Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Political Literalism

When I don't have the time or energy to write something substantial, there's always current events!

Whatever It Is I'm Against It notes:

Afghan journalism student Pervez Kambaksh, convicted of “insulting Islam” for downloading material about women’s rights from the Web and sentenced to death in a four-minute trial, has had his sentence reduced to a mere 20 years in prison. So really, the invasion and seven-year occupation of Afghanistan has all been worth it.

So it's really good that Joe Biden is preparing us to kill some more Afghan civilians, because as Biden told an audience (via IOZ) at a Seattle fundraiser,

the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border is of particular concern, with Osama bin Laden "alive and well" and Pakistan "bristling with nuclear weapons."

"You literally can see what these kids are up against, our kids in that region," Biden said in recalling when his helicopter was forced down due to a snowstorm there. "The place is crawling with al Qaeda. And it's real."

No wonder Biden "managed to rake in an estimated $1 million total from his two money hauls at the downtown Sheraton."

Meanwhile, His Total Coolness has announced that war criminal Colin Powell will be one of his foreign policy advisors. Since Powell played a major role in bringing about the US invasion of Iraq, we can see more and more the great difference that an Obama Presidency will make to the suffering people of the world.

As South Korean President Lee Myeong-bak's public comments on the Korean economy become increasingly pessimistic, the candlelight vigils are starting up again. Only 4,000 people showed up for the one on October 18, but mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow. This rally was sponsored, according to The Hankyoreh, by some Internet cafes and by the opposition political parties. (Photo from The Hankyoreh.)

The Korea Times devotes an editorial to "one of the biggest diplomatic dilemmas facing the Korean government ... [namely] its tug-of-war with Japan over the Dokdo islet issue", thus showing its proper sense of priorities. But the government has a secret weapon in the war of ideas:

Few would deny that VANK (Volunteer Agency Network of Korea) ― a private group of Internet users focusing on rectifying misinformation concerning Korea in cyber space ― has been at the vanguard of such endeavors, probably performing far better and proving much more effective than any government agency in this regard. So people might hardly be able to believe their ears when hearing the government had decided to stop its financial support of this cyber commando ``for lack of budget."

Not to worry, though:

Bombarded with a barrage of protest mails, the Ministry of Education and Science hurriedly reversed its decision to withhold the budgetary aid. Still the episode, along with a meager yearly support of 30 million won [about US $30,000] last year, has left much bitter taste as if it reflected the government's shortsightedness.

Notice that VANK is not really "a private group of Internet users" -- it gets financial support from the Korean government. This isn't unique to Korea, of course. Japan "
provides hefty budgetary support for similar private organizations," according to the writer. But it seems that VANK can't look forward to much more money: the Lee administration is preparing to "buy up around 6 trillion won [about US$6 billion] worth of corporate-owned real estate not being used for business purposes" and "housing lots owned by construction companies." Despite Lee's solemn vow to defend Dokdo to the death, there are other issues facing Korea right now.