Many Died Saving Kims’ Portraits in Blast?

“Many North Koreans died a ‘heroic death’ after last week’s train explosion by running into burning buildings to rescue portraits of leader Kim Jong-il and his father, the North’s official media reported on Wednesday.

Portraits of Kim and his late father, national founder Kim Il-sung, are mandatory fixtures in every home, office and factory in the hardline communist state of 23 million. All adults are required to wear lapel pins bearing images of one or both Kims.” — Yahoo! News

The Fallujah Dilemma

If the marines attack, we can no longer pretend the war is over, says Fred Kaplan: “If the U.S. Marines storm Fallujah in the next few days, as they seem to be preparing to do, the act would transform the occupation and almost certainly for the worse.

It would mean, first, a resumption of war. No longer could U.S. officials speak of conducting mere “security and stabilization operations”—the Marines’ declared mission last month when they took over the area from the Army’s 82nd airborne division. SASO (the military’s acronym for such operations) is essentially police work with heavy armaments in a war, or postwar, zone. It is not an accurate term for invading a city of half a million people or strafing it with gunship fire.

Full-scale warfare would also likely mean postponing the June 30 handover of sovereignty. The transfer—which the Bush administration considers “limited” to begin with—could not occur in any measure if American armed forces are engaged in “major combat operations” (as the president called them when he proclaimed that they were over last May Day). Some have dismissed this deadline as arbitrary and the transfer itself as symbolic. But symbols are important in the Middle East. A delay, for whatever reason, will confirm suspicions that Americans simply wants Iraqi oil and will never loosen their grip. A delay caused by an American escalation of conflict will clinch the matter and, as a result, strengthen popular support for the insurgents.” — Slate

A Vision of Power

“There’s a deep mystery surrounding Dick Cheney’s energy task force, but it’s not about what happened back in 2001. Clearly, energy industry executives dictated the content of a report that served their interests.

The real mystery is why the Bush administration has engaged in a three-year fight — which reaches the Supreme Court today — to hide the details of a story whose broad outline we already know.

One possibility is that there is some kind of incriminating evidence in the task force’s records. Another is that the administration fears that full disclosure will highlight its chummy relationship with the energy industry. But there’s a third possibility: that the administration is really taking a stand on principle. And that’s what scares me.” — Paul Krugman, New York Times op-ed

R.I.P. Thom Gunn

Poet Who Left Tradition for the Counterculture Dead at 74: “Thom Gunn, a transplanted British poet identified with the San Francisco scene and the California liberated style, died on Sunday night at his home in San Francisco, his adopted hometown. He was 74…

Acclaimed as one of the most promising young poets of postwar Britain, Mr. Gunn found his own voice after he migrated to California in the 1950’s and established himself in San Francisco, his home for the rest of his life. There, he wedded traditional form to unorthodox themes like LSD, panhandling and homosexuality. He experimented with free verse and syllabic stanzas. In doing so he evolved from British tradition and European existentialism to embrace the relaxed ways of the California counterculture.

Born and educated in England, he was grouped as a young man at Cambridge in the 1950’s with a generation of writers, notably Philip Larkin, known as the Movement. Their verse was celebrated for its dry, skeptical rejection of what they saw as rhymed grandiosity.” New York Times