Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Cruising the Web

I'm still marveling at how eagerly the media grabbed onto the idea that North Korea's Olympic cheerleaders and Kim Yo Jong should be admired because, well, because it was a way of sticking it to Trump. Here is another example that Ethan Epstein points out to expose the ignorance of so much of the media. The media, particularly CNN , oohed and ahed over the message that she wrote in South Korea's presidential guest book.
"I hope Pyongyang and Seoul get closer in our people's hearts and move forward the future of prosperous unification," she said in her guest book message, referring to the capitals of North and South Korea.
Epstein reminds us of another time the glitterati were excited about a relative of a dictatorship.
It’s likely that only the most hardcore Vogue readers remember it—and presumably Anna Wintour and company are hoping that even they will one day forget it—but back in 2011, the venerable fashion magazine posted a glowing profile of Asma al-Assad. Yes, that Asma al-Assad: the wife of the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who has murdered hundreds of thousands of people—largely civilians, and some by chemical weapons—over the past several years while stamping out a rebellion. Even worse, as leaked emails later showed, Asma herself cheered along the slaughter; she was no mere bystander. Shortly after publication, however, “A Rose in the Desert” disappeared. (It’s available now thanks only to the Wayback Machine.)
But she stole the show, according to CNN.
Here are a few terms that did not appear in CNN’s article: gulag; human rights; nuclear weapons; missiles. The article literally does not even mention that Kim is sanctioned by the U.S. government. Other U.S. outlets were similarly glib; Business Insider celebrated that Kim “threw a look” at the camera while standing behind Vice President Mike Pence. By the way, it later emerged that a highly paid PR firm had midwifed the Assad Vogue article. What’s CNN’s excuse?
And then there is that "warm message" in the guest book. Epstein ridicules CNN's excitement over that message.
Well, that’s one way to look at a threat to destroy a country.

The key word in Kim’s missive was “unification.” It is the official policy of both Pyongyang and Seoul to prepare for unification, of course; both capitals house ministries devoted to the task. Seoul takes a peaceful view of this process, one based on relationship-building and the eventual absorption of North Korea into South Korea’s democratic, capitalist system. North Korea’s is rather more bellicose: It calls unification “final victory”—a belated end to the Korean War with Pyongyang as the victor.

North Korea’s nuclear strategy, which has two prongs, is a central part of this. The North’s arsenal is of course partially defensive. Pyongyang learned what Muammar Qaddafi didn’t: that the best way to protect a totalitarian regime from outside threats is to build a nuclear deterrent. But the second rationale is outward-looking. The long-term goal is to split the U.S. from South Korea, and then, using nuclear weapons, coerce Seoul into unification.
When North Korea talks about unification, they're not talking about the sort of unification we saw in Germany after the fall of Berlin Wall. They are not interested in seeing North Korea being absorbed into the capitalist democracy of South Korea.
But “unification” is only peaceful and warm when the word is used in the context that South Korea does. When the North says “unification” they mean final victory over the South, the destruction of a prosperous democracy, and the enslavement of 50 million more Koreans to the Kim cult.

Kim Yo-Jong’s call for “unification” isn’t warm: It’s an implicit threat to destroy the country that hosted her.
Why should we take the propagandistic message of a brutal dictatorship? And is it any coincidence that Kim Yo Jong is the director of propaganda in North Korea?

And for all that admiration for the North Korea cheerleaders, USA Today reminds us what happened to some of their cheerleaders in 2006.
In 2006, 21 members of a North Korean cheering squad that had traveled to South Korea for an international athletic event were sent to a prison camp for talking about what they saw in the South, the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported.

Another cheerleader who represented North Korea at the 2006 Asian Athletics Championship, Ri Sol Ju, would go on to marry Kim Jong Un several years later.
Just maybe, the cheerful faces of this year's cheerleaders is due their remembering what happened to those cheerleaders back in 2006.

Michael Graham comments on CBS's website,
ABC News reported: "Clad in coordinated outfits of red with white and blue accents, North Korea's throng of more than 200 cheerleaders are stealing the spotlight at the 23rd Winter Olympic Games."

Much harder to find is reporting about who these women are: hand-picked by the regime, under constant surveillance. "Women with family members missing or living abroad do not qualify, as they could pose potential flight risks," the Korea Herald reported.

According to another South Korean newspaper, 21 North Korea cheerleaders who traveled south in 2006 for an international event and then talked about what they saw when they returned home ended up in a prison camp.

As Epstein observes: "It's actually sort of perfect that the cheerleaders are getting this attention because they are the perfect representation of the way North Korean society is set up: Millions of people with no individual characteristics performing at the beck and call of the regime.

Or as international political analyst Ian Bremmer put it: "North Korea's cheering squad is an amazing spectacle. But they're human hostages of a criminal regime. It's the most heartbreaking thing we'll see at the Olympics."
Here's more of a history of North Korea's cheerleaders.
It was during the glory years of the early 2000s that Kim Jong Un’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, was reportedly part of the cheerleading team for the Asian Athletics Championships. During that competition in Incheon, South Korea, she was able to see outside of the hermit kingdom.

But it was at that same time that 21 cheerleaders were thrown into prison camps for talking about the happy life they had seen while they were in the South, according to reports from Korea.

In 2006, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that a North Korean defector had fled to China and cast light on the alleged human rights abuses, which included a group of women who broke a pledge not to talk about what they had seen of the world during their time in the cheerleading squad, and so were being held in a prison camp.

On joining the cheerleaders, the women committed to treat their visit to the South as a trip into “enemy territory”, the same report claimed, and not talk about what they did or saw there. They were told they would be punished if they did.

It’s a sign of the incredibly high esteem that the cheerleaders are held in their own country. And it’s also a suggestion of the high stakes hanging over the women signed up to take part.

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David French comments
on the whole mediagasm over Kim Yo Jong and what it says about politics and the media. He imagines how the headlines would be different if it were Tim Kaine instead of Mike Pence representing the country at the Olympics.
We can’t pretend for a second that we’d see the same wave of triumphant headlines if Tim Kaine and not Mike Pence were standing, grim-faced, in front of Kim Yo-jong. Instead there’d likely be a bout of moral clarity. “In Icy Stand-off, Kaine Rebukes North Korean Regime.” Even the cheerleaders wouldn’t be spared. “Defectors Detail the Grim Reality Behind the Cheerful Façade.” Reporters are human, and their near-uniform hatred of the Trump administration makes them uniquely vulnerable to false anti-Trump narratives in much the same way that the near-uniform admiration of Obama made them less critical of his blunders and more willing to accept his arguments.

It’s a simple fact that we’ve reached a point where American partisans will applaud when foreign leaders oppose or (allegedly) humiliate their domestic political opponents. And lest we think this is a progressive phenomenon only, consider this — Republican approval for Vladimir Putin almost tripled (from a too-high 12 percent to a disturbing 32 percent) even as the brutal dictator conducted comprehensive intelligence and military operations aimed directly at America’s vital national interests. Partisans hate each other that much.
So both sides do it. But there is something about the media that has blinders on them when it comes to communist regimes.
But partisanship is an incomplete explanation. If the North Korean regime were perceived to be a right-wing horror show, I sincerely doubt you’d see the same, widespread acclaim. There exists a lingering and exceedingly strange willingness of some even in the most elite quarters of the media to whitewash or find the positives in the most brutal of left-wing regimes. Who can forget the New York Times op-ed celebrating the idea that women had “better sex under socialism”? Or who can forget the Times op-ed that declared, “For all its flaws, the Communist revolution taught Chinese women to dream big.” And let’s not get started on Cuba. Did the modern media give any dictator better press than Fidel Castro?

Speaking of lousy journalism, Kyle Smith reviews the Newseum, the museum in Washington, D.C. devoted to the history of the media. He has basically the same response that I had when I visited there several years ago. There were parts of the museum that I enjoyed. One exhibit had the front pages of newspapers from all sorts of historic dates. I thought it was interesting to read the headlines and stories from, for example the day that the Maine exploded in Havana's harbor, or the day that Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. But then I teach history so that's kind of my thing. I spent a good deal of time reading through those front pages. One reason I could do that was because there weren't many people spending a lot of time in that exhibit. Families with kids weren't going to spend time reading hundred-year-old newspapers. Kids were more interested in the interactive exhibits. But what really struck me was how self-congratulatory the whole place was. The place represents the media admiring itself. And how many people want to pay for a museum that costs $25 a ticket for an adult and $15 for kids surrounded by museums in D.C. that are absolutely free and really more interesting?
Gaze upon the colossal edifice at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue in the national capital and you might get the impression that something really important is happening, or at least being recreated, inside. Pass through the Newseum’s doors, however, and your excitement may quickly be doused: It’s essentially a building full of stories you could easily find on the Internet, dull games, and large corporate displays of self-celebration. There’s a Bancroft Family Ethics Center (“kiosks allow you to tackle real-life reporting dilemmas and see how journalists and other visitors responded”), an NBC News Interactive Newsroom (“gives visitors a chance to play the role of a reporter or photographer”), and a New York Times Great Hall (“a continuous flow of news and free speech. Instant, breaking, historic news that is uncensored, diverse and free”). The privilege of strolling amid such gimmickry will cost you dearly — $25, in a city heaving with museums that cost nothing. The ticket price is higher than the Baseball Hall of Fame ($23) and the same as the (suggested) entry fee of America’s foremost repository of great painting and sculpture, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Attractions such as these, and the slippers once worn by Wonkette (I couldn’t remember her name either; upon investigation, it’s Ana Marie Cox) haven’t exactly delivered the throngs. The Newseum is mainly an event space, colorful background for canape-chewers and champagne-sippers whose custom earned the place twice as much ($18 million) last year as did admissions ($7.8 million). Overall, it lost more than $8 million last year and won’t last much longer.
When I went to their website, I saw that they had a special exhibit now on the Marines and the Tet Offensive to look at photographs taken by "John Olson, a young photographer with Stars and Stripes who spent three days with the Marines at the 1968 Battle of Huê." I'm sure that those photos will be interesting to see, but there is a very important story about the media and the Tet Offensive. Arthur Herman wrote about how the media misled the country that, what was actually a major American victory, was a defeat. Arthur Herman wrote about this notable media lie a couple of weeks ago.
Hanoi’s decision to launch the Tet offensive was born of desperation. It was an effort to seize the northern provinces of South Vietnam with conventional troops while triggering an urban uprising by the Vietcong that would distract the Americans — and, some still hoped, revive the fading hopes of the Communists. The offensive itself began on January 30, with attacks on American targets in Saigon and other Vietnamese cities, and ended a little more than a month later when Marines crushed the last pockets of resistance in the northern city of Hue.

It not only destroyed the Vietcong as an effective political and military force, it also, together with the siege of Khe Sanh, crippled the NVA, which lost 20 percent of its forces in the South and suffered 33,000 men killed in action, all for no gain. By the end of 1969, over 70 percent of South Vietnam’s population was rated by the U.S. military as under government control, compared with 42 percent at the beginning of 1968.

The American public knew none of this, however. Almost from the moment the first shots were being fired, skeptics of the war effort in the mainstream media, including CBS News icon Walter Cronkite, would use Tet to prove that the war wasn’t being won as the Johnson administration was claiming. They went further, representing the failed attacks on the U.S. embassy in Saigon and other sites as symbols of Communist success.

As the Washington Post’s own Saigon bureau chief Peter Braestrup documented in his book The Big Story , reporters caught in the fighting systematically used it to turn the reality of American victory into an image of American and South Vietnamese defeat (reporting for example that Vietcong had overrun five floors of the U.S. embassy when in fact the VC had never even gotten inside the building). Newsweek’s coverage of the siege of Khe Sanh showed 18 photos (out of a total of 29) of dead or wounded Marines or Marines huddling under cover, never mentioning that the Marines were steadily pushing back the NVA and inflicting heavy casualties.

That campaign of misrepresentation culminated in Walter Cronkite’s half-hour TV special on February 27, when he told his viewers with an appropriately glum face that Tet had proved that America was now “mired in a stalemate” — even as American forces were breaking the siege around Khe Sanh and clearing out the last resistance in Hue.
What do you think the chances are that the Newseum would cover the role of the media in misleading the American people about what really happened with the Tet Offensive? I'm pretty skeptical about that. They're not so interested in how the media, because of their own opposition to the Vietnam War, didn't tell the truth in their coverage of what happened during that year.

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Salena Zito explains
how Nancy Pelosi, despite her ability to excite the base by giving an eight-hour speech in stiletto heels, still is the biggest liability for Democrats.
But perorations on behalf of illegal immigrants are unlikely to excite the independents, swing Republicans, and centrist Democrats whose votes will determine control of Congress.

Similarly tone-deaf were her warnings last year that the Republican tax cut was the apocalypse. “It is the end of the world,” Pelosi told reporters after the bill passed, “This is Armageddon.”

And calling the $1,000 bonuses that more than 3 million American workers have received ‘crumbs’ for the past few weeks was also not helpful.

A $1,000 bonus is not crumbs, and neither is an extra $100 per paycheck. As Democrats were supposed to spend their week fine-tuning their message at their party retreat, they had to face some hard truths about the face of the party. Pelosi is out of touch with people who live outside of her San Francisco district and Washington D.C.

Most of the people who live in the 100 House districts the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting are happy with their crumbs, don’t see the connection between illegal immigrants and a budget deal, couldn’t afford Nancy’s high heels anyway, and so far don’t see Armageddon on the horizon.
If the Republicans can make the 2018 election about Pelosi instead of their own less popular party, much as Democrats in the 1990s made elections about Gingrich, they'll have a chance. That's why Republicans run ads pairing the Democratic candidates with Pelosi. Of course, the Democrats will counter with pairing Republicans with Trump. The difference in 2018 is that Trump is going to be in power until, at least January 2021. Nancy Pelosi doesn't have to be back in power unless voters choose Democrats.
As one Democratic strategist working on several House races put it: “We cannot continue to turn people off. The door just started to open for us, and if we don’t get our messaging right, it is going to shut in our face before it ever opened.”

Cursing $1,000 crumbs, declaring Armageddon, and standing in heels isn’t going to open that door.

Here is another faux outraged ginned up by the left. Jeff Sessions gave a speech to the National Sheriffs Association and talked about the importance of sheriffs in history. CNN saw fit to report on this rather anodyne speech by emphasizing these words he said.
"I want to thank every sheriff in America. Since our founding, the independently elected sheriff has been the people's protector, who keeps law enforcement close to and accountable to people through the elected process," Sessions said in remarks at the National Sheriffs Association winter meeting, adding, "The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement."

"We must never erode this historic office," Sessions continued.

Invoking "Anglo-American heritage" seems to have been an impromptu decision by the attorney general. A written version of the remarks says that Sessions was supposed to say: "The sheriff is a critical part of our legal heritage."

Ian Prior, a spokesperson for the DOJ, said in a statement that the term "Anglo-American law" is common parlance among lawyers and legal scholars, pointing to a number of opinions from the US Supreme Court.
So why report on this at all? Probably they just wanted to spark outrage that anyone would ever use the words "Anglo-American heritage." How dare the Attorney General recognize that American law was built upon English Common Law? Why, it just goes to show how racist he is, right?

Since people started getting outraged about this, CNN has added a bit.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer used the term in a speech in 2016.
The concept of the office of sheriff -- being an independent, elected law enforcement entity -- originates in Anglo-Saxon England. The word "sheriff" combines the Anglo-Saxon words "shire," meaning "county," and "reeve," meaning "guardian," Cato analyst David Kopel notes in The Washington Post.

Charles C. W. Cooke points to a tweet by Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat from Hawaii as well as other tweets of outrage.

Cooke adds,
Brian Schatz is a lawmaker in the United States Congress. In fact, as a senator, he’s more than that: He’s one of just 100 people in this country who get to confirm federal judges, including to the Supreme Court. And, apparently, he’s unaware of what the term “Anglo-American heritage” means.

We’re screwed....

Let me put this impolitely: This is moronic. And not just a little bit moronic. This is so moronic, so dim, so utterly and incandescently stupid that I frankly worry for the future of the republic. I have been reading through these reactions for a few hours now, and I can still scarcely imagine the rank historical and legal illiteracy that it takes to hear “Anglo-American” in such a context and to assume it’s a racial reference. Sessions could not have been more clear if he had tried. His talk was to sheriffs — about sheriffs. His subject was the “historic office” that most of his audience filled. His point — “literally”! — was that, “since our founding, the independently elected sheriff” has played a “critical” role within a law enforcement system that developed in England and was then adopted in America. (“Sheriff” derives from a combination of the word “shire” and the word “reeve.”) In order to make that point at that talk, he said, “The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.”

It is hard to overstate just how commonly used this phrase is in this context. Within the law, “Anglo-American” does not mean “white.” It does not mean “the KKK.” It is not a “dog whistle.” It is fundamental. It is used — shock! — to refer to those institutions, ideals, structures, and customs that are common to England and the United States — that is, to the common legal heritage the two countries share. Most basically, it means “common law,” but it can also apply more broadly. There is, for example, an identifiable “Anglo-American” conception of due process, which is distinct from, say, the Napoleonic system. That some people also use the word “Anglo” to mean “white” has no bearing on this. Has Senator Schatz never read a history book?
He even points to several speeches by Obama using the same phrase to refer to the "Anglo-American legal system" and "foundation of Anglo-American law."
This usage — which is precisely the same as Sessions’s — is common, it is quotidian, it is downright normal. It is found in legal textbooks, in works of history, and in Supreme Court opinions alike. More important, it’s extremely useful. We need a term that means “long within the unusual legal tradition that predated the independence of this nation,” and “Anglo-American” works perfectly in that role. If we allow it to be taken from us by the hysterical and the unlettered, we’ll be considerably worse off for it.

This reminds me of the controversy when an aide to the Mayor of Washington D.C. had to resign because he used the word "niggardly" in referring to managing the city's budget. People who didn't know what the word meant assumed he was making a racial slur. Even those who knew what the word meant thought that it was the right decision to move the aide out of his job because of the "culture ignorance." It was his fault for not realizing that his audience would resent the word and perhaps not know what it meant. Then the mayor got criticized for accepting the guy's resignation and Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP criticized the mayor making the reasonable point that people shouldn't have to "censor" their language to meet other "people's lack of understanding." Good for Julian Bond.

Let's not be stuck on stupid, folks.

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Read this interview with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who is definitely trying to position herself to run for the presidency in 2020. But she has this problem that she used to be more moderate in her political stances when she was just a Representative. So, in an interview with CBS News on Sixty Minutes, she was pressed on those changes she has made in her stands. And to the credit of the interviewer, Sharyn Alfonsi, she was pressed on all these flip-flops. Basically, she just argued that she had to take immoral positions that she disagreed with because of her district she represented in upstate New York. She was pressed on why she had supported gun rights. She tries to explain that she learned more by meeting with families from Brooklyn who had suffered from gun violence. The interviewer points out that Gillibrand had lived in New York City for a decade and had traveled abroad. But then she just blamed the evil NRA. That wasn't the only issue that she flip-flopped on. She has totally done a 180 in her position on immigration.
Sharyn Alfonsi: Your critics will say it's political opportunism.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: As is their right. They can say what they like.

But it wasn't just her position on gun control that switched—as a congresswoman, her stance on immigration was closer to Donald Trump's than today's Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Sharyn Alfonsi: So can you understand President Trump's position on immigration, since you were there?

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: No. I think his positions are racist.

Sharyn Alfonsi: You were against amnesty, against sanctuary cities. You supported accelerated deportations. You become senator…Why the flip?

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: I came from a district that was 98% white. We have immigrants, but not a lot of immigrants. And I hadn't really spent the time to hear those kind of stories about what's it like to worry that your dad could be taken away at any moment, what it's like--

Sharyn Alfonsi: But you're reading the paper--

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: Yeah. And I just didn't take the time to understand why these issues mattered because it wasn't right in front of me. And that was my fault. It was something that I'm embarrassed about and I'm ashamed of.

Sharyn Alfonsi: So it is not very often that you hear a politician say, "I was wrong. I'm ashamed. I didn't know."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: I just think as I've gotten older I've learned more about life and sometimes you're wrong. And you've gotta fix it. And if you're wrong, just admit it and move on.
So she had those positions when she represented a district that was 98% white. Apparently, she's telling us that she didn't meet any immigrants in that decade in NYC and she didn't read or think about the issue earlier. But then she ran for the Senate and now is running for the White House. But now we're supposed to believe that she is noble because she admits that she is wrong. She's noble, not opportunistic. Yeah, sure. Matt Vespa comments,
Yeah, or you have your eyes set on the White House, your party has moved far left on the issues of guns and immigration, and you need to make yourself look palatable to the base, though no one really knows who you are past the Catskill Mountains. Seriously, the switch is I was a redneck congresswoman and now I’m not, so I’ve learned. So, people in upstate New York aren’t as evolved or something? This is another issue with a party as hemmed in as the Democrats—they have no one who really can connect with rural voters. If they want border security, they’re called racists. They believe in Second Amendment rights, they’re extremists. They receive a bonus from their employer, and it’s only crumbs.... it’s fairly easy to suggest that Gillibrand’s transformation from middle-of-the-road congresswoman to bleeding heart liberal was more out of ambition and political expediency. Nothing wrong with that, but just be honest—just like how you threw rural voters under the bus to explain why you became more liberal without sounding like a total opportunist, which this moves reeks of, by the way--a point she admits will be lobbed against her.

Steven Hayward has an almost unbelievable post about car thefts in San Francisco. First of all, I didn't realize how easy it is for thieves to steal cars using scanners to copy the signal from keyless entry car keys. But what is really striking is the tale of what car and truck rental agencies are enduring through the combination of red tape, indifference, and incompetence from the police in trying to even report a stolen vehicle. Read through the thread he posts from a van rental businessman who tells his story of how the police won't help him recover a stolen van even when it's parked right outside a police station. Is it any wonder that people are moving out of the area in droves? He links to this story about the mass exit of people from the San Francisco area.
Of course people come and go from the Bay Area all the time, but for the first time in a long time, more people are leaving the Bay Area than are coming in. And the number one place in the country for out-migration is now, right here....

Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s own study of the out-migration says workers are moving to Sacramento, Austin, and Portland due to a number of factors. But topping the list is the high cost of housing.

“You can’t even contemplate getting into the housing market here,” Hancock said. “And I don’t mean just service workers, I mean highly skilled professionals. The tech elite are having a hard time affording reasonable housing in Silicon Valley. So this is difficult, this makes it very difficult for employers trying to recruit.”

Operators of a San Jose U-Haul business say one of their biggest problems is getting its rental moving vans back because so many are on a one-way ticket out of town.
It used to be that people loved living in the area because it's beautiful and exciting. But if you can't afford housing and there is literally an app to figure out which areas of the city have the most poop on the sidewalks, it suddenly doesn't seem worth it. And if cars are being stolen and the police don't want to help recover them, other parts of the country soon start to look much more desirable.