Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Vice Guide to North Korea

The Vice Guide to North Korea has now completed its last episode, and is an enjoyable independent media report from Kim Jong Ill’s 1984 theme park.

The series is really wonderful, and worth an afternoon to watch. Shane Smith, the reporter behind the series, had this to say about getting a North Korean visa.
“Getting into North Korea was one of the hardest and weirdest processes VBS has ever dealt with. After we went back and forth with their representatives for months, they finally said they were going to allow 16 journalists into the country to cover the Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang. Then, ten days before we were supposed to go, they said, “No, nobody can come.” Then they said, “OK, OK, you can come. But only as tourists.” We had no idea what that was supposed to mean. They already knew we were journalists, and over there if you get caught being a journalist when you’re supposed to be a tourist you go to jail. We don’t like jail. And we’re willing to bet we’d hate jail in North Korea.”

There are actually two areas open to foreigners in North Korea that don’t require the endless paperwork that Pyonyang requires to see the rest of the country: Kaesong and Mt. Kumgang, and I hope to visit both areas before my time in Korea has finished.

Not as Funny as it Sounds

I just finished watching the first two parts of the John Adams miniseries on HBO, and I found it to be quite good. I’ll let those who have a better grasp of the man’s history to debate the shows historical merits, but what it did remind me while I watched it, was how terrible tarring and feathering was. Based on the polished grammar school history books and Warner Brothers’ cartoons, I assume most American children see the act similar to the use of a dunce hat.

Obviously, the reality is far from the toned down presentation given to schoolchildren. While the tarring and feathering was intended to humiliate or scare an individual out of a town or a community, the hot tar would leave lasting scars on the injured party so that were recognizable victims of the act. During the War for American Independence, the tarring of Tories happened with greater regularity and ferocity, resulting in the deaths of several victims.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ralph Nader polling at 5%

I am pretty surprised to see Nader doing so well; clearly Obama has not pulled the wool over all "progressive" minds.

I am honestly optimistic that Nader will be allowed in at least one presidential debate (if he continues to poll at this level). I ended up voting for Kerry in the 2004 election, but I was disgusted by the way Democrats worked to keep Nader off the ballot in as many states as possible. For a party that claims to support an open democratic society, they sure worked hard to keep a viable candidate off out of the election. I’ll definitely be sending him money to employ in the inevitable ballot access battles he will encounter.
(Hat tip Abe Greenwald at Commentary)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Wright Matters

I personally feel this recent uproar over Obama’s spiritual advisor (Jeremiah Wright) is the end of his political campaign. He may still win the Democratic nomination, but I have a hard time believing large portions of the United States will be able to cast a vote for a man who has been so linked to a religious crackpot like Wright.

But that won’t stop Obama’s supporters and those who partake in the "multicultural identity politics” game from trying to spin this. From a recent post at Daily Kos:
“White Folks sat there, because I guess White Folks know better, bashing the Jeremiah Wright…walk a mile in Wright’s shoes before you judge him.”

You can find the same argument mimicked across the Huffington Post and Democratic Underground.

There is something seriously wrong with this argument, and I hear it used so often, I feel I should just record my counter analysis for the future arguments I will inescapably have on this matter.

Using this line of reasoning (“Don’t judge what he says. You don’t know what it’s like to be black/gay/Jewish/Martian”) none of us are ever capable of criticizing someone who isn’t of our exact ethnicity. But wait, how about class? If we can’t condemn someone of a different ethnicity, we also shouldn’t criticize someone who isn’t of our class. And how about gender? Why should a man disapprove of a woman’s argument, having never walked a day in their life?

We can go even further down this hole: how about ones religion/age/weight/ intellect? If we keep adding layers of identity, I will eventually be left with only myself to appraise. I am also sure I can find a way to rationalize that criticism away as well.

Wright may be justifiably angry at whites or at the United States, and I will be honest when I say I don’t know what it is like to be colored in America. Folks who are African American will experience a different life than mine simply because of the color of their skin. That is an undeniable aspect of the American experience.

But I also don’t know what it is like to grow up as a poor Russian immigrant, or as the child of wealthy Saudi tycoons. I will never know what its like to be a middle class Korean in Los Angeles, or the heir to a powerful protestant family in Connecticut. These are all cultural and ethnic experiences I will never have personally.

But does not being a Serb mean I can’t say that the Serbian government’s attacks on its neighbors and its acts of ethnic cleansing are abhorrent? Does not being Japanese mean I have no right to disparage their brutal imperial crusade throughout Asia last century? There were clearly historical reasons behind Serbia’s and Japan’s drive to do what they did, and I have just a passing familiarity with their pasts. Using the Kossak’s argument, being a white man disqualifies me from commenting on either of those situations.

The point I am hopefully getting across, is that putting up barriers to who can and can not criticize an individual is the antithesis of wisdom and debate. It is a tool used to suppress logical dialogue, and intended to insulate those who have poor arguments against rational criticism. Wright, and any other preacher or politician, has a right to say whatever they want. They should be prepared to defend their statements however, and not hide behind the paper thin "identity defense." Ideas matter, not the color/gender/background of the person making it, and Wright's ideas are stupid and wrong.

I spent plenty of time disparaging Romney and Huckabee for the various things their churches’ said; I am not going to give Obama a pass because his church is “of the left,” and just because it’s a black church doesn’t make it less racist and vile. As plenty of folks have already said, if the things Wright said were spoken in a predominantly white church, they would be rightfully condemned. And if we then learned a leading presidential candidate not only attended said church, but was a close associate of the preacher for over 20 years, his political career would be over. Obama’s close association with a devout racist should trouble his supporters, even if he doesn’t believe those things himself.

According to a recent Newsweek poll, 48 percent of Pakistanis believe Jews were responsible for the World Trade Center bombing. A plurality of Egyptians agree. That surely doesn’t make it reasonable or right. So when people tell me “lots of folks in the black community agree with what Wright said,” I don’t see how that makes his comments and ideas acceptable. If there is a cross section of American society that believes the nonsense Wright spouts, then it’s going to take many individuals confronting them, and not being intimidated by halfwits who claim its racist to do so.

The Contentious Centrist, Neo-Neocon, and just about every political blog out there have something to say about this.
Uljin park at night.

Yes, Indybay Goes for a New Low!

Another week, another example of the Indybay crowd and the activist types in Santa Cruz simply not getting it.
“I WAS JUST CITED WITH THE Unconstitutional Parking Lot Ordinance JIM CROW LAW” - Andreas Nicholas

Wow, this Parking Lot Ordinance issued in Santa Cruz must be beyond terrible to have it compared to one of the worst legal injustices in United States history. So what does the Parking Lot Ordinance dictate?
“When parking a motor vehicle or bicycle in, or retrieving a motor vehicle or bicycle from, a parking lot or garage owned or operated by the City of Santa Cruz, no member of the public, whether driver or passenger, shall remain on the parking lot or garage premises for more than fifteen (15) minutes.”

The horror! It makes these laws seem like summer camp in contrast:

"All marriages between a white person and a Negro, or between a white person and a person of Negro descent to the fourth generation inclusive, are hereby forever prohibited."

"All persons licensed to conduct a restaurant, shall serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to the two races within the same room or serve the two races anywhere under the same license."

"White and colored persons shall not be taught in the same school."

Wait…this parking lot ban is absolutely nothing like the Jim Crow laws! Why would Andreas Nicholas make such a baseless and morally repulsive comparison?

Oh, I know why: because this brand of “activist” desperately wants to think they are standing up to a terrible evil in their petty and pointless battles, and so they place themselves on a pedestal with real activist heroes, who took huge risks to fight a truly unjust and immoral legal system. Folks like Martin Luther King, Jr., Whitney Young, and James Farmer Jr. (amongst countless other men and women) risked their lives and the safety of their families to push for justice. Folks like Andreas are just children who whine and cry because they can’t hang out in a parking lot to annoy the neighborhood with their shitty drum circle.

This is the type of thing that drove me crazy when I lived in Santa Cruz, and made it very easy to leave soon after my studies were completed. To compare getting a ticket for spending too long sitting around a parking lot with the Civil Rights movement is not only disrespectful, but disgraceful. It belittles an important struggle to even place this kind of bullshit in its vicinity. So Andreas Nicholas, I hope you are proud of yourself! You just wrote one of the stupidest things I have ever heard, and you did it with a straight face. Your certificate of achievement will be sent later this month.

See Andreas, those men are real heroes. You’re just some child that is too busy fighting every single rule the Santa Cruz city council sets that you aren’t even cognitive of the fact you are a living joke.