Saturday, May 24, 2008

Potential Genocide in Gambia

Troubling news coming out of Gambia.
“Speaking last Thursday at a victory celebration held at the Buffer Zone in Tallinding, President Jammeh said that a legislation“stricter than those in Iran” concerning the vice would be introduced very soon.

He avowed that he would “cut off the head” of any homosexual caught in The Gambia.”

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Goodbye Hagee, I Won’t be Missing You

McCain has now publicly rejected John Hagee’s endorsement of his campaign, after it was reveled that Hagee “believed the Nazis did God's will by chasing the Jews from Europe.” I say good riddance to this religious nut job, and I called on McCain to disown him months back.

While I don’t think the Hagee issue hurts McCain like the Wright one did for Obama, it goes to show just how foolish it is to seek endorsements from a sector of our community that spouts vile “religious” nonsense, and generally get a pass because they are “community leaders” or “men of faith.”

The real sad thing about this whole Hagee event, is that McCain didn’t throw him to the wolves earlier.

The Falling Zimbabwe dollar

In grade school, I used to chuckle at the idea floated by my teacher, that consistent inflation would require me to pull a wheelbarrel full of currency into the supermarket to do shopping one day. It seemed so silly and unlikely, but not in Zimbabwe.
Weary Zimbabweans are facing a new wave of price increases that will put many basic goods even further out of their reach: A loaf of bread now costs what 12 new cars did a decade ago.

Independent finance houses said in an assessment Tuesday that annual inflation rose this month to 1,063,572 percent based on prices of a basket of basic foodstuffs. Economic analysts say unless the rate of inflation is slowed, annual inflation will likely reach about 5 million percent by October.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Brainlessness at its Finest

From CNN: "Officials say a mob has burned to death 11 people suspected of being witches and wizards in western Kenya."


If you just love buildings inspired by the grim world of 1984, you will be pleased to know that construction has begun again on the infamous Ryukyung Hotel.
“Construction of the 105 story Pyongyang hotel, the Ryukyung Hotel, began in 1987 as a propaganda display of the superiority of the North Korean governing system which was engaged in a legitimacy competition with the South at the time. Construction was suspended two years later due to lack of funds.

South Koreans visiting Pyongyang witnessed the construction being carried out by Orascom Construction Industries S.A.E., an Egyptian company which is preparing to build a mobile phone network in Pyongyang.”

I am glad the North Korean regime has their priorities in order. Lord knows they are currently trouble free! Only North Korea would build a massive hotel for the tourists they never plan to let in.

What to Do About Korea

Kim Dae-Joong has a nice piece up at Chosun Ilbo about confronting anti-Americanism in Korea. Read it all here.
What are the roots of the sentiments? In our constant dealings with the U.S., we've perhaps encountered too much of the superior position and sentiment of U.S. to us. In that process, we have come to harbor a feeling of being victimized since we are the weaker country in the alliance. While accommodating U.S. troops stationed here, we have generated plenty of conflict and controversies surrounding them. North Korea and the pro-Pyongyang forces here denounce them, and their propaganda and brain-washing tactics has spread a sense that the U.S. troops are the source of all wrongs done on the Korean Peninsula and a walking emblem of imperialist aggression. Leftwing organizations and some civic forces sympathetic with them ceaselessly demand the withdrawal of U.S. troops, just as North Korea does.

But enough is enough. We can no longer afford to waste time on America issues and anti-American sentiment and let them ruin our social integrity. We cannot leave the controversies and candlelight vigils over the U.S. Forces Korea unchecked any longer. It’s past time we had a proper social mechanism to deal with this effectively.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Over at DPRK Studies, Richardson has a run down on the differing political outlooks between the last three generations of Koreans. Pretty enlightening stuff.
“The Korean War generation was born under Japanese colonial rule or in the few short years between the end of World War II and the Korean War in 1951. After the war, they had to deal with a national division that separated many families, as well as crushing poverty and authoritarian rule.

This generation has remained aware and largely thankful that American military intervention was the only thing that prevented Soviet and Chinese-backed Korean communists from seizing control of the entire peninsula. They are conservative, viewing the North Korean regime as a bitter enemy while at the same deeply longing for reunification of both the nation separated families. They hate the communist ideology, but, I think, have concern and compassion for the North Korean people.
The 386 generation, however, grew up with much less poverty and no memory of the Korean War. Although plied with anti-communist propaganda in the South Korean education system and exposed to the stories of the older generation, a different worldview began to form. There will be some irony in this, later.

They were not content under authoritarian rule, which their parents tolerated more easily, and were more sympathetic to the North Korean regime, and ultimately Marxist ideology. As they were growing up in the 1970s, living standards in North Korea were at least equal to those in the South, and the perception of a more independent North Korea also had appeal when compared to South Korea having foreign forces stationed in Seoul.”

Monday, May 19, 2008

Why Lieberman Matters

Another reason to like Joe Lieberman. From Contentions:
“Senator Joseph Lieberman spoke last night at the annual Commentary Fund dinner at New York’s University Club, which I attended. Although he termed it a “lecture,” his address was in fact a history lesson, one that–in light of the past week’s events–it appears the country badly needs.

Lieberman reviewed the bipartisan war that both American political parties waged against fascism and then communism in the 20th century. He traced the commitment to fighting totalitarianism that ran from Roosevelt to Truman to Kennedy to Reagan. After a near-collapse during the Carter presidency and abandonment by a series of failed Democratic presidential candidates, that tradition of support for freedom and opposition to tyranny, he contended, was restored and became a mainstay in the Clinton administration. He praised Clinton’s willingness to use American military power in Bosnia to prevent ethnic cleansing in Europe’s midst. And he maintained this was the essential platform that he and Al Gore ran on in 2000.”

His argument, that the Democratic Party needs to have a strong foreign policy wing, and is one of the reasons for the retention of his party membership, is a good one. This country, and the Democrats can not allow itself to become a completely dovish group that the Daily Kos and Hufftard’s would like them to be. In a fight like the one we are engaged in, it needs to be more than just the Republican’s war.

And for those of us who are not in complete chorus with the Republican’s set of social and economic policies at home, it is imperative that the Democrats not shoot themselves in the foot by painting themselves as the party unwilling to tackle the threats we face overseas. We need more men like Lieberman in office.

So keep on fighting Joe.

Dirty Politics?

First, McCain states the obvious and says that Hamas would prefer an Obama presidency to his own.

Then, Obama calls McCain an old man who is “losing his bearings.”

Everyone gets angry and says the other candidate is being unfair and using “smear” tactics. They are both wrong.

Ahmed Yousef, chief political adviser to the Prime Minister of Hamas did say that his party liked Obama, and “they hope he wins.” McCain didn’t imply that Hamas would prefer Obama; their chief spokesmen said so. In fairness to Obama, he has said that he would be unwavering in his support for Israel, and has called them terrorists, but if the group does find Obama to be a better candidate for their ends, that should be something that matters in our political debate.

Obama’s stated willingness to step away form the hard-lined stance we have taken to totalitarian groups like Hamas will undoubtedly advance the goals of those groups. The consequences of a policy will advance some players in the game, and be a detriment to others. The Obama camp has been unwilling to address this fact, and has taken to calling this criticism “smear tactics” and “dirty politics.”

“Who cares what Hamas thinks, Obama has said he does not support their cause” you say? A president doesn’t have to be a ideologically connected to a group or an idea to put in place a policy that benefits them, even if unintentionally. The Obama camp needs to wake up to this fact, and not dismiss these points as irrelevant.

While it isn’t necessarily fair to say that McCain’s comments were the result of him “losing his bearings,” it is fair for the Obama camp to play up the fact that John’s an old man. Not just an old man, but one who suffered torture in a prison camp. I think it is completely fair for folks to question the ability of a leader to hold the highest office in the country when you are as old as McCain, and carry the weight of his baggage. It isn’t a major concern of mine, but I wouldn’t call bringing up these facts a “smear.”

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Islam in Seoul

The Itaewon neighborhood of Seoul is known for being a hub for foreigners in Korea. Amongst the American military servicemen and teachers that frequent the area, there is a small community of Muslims from various parts of the Islamic world. Here are some pictures of the Mosque that sits on one of the hills overlooking the area.

While I had assumed that the Muslim community was a recent transplant to the Korean Peninsula, I was surprised to learn that Islam has been present here since the 8th and 8th centuries, when Arab sailors and merchants frequented its waters. According to the Korean Times:

“During the Koryo period (918-1392) Kaesong, then the nation’s capital, was home to a thriving Muslim community, and there was a mosque as well. Members of one of the country’s clans, the Changs of Toksu, still recall that the clan’s founder was a Muslim who came to Korea during the Koryo era. However, the Yi dynasty, which seized power in 1392, was much more introspective than its predecessor, so these early connections with the Near East gradually withered.

The resurrection of Islam took place during the Korean War. The war was fought largely by U.S. forces, but with support from other countries, among them Turkey, at that time a close ally of Washington. The Turkish forces were among the most numerous, some 15,000 soldiers, and best trained non-American units to take part in the war.”