Tag Archives: illustration

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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Mohammed Bin Salman is a Fraud

Squidy

If an insect bit you, it committed what could be considered a crime against your person. It attacked you. Aside from being an irritant and bringing a general feeling of disgust, knowing that a six-legged creature that normally dwells in moist, dark, quarters brought its fangs to pierce skin, who knows what sort of diseases the creature has wrought with its violence. So what does a person do? Most people would quickly kill the insect with a strike of a palm or with a rolled-up newspaper. Others would swat the creature away, blame the act on its instinct or other innocuous causes and just move on. Afterwards, perhaps do something to prevent being bitten again.

A child however would sometimes be cruel. They would mete out punishment by slowly torturing the poor creature. Perhaps they would tear its limbs out one by one, or maybe slowly burn it with a magnifying glass.

This is how the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does justice. It crucified a person in public in the holy city of Mecca. Though rare, it often uses capital punishment for crimes such as anti-government activism and homosexuality. It is abhorrent. As much as the west hates on ISIS and how violent they can be on what they perceive as transgressors, Saudi Arabia sees them eye to eye on many of these issues.

Canada recently sent out a couple of tweets calling out Saudi Arabia to release the activist Samar Badawi and her brother who were both arrested for speaking out against the government. Samar Badawi is famous for leading the fight for women’s rights in the country. She spoke out against Saudi’s guardianship system as well as advocated for women’s right to drive. Now, I’m not a big advocate for diplomacy via Twitter. It is a clumsy tool, and diplomacy is anything but clumsy. When Canada sent out those tweets, it publicly shamed Saudi Arabia for what it’s currently doing in terms of human rights.  And while they do deserve public shaming, I don’t think public shaming is something that diplomats should do.

But if Canada committed an error in publicly shaming Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia acts exaggeratedly by calling it an “attack on the kingdom,” what do you call their tweet in response? Didn’t their message with an Air Canada plane headed towards the CN Tower explicitly threaten a terrorist retaliation against Canada? Did it also not implicitly admit to being responsible for the attack on 9/11? And again, this was just a response over a call to release activists fighting for human rights. Don’t speak up for human rights or else we’ll send terrorist planes your way? Canada is dealing with a child.

And this child is aiming to hurt Canada through education and future investments. Cutting off current trade doesn’t necessarily impact Canada tremendously, but removing Saudi students from Canadian universities and cutting off future investments could hurt Canada in the long run. I’m glad that Canada doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of backing down from its stance, but I really hope other countries join us in standing up against this evil government.

Mohammed Bin Salman is not a reformer. People need to stop saying this. He is a young leader who inherited his position. Much like North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, he got infinitely lucky in the birth lottery. And while he tries to create a progressive Saudi image by having more foreign investments and recently allowing women in the country to drive, he fights Qatar, kidnaps the Lebanese Prime Minister, and arrests and holds hostage the country’s rich and political elites in an attempt to consolidate power. The country continues to crack down and arrest its own people for simply erring grievances against the government. It continues to punch down on Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the region, creating its own humanitarian crisis (I don’t know if Saudi Arabia has ever had to punch up in a military conflict). Mohammad Bin Salman is not a true friend of the west. He is Kim Jung Un with oil money. Saudi Arabia is attacking Canada as a warning to all other western countries who would choose to criticize the kingdom for its domestic and international abuses. Instead of military threats, their government will use their purse strings to punish other countries. They save physical violence on their own people as well as weaker countries.

As for the criticism that Canada should stick its nose to where it belongs, Samar Badawi’s brother is Raif Badawi, an author and an activist himself. Like his sister, he was arrested for his anti-government activities and sentenced to ten years in prison and 1000 lashes, fifty of which he has already received. His wife is a Canadian. The Canadian government is looking after its own. But even if this wasn’t the case, it should be the responsibility of every rational government to speak out when one of its allies or partners is violating human rights. A true friend and ally would want its allies and friends to be better. If you see your brother pulling out an insect’s legs one by one, you’ll put a stop to it and teach him a lesson about cruelty and kindness. This is what Canada did. And for that, we just got threatened with a 9/11 attack.

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Kimonos and Fake News

Spoliarium

I’ve been doing a bit of an informal survey after hearing a friend spout off what sounds like anti-Japanese sentiment disguised as facts. In an attempt to disparage the character of Japanese culture specifically and the Japanese people in general, she mentioned that the kimono was designed specifically for the woman to easily have sexual encounters with men at a moment’s notice. That is why what appear to be cushions or pillows are attached at the back of the outfit. This factoid (or to cut to the chase, this lie) seems to be designed to hurt the Japanese image by basically calling their traditional attire a sex attire and by virtue implying that Japanese women have a history of having loose morals.

I’ve been asking Koreans around me about the reason for the kimono’s design and most people reference this rather risqué explanation to different degrees, with some being more polite than others. This was very fascinating since the people I asked were mostly well-educated people who have visited Japan several times, if not lived there for several years. They mostly came up with the same explanation, although some expressed doubts regarding its veracity.

Now, I’ve read about kimonos, seen them worn many times first-hand, and been with people who had it put on. There are many degrees, but kimonos can be quite complicated to put on. It took my friends almost an hour to have it put on them, and this is with a professional assistant. When you see people walking around Japan with their Sunday best kimonos, these are mostly complicated attires with several layers. They are not the fastest things to take on and off. Probably the easiest and least layered kimono I could think of are the yukatas worn in the summer, but compared to the Korean hanbok, they are probably a little more complicated to put on and off, so I don’t understand this idea of “easy access.” As for the cushions or pillows attached in the back. They are otakos or oversized ribbons mainly placed there for aesthetic purposes. I would hardly consider them pillows. One of the reasons for putting so much material around women at the time was that it was considered ideal for women to have a straight, flat figure. It was simply the aesthetic at the time. And as for pillows and the idea of having women basically be on their backs, Japanese women, when fully attired in traditional garb will have a very complex hairdo. Back then, they would never rest their head on pillows for fear of ruining their hair, and instead rested their head and neck on what amounts to a wooden platform. The whole pillow/easy access thing is simply a fantasy.

But what lends it credibility is a bit of truth. One is that there is a history of courtesans and prostitution in Japan which does involve the image of geishas wearing heavy make-up and kimonos. But this is counter to the easy access image the rumor I’ve been hearing. Another bit of truth is that kimonos are usually tied from behind, thus women would often require assistance when putting on such complicated attire. Prostitutes would sometimes tie their kimono in front so they could easily put them on and off without assistance, but that it not the only sole reason to wear a kimono with the ribbon in front. Elderly people for example, would tie their kimonos in front to make it easier to wear them. In any case, there are many reasons why kimonos could be tied in front, but I think the originators of the easy access lie just latched on to the prostitution story and made it true for all kimonos.

But what is the purpose of the lie. I imagine it is a relic of anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea. I ask people where and when they first heard of this explanation and not many people could tell me exactly when. It seems to have been rooted in their childhood. Thus, even when I offer a counter explanation, some find it hard to divorce themselves from the old take. Perhaps it was designed to disparage the Japanese, and in doing so, boost Korean nationalist sentiment. This is not the first time I’ve seen this happen. In the 80s, children in the Philippines were taught that Armando Lite invented the ArmaLite (M16), Agapito Flores invented the fluorescent lamp, and Eduardo San Juan invented the Lunar Rover. There’s a possibility that Eduardo San Juan did exist as an engineer, but there is no record that he was the chief engineer for the Lunar Rover. And as for the other two, they are nothing but clever puns. But why make up the lie? They were designed to boost national pride, encourage children to take up science and engineering, and instill a bit of anti-American sentiment since all inventors were said to have had their inventions stolen and their credits removed, thus making the lies unprovable. I suspect the Japanese kimono lie was created in the same vein, especially since the Koreas were occupied by the Japanese the same way the Philippines was occupied by the Americans.

I believe this is an early attempt at “fake news” or propaganda. Unfortunately, with me trying to disprove the old “fake news,” I could be labeled as “fake news” as well. I’m not sure if propaganda had the same vicious back and forth cycle back then as well. I figure some lies just faded after people saw the light of truth and reason. But maybe I was being naïve in thinking they are not as persistent, after all, what was my friend spouting? And to bring it back to the modern era, I had my wife look up some of the anti-Japanese sentiments my friend was spouting including the kimono explanation online. True enough, she finds them in a Korean anti-Japanese site. Old “fake news” makes it to the modern age.

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A Twist!

ThomasDArc McGee.jpg

I saw the movie ‘Wind River’ a few days ago.  The movie piqued my curiosity when I saw Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen starring as leads. I thought it quite unusual to have two actors who are featured in the Marvel Avengers franchise work together in a totally unrelated film. It seemed a tad distracting.

The movie was surprisingly decent. It was a murder mystery, although the mystery was fairly straightforward. And although the film was set in Wyoming, the wilderness and the issues regarding Native Americans echoed those of Canada’s First Nations’, particularly the way the government often has a lackadaisical approach to their problems. The film makers didn’t portray Native Americans as cartoons either. They portrayed them as real people with real concerns. The film’s focus in particular happens to be one that haunts my hometown as well, the victimization and disappearance of Aboriginal women and how authorities and society in general seems to not care about them. The RCMP doesn’t often put too much effort finding missing Aboriginal women despite the number of reports. A more comprehensive report on the violence that Aboriginal women suffer can be found at the RCMP’s own website.  It is silly how there would be days of news coverage for missing women of other ethnicities but most Aboriginal women don’t get much coverage should they ever disappear. So with all of this in mind, I was quite pleased by how the movie seemed to focus on this issue. Although a couple of instances with the male gaze was a tad inappropriate and unnecessary.

The whole thing didn’t play out like a typical theatrical release. It seemed to be more suited to something I would watch on television as opposed to the big screen. The mystery was not that complicated either and there was so big twist in the end, so the story was not that memorable. Or so I thought.

As the credits rolled, there it came in bold letters: Produced by the Weinstein Company.

That was a twist of M. Night Shyamalan proportions. A movie that champions the plight of women, particularly of Native Americans who are often marginalized, bringing them to light much like the #Metoo movement has brought to light abuses not just in Hollywood but in many places in the US and around the world… that movie just happens to be a property of the same monster that victimized countless of women and whose actions inspired the #Metoo movement in the first place.

Bravo ‘Wind River,’ bravo.

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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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Love and Burger King

Demon

Yesterday, I was sitting at a Burger King. The Burger King and the MacDonald’s near my workplace are hangouts for the elderly. The neighborhood is quite old, and it’s a known hangout for senior citizens who wander about doing who knows what. The two burger joints are quite popular among the seniors because they serve cheap coffee and cheap sundae, especially in contrast with the other coffee shops around the area. So when people go to Burger King, they’ll often see old people talking business with either one cup of coffee or a sundae each.

Anyway, right next to me was this couple. I would guess they’re in their sixties. He’s dressed in a suit, while she is dressed like she’s going to go hiking somewhere. She even has a backpack with what appears to be cut vegetables in a Ziploc bag sticking out of one of the pockets. I normally wouldn’t pay too close attention to other customers but this couple was quite unusual. They were really quite heavy with the PDA. They’re touching each other’s hands and giving each other light kisses, getting all giggly and such. I really don’t mind all of this, but I find it quite odd that an older couple would be acting like teenagers even after from what I initially assumed was a long relationship. They seem more passionate about each other than I am with my wife at any stage of our relationship. They’re definitely more carefree about it, especially in a country where PDA is still a bit rare, especially among older generations. But I guess that couple was lucky. It truly must be a beautiful thing to be in-love at that age, to feel young, and carefree, and to barely contain yourself in order to be close to that other person.

Love is beautiful.

But then I started to be more cynical about it.

Are they really a couple? Maybe they just started dating at an older age. Maybe they’re a couple of divorcees. Or maybe they’re cheating on their respective spouses. That would explain their carefree passion as well as the mismatched clothes. After all, do couples really walk out the door with one wearing a suit and the other ready to climb a mountain? What were they doing in Burger King? Most of the senior citizens I see in either burger joints are men. I rarely see anyone taking a date in a Burger King, especially someone older. Yeah, something’s not right. Those two are up to no good. They’re spouses are probably somewhere else, working or at home or something. “Yes, honey, I’m off to go hiking with my friends! See you tonight!” “Later, I’m off to work! See you tonight.” There are too many red flags to say that they’re all innocent and are just being romantic on a Burger King in the afternoon. Someone is getting screwed somewhere. The world is beautiful and there is much joy to be found, especially through innocent eyes. But sometimes, it’s just impossible to do. I’ve lived too long and seen too many ugly things not to notice when something is off.

Love is beautiful. But that wasn’t love. That was something else entirely.

I finish my meal and went back to work.

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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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Shaking Hands

Skull

Living in South Korea, I think it would be a bit odd if I didn’t comment about the historic event right now regarding North and South Korea. Honestly, I’m very optimistic about the first steps towards a friendlier relationship with North Korea; however, I really don’t know what that friendly relationship means for the country going forward. But whatever it is, it is still better than the North Korea a few months ago that was testing nuclear missiles and insulting its neighbors.

First off, I worry about John Bolton’s comment that they are going to use the Libya model to denuclearize North Korea. This model has been looked at negatively by the people in power in North Korea, especially since it eventually led to the ouster and death of Colonel Gaddafi. As friendly and as willing North Korea may seem to be with denuclearization now, I’m not sure how far those talks would go and what true denuclearization would lead to. Also, factory jobs and the military are the biggest way out of poverty for many North Koreans. If you don’t have a need for a military, you have millions of men potentially on a crisis to transition to other industries. North Korea needs to maintain a perpetual sense of threat in order to justify its bloated military. Also, without the west to fight against, why would North Koreans need Kim Jung Un to save and protect them? It’s a disconnect in the cult of the Kims’ dogma which I’m not sure if Kim Jung Un would survive politically.

So yeah, shake hands with Kim Jung Un, take photos, and make promises. But remember that the North also just decimated a mountain due to their nuclear tests and that Kim Jung Un has killed relatives in order to save his skin. Optimism with a grain of salt is in order.

A friendlier North Korea would do well for the South Korea. I don’t imagine open borders anytime soon, but as I mentioned in past posts, with South Korea relatively meager and stagnant GDP growth rate, a friendlier North could help companies in the South by opening its population to commerce. It would also ease tensions with China and prevent issues like the THAAD missile crisis from harming companies that do business in China and South Korea.

What annoys me, however, is the extremely partisan atmosphere in the country. Just last weekend, there were street protests from the hard right calling the president a traitor and accusing him of selling the country to North Korea. This is insanity. How does that even work? Last time I checked, South Korea is far richer than its northern neighbor. But the problem is the left can be just as toxic with their tribalism as well. I don’t lean on any Korean political parties nor do I subscribe to any particular Korean publication (which can be terribly partisan). I will read anything and I also read/listen to analysis from foreign publications and commentators.  But the minute I say anything negative or express a bit of concern regarding the current president’s actions, I get accused as being brainwashed by the right. And  sometimes this is my wife accusing me of partisanship!

What’s also annoying is Donald Trump taking credit for any headway into North Korea’s denuclearization. I could forgive him for taking some credit. Despite him name calling and trying to compare nuclear buttons with Kim Jung Un just a few months ago, he is still the leader of the United States and he did send Mike Pompeo to meet Kim Jung Un. I don’t know what they talked about and I suspect Trump only sent Pompeo to the North in order to boost his credibility as a Secretary of State nominee, but he still sent him there to presumably open a dialogue. But what’s annoying is Trump taking 100% of the credit to the current North and South Korean situation. What an annoying gnat! He just dismissed all the work of his allies in the South. What’s worse, I suspect if the talks don’t result in meaningful progress, he would gladly throw South Korea under the bus without even remembering President Moon Jae-In’s name.

As for President Moon Jae-In, he should really calm down with saying “Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize” for his work in the inter-Korean talks. I know he’s just trying to be gracious, but Trump will take that graciousness and use it as a cudgel.

I wasn’t in the country during most of the Sunshine Policy of previous administrations, but this feels similar to that attempt to a more peaceful coexistence between the two countries. What’s mostly missing from that previous policy is the North acting in good faith. They were occasionally aggressive during the period and have failed to return much of the goodwill shown to them by the South. I certainly hope things will be better this time around. I personally don’t care so much about nuclear disarmament, especially since North Korea still has thousands of traditional weapons aimed and could destroy Seoul should it ever choose to (I live and work in one of the busiest parts of Seoul), but it would be a great first step at easing tensions in the region. However, I suspect that the song and dance following a true denuclearization, i.e. claims of not following agreements, accusations of hiding nuclear facilities, misleading inspectors, etc., would long be used by political actors to scare each other long after the last rocket has been decommissioned. I’m optimistic, but it will be a long time before people truly no longer see North Korea as a nuclear threat.

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