This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Choose Your Poison Carefully

"You have to ride a horse to know whether it's the right mount for you."
"I have tried, and the South is not for me. I want to go home to the North to reunite with my ex-wife and 16-year-old son."
"They [South Korean employers] called me names, treating me like an idiot, and didn't pay me as much as others doing the same work, just because I was from the North."
"In the North, I may not be rich, but I would better understand people around me and wouldn't be treated like dirt as I have been in the South."
Kwon Choi-nam, North Korean defector, Seoul, South Korea
A man watches a barbed-wire fence in Paju
A man at a barbed wire fence in Paju, South Korea, looking over into North Korea    Express

What is that old line about freedom, liberty, being more important than riches? On the other hand, home is where the heart is, isn't it? Where familiarity and the comfort of routine exists, where you know your neighbours and they know you, speaking the same cultural language, sharing social customs and traditions. So as far as Mr. Kwon is concerned, he resents being thought of as different from South Koreans, somehow lesser, not as intelligent, unworthy of regard.

That sense of social alienation is enough to convince this man who undertook a long, hazardous and painful journey away from his native soil that it was an effort wasted. Having escaped the nation of his birth ruled by an egocentric and dangerous dictator whom the military keeps in power -- and whom the people are taught from birth to venerate even as his regime prefers to use scarce national funding for weapons over food security -- he has decided to return.

He had crossed a river border at night, in 2014, crawled over a barbed-wire fence, walked through a Laos jungle to reach Thailand from where he was able to fly on to South Korea where a new life awaited him. His several years living in freedom in South Korea has failed to assure him that the abandonment of life in his country of birth had advanced his fortunes in any way. South Koreans were disappointingly inhospitable.

He missed his own, repressive country with its gulags and its threats against those like him who dared to flee that repression. But his experience as a "second-class citizen" in South Korea soured him. Where evidently he has forgotten, in his bitterness the third-class status he lived in a North Korea that arrests and imprisons any who dare criticize Kim Jong-Un, classifying them as traitors and sentencing them to life in prison or hard labour in the gulags.

Of the more than 30,000 North Koreans who left the North for the South since the 1990 famine, 25 have chosen to return to the North in the past five years. They are suspected by South Korean officials of being "repeat defectors", a classification given those who return to the North, possibly lured to China, and possibly kidnapped back to the North where the government uses them for propaganda purposes, creating scenarios where they speak of the "living  hell" they experienced in the South.

All defectors automatically become South Korean citizens on arrival in the South. And since it is illegal for any South Koreans to visit the North without especial permission of the government, anyone who attempts to return to the North is viewed as having contravened the law, and becomes a subject of suspicion. Mr. Kwon had made an attempt to return to the North but was detained and jailed in the South for several months.

He is busy trying a new tack, by becoming the second defector over the years to ask the South to repatriate him to North Korea. The two countries remain legally at war, given the agreed-upon armistice, so there is no legal formula by which Mr. Kwon's request to the South to extradite him to the North can be accomplished under South Korean law.

Mr. Kwon's experience with the South's hyperactive competitive capitalism failed to impress him and left him nostalgic for the regimented totalitarian culture he left behind in the North. In South Korea he went from farm to construction work but those physically demanding jobs failed to appeal to him. He then moved to Seoul, living in homeless shelters.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

A Nation Divided

"[Heather] Heyer was struck down by a vehicle while exercising her peaceful first-amendment right to free speech."
"This senseless act of violence rips a hole in our collective hearts."
Charlottesville city official statement

"Donald Trump should] look at himself in the mirror."
"[He] should think very deeply about who he consorted with in his campaign, and the forces they chose to work with in their quest for political advancement."
Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer

"And yet here it was, the chants of 'Jews will not replace us' (as?). I had two more personal encounters. At Dogwood Vietnam Memorial, a man in a floppy beige sunhat started following me and explaining to me the lie of the Holocaust, the evil of the Jews, the value of DNA in determining purity. I retreated as he ran after me, screaming, 'My mother says I’m a Jew! My MOTHER! Does that mean I’m entitled to something?' (I resisted replying, 'Your mother’s love.')"
Nathan Guttman, 12 August 2017, What a Jewish Journalist saw in Charlottesville, Forward
Members of the KKK escorted by police past a large group of protesters during a rally in Charlottesville, Va. Steve Helber / AP

Journalist Nathan Guttman wrote a first-hand account of his day in now-infamous Charlottesville, there to observe the proceedings as neo-Nazis and far-right activists, the KKK and others marched to make their point that the United States belongs to red-blooded white Americans. None others need apply. They were reacting to the demands by left-wing activists and members of the Black Lives Matter group and their supporters that a century-old statue of a Confederate hero of the American Civil War, General Robert E. Lee, be removed, taken down, hidden, destroyed.

Like sensitive, progressive leftists and self-styled human-rights activists everywhere they demand that history be rewritten to obliterate all traces of those who fought for rights and values today recognized as contrary to the current social values of an enlightened society. Those who were once victims decry and embrace their victimhood at one and the same time, and any visual reminders of what, how and why they suffered, they claim triggers new pain and humiliation.

The past cannot be undone. It happened, and it is called history. We are meant to view history with today's vision, but we are not meant to believe that if we reject the history that betrays our humanity history will be re-enacted and everything will turn out just fine. There are statues of Civil War heroes to the Confederate cause in countless places in the United States. There is also the undeniable fact that the hallowed fathers of the American Constitution like humanist, intellectual and scientist of his day Benjamin Franklin was a slave-owner.

And so was George Washington, and so too was James Madison. Of the 55 founding fathers of the United States of America, 49 percent were slave owners. Should they be expelled from the annals of American history? If monuments and statues must be destroyed, why stop with Robert E. Lee? The absurdity of the righteous demands that such reminders of a dark place in history be abolished and with it the history they represent is beyond impossible.

Setting that aside as a provocation, there is nothing that can explain or exculpate the actions and counter-accusations of those who embrace fascism and express their frustrations in the form of verbal violence, let alone physical violence. That the current President of the United States issued an oblique condemnation of a violent far-right reaction to the entitled demands of those who wear their victimhood with pride and vehemence readily interpreted by the far right as support of their position is a signal that the polarized position of right and left in their extremes have much in common.

The deranged James Alex Fields Jr. whose use of a vehicle to ram the left-wing protesters marks him as an unrepentant murderer, is also someone who was once treated for psychotic behaviour. David Duke and others of his ilk are not insane, but they are dangerously threatening to those who do not subscribe to their fascination with the belief in superior and inferior humanity. And it seems that President Trump has given those threats to the universality of human equality an unspoken lift.

The mother of Fields Jr. whose name is Samantha Bloom may be a woman, given her name and its possible connections, whose offspring is a self-hating Jew by birth to a Jewish woman. It is not unheard of that some fundamentally troubled people detest that from which they were derived; this son of a woman named Bloom appears to have always venerated Adolf Hitler and everything the Fuhrer represented.

His horrified, stricken mother does not believe that her presided supports fascism though those who admire him, fascists, nationalists, anti-Semites and Hitler enthusiasts shouted "Blood and Soil", as they marched through the streets of Charlottesville in defence of a Confederate statue. And counter protesters were there in their numbers to oppose the fascists before one woman died and 35 people were injured by an incoherent man who might have shouted at a Jewish reporter: "My mother says I’m a Jew! My MOTHER! Does that mean I’m entitled to something?"

He is entitled to a fair trial. And the nation is entitled to justice.

Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Steve Helber/AP

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Terror of Islamic Jihad and Female Enslavement

"ISIS recruiters offer (but don’t deliver) a stark alternative to the discrimination they describe. They promise a future where women hold a valued place of honor, where they’ll be 'lionesses', playing a foundational role in building the so-called caliphate. This often means being wives and mothers — but not always. Women are recruited to be informants and enforcers of ISIS rules. Recently, European observers have even noticed an uptick in female recruits who use the language of women’s rights — dignity and autonomy — to talk about their part in actually carrying out terrorist plots."
Heather Hurlburt, director, New Models of Policy Change initiative, New America's Political Reform program. Jacqueline O'Neill, president, Inclusive Security. Vox

"In our Breaking the ISIS Brand—the ISIS Defectors Interviews Project we were privileged to listen to (with Dr. Yayla and Dr. Shajkovci) to female and male defectors and returnees who described the roles of women in ISIS. Women (and men), who join ISIS are promised purpose, significance, dignity, prosperity and important roles in the organization and the chance to build an alternative to the existing world order which is sold as a utopian future. While its hard for Westerners to understand why women would join such a misogynist organization, we must grasp the hard facts that foreign women who join go to live under the so-called Islamic Caliphate do so for a multitude of reasons: to embrace traditional lifestyles; to follow what they believe is the “true” Islam; and to fight back against what they have come to believe are global injustices, as claimed in the terrorist narrative that Muslims, Islamic lands and even Islam itself is under attack by the West. They also go for adventure; romance; believing that they will be given significant and purposeful roles and even prosperity—including homes and cars. A Belgian female defector told me a few weeks ago that she was even promised diamonds and nurse’s training if she married someone she’d never met and traveled to Syria. Of course neither materialized."
Anne Speckhard, Ph.DICSVE

"In many Islamic countries, child marriages are common practice. Girls far below the age of puberty are often forcibly married to older persons (sometimes in their 50s and later) for various personal gains by the girls' guardian or with the intention to preserve family honor by helping her avoid pre-marital sex. Pedophilic Islamic marriages are most prevalent in Pakistan and Afghanistan, followed by other countries in the Middle East and Bangladesh.[1][2] This practice may also be prevalent to a lesser extent amongst other Muslim communities, and is on the rise among the growing Muslim populations in many non-Muslim countries, such as the United Kingdom[3] and the United States.[4]"
Wiki Islam Contemporary Pedophilic Islamic Marriages

A new study produced some interesting insights into the Islamic and Arab minefield of relations between the sexes within a pervasive culture of misogyny upheld by the Koran and by tribal heritage and custom whereby women are held to be inferior to men and are to be guided in all aspects of life by the men in their lives; fathers, uncles, brothers, husbands; secondary appendages useful for sex and absolutely required for the perpetuation of the tribe or the clan. Not to be seen in public other than in the company of a male relative, and at all times covered by an all-encompassing burqa.

None of that is new, and the custom travels well. In diverse countries of Europe in particular and occasionally in North America women are guided by the convention of Islamic societies that they must be 'modestly' garbed so that not an inch of skin is recognizable to the stray eye. Their own eyes should be all that is visible, with a niqab drawn over their faces. In North America it is more common to see the hair only covered with a hijab, or headscarf. Women's purpose is to provide sex, to bear children.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has deviated from this norm. While still prizing women as possessions for sex and childbearing, they also prescribe for women to become familiar with some aspects of terrorism, mostly for the purpose of carrying out suicide attacks voluntarily, guided by the same Koranic scriptures that enjoin to jihad. The difference being that for women who martyr themselves through violent terrorism the reward of nubile virgins in Paradise is not theirs; it is restricted to male martyrs who have earned that heavenly privilege.

The only surviving terrorist of the massacre that took place in Mumbai when the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba in collaboration with Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence Agency sent a terror group into Mumbai, India's centre of commerce, to unleash mass violence, related his reason for joining Lashar to become part of its murderous enterprise. Was it for jihad, he was prompted by his interlocutors? "Well, my father wanted me to join so my brothers and I could get married", he responded astonishingly. Astonishing that is, to the Western mind.

Image result for photo, saudi man, riyadh, wedding dress
The Associated Press: A Saudi man buying a wedding dress in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
The Islamic terrorist-producing societies conventionally pay bride price as an ingrained custom. One 'buys' a wife. And young men wishing to marry must have the financial wherewithal to enable that marriage. According to researcher Valerie Hudson at Texas A&M's Bush School of Government and Public Service, half the countries of the world practise bride price in marriage contracts; roughly 75 percent of the world population lives in those distinguished countries. Bride prices appear to be on a steady increase from Sudan to Nigeria and throughout the Middle East.

Young men of modest means seek any type of employment, including terrorist attacks that will be well compensated in theory, to raise the funds to enable them to 'buy' a wife through 'bride price'. For those men whom the injunction through the Koran to honour their obligation to Islam by being faithful to jihad is reason enough to involve themselves in terrorism, it is the promise of the leisure and honour in the hereafter that motivates them to dedicate their lives to jihad for Islam.

In a very real sense there is a reflection of this in the Palestinian Authority commending and honouring Palestinians for reacting to the campaign to 'resist' the 'occupation' and martyr themselves for the Palestinian 'cause' of what they claim is justice in regaining the land they claim that Israel has taken from the Arabs. Anyone who visits raging violence on Israeli Jews can be guaranteed hero status, and whether they die or are taken prisoner they and their families can look forward to generous monthly pensions for their lifetimes.

In Saudi Arabia, as an example, rehabilitation programs for extremists include the government paying the bride price for those extremists held to have been reformed, after they graduate from the programs meant for their rehabilitation. As for the women who are bought in this way, some are of the opinion that being paid for entitles their husbands to beat them and it also justifies marital rape. She has the status of a sex slave, she is the property of the man who paid the bride price.

It is an old pattern in tribal societies, one furthermore patterned in Islam, on the Prophet Mohammad's own example, including the taking of multiple wives and the marriage to underage girls. Women may wear seductive-appearing gowns and dresses but only for their husband's delectation; in public whatever she may wear in the discreet sanctuary of the home they share must be screened by a garment covering her from head to toe.

Grooms take part in a mass wedding ceremony in Riyadh, on June 24, 2008. Governor of Riyadh Prince Salman and a local group organized a mass wedding for about 1,600 couples to help young people who are unable to afford expensive ceremonies because of the rising cost of living. The government has recognized that marrying men is an effective strategy to stabilize the country and preserve national security.  Credit:Ali Jarekji/Reuters 

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

A World of Strongmen Gone Amok

"All of these developments point to a growing danger that the international order of the past quarter-century -- rooted in the principles of democracy human rights and the rule of law -- will give way to a world in which individual leaders and nations pursue their own narrow interests without meaningful constraints, and without regard for the shared benefits of global peace, freedom and prosperity."
"North Korea is a single-party state led by a dynastic totalitarian dictatorship." 
"Surveillance is pervasive, arbitrary arrests and detention are common, and punishments for political offences are severe. The state maintains a system of camps for political prisoners where torture, forced labour, starvation, and other atrocities take place."
Freedom House, (non-governmental U.S. agency researching democracy and human rights) 11th annual report

"[People in Europe and North America are now] more cynical about the value of democracy as a political system, less hopeful that anything they do might influence public policy, and more willing to express support for authoritarian alternatives."
"Earlier generations have a real sense of what it means not to live in a democracy. They have fought against fascism or have experienced fascism or they have been alive at a time when communism was a real force in the world. When they assess liberal democracy, they assess it in relation to these other systems, and they recognize these other systems are bad."
"[Younger people] ... Look at the present reality and they find things in it which they have reason to be pissed off about, like the stagnation of living standards and other things. And so they say, 'Why not try something new? How bad can things get?"
"That doesn't mean they will like whatever system will emerge if we do lose liberal democracy, but I think it makes them much more willing to go down a path that might result in democracy's ultimate demise."
"There is a far right and a far left end of populism. Venezuela reminds us that the far left variant of populism can also have terrible effects."
Yascha Mounk, lecturer political theory, Harvard University

"While the West works out its own problems, despots and dictators have a lot more leverage and a lot longer leash to behave in totally undemocratic ways without any consequences"
"I think it's a perfect storm against democracy right now."
"He [Trump] might actually protect us from a much savvier authoritarian person who could come later, because all of the tests are strengthening our defences. His incompetence is effectively the saving grace of American democracy right now."
Brian Klaas, politics lecturer, London School of Economics
SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 06: Russian President Vladimir Putin speeches during his meeting with Russian IWAS 2015 Worlds Games medalists on October 6, 2015 in Sochi, Russia. (Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
(Jabin Botford/The Washington Post and Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)

The world, it seems, is reeling in a grip of polarized political and social order and disorder; teetering from one to the other as conflicts rage in the Middle East and Africa with displaced persons spilling over borders as both refugees in search of haven and economic migrants in search of opportunities invade the West. Among them are those with a malevolent agenda; to cause upheaval and violence wherever they can manage to make an imprint.

If the ordered world of established democracies is facing dissent against the prevailing social and political order much of the impetus can be ascribed to the massive number of people fleeing violence, poverty and death in their countries of origin. In their flight they bring with them the culture, history, values they have been steeped in since childhood of tribalism and sectarian violence, along with a well-instilled revulsion of others unlike themselves. Little wonder people fleeing the atrocities and failures of the Middle East and North Africa where Islam prevails leave for a better life bringing with them the old, failed life.

In some instances, the countries in Europe facing a backlash from their right-wing demographics relate specifically to the threat seen to their own heritage, culture, laws and religious adherence. the dismay felt by people who see their indigenous culture, values and heritage drowned in a sea of introduced culture, values and heritage can scarcely be faulted. From Russia's Vladimir Putin inheriting a battle against Muslim Chechens rebelling against Soviet then Russian rule creating violent havoc and challenging Russian rule, the backlash helped to create the strongman image that promises security and stability that Putin has parlayed to his advantage.

The world surrounding the Middle East viewed Turkey, between the Middle East and Europe, as a bastion of subdued Islam reflecting the veneer of democracy patterned after European values and laws, a stable democracy where human rights were observed in the breach. With the ascendancy of Islamist ideology under Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, Erdogan prolongs his position as Turkey's grand emir by having emulated Putin who juggled national executive positions to remain in power.

From President to Prime Minister and back again, each gave themselves the opportunity to alter their country's Constitution to allow themselves to remain in power long after by law they were meant to retire. They both now are effectively their nation's ruler-for-life. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was on the same track when his plans went awry, so his groomed and chosen successor Nicolas Maduro is wrenching his country away from democracy for the same purpose, one which the Philippines' Duterte will not be long in bringing to his country; ruler-in-perpetuity.

In some instances these returns to tyranny have little impact on their neighbours' stability. In the instance of Vladimir Putin it obviously does since his plan encompasses a return to the glory days of the Soviet Union when neighbours were controlled satellites of the USSR, their personal pawns to be ordered into submission and looted at will. Though some similarities exist between these 'strongmen' who manipulate their way to overweening power and the present president of the United States of America, there democracy cannot be unseated.

The institutions of democracy are too firmly rooted, the people, even those who voted for celebrity business magnate Donald Trump to take over the White House would never allow the uprooting of the American Constitution, its justice system, its Congress comprised of elected representatives in the House and the Senate. Democracy is so well established that though both political parties are dismayed with the performance of their new president, they respect the democratic action that brought him to power.

And President Trump is a counterpart to the aforementioned strongmen all of whom with the exception of the leftist Maduro he admires, openly and vacuously. There are exceptions to everything, of course, and the major exception here is that of Kim Jong-Un, North Korea's threatening little popinjay whose mendacious control over that country appears absolute, partially ideological, partly religious; the issue of the Kim dynasty viewed as semi-gods.

The virulent threat represented by a man who like his father and his grandfather burnish their image as world leaders entitled to the respect owed to a super power battling the force of evil that enviously threatens their nation's security. The paranoid passion poured into the nation's success at building advanced ballistic missiles and achieving nuclear technology has both puzzled and paralyzed the West. Conciliatory bribes of billions of dollars in exchange for promises to neutralize the nuclear ambitions of North Korea have never worked.

What previous American presidents have undertaken in efforts to assure the North that it has no designs to dominate it, nor threaten it in any measure, complete with surrenders to its compensatory demands holding the U.S. and the rest of the world hostage to a demagogic little tyrant have been of no use whatever. That both China and Russia have finally agreed to support the latest sanctions against North Korea as it speeds toward accomplishment of a goal it threatens to use on the United States speaks volumes about the larger concern wracking the world at this juncture.


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