The Long View 2006-10-10: Remove Barriers; Shoot the Hostage; Breed Like Rabbits

Kim Jong-umBy Cheongwadae / Blue House -, KOGL Type 1,

Kim Jong-um

By Cheongwadae / Blue House -, KOGL Type 1,

Here is something to ponder. New York City took down its post-9/11 vehicle barriers, intended to prevent truck bombings and the like, in 2006. Ten years after that, European cities have added them. Of course, the state of the art changed quite a bit. Truck bombings take hard work and skill. Running pedestrians down with a vehicle just takes an acceptable credit rating.

Also, a prediction that didn't pan out: Kim Jong-un did indeed succeed Kim Jong-il.

Remove Barriers; Shoot the Hostage; Breed Like Rabbits

Security Barriers of New York Are Removed, reports the New York Times, and none too soon if you ask me:

But now, five years later, their numbers have begun to dwindle. After evaluations by the New York Police Department, the city’s Department of Transportation has demanded that many of the planters and concrete traffic medians known as jersey barriers be taken away. So far, barriers have been removed at 30 buildings out of an estimated 50 to 70 in the city.

It will take a while to fix this. The whole region is full of slabs of concrete defacing the entrances to buildings and making the many fine new plazas look like construction sites. As the Times piece notes, some of the barriers have proven to be happy accidents: the bollards, the short, thick pillars set into the ground, make convenient stools and give a geometrical accent to open urban spaces. For the most part, though, the barriers detracted from aesthetics while adding nothing to safety. Good riddance.

* * *

Why did the North Koreans shoot the last hostage? That is essentially what they did with their recent nuke test, if that's what it was. Since the end of the Cold War, the whole of North Korean diplomacy has consisted of extracting tribute from its neighbors and the United States, based on the threat to develop nuclear weapons and an ICBM. Now that they claim to have actually exploded a bomb, what further leverage do they have?

Of course, the really strange thing here, even for a North Korean story, is that their WMDs are apparently duds. That was certainly the case with the recent, failed ICBM launch. As for the weekend's nuke, it may be that the explosive yield was so small because the test was of a tactical weapon, suitable for terrorist use. More likely the bomb was supposed to be a typical first nuke of a few kilotons, but it misfired. Some American analysts are suggesting it was a conventional explosion that the North Koreans are just claiming to have been nuclear. Even Team America would not have suggested such a thing.

It would be reasonable to anticipate that the Dear Leader will suffer a mishap at no distant date; perhaps one of his trains will explode again. When that happens, his likely successor will not be one of his lamentable offspring (not that the offspring won't try), but one of those funny-looking generals he likes to appear in public with at times of crisis, a general whom the Chinese find acceptable. What happens then is that the reunification of Korea becomes a real possibility, with the Chinese offering Seoul an orderly transition, contingent on the demilitarization of the peninsula.

* * *

Rich people are breeding like rabbits. Well, some of them are, if you believe The New York Times:

The families involved cut across economic lines, though a sizable part of the increase is attributed to a baby boom in affluent suburbs, with more upper-middle-class couples deciding that a three- or four-child household can be both affordable and fun...

Clark, 38, is aware of the buzz that large families — in the suburbs, at least — are a new status symbol.

"I thought it was kind of funny," she said...

Since Strauss & Howe's model of history suggests some such development, and since I know a couple of families to whom this story applies, I can't say that I find the Times story altogether surprising. That's not to say I don't find it slightly surreal. Maybe you have to be a babyboomer or older to appreciate how strange it is for large families to be regarded as status symbol. I can remember when it was like smoking is today.

There is even a website.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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