Category Archives: United States

On Khashoggi and Distractions

Aquarius

I never thought I’d ever see a live minstrel show in my lifetime. But that’s exactly what Kanye West did in the oval office in front of Donald Trump. He performed as a “black supporter,” a minority supporter whose years where he was hailed as a celebrity and an icon by the black community would be weaponized to delegitimize all complaints against the Trump administration. “Maybe Black Lives Matter and Colin Kapernick are just over-reacting! Kanye West, a prominent black celebrity, is out there hugging Donald Trump. They must not be well-versed on the issues as much as Kanye, the genius that he is.”

What’s shameful is that they let Kanye just go around and hurt himself by letting him speak nonsense. Doesn’t he have relatives or people that care about him? Doesn’t he have anyone to tell him that talking about multi-verses in the oval office in front of cameras make him look like a fool? Why are they letting him advocate prison reform specifically for one person, who is probably one the least-deserving of presidential pardons out of the millions of people locked up in the US? Is Donald Trump so desperate for black friends (and celebrity friends) that he would willingly exploit someone who clearly needs help? Kanye’s rant in SNL a couple of days ago was embarrassing. He held everyone hostage while he indulged in his narcissistic lectures. Trump just magnified that a thousand times and turned the whole country into SNL.

Kanye West is a distraction, a disgrace, and dumb moron. Call him a musical genius if you want, but don’t forget to include “musical.” Being called a genius in one field doesn’t give one carte blanche authority on every other subject.

Long live Taylor Swift.

Saudi Arabia is out of control. The presumed assassination and disposal of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is the stuff of mafia movies. The United States is now getting a taste of what Saudi Arabia did to Canada a few months ago. Fortunately, we have a leader who is willing to stand up against Saudi Arabia. As for the US, Trump said it plainly, the Saudis are buying way too many weapons for the US to be concerned about one presumably dead journalist (who is just a US permanent resident, not a citizen). It is disgusting.

I said it before. MBS is Kim Jung Un with oil money. He behaves the same way as Kim Jung Un. The only reason why he is not ostracized by other countries is because of his country’s oil wealth. He is no reformer. If anything, he appears to be more dangerous at his young age than his predecessors. And unfortunately, with Trump unwilling to go against Saudi Arabia, this reckless behavior will only continue to escalate.

In a few weeks, people will forget about Khashoggi. Even in this page, I wrote about the distraction of Kanye West before I wrote about Khashoggi which arguably has greater consequences in the future. There will be greater distractions, and people will focus again on hating Iran instead of the Saudis. The US and the rest of the world will forget and let the Saudis do whatever they want. After all, if they can get away with 9/11, what’s that compared to one missing journalist.

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More on Kavanaugh, the #Metoo Movement, and the eternal youth of white people

Kangaroo

The Judge Kavanaugh defense is a shameful farce on all fronts. First off, the preemptive strategy of selling him a great basketball coach and father to two daughters, surrounding him with young girls when they initially presented him was very suspect. They never did that for Judge Gorsuch. Also, it was very suspect that the Republicans had a signed testimony from 65 women who attests to Gorsuch’s good character in high school well-prepared prior to the allegations about him attempting to rape women ever surfaced. Why was there ever a need for such a document? Does Gorsuch have a similar document at the ready during his confirmation process?

The most common defense, which something Donald Trump has echoed, is that the women are liars, that they are confused or that they have an agenda. This is the oldest, most sexist defense of all. Tucker Carlson, in his most un-self-aware moment of television, even compared the whole unfolding fiasco to the Salem witch trials, to which, if I remember the play correctly, involved women being falsely accused and foregoing reason in favor of a moral panic. It is doubly ironic because at the moment, Republicans in Congress don’t even want to investigate the women’s allegations. So no investigations… they are simply all liars, and the poor judge is a victim of hysteria and political assassination. The Salem witch trials seem more thorough in comparison.

But what’s more disturbing is the now growing defense of letting boys be boys. The judge was seventeen at the time (and his accuser was 15). Boys will always be aggressive, and men should never be judged for their actions as children. Forget that the action in question was attempted rape. And as time passes, it would seem to be a pattern of organized attempted rapes and sexual harassment. CNN, in an effort to be non-partisan, has been parading women defending the action of boys, poor boys who are merely acting on their hormones. Besides, what happened was more than 36 years ago. If it did happen, it was far too long ago, and the good judge has grown to be quite the upstanding citizen, so upstanding that he’s earned the nomination to be the next Supreme Court judge.  But let me count the ways on how awful this defense is.

  1. Minority children are often never afforded the same courtesy of being young and immature. They are more often prosecuted as adults and described as menacing. Look at what happened to Trayvon Martin. He was shot for walking in his neighborhood. He wasn’t attempting to rape anyone. And closer to Donald Trump, look at the Central Park Five which he campaigned to be sent to prison despite being proven innocent of gang rape. They were 15 at the time. Being young and innocent is often a white privilege. Minority children are treated as grown men way too soon while white men are treated as men way too late. Want proof? Look at Don. Jr. He’s a grown man with kids, but he’s often talked about like a bumbling teenager.
  2. Saying that boys will be boys, that these things happen, and that groping is as innocent as snapping bras for teenagers is basically admitting to the fact that the judge probably did what he was accused of doing. If so, that would make him a liar, wouldn’t it? A teenage boy who sexually harassed women and attempted to rape them in his “youthful innocence” is far from the straight-laced Christian he is selling himself as. Also, that would make him someone who lied in front of Congress. People get disqualified applying for jobs when they openly lie in front of their potential employers.
  3. It is never okay to attempt rape at any age. It is not a teachable moment. And when the judge’s supporters say that the #Metoo movement makes every man a target, it doesn’t. It makes every rapist a target. It makes everyone with sexual harassment or assault in their past a target. I don’t have any sexual harassment in my past whatsoever. I’m not intimidated by the #Metoo movement at all. I have not come close to what the judge is being accused of doing. I’m sure a lot of men have nothing to fear from it as well.
  4. Consent is key and it should be within context. The women accusing Kavanaugh say that they never gave consent especially as minors. I would hate to live in a world where a minor consenting to sexual relations is judged as valid as consent from a grown adult, especially in a setting as a high school party filled with drugs and alcohol. That’s a horrible setting to assign a legally-binding consent. Now, contrast this with the way Kavanaugh treated the relations between President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, two consenting adults.
  5. The whole notion of restorative justice relies on the fact that the perpetrator of the crime admits to the crime and has reformed and is no longer a threat to society as a whole, making amends to those he/she has wronged in the process. When people say that the events took place long time ago and that the judge is now reformed, they ignore the fact that the judge has never admitted to anything. No confession, no apology, no restorative justice. How can there be justice when the very existence of a crime and yes, even victims, is simply denied? If anything, the whole fiasco reeks of a separate crime in itself, a cover-up.

What is interesting is that Kavanaugh recently admitted to being a virgin in high school in order to disprove the rape allegations. He is willing to say that he was a popular student and an athlete who never had a sexual encounter in high school rather than admit to being a tad too aggressive and admitting to mistakes. Instead of being weak and human, he chose to go to an even higher moral pedestal. Boys and girls, not only was he richer, smarter, and more popular than you, Jesus also loves him more. Of course, it is much, MUCH easier to admit to being a virgin in high school and taking on its stigma after so many years has passed, now that you have nothing much to lose from it. Compare that to admitting you were an attempted rape victim back then and taking on death threats.

I initially though that Kavanaugh will ultimately be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, but the events of the past few days had me rethinking my initial prediction. I could still be correct, but there is a growing possibility that he would not survive this and that he could very well lose his district judge position. Here’s hoping that he does lose everything. The world is a dumpster fire at the moment, which is why I still think he could still become a Supreme Court judge, but I really wish in a few days, there would be one less rapist in a position of power.

After all of this is over, what would leave a bad taste in my mouth is how allegations of sexual misconduct is still treated pretty much the way it was in the past, even after the #Metoo movement. It’s very reminiscent of Saudi Arabia, where the victim faces a tremendous hurdle for proving a crime has been committed after overcoming the sometimes impossible hurdle of admitting a crime has been committed, and even then, both the victim and the accused face consequences. There is still victim blaming… what was she wearing, why was she there, what time was it, what was she drinking, etc. Ignoring the fact that biggest factor in being raped is to be in the midst of a person who happens to be rapist. We still haven’t learned anything.

Ugh. As I said, the world is a dumpster fire, and it still must suck to be a woman sometimes.

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So Much for Justice

Narcissus

Judge Brett Kavanaugh should be disqualified simply for the fact that he can’t even appear intelligent in hiding his opinions. He repeatedly excused himself from answering questions by refusing to respond to hypotheticals, which I’m actually quite surprised that no one pointed out was the actual job of the Supreme Court. The highest court in the land is supposed to judge laws not only based on the facts of the case, but also on the precedent it would create, the hypotheticals.  This is why being a Supreme Court justice is a highly political position.  So for a nominee to refuse to answer whether a sitting president could be indicted on a crime based on the fact that the question is a hypothetical, seems like an abandonment of what a judge is required to do as well as a demonstration of disrespect to the hearing process.

I really admire Sen. Kamala Harris cornering him when he asked him whether he has discussed Robert Mueller’s investigation with any of Trump’s lawyers. His long equivocation in asking for specific lawyers’ names which eventually descended to an “I can’t recall” which the next day evolved into a “no,” is a glaring signal that this person is hiding things. Heck, the fact that there are documents hidden from members of the committee and public should disqualify him immediately. If it walks and talks like a shady and dishonest character, it probably is a shady and dishonest character.

And really, trying to explain to a room full of lawmakers repeatedly what a precedent means is amateur hour, not to mention condescending. It is Kavanaugh’s inartful attempt of wasting time.

As for the question of whether a sitting president could be indicted. Kavanaugh was part of the team that tried to bring down Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He asked the most personal and nonsensical questions regarding the affair. Back then, a president could not lie to save his reputation or his marriage, otherwise he should be impeached. Now that Trump is president, Kavanaugh is equivocating whether he could be indicted for more serious crimes. No one living in a democracy should allow for a president not to be indicted for crimes. That is what a democracy is. Obama should not be allowed to murder his chef the same way Trump should not be allowed to behead Stephen Miller without being prosecuted. Presidents are not kings; they are not above the law. The only question is whether it should be done while the president is in office or not, and whether Congress would impeach him and begin criminal prosecution.

In my opinion, despite all of this, I think Kavanaugh will be installed as a Supreme Court Justice. Republicans have the votes and their opposition is far too weak to stop his confirmation. There are simply no heroes among the Republicans, and no strong leadership among the Democrats. I really hope I’m wrong, because if Trump became president through several criminal acts (collusion, campaign finance violation, etc.), why would he be allowed to nominate an arbiter who would ultimately decide whether he could be indicted for crimes in an office which he gained through criminal means. It’s a turducken of legal fucked-up-ness.

BTW: Why aren’t lawyers, professors, and everyone involved in law protesting this? This is a brazen attempt to co-opt the judicial branch into an arm of the Republican Party. I’m not so naïve to think that it hasn’t been co-opted by politics in the past, but this is so brazen and the consequences are so great that it’s a wonder why aren’t more people outraged that this whole process is even allowed to take place.

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America is Bored

Drink

Many years ago, I enjoyed the first couple of season of The Apprentice. It was a rather goofy show. I saw it the same way I saw America’s Next Top Model. The Apprentice wasn’t producing any Warren Buffets out of its pool or talents, and America’s Next Top Model wasn’t going to produce the next Heidi Klum (who happens to have a reality show at the same time as well). I knew at the time that Donald Trump was full of it. He marketed everything and was willing to plaster his name on everything. His audiobook even had a section devoted entirely on advertising products. He was a cartoon of a man, and it was entertaining at the time. And then I got bored by third season.

I used to enjoy Gavin Mciness. I read Vice regularly on its early days and often enjoyed his many contributions although I didn’t really agree on some of his opinions. After splitting from Vice, I still enjoyed Gavin Mcinness with some of his comedic attempt. I thought the whole, “how to be a man” thing was great satire. And for a short period, I thought his hyper-masculine rants and conservative turn was a Kaufmanesque attempt at humor. It wasn’t. I moved on.

I saw a few of Jesse the Mind Ventura’s old show on conspiracy theories. I thought it was hilarious when it came out. I wasn’t quite sure whether it was tongue-in-cheek or not, especially when he goes around with his “investigative team.” A lot of what they talked about was hilariously flawed, but with a bit of production, it made it more entertaining than it should be. A couple of times, he even had Alex Jones on the show. I didn’t really know much about Alex Jones at the time, but I do remember that a lot of the big revelations and conspiracies he was talking about in the show all amounted to teases which led to nothing. There were no evidence. Just a couple of men often staring at a barbed wire fence and making up stories about what’s on the other side. I got bored and moved on to shows which had actual writers.

The first time I heard about Milo Yiannopoulous was when I heard about Gamergate. I wasn’t really that invested in the issue at the time, after all, there are bigger things out there in the world that should concern people than “ethics in video game journalism.” I found that Anita Sarkeesian and Milo Yiannopolous at the time were both working their own crowd to build up their brands. I was just amused that the whole thing blew up so much that Sarkeesian found an audience at the UN and Yiannopolous became a hero of the alt-right. And I’m like… how about playing video games instead of just arguing about them?

I used to watch Michael Lebron on Lionel Nation. He came into my radar around the same time I started listening to Sam Seder. I thought some of his arguments made sense, and it was interesting how he would sometimes go against popular takes on politics, culture, and what not. I thought he was a decent but an old-fashioned broadcaster. Then I moved on to other things. Next thing I know, I see him peddling Qanon conspiracy theories and posing with Donald Trump. Ugh.

What I’m getting at here is that America seems to have been caught up with me at my most bored a few years ago, me at my watching Jerry Springer because there is nothing else on television (and yes, I know Jerry Springer is a better statesman than most of the clowns out there right now). I’m surprised that these people I mentioned have large followings, enough for Mcinness to have global franchises of his hate group and for Trump to become the leader of the free world. Why didn’t the rest of the world move on? Couldn’t they see there are more entertaining stuff out there?

In any case, here’s hoping that the joy of seeing D-list entertainers will be usurped by an even darker desire… the desire to see someone spectacularly fail. It was entertaining to see the whole Gamergate thing erupt, but it’s even more entertaining watching Milo Yiannopolous fail again and again at trying to be relevant. It was entertaining to see Donald Trump rise. It’s the reason why cable news gave him and his supporters so much free coverage. But it would be even more entertaining to see a US president fail spectacularly. This would guarantee more rating for cable news shows.

I believe this is what ultimately will happen. People will root to see him fail just for the spectacle of it. How do I know this? The times I was watching The Apprentice, reading Gavin McInnes, or checking out Lionel Nation or Gamergate, I remember those are periods when I would occasionally scroll through Failblog. It was quite entertaining to see people fail. So yeah. C’mon America. Catch up with me at my most bored.

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Madam is a Bigot

Strawberry

Ugh… when someone complains about the cost of housing/helping refugees. Don’t bother entertaining that question. It is a talking point as old as time usually aimed at immigrants. It’s been adopted by white supremacists. This “economic anxiety” is just fluff for what is basically racism. It was economic anxiety that got Donald Trump elected to the White House. However, this same “economic anxiety” does not surface when it Donald Trump wants a space force, an expensive military parade, and increased military spending. His supporters only seem to be “economically anxious” when it comes to issues which affect minorities and immigrants.

So as innocent as that lady might be when she questioned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about where the money to assist refugees will come from, she is parroting a talking point that has been historically used to attack minorities and immigrants. It’s bigoted and racist. That is not to say that Canada should mindlessly bear the cost of helping all refugees out, but when it’s your first complaint, the one you heckle the leader of the country with, then I begin to judge your motives and intelligence. Canada is not a poor country. It’s not the richest country in the world, but we are not starving either. We can afford to help those who are desperately fleeing deadly situations in their home country. We can do this.

A few days ago, I came out of Seoul Station and heard festive drumming. There were drummers set-up in front of the station with seats for the audience and everything. It was pretty elaborate and the whole thing seems to have been well organized. It was a really festive mood. But ironically, it was organized by a group that wants to block refugees coming to South Korea, particularly the 500 Yemenis applying for asylum. The people who want the refugees out were channeling Trump. There are talks of immigrants taking advantage of the system, and that they are not really refugees. And these are the more civil talking point. Others on the Internet simply say they don’t look like Koreans or are scary. There’s a growing concern that the influx from a few hundred applicants ten years ago to about 10,000 asylum applicants this year point out to massive fraud, but it could also mean that the world continues to be a hellish place to live for some people. Or perhaps it shows how Korea has become more attractive to immigrants and refugees in the international stage.

A lot of the anxiety stems from Jeju Island, with many of the Yemeni asylum seekers being there due to its visa-free policy. I suspect this is also fueled by the growing angst against Chinese investors buying up property, coupled with the influx of tourists in the past couple of years. What’s disappointing is that aside from the usual racism, Islamophobia, and accusing foreigners of being involved with drugs and crime, the country’s #Metoo and feminist movement seem to have allied itself with the anti-refugee crowd as well. #제주도여성실종사건 (“Missing Women in Jeju-do”) was trending on Twitter last month, with the disappearance of six women being blamed on refugees. Again, there is no evidence that directly links refugees to the actual five missing women (rumors made it six) and it seems to echo the anti-refugee sentiments in Europe, with people saying that they are a danger to women. It also bears mentioning that foreigners in Korea as a group commit fewer crimes than the rest of the Korean population. This fervor reminds me of events a few years ago when there was a spate of students molested by their Korean teachers. Some were covered up, while others were simply fired. This created a bit of an uproar, but instead of addressing the problem directly, lawmakers decided to make it mandatory for foreign teachers to have AIDS test in order to get their visas. Ignoring the implication that foreigners have a higher risk for AIDS and that they should at least be AIDS-free when they presumably have relations with students, not many people batted an eye when this “solution” was made into law. Blame the foreigners and minority for crimes they didn’t commit. It’s an old, lazy, but effective tactic. Unfortunately, it didn’t really make anyone safer.

And if you really want to go deeper in history, women’s safety has been used by the Ku Klux Klan to demonize black men: the brute caricature. Black rapists, white victims.

Economic anxiety, women’s safety… these have all been incorporated by hate mongers to demonize foreigners and minorities. When it comes to talking about refugees, it is simply racist to address these things because a cursory search in the Internet will show how these talking points have been used repeatedly to demonize people. The coming of foreigners has never resulted in the collapse of a country’s economy and the pillage of women unless you look at colonialist history. European settlers ravaged the First Nations. Columbus and his men raped women and sold people as slaves. It was the First Nations that should have felt concerned about their economy and women’s safety. People don’t need to worry about these things when it comes to refugees. The last time I checked, Germany is still a pretty rich country despite taking in so many refugees. And as for crimes, it has the lowest crime record since 1992. So yes, going back to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that woman was talking bigoted bullshit.

I’m not saying the woman is evil however. She’s simply misguided on the issue. She could be the best mother, daughter, sister, or whatever… but when it comes to the refugee issue, she is a misguided bigot. A couple of weeks ago, a Korean man hurled some racist sentiments at me. The person I was with tried to defend me, but I told her to let it go, and I tried to move on from the situation. Now, as progressive as this person might be in defending me against racist attacks, this same person later tried to convince me of the problems with “fake refugees” coming in to Korea.

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On Journalism and Everyone Who Practices It (Whether Inadvertently or Not)

Fake News.jpg

Journalism is noble profession. The problem with journalism however is that far too many people fancy themselves as doing journalism when they’re doing anything but. Either that, or it gets muddled with punditry and people would sometimes no longer have any idea what they’re reading or listening to anymore. Do people who watch Shawn Hannity actually believe they’re not watching the news? I’m sure they think they’re watching the news and not just some college dropout opine about conspiracy theories. And with the rash of news and opinion outlets which cater to every political persuasion, anything that doesn’t fit or contradicts with our own biases could easily be waved off as fake news. The president of the United States does it. My father does it. Even my wife does it from time to time. I myself am not immune to consuming news from outlets that only share my opinion. I often get my news from left-leaning outlets. Probably the most right-leaning outlet I would occasionally watch would be Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough, but that’s only because the vileness of the current political climate have left them no choice but to go against their former right-leaning ways.

And one of the reasons why I tend not to consume anything from the right is that it’s often awash with conspiracy theories and generally vile attitude towards others. How the heck did Alex Jones get an audience? Who would trust anything that Jesse Watters says? And that’s just people on TV. There’s a plethora of right wing talkers on the Internet who dare I say are more unqualified to talk about politics and the news but still command a sizeable audience. And this again blows my mind because none of them are funny and witty at all. Without actually informing their audience, I would expect them to either be witty or funny at a minimum, but no, they’re just not. Outside of wit and humor, they just often resort to hate, which I understand is just as entertaining and addictive.

But what’s most ironic is that while the president of the US denigrates and makes villains out of real journalists, many right wing commenters who often cloak themselves in the amorphous mantle of journalism/punditry join in and attack the free press as well. “These are fake news.” “lame stream media.” As if they don’t belong and are not protected by the same rights real journalists are working under. It’s the same way Trump and many of his political supporters attack the government and this fictional “deep state” as if they’re not the ones currently running everything. It is insanity.

Just yesterday, five journalists were gunned down in Annapolis. This was after the president called members of the free press the enemy. This was a day after Milo Yiannopolous publicly opined that he wanted journalists to be hunted down. And again, ironically, Yiannopolous also happens to work for Info Wars and previously worked for Breitbart which would in some ways make him part of that group he wants attacked. And while they all attacked the 1st Amendment, I’m sure it would be that same 1st Amendment they would use to protect themselves from any liability. “I was just kidding.” “It wasn’t serious.”

God bless the journalists who do their job right and do their job well. We all need them now more than ever.

Maybe it’s not the most appropriate example from many liberals because he is a right winger who I often disagreed with, but I always admired how Charles Krauthammer went from Harvard medical school, to speechwriter, to journalism. I wish I had his courage and his gift to write.

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Get Over Yourself

Loie

Look, America doesn’t have a monopoly on being the light of democracy, the beacon of hope, the shining city on a hill. Actually, it’s far from it. Since they elected their current president, with one tragedy after another, I keep hearing “we are better than this,” “this is not us,” and “not all Americans.” Now I do agree that Trump and his supporters are not ALL Americans, but I disagree with everything else. Particularly with what’s happening right now at the American borders, the separation of immigrant children and their internment in abandoned Walmarts, this is exactly what America is.

People often say that America’s original sin is slavery and white supremacy. But even that statement ignores a much earlier sin, the displacement and genocide of Native Americans. But just looking at the Trump presidency as a microcosm, there is a pattern which is very similar to the rest of America as a whole. The vilification of Mexicans, the Muslim ban, the attack on NFL players, the blatant disregard to the crisis in Puerto Rico, the splitting and internment of immigrant families… one key they have in common is the absolute vile treatment of people of color. If you’re not white, there’s a great chance you might have a shittier American experience. And again, not all of America is to blame for what is happening. But it is very telling that despite the crisis on the border being the top news item for a couple of days now, instead of Trump losing popularity, he actually gains favorability. Not only that, he appears to have more power among his political party. Being disgusting towards young, immigrant children and putting them in internment camps is proving to be quite good for Trump. Americans might like telling themselves that they are the land of the free and the home of brave, but those same free and brave people often allow awful things to happen right in their own backyard. This is not the first time Americans kept an internment camp. They did so just a few decades ago.

After the Muslim ban was announced last year, there were lots of protests. It was great to see people standing up for their Muslim brothers and sisters. Eventually, the courts ruled that the Muslim ban was unconstitutional, and the president’s own words betrayed the hateful intent of his policy. But since then, there hasn’t been much collective outrage and action over the many injustices which Trump has orchestrated. Why didn’t Americans march for Puerto Rico? Aren’t Americans marching every day for Flint, police shootings, school shootings, or any other issues? Heck, even when the Muslim ban was finally partially enacted, there was nary a protest. Did people just get tired? Were people distracted? Did the free and brave people have other plans that day?

Unless Americans can exorcise their demons, they really shouldn’t be allowed to wax poetic indulgently about being American. Americans can’t say, “this is not who we are. This is not what we do.” No, this is exactly what you do. America is the one person in the room with the most guns who regularly lets bad things happen to minorities. That’s just how it is. And I don’t want to sound too high and mighty, but as a Canadian, we have a long history of sins against our Native populations as well, but you will never hear me say that that is not what we are, that “we are better than this.” Canadians are vile towards their Native populations. That’s what we are, and we should be better than this.

I love Americans. I have friend and family in the US. My nieces are Americans. I really hope that their future America would be better than this. The America I see in the news is the ugliest I’ve seen in years. It can be ugly for people like me and my nieces. As a person of color, I’ve seen racism rear its ugly head in Canada and even here in Seoul. But as Americans, I worry about my nieces. I can handle racism. I’m old and I’ve seen it enough times to know how to roll with it. But they are still far too young. And judging by how the US government and Trump supporters are being vile towards child immigrants, it is apparent that not even children are spared from the dark ugliness of the American experience. In truth, my nieces are raised in a fairly privileged lifestyle. I like to think that they’re growing up in an environment where deplorables have very little chance to make contact with them.  But despite all of that, I fear that it only takes one ugly accident to ruin a person’s day if not a person’s life.

In any case, Americans really do need to get it together. This has gone on far too long. People used to joke that “Trump is bad, but at least he’s not building internment camps.” Well, the camps are now here. What do you do? Where are the free and brave people?

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The Confusing Korean Left

Little Boy

These are crazy times. The left wing of Korea is now a proponent of the alt-right’s agenda, specifically with Trump meeting with Kim Jung Un. President Moon Jae-In, in his quest for warmer relations with North Korea have unnecessarily entangled himself with Trump and Kim Jung-Un meeting next week in a summit in Singapore. When it was first cancelled, the extreme right wing in the country was celebrating, calling it a failure of Moon Jae-In. But now that the meeting is back on, it seems that the left is celebrating it as a “win” regardless of the consequences and what the summit exactly means for North Korean propaganda. If you told me that the left wing of Korea would push for a meeting between Trump and Kim Jung-Un two years ago, I would’ve called you insane.

Now I’m not necessarily against western leaders meeting with North Korea. What I am is extremely cynical of these things. First off, Trump agreed to a meeting without even having any concessions. They demanded total abandonment of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, but there seems to be a disagreement whether North Korea agreed to this. And even if they did, it is very unlikely they would follow through with this, especially with Kim Jung-Un fearing Colonel Gaddafi’s fate after abandoning his nuclear programs.

Second, the Trump administration is not treating this very seriously. I really think they’re just pursuing this and hoping that they would somehow stumble into a peace agreement. Why do I say that? I say that because we’re weeks away from the summit, and we’ve yet to hear any realistic plan to slowly wean North Korea away from their current nuclear trajectory outside of Trump sounding like a genie, “you will be very happy, your people will be very happy, your country will be rich!” And I get very suspicious when clowns start popping in for the summit. There’s word that Dennis Rodman, Sean Hannity, and Sebastian Gorka (a Hungarian Nazi) will be covering the summit for Trump. It’s a damned photo op for conservative “win.”

And again, all of this while Trump makes trade wars with Canada, Mexico, and the EU (and Nikki Haley embarrasses herself in front of the UN).

I like President Moon Jae-In, I really do, but I think he’s got himself caught in a trap. Friendliness with North Korea doesn’t mean the South has to be a wingman for relations with the United States, not at this early stage anyway. It wasn’t too long ago when the North wasn’t too cool with the South. Now he is wedded to the political whims of Donald Trump and Kim Jung-Un. Should either man do anything to mess up the summit or sour relations with each other, Moon Jae-In’s enemies would quickly jump on that and use it to attack him. The promise of warmer relations with North Korea is tenable. The promise of peace with North Korea, while ideal, seems unrealistic under current circumstances. And anything short of peace and total nuclear disarmament (something which Trump initially suggested the North agreed to), Moon Jae-In will be attacked for.

In any case, the left should really step back and see what exactly they are supporting here. They are supporting “wins” for two men who will cynically use the meeting for short term political gains and propaganda. The “wins” for both Trump and the North is simply the summit itself. Both men attend the meeting, they shake hands, take pictures. Done. Nobel Peace Prize for one of the worst US presidents in modern history. Any failing from the follow through could just be waved of as fake news. The “win” for the South would take far longer, and proving it to be a “win” would be more substantive. This is a strange and hard gamble for the left.

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Hurting Americans

Buffalo

Tonight, Trump is going to hurt his supporters. The trade exemptions for Canada and Mexico expire tonight, and he is imposing a 25% tariff on steel and 10% on aluminum. Our prime minister already announced that we will impose retaliatory tariffs on American products. And we are not alone. Mexico has announced that they will be imposing retaliatory tariffs as well along with Europe. Things are going to be more expensive for Americans now.

It’s not as if Americans haven’t already been hurt by Trump’s dumb economic policies. China is now buying more soy beans from Russia and Canada as retaliation for the US’s actions. This hurts Trump’s core supporters, the farm belt. Couple that with his immigration policies which leaves many American farmers unable to hire workers in their farms. Harley Davidson, which is already suffering losses since the company’s image has steadily become quite passé, will now be suffering under tariffs, both in the materials used to manufacture the bicycles as well as in exporting them to Europe and China.

There are a few times when I’m proud of Prime Minister Trudeau’s actions, but him standing up to the American bully is a proud moment. It is unjustifiable for Trump to threaten a trade war when countries would do better helping each other prosper. The NAFTA negotiations are taking too long? Sure. But isn’t preserving good business relations worth the wait? What’s the rush? Where is everyone going? Do these American politicians have something better to do? His explanation of protecting national security and helping US industries are nothing but hollow words he was asked to repeat. Ask Donald Trump for more meaningful explanations and you’ll get nothing but repetitive bluster. Why impose taxes on German cars for example? How would hurting car manufacturers help national security? Wouldn’t that hurt thousands of Americans employed and partnered with the German company? I know all of his friends are driven around in German cars and they bear the brunt of such tariffs, but what about everyone else?

The thing is there is no such thing as an art of the deal. None. Donald Trump is an awful negotiator. The only deals that worked out for him are deals that benefitted him personally. It never works out well for his partners. That is something that all banks in the United States learned about him prior to him being president. But sadly, his voters don’t care about all of this. They prefer a leader who talks to them like children, pausing for applause and to repeat lines… lines which are getting quite tired by mid-2018. Seriously, why rail against Hillary Clinton at this point? They prefer a leader who encourages them to be hateful to women and minorities, a grown man who still hasn’t learned how to be decent.

So yes, good on you, Mr. Prime Minister Trudeau! Retaliate. Hurt the Americans. Hurt the people who made Trump a foul omnipresent specter in the media, political, and social landscape. Hurt the people who would drag us all back to much darker times. In these negotiations, it is best to follow the China model. We cannot lose face to the Americans. And though I have no animus towards Americans in general (they are one of my favorite people), I’m so sick and tired of seeing their worst have it their way.

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Stormy Daniels, Slut Shaming, and the Diminishing Returns of Writing about Trump

Twitter dilemma

It’s very unsatisfying to write about US politics, especially in relation to Trump because whatever outrages me at the moment will soon be overshadowed by another scandal that is bound to come. That, plus with the myriad of controversies surrounding the administration, focusing on one scandal would seem to be doing a disservice to the other scandals/crises which are of equal importance. Just off the top of my head, on March 22, 2018, there is the Russian collusion and Trump’s piety towards Putin where he appears to be bullied/extorted right in front of the world (Putin: Say you congratulated me on my election victory. Trump: Yes, sir.), there is the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal which makes me really want to delete my long-abandoned Facebook account, there is the continuing gun crisis as well as violence against black people, there is the scandal of firing Andrew McCabe 26 hours prior to his retirement, the list goes on and on.

For now, let me focus on Stormy Daniels. There are countless of articles and videos explaining what she’s doing and why she’s doing them. Perhaps she’s doing this for money, exposure, whatever, I’m not really interested in that. She can do whatever she wants, and I really don’t hold it against her for sleeping with Trump back then (he was a goofy character on television). I don’t want to put Ms. Stephanie Clifford in too high a pedestal, but I really do admire how she handles Trump’s defenders and sycophants. Most of them attack her based on her profession and her “lack of morals,” and that’s it. That’s the tired well they keep coming back to. And since she doesn’t really get fazed by people’s slut-shaming, it’s like she’s bulletproof. She just swats their insults off like ugly background noise. And ultimately, isn’t that the nightmare of the conservative male? A strong woman (many of them want to sleep with) who has full control of her sexuality and is unfazed by their slut-shaming?

If Internet statistics are to be believed, the biggest consumers of online pornography in the United States are those living in the Bible Belt. So the same men slut-shaming women who are fighting for their rights, be it the right to use contraception or the right to use their body any way they please, are the same men who probably have had Stormy Daniels cross their screens once or twice when their wives are not at home. It’s a really perverse twisting of self-hate and guilt, and I know self-hate and guilt. I’m a depressed Catholic.

Anyway, it is amazing how so many of Trump’s supporters are willing to ignore his sins while casting stones at Ms. Clifford. I feel like someone should remind them that they’re not married to Donald Trump. They don’t have to live in denial about their partner’s sins. I read one Twitter supporter proclaim that all of Stormy Daniels’ fans are disgusting. This ignores the fact that prior to all of this, Trump was actually a fan of Stormy Daniels, probably one of her biggest fans, enough to send her $130,000. Most men have admired women in pornography before. Many have been obsessed with porn stars. But not many could say they spent $130,000 on one.

In any case, should the whole Stephanie Clifford saga simply just be about her making a name for herself or selling a book or whatever, she’s still coming out of this whole thing not only ethically from a higher ground, but she’s also using a much smarter strategy and employing a savvier lawyer/promoter. She’s never professed to be a good Christian and was never forgiven by evangelical leaders, unlike Donald Trump who has been nothing but a hypocrite throughout this whole thing. If she’s doing this for monetary gain to the detriment of Trump’s marriage, have you ever known Trump to respect other people’s marriages and spouses? Nope. He insulted Ted Cruz’s wife and also McCabe’s. Trump didn’t even respect his own marriages. And really, we can’t really fault her for doing this for monetary gain. Trump has hurt so many people for monetary gain or even just through his public actions (Central Park Five, anyone?). When was the last time Ms. Clifford’s work hurt anyone?

And yeah, Ms. Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, could teach Trump’s legal team a thing or two about looking sane on television while shamelessly plugging his own agenda. I also doubt if Mr. Avenatti would be paying for his clients sexual dalliances through a home equity loan. Seriously, where did Trump’s lawyers get their JDs?

Well, before this gets too long, here’s to Ms. Clifford or Stormy Daniels. May you get whatever you want out of all of this! I really hope the 60 Minutes special does not disappoint. It’s very telling when the only two people Trump does not attack on Twitter are Putin and Ms. Clifford. Please, live up to the hype. And keep on making Trump supporters hate themselves for wanting to be with you while slowly destroying their orange father figure.

*Update: As I post this, Karen McDougal, a former Playboy playmate who had an affair with Trump, is now on television talking to Anderson Cooper about their affair. Also, Trump just tapped one of the chief architects and cheerleaders of the Iraq War, John Bolton, as National Security Adviser. Congratulations, people who voted for Trump because Hilary Clinton was a hawk. As I look back on the entry, it just seems so old now. But then again, I’m sure we’ll be back to talking about Ms. Clifford come Sunday.

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