Archive for the News Category

Twelve years of hell

Posted in Culture, Korea, News, Politics, USA on June 8, 2009 by Elephant Talk

Here’s how cynical I am. When I read about the two American girls sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in North Korea, my first thought was, well at least they’ll get a best-selling memoir out of it.

Actually, my first thought was “holy shit.” But it was a photo finish in my mental superhighway. Now I’m thinking Jesus, those poor girls. And wow, North Korea has balls. It’s looking more and more like they want to go to war.

I’d been following this story a little and I thought the regime would set them free. You know, get everyone worried and then at the end, show their benevolence in a goodwill gesture by letting the girls go free. Follow up the screaming and threats with a little surprise empathy. In the propaganda game, it oughta get the world to see that North Korea are not a nation of demons, but live by the rule of law. You know, kind of a good cop bad cop sort of thing.

I mean, really… North Korea knows how U.S. popular culture works. Does Kim Jong-il really want to release these girls after 12 years and expose the world to their stories of horror?

I guess they don’t care. Or they’re not thinking straight. I don’t know which is worse.


I should probably read entire articles before I link to them. Toward the bottom, a Korean academic essentially said what I just said:

Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University in Seoul, had predicted that Pyongyang would probably free the reporters and treat their release as a goodwill gesture that should be reciprocated with a special U.S. envoy visiting the isolated state.


Sunset policy

Posted in Culture, Korea, News, USA on May 30, 2009 by Elephant Talk

I got another one of those emails from my mom, something along the lines of “we’ve been watching the news and we’re worried. Are you safe?” I had a hard time finding the right adjective to reply. I’m not worried, not even really concerned. I eventually came up with “curious.” I’m curious to see how all of this recent business with North Korea is going to play out. To me it seems as though they’re slowly painting themselves into a corner and I can’t imagine how they’re going to get themselves out of it.

I’ve been reading a lot of news, watching a lot of commentary, and having a few conversations. There seems to be agreement that the DPRK does not want to invade or attack its neighbors. That would be suicide. The talk is really just talk. I get the feeling there is some uneasy shit going down up there internally. We’re probably witnessing the end period of Kim Jong Il’s leadership. He knows this, the military knows this, the people know this. The thinking goes that he wants to hand over power to one of his troubled sons. But in order to do that, he has to show his military that the family is strong and capable. So all the blustery language, the weapons tests, the chest-thumping is all related to this display of strength.

But words have a way of escalating to such heights that unless they are backed by something real, they lose power. In the next few weeks or months, we’ll see how the DPRK follows up its threats with actions (or non-actions). Will they actually attack ROK or US naval ships? When one of their ships is about to be boarded under the Proliferation Security Initiative, will they aggressively defend themselves against it as they’ve promised to do? If they’re kicked out of the UN (which they should be), what will they do? Lots of questions; not a lot of answers. Nobody knows anything. So… curious is the right word.

When I think of North Korea, I think of the game Risk (or, on Facebook, the recently deceased “World Conquest”). There are some players who will plant themselves in one territory with 20 armies. For a long time, these players will sit there. Each turn, they get an additional three armies. They won’t move, won’t attack, just build… very… slowly. The more they build up their armies, the harder it becomes to attack these players. You know that if you’re to win the game, you will at some point have to surround this person and go at it in a bloodbath (or wait for them to eventually make a move on you). The point being, the longer you wait, the worse it gets. This is North Korea. They’ve stacked up their tiny little territory to such an obscene level that there are no good military options. If words devolve into actions, it’s going to be massively, tragically brutal.

Again, I honestly don’t think that will happen. What I don’t know is what will happen. It’s funny to watch all these experts on TV scratch their heads and fumble around making guesses. No one has any real solutions. Surprisingly, I find myself agreeing with that windbag John Bolton, who said the following:

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SoKo’s ex-president Roh is dead

Posted in Film & TV, Korea, News, Politics on May 23, 2009 by Elephant Talk

Some big news today, as former South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun apparently killed himself this morning. Reports say he woke up at dawn, climbed a mountain, and threw himself off. Recently he had been the center of a corruption scandal, so suicide seems plausible. But I already hear a few people suggesting he was killed. Who knows? I guess we’ll find out more in the coming days.

It happened in Roh’s hometown of Bongha, which is a village about 20 miles from Busan. I’m trying to imagine if Bill Clinton killed himself. I’d be pretty shocked. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that my gig for tonight has been canceled and a lot of places have shut down.

Here’s some video of people mourning his death.

And now, the lyrics of Bjork’s “Hyper-ballad” are running though my head and kind of freaking me out.

Hatred, spoon-fed

Posted in Culture, Film & TV, News, Politics, USA on May 18, 2009 by Elephant Talk

I think I’m better off staying in Korea. America scares me. Still. Maybe now more than ever.

I started making this new Daily Koz TV site part of my regular early morning coffee routine. It’s rotting my brain. This one little looking glass makes it seem as though America is gearing up for full-on armed Civil War.

Before last week I didn’t know who Glenn Beck was. That’s one scary dude. In this clip, he’s basically saying “Buy a gun because the government is coming for you in the same way the Nazis did.” There’s a very thin line between that and calling for assassinations outright. He’s also featured prominently in a 5-minute montage of FOX News on an Obama skewering rampage.

I guess this is another manifestation of the same old story that’s happened throughout history: change giving rise to fear giving rise to desperation. Except these days fear is projected into our homes on a continuous loop. Access to this kind of constant vitriol is still fairly new. So, recently unemployed Joe Dumbshit can sit in his living room with his gun, watch FOX all day long, and slowly build fear upon hatred upon fear upon hatred until he’s insane.

I did enjoy one clip. Keith Olbermann absolutely burying Texas Governor Rick Perry (along with those who voted for him) for not ruling out secession. There’s no fear or hatred in there, just good research and a sharp wit combining into a well-deserved verbal ass-kicking. There is a huge difference between well-constructed commentary and chicken-shit hate-mongering.

But I gotta stop going to that website. I’ll just go back to my relatively tame Google News feed.

I’m way over on the other side of the planet, so what do I know. I hope most of this is being ignored by the vast majority of Americans. It’s the significant minority that worries me.

Let’s build a force field around our souls

Posted in Culture, Film & TV, News, Politics, Technology on May 14, 2009 by Elephant Talk

This guy is clearly an igoramus. But I gotta give him credit for making me laugh. It was not only hilarious but enlightening, showing me why people who love Christ also love killing people.

The new “Star Trek” film shows Captain Kirk’s Starship Enterprise making good use of photon torpedoes and force fields.   So the question comes to mind: Would Israel be safer if it could shoot down enemy missiles and rockets with such photon torpedoes, or block them altogether with a force field?  Of course it would.

In heart, in mind

Posted in Culture, Korea, News on April 2, 2009 by Elephant Talk

As we get closer to North Korea’s missile launch, Japan becomes a more interesting player. The thought of Japan preparing for a North Korean provocation begs several questions: Would Japan really take an aggressive stand on this? Would Japan ever go to war with the DPRK? And the bigger one: If they did engage fully in war with the North, what would South Koreans think of that?

Korea is split ideologically. But this is only a 55-year-old split for a “people” with a 5,000-year-old history. Koreans ultimately see themselves as Korean, regardless of north and south. All Koreans, it seems, share a collective dislike when it comes Japan. In some it’s stronger than others, but I think it’s there for everyone. It’s a kimchi pot that the north loves to stir up now and then. Why not throw Japan into the mix to confuse things that much more? I love the quotes coming out of the DPRK, full of drama and posturing:

Should Japan dare recklessly to intercept the DPRK’s satellite, its army will consider this as the start of Japan’s war of reinvasion more than six decades after the Second World War.

So if it came to such a war, where would the hearts and minds of the people in the south side? If Japan scored an impressive naval victory, sinking a few DPRK battleships, or destroyed some ancient temple in the north, how might people in the South feel? Conversely, if the DPRK landed a few missiles in Tokyo, or took control of Dokdo island, would there be a little tiny squeal of collective joy from the south? I asked a couple Korean friends this recently and one admitted, laughing, yeah, maybe a little.

The south would find itself in an interesting position of being ideologically sided with the capitalist/democratic lifestyle they seem to enjoy, while feeling strong kinship with their race. It would be interesting, not to mention tragic, to see how that would play out. Let’s hope it will only ever be a matter of conjecture.

As for the launch itself, it could happen as soon as the day after tomorrow. If it happens then, I won’t know anything about it. I’m heading off to the mountains this weekend with a good group of friends to take in fresh air and green trees.

The Pope is a dope

Posted in News, Politics on March 18, 2009 by Elephant Talk

Add the Pope to the list of people — including Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh — who need to shut the fuck up.

By telling Africans that condom use exacerbates AIDS, the Pope is encouraging more people to die. It’s that simple. The head of the Catholic Church is advocating manslaughter. Here is a man and a religion so far removed from reality and simple common sense, so cloistered inside its own shell of dogma, that its time to finally render the whole thing irrelevant once and for all. Catholicism is just another of history’s failing power structures trying to hang on by using lies and other means to maintain its ideology. It appears the latest desperate move is to try and round up a new generation of suckers:

With the number of practicing Catholics dwindling in the developed world, Africa is seen as vital to the Church’s future.

In a big surprise, someone I don’t need to tell to shut up is George W. Bush. In a speech in Calgary (an area friendly to the former prez), Bush said:

I’m not going to spend my time criticizing (President Obama). There are plenty of critics in the arena. He deserves my silence. … I love my country a lot more than I love politics. I think it is essential that he be helped in office.

Wow, maybe the Evildoer in the Bush presidency really was Dick Cheney after all. I wonder what would have happened if Bush had a mind of his own during those eight years.

Actually, I take that back. I don’t want to think about such things.