Monthly Archives: July 2019

Dog Whistles

Reyes_Joseph_Assiniboine_12inx14in

A friend of mine, Jordan Miller, is a gallery owner. She also rents out space for small events. Recently, a local wing of a political group rented her space for an upcoming meeting. She agreed and the meeting was scheduled.

Sometime later, she receives an e-mail warning her to cancel the event unless she wants a boycott of her business. The e-mail comes from Omar Kinnarath, an activist who appears to be quite active speaking against the alt-right. (I’m guessing from the alt-right’s point of view, that makes him antifa? Correct me if I’m wrong.)

My friend tells me about the situation and it doesn’t take much Googling to find out that the political party that rented her space was the People’s Party of Canada. It’s a party that was just created last year. About a week ago, several members of the party resigned after learning about racist members in the group. From what little I gather, it seems to be one of those typical libertarian types which unfortunately is a gateway to extreme rightwing politics. They want to privatize the postal service, have more private companies in the healthcare system, limit immigration, ease gun ownership, etc. They sound nuts.

Anyone would be smart to stay away from this group fresh from the controversy that they just had, especially if you’re a gallery that caters to an open community of artists.

Now, the PPC as well as their supporters are spinning the story that my friend has a “struggling gallery” and that she was “terrorized” by Omar Kinnarath into reneging on lending out her gallery space. They labeled Omar Kinnarath, who happens to be brown, as a “terrorist” and my friend, who happens to be a white woman, a “small woman” and a “young woman.” (Note the save-the-white-woman misogyny here.) Some guy with a video channel on Facebook hanging a Gadsden flag in his studio recounts the events and even says that my friend was “directly attacked.” There are so many racist dog whistles here that it’s hard to miss. I’m just glad she didn’t go to that guy’s poorly-lit basement for an interview.

The Winnipeg Free Press wrote a story about the whole thing, with the headline “Anti-racists labeled as ‘terrorists’ by the PPC.” And yeah, it is ironic that the PPC, being accused of being racists, accuses an activist who happens to be brown, a “terrorist,” thus showing their racist colors. People online are accusing those who oppose the PPC as being against free speech, but free speech does not give everyone the right to say anything at a private property. My friend’s gallery is her property and she exercised her will and her free speech by reneging on the agreement. Omar Kinnarath exercised his free speech by telling my friend that he will boycott her gallery if she associates with what appears to be an organization that has racist members.

The whole episode is unfortunate, and it’s sad that my friend, who couldn’t care less about politics, had to be dragged along with it. But here’s a few pointers moving forward:

-If racists are on your side, then you’re probably doing something wrong. If you’re against “anti-fascists,” then you’re probably doing something wrong as well. Yeah, I know, some members of antifa can be unruly, but stick to the topic. What-aboutism is a lazy argument.

-Privatizing the postal service is dumb. When was the last time you saved so much money on UPS? Privatization leads to citizens relinquishing things to private companies, NOT competition in a capitalist society (True capitalism doesn’t exist these days). At least if something is run by the government, leaders are still accountable to their voters. Large private companies couldn’t care less about their customers.

-The Gadsden flag has been adopted by racists, thus making it racist, just like the okay hand gesture. If racists think it’s cool, then maybe stop using it.

-Free speech is not ultimate. Any first year law textbook will tell you that it has limits. Free speech also doesn’t protect people from the consequences of their speech. If a previous action is offensive, then maybe I won’t be too open in allowing you to practice your free speech in my private property. It’s not that difficult to follow.

-I don’t really know much about the PPC, especially whether they truly have racist members, but judging from the whole interaction, I would guess they don’t mind tolerating racism among their ranks. A proper political party that truly cares for a multi-cultural community (and actually wants to win support) would have handled this situation better.

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Vietnamese Website Nightmare

I’m a Canadian living in South Korea. I recently needed to go to Vietnam and need a visa to enter the country. Unlike Koreans, Canadians need to apply for a visa when they go to Vietnam. Two years, I had to go to the embassy in Seoul in person to apply for a visa. It was a rather lengthy process, so I decided to check out the embassy’s website first.

Going through Google, the first non-ad website was this.

First_Vietnam_Website

Curiously enough, my wife couldn’t find this site easily through the Korean search engine, Naver. Even more curious was this little detail on the bottom of the website.

First_Vietnam_Website_details

A Yahoo! mail for a government website? That’s pretty weird. Even weirder was the fact that it was left unfinished. It could either be @yahoo.com or @yahoo.co.kr.

Anyway, I clicked on their visa application link and it sent me to another website.

Second_Vietnam_Website

This was visaonlinevietnam.com. It was obviously an e-commerce site, but they say that they are legally able to process visas for people online. They were offering to do it for a much, MUCH cheaper price than the other Korean rush visa companies my wife was looking at, so we just assumed they were contracted by the Vietnamese government to handle these applications to cut off all the other shady businesses who charge exorbitant prices.

I applied, got an e-mail telling me that they will send me an approval letter I could present at the airport in Vietnam. Then the agent there will give me a visa. Excellent.

….

Then I got curious.

Third_Vietnam_Website_Youtube

I looked up Vietnamese visas online and came across multiple videos saying something about Visa on Arrival (which I applied for) and E-visas, which they say is faster. One video has a link to an E-visa application site.

Third_Vietnam_Website_Govt

This site is a “gov.vn” site, so it’s not local to Korea and not from the embassy in Seoul. It is from the Vietnam Immigration Department!

Third_Vietnam_Website_Details

The link for their E-visa application requires a photo and a copy of the applicant’s passport.

Third_Vietnam_Website_Application

For my application, I wasn’t asked for a copy of my passport until I got an email the same day, telling me that my application would need it to expedite the process. Weird. Also, my application didn’t require a photo, but my wife advised me to bring a photo in the country anyway just in case it’s needed.

But why did I have to go through Youtube to find that site? Why wasn’t that site linked directly from the first website I went through? Why even make arrangements with an e-commerce site when you have a fully functioning process already there?

So I sent an e-mail to that yahoo.co address (from the first website) with several variations to make up for a possible typo. Then I get this response.

Embassy_email

So they got rid of the free yahoo address and replaced it with a free gmail account! What is going on?! Even I pay for my domain name and unique e-mail address! This was starting to really worry me. So I clicked on the link for the website on the e-mail I received. And again, this was a link for the response from the e-mail address on the FIRST website I went to.

Fourth_Vietnam_Website

This is a totally different Korean embassy website! That’s two embassy websites now! And this one I couldn’t find from Google when I looked! So I looked around for an E-visa application page.

Fourth_Vietnam_Website_Form

This is the third form now, the second from the government. I don’t know whether it’s Visa on Arrival or E-visa, but at this point, I’m terribly confused. Where was this website? Why did I have to go through hoops to find it? So I looked down on the website’s details and here’s what I found.

Fourth_Vietnam_Website_Details

That website listed, http://www.vietnamembassy-seoul.org/en, is the first website I went to! Seriously! What is going on?!

Also note that for about three hours, I was calling the Vietnamese embassy in Seoul and no one was answering, both when I wanted the Korean or the English options for visa assistance. I sent an e-mail message to the new g-mail account, but have yet to receive a response. I doubt if they would get back to me very fast.

As for the first website I went to. They were very prompt when I asked for reassurance a couple of days ago and they said I will receive my letter of approval via e-mail this afternoon. I am just waiting on that. Hopefully I won’t hit another roadblock or find out that it was all an elaborate scam. I really don’t want to use the “s” word but this experience has not been very comforting. The Vietnamese embassy in Seoul (I don’t know about other countries) really needs to tighten up their website. At least get a proper domain and e-mail addresses. But more importantly, pay for some search engine optimization to help people figure out where to actually go.

Here’s hoping that in a couple of days, I will be on a beach in Vietnam, not arguing with people in Seoul.

Update:

I got my letter of visa approval promptly in my inbox. It was accompanied by a visa application as well. Confused? Well, I’m supposed to fill out the application form and the visa approval letter will make stamping it automatic. Well, after paying the stamping fee, of course. Going to Vietnam, I’m supposed to bring a filled out form, the visa approval letter, a couple of pics, and cash handy. I’m also advised to pay for express visa processing once I land in Vietnam to save me from waiting in long lines. Interestingly, the visa approval letter I received included not just my name but several other people’s names, schedules, and passport numbers. I guess these companies make applications in batches, that’s why my name is in a document with eleven other people.

The country has given rights to several third party companies to process visas for them. This has led to a variety of prices in processing fees and a myriad of confusing, amateur-looking websites. For a communist country, the visa application process seems quite capitalist.

Bad Vacation Timing

Pain Bird

Off to Japan next week. It’s the worst time to go to Japan. We will miss most of the major traditional festivals except for one which I plan to attend. We also won’t be able to see any baseball game while we’re there. I’ve always wanted to watch a Japanese baseball game live at a stadium. There’s just a weirdly, exciting energy emanating from them, especially with the drumming and the horns.

The weather also doesn’t look too good in Japan right now. I’m off to a rather secluded resort. But if it rains throughout all the days I’m there, I’m basically stuck in a small Japanese beach town with not much to do. Weather forecasts past seven days basically have a fifty-fifty chance of being accurate, so I’m just hoping that all of it will change and I will at least get to see a bit of sun.

The worst part of going to Japan right now is that Abe decided to make fighting against Korea a key political platform. After the G20 summit, he remembered that there is an election coming up, and he decided to woo hard right nationalists and claim that since Korea is still fighting for the claims of their comfort women during the war, then they will punish the Korean economy by not selling key components to manufacturing giants like Samsung and LG. This started a backlash in Korea with anti-Japanese sentiment growing and boycott against Japanese products. This of course is fueling anti-Korean sentiment in Japan despite many Japanese questioning Abe’s turn on the country’s neighbor.

Abe has been spending too much looking at how Trump does politics. He’s had a history of courting nationalists long before Trump became president, but this sudden turn reeks of Trump’s tariff playbook. Japan seems to be thumbing its nose to its neighbors. Even the recent open hunt for whales, despite the lack of domestic demand for whale meat, suggests that they couldn’t care less about international opinion. They are Japanese first, citizens of the world second.

And now I’m faced with a Korean currency that is slowly deflating due to the current economic situation and a Japanese population that might not be too kind should they hear me or any other foreigner speaking in Korean. It’s been a rough many days. The last time I was out of the country was basically for a funeral. Can I not get a normal vacation?

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