Rise and Fall of the First Internet President


South Korean President Roh is being taken out of the game….

Americans like to imagine we invented everything, but there are many
interesting and innovative dramas involving digital democracy unfolding around
the globe. It is clear that we are seeing a groundswell of technologically
empowered grass roots discontent around the world, and politicians are starting
to take notice.

The important inroads made by the Howard Dean campaign in raising
funds and mobilizing
as the missteps
which led to the unraveling of his candidacy, are currently the object of
intense scrutiny by groups within the Democratic and Republican parties.
They would be well advised to study as well the rise and current difficulties
of the world’s first internet president
– South Korea’s Roh Moo-hyun.

Although it may be premature to speak of the rise and fall
of President Roh, he was formally impeached by the South Korean national
assembly yesterday, and effectively removed from office. (see New York Times article) According to the
Korean Constitution, during an impeachment, which still must be reviewed by the
Constitutional Court and could take as long as six months, the Prime Minister
shall serve as acting President. The current Prime Minister is the former mayor of Seoul, Ko Kon.

Roh’s election in December 2002 startled observers not only
around the world but in South Korea itself, where Roh had been considered a long
shot right up until election day. The very fact he was a serious contender
astounded some, given his unconventional political background. The son of a peasant,
he never attended college, spent years as a construction worker, and taught
himself law at night
until passing the bar exam. He was virtually unknow as little as three years
ago, having lost four successive runs for various elected offices.

He seemed
an unlikely Presidential candidate for an
increasingly internationalized South Korea; he had no administrative experience
to speak of, had rarely traveled outside Korea, and spoke almost no English.
He was however, the first candidate. and now the first world leader, who understands
how to write html.

In Roh’s case it was not so much that he put together a winning team, as that
a nascent organization found him and drafted him for their movement. The core
of the Roh team is from what the Korean press calls
the “386” generation; in their 30’s when the expression was coined, now many
are in their 40’s; they came of age in the tumultuous 80’s, when South Korea
made the difficult transition from dictatorship to democracy; and they were
born in the 60’s, together with the tremendous burst of development and
productivity which has produced one of the economic powerhouses of Asia and
perhaps the most wired nation on earth.

One of the factors which made Roh’s victory possible was the
advanced penetration of information infrastructure in Korea, particularly
broadband internet access. Throughout the country, over 75% of homes are wired
for broadband. And people use it – a recent study found that the average South
Korean internet user spends an amazing 1,340 minutes a month online, compared
with 641 for an American.

Internet use in South Korean impacts all aspects of daily life.  On-line
game playing is endemic, and South korea has become a major market for gaming
software companies.  But over 70% of online adults report having traded stocks online;
such common tasks as banking, taking classes, and paying taxes are usually
done on-line. Even watching television is moving on-line, as youger poeple
are just as likely to download their favorite programs as to watch them broadcast

There are demographic factors making this transformation possible. Over 70%
of the Korean population is under
and grew up
computers. The
target audience for the campaign was the millions of Koreans in their 20’s
and 30’s. For this reason many analysts consider Roh’s election significant
for pitting generation against generation, rather than being fought on traditional
political policy grounds.

The seed for this successful presidential campaign was an
unofficial on-line fan club (,
set up for Roh in 2000 after he LOST his third attempt to be elected to the National
Assembly, the same body which just impeached him. After his presidential candidacy
was ignored by a majority of conventional Korean news media, the banner was
picked up by a variety of small regional newspapers, internet web logs and
alternative news sites like OhmyNews (, which has been called the world’s most domestically powerful news site. While major papers Chosun Ilbo, Joong-ang Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo were
dismissing Roh as a dangerous leftie, Ohmynews was giving his candidacy and the
rising movement around it blanket coverage. The broadband penetration allowed
them to broadcast unedited streaming video of Roh’s speeches and campaign

In addition, Roh’s Millennium Democratic Party raised
millions and mobilized supporters for huge rallies via a series of web sites
and networked mobile phones. The drama came to a head on the eve of election
day, when a former rival who had endorsed Roh suddenly and unexpectedly
withdrew his support, tipping the balance in favor of conservative candidate
Lee Hoi Chang. On the day of the voting a massive electronic get-out-the-vote mobilization,
advising people of the opposition’s last-ditch move to steal the election,
produced an unprecedented turnout of younger voters which gave the victory to

Since taking office in February 2003 however, Roh has had
anything but smooth sailing. Elected on a promise to root out corruption, he
has seen 12 members of his administration jailed and another dozen indicted. He
has been personally connected to a campaign fundraising scandal and has seen
many of his aides and campaign team go to prison. Dealing with in-house
corruption has severely limited his effectiveness in cleaning up the endemic corruption
in society in general.

Even his wellspring of support in the alternative media has
dried up. AllmyNews withdrew support for the Roh administration last year in protest
to Roh meeting with George Bush. Strangely,
the current incident leading to Roh’s impeachment grew out of an off-hand
comment in a television interview last month which was deemed to be in
violation of South Korea’s strict election laws mandating Presidential neutrality

What lessons can US political campaigns, as well as
politicians among other internet-active electorates, take away from this
post-industrial morality tale? Despite the differences in demographics and
democratic traditions, we feel that there are several:

  • Converting
    eyeballs to action
    – It’s not enough to get people to visit a political
    web page.  The key is
    converting their interest to actions; contributing money, attending
    events, organizing networks and lobbying friends.
  • Voting
    day turnout is essentia
    l – An effective personal network uniting
    supporters electronically via computers, PDAs and cell phones can make
    the difference in a close election. Get-out-the-vote efforts are nothing new,
    but the techniques used
    by the Roh campaign were innovative and effective.
  • It’s sometimes better to "come from behind" – Being a front-runner
    for too long can focus attention and opposition on a candidate. Timing is
    essential in any insurgent movement, and it’s not a bad idea to be dismissed
    as inconsequential early in the campaign.
  • Winning
    can be a problem
    – This is especially a consideration for unconventional
    or “outsider” candidates without a major party endorsement. The skills
    needed to successfully govern a major modern country are quite different
    from those needed to get elected. Pre-election supporters can quickly turn
    into opposition if they disagree with policy decisions of the new
  • Trying
    to do too much too fast
    – Moving too fast can unite seemingly incompatible
    political forces against you in alliances which may not last beyond the
    current battles but which can make it difficult or impossible to govern.

Finally, political planners should approach the internet
with a note of caution.  While its potential
to raise money and awareness may be awesome, it can tear a candidate down as
quickly as it builds him up. In the final analysis, it is no substitute for the
tried and true tools of political success; a sound and extensive face-to-face organization
on the ground, a solid support network in the bureaucratic and administrative
corridors of power, and the ability to seek consensus and compromise among
traditional power centers rather than forcing them into the opposition.

Lawyer Has Woman Arrested for Petting His Dog


JOSE, Calif. (AP) – All Tamar Sherman wanted to do was pet a dog and
give it some water. Sherman’s act left her with a criminal record.

A few months ago, Sherman was walking near her South San Jose home and
encountered a dog left outside in the cold while its owners were inside.

Sherman, a member of a national group called Dogs Deserve Better, decided
to pet the dog on a few occassions and once gave it water. That didn’t
please the dog’s owner.

"When I went out there to fill up the dog bowl, this woman was standing
in my back yard,” attorney Ron Berki told the San Jose Mercury News. “My
response was, `Who … are you?’ She told me, `I’m here to pet your dog.”’

For that, Sherman pleaded guilty this week to two misdemeanors – trespassing
and prowling – and was sentenced to 75 hours of community service and a
year of probation. She also was ordered to stay at least 100 yards away
from Berki’s home.

from APvia

The Danger of Letting Pets Watch Sesame Street


Let Them Live in Sin


Hill was alive with the loud chanting and hoarse shouts of thousands
of demonstrators from both sides of the gay marriage
divide this afternoon, as
the Massachusetts
Legislature took up the issue they tabled last month, and the Dowbrigade
was there. The entire central downtown area, the Common and the Public
Garden, were abuzz, knots of placard carrying out-of-towners trying
to figure out where they were, militant gay couples in
color coordinated jumpsuits and jaunty berets, cops with dogs, cops
on horses, cops on motorcycles, tour busses, first aid tents, tables
with informative flyers and lots and lots of camera and notepad wielding
members of the press.

The original idea appeared to have been getting the two sides to organize
around separate areas of the Common, but the two crowds had become
so intermingled that it was impossible to decipher which side had started
out as anti-Gay marriage and which Pro. Small groups on all sides were
arguing and discussing the merits of their positions. Many of them
were discussing the issue quite rationally, and seemed to be actually listening
to each other. Some were arguing quite vociferously, and a few were
shouting. Considerable numbers were surrounded by larger bunches of
co-believers, and avoiding members of the opposition.

The soundtrack was a cacophony of American protest; bull horns leading
chants, gospel hymns playing on a battery powered PA, shouts, cries
and curses, cheers and boos at unseen comings and goings. Hundreds
of signs. Everyone seemed to be on one side or another, or photographing
or interviewing those who were.

Absurd conversations were overheard. A well-dressed, clean cut youth
who could have been a  Mormon except he was missing a partner and
a name-shield was shouting at a smoldering young leather-clad Asian man,
"We have nothing against Gay people. We think that you should be allowed
to do whatever you want. Except get married. You are adults and
what you do behind closed doors is your business.  But out in public
you should respect traditional families and children!"

Biker-boy: "So what you’re saying is, you support sexual intercourse
outside of the sanctity of marriage?"

it looks like those who wanted an issue which could
confuse and divide America have found a doozy. Polls show most Americans
support equal rights for gays, including fully functioning "civil unions"
are against gay marriage. The problem is no one understands exactly
what the difference is, or how it will influence people to vote in November.
The Democrats are shitting bricks because while there are enough gays
in the United States to swing a close election most of them would vote
Democratic anyway, and lots of voters in key states would be turned off
by a full-bore endorsement of gay marriage.

It is all so ridiculous, at least to the Dowbrigade, that the elusive
national unity is about to be torpedoed by the difficulty in defining
a single word, and that gays are about to sacrifice their biggest step
out of the closet since Ancient Greece from a stubborn refusal to compromise
on a single letter.

Public opinion in the United States towards homosexuals has evolved
remarkably during the Dowbrigade’s lifetime. When we were kids "queers"
and "fags" were linguistically equivalent to "Japs" and "Nazis". Fighting
words. Now they have their own fashions, resorts and TV shows, and demonstrably
better taste than the rest of us.

In the proposed solutions to the gay marriage problem, at least here
in Massachusetts, gays have been offered complete equality in every aspect
of legal, financial and social approbation endowed by marriage. They
are being offered a complete and stereotype-shattering victory, a revolutionary
new role in the emerging America of the 21st century, and they are turning
it down over a linguistic snit.

Here is the exact wording from the proposed ammendment approved today
by the Mass legislature: "Civil unions for same sex couples are established
hereunder and shall provide entirely the same benefits, protections,
rights, and responsibilities that are afforded to couples married under
Massachusetts law. All laws applicable to marriage shall also apply to
civil unions."

in a name? Really, what difference would it make if it was called a "garriage"
when the two people are the same sex and a "marriage" when
they are not. What’s so great about the "M" word, anyway? Our personal
opinion is that the word "marriage" has been so misused and maligned
that gays should be delighted to start over with a clean linguistic slate
and a word
like "Garriage".

If Catholics or Evangicals find the idea of two men or two women uniting
in love so disturbing, then they needn’t sanction gay marriage in their
Church.  Which,
in fact, is exactly what they do with divorce, and that doesn’t;t prevent
millions of Americans, non-Catholics and Catholics alike, from untying
the knot. Let the Church in Rome simply not recognize those marriages,
but why should they prevent a couple of Jews or atheists from formalizing
their commitment?

However, gays must accept that many mentally challenged Americans may
balk at giving up their exclusive rights to the "M" word and leave them
that bone. They can afford to be magnanimous, they are getting everything
they have asked for and more.

If they can’t handle compromising on a single little letter, the Dowbrigade
says Let them Live in Sin.

all photos by the Dowbrigade