What Does China Think About North Korea’s Aggression?

In discussing how America should respond to the North Korean artillery attack on South Korea, almost all the discussion invariably turns to what China will do. The only ally of North Korea, China is the only nation in the world which can effectively pressure North Korea.

There has been quite a bit of debate about what China is thinking right now. Many hope that China will value its commercial ties to the West above its ties to North Korea. Others point out, less optimistically, that China wishes to preserve North Korea – if North Korea fell, millions of impoverished refugees would flood into the country. Moreover, a reunified Korea would be aligned with the West, constituting a threat next to China’s border.

All this is very much speculation and guesswork. What does China really think about the North Korean attack?

Actually, it is very easy to find out what China thinks. In fact, the Chinese government has an official press agency: Xinhua. Most people probably don’t know this, but Xinhua can be read for free online in English.

So what does China think about the North Korean attack?

Well, what better way to find out than to go read the Chinese government’s official newspaper!

Xinhua has several articles covering the incident. Unfortunately, most of the stuff is fairly boring – a simple recitation of facts. Unlike newspapers such as the Times, there is little editorializing and little insertion of opinion. In general, more room is given to what North Korea is saying without the obvious disbelief present in Western newspapers. The frame is: South Korea says this, North Korea says that, we don’t know who’s right other than there was artillery fired by both sides.

Perhaps the most revealing section was this quote:

Though Seoul blamed Pyongyang for military provocations, there is still no way to confirm who started the shelling attack.

A statement issued by the DPRK army accused South Korea of setting off the exchange of fire, saying dozens of shells from the south fell in the waters of DPRK around Yonphyong Islet at 1:00 o’clock p.m. local time Tuesday afternoon. Ensuing shellings were countering measures of the DPRK, it said.

Acknowledging it did fire shots in the area, South Korea denied any of the test shots fell in the DPRK territory.

The incident came as South Korea was engaged in a massive annual military exercises involving some 70,000 troops, launched Monday and scheduled to last through Nov. 30. Pyongyang has repeatedly warned against such military drills, usually joined by U.S. soldiers, describing them as provocations and real threats to its security.

So here one gets a pretty clear sense of what China might say: either we don’t know who really started it, or North Korea’s attack was provoked by South Korea.

This is not very comforting for the West. For multiple times North Korea has launched military aggressions that could be construed as acts of war. Reading Xinhua seems to indicate that China still is not ready to out-and-out criticize North Korea for these attacks. The North Korean artillery attacks have not been the first time North Korea has killed South Koreans without much response. As long as China’s stance remains unchanged, it will probably not be the last.

(A note: Reporting in China can often be quite different between English-language and Chinese-language news. English reports in China generally have more freedom and leeway, and therefore may be more critical. For comparison’s sake, several articles in Chinese – translated by google – can be found here and here. The translation is pretty bad, but there didn’t seem to be too much difference between what the Chinese version and English version articles were saying.)

Parodies and the Public: Is Everyone so Gullible?

Fox Nation readers confuse Onion article with real news

I’m not really a pundit, I just play one on the web. And on occasion, commensurate with my faux punditly duties, I write a parody post. I may do this as a commitment to one of my core principles, “Scorn is mightier than ignorance”, or I might be bored or ready for a rant or just because I want to have a little fun – a pundit’s work is never done.

However, one of the consistent things about these parodies is that they always draw some proportion of people who actually believe them. One a few months back required me to add a disclaimer for fear open warfare would break out between the people who believed it was real and defended its “truth” and the people who believed it was real and tried to refudiate it.

Refudiate something that wasn’t true. Odd concept that.

Causing an Ideological War of the Worlds
I like to think I can sling a pithy narative as well as the next guy – certainly better than Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh – but, I find it hard to believe that my parodies are so great and realistic I might accidentally cause some sort of an ideological War of the Worlds.

I used to be mildly pleased by this. Ha ha, look how I pulled the wool over their eyes! It made me feel superior in the same way watching Jerry Springer makes me feel superior. I may be a goob, but at least I’m not an uber-goob who takes DNA tests to prove which of the 37 trailer park coquettes he’s been banging carries his child (it turns out about 34).

But as I rack up my tally of rubes, I’ve begun to wonder about the wider implications.

Our national discourse has become so rancorous and full of outright lies and gross distortions, you can’t even make things up anymore. People actually believed my  piece on the affair between Suzanne Malveaux and George Bush. Ditto my recent piece covering the Tea Party’s outrage over Obama pardoning Thanksgiving terror turkeys.

This may explain the popularity of  The Daily Show or Stephen Colbert‘s testimony to Congress. We know people watch those shows for their news, but the assumption that viewers understand they’re seeing imaginary news may be too broad.

The REAL Thanksgiving
Even when people watch mainstream news outlets like Fox, their common sense takes a powder. As I write this, Rush Limbaugh is pontificating on how the Indians scammed us on Manhattan and the pilgrims failed because they were socialists, a view supported by an honest to God US Congressman.

There was a day when that would’ve caused most people to shake their heads and think, “DAMN, there are a lot of imbeciles.” These days it draws a yawn, and in a truly troubling number of cases, more people who believe the blatant fantasies.

One of the core principles of the Founding Fathers was that of a well informed electorate. For example, believing horses could talk would at least cause the Founders to question your critical thinking skills. Today, pro-horse talking and anti-horse talking factions would form, there would be rancorous debate, and new laws enacted that both forbade and supported talking horses as a dozen different talking horse lobbies demanded.

We may have become too stupid and gullible to vote, particularly when the people we vote into office think the pilgrims failed because they were socialists. I’m tempted to write a parody about this, but it’s impossible.

There’s not enough believable reality left to craft a decent faux reality.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

TV Political Ads: Ditching Democracy 30 Seconds at a Time

 

by Walter Brasch

 

        There's good news this week. There's only about two weeks before the midterm elections.

          Now for the bad news. There's still about two more weeks to be garroted by TV ads.

          Back-to-back-to-back, we are choking on lies, distortions, and half-truths. This year may go into history as having the most vicious attack ads since the "dark ages" shortly after the nation was founded. Biggest difference? More than two centuries later, most of the ads scream at you from television rather than partisan newspapers.

          Between $3.5 and $4.5 billion will be spent on campaign ads this season. That's one to two billion more than was spent during the midterm elections four years ago.

          One of the reasons for the increase in spending is that the conservative wing of the Republican party has launched an all-out assault to once again take over Congress. Another reason is that they got a supreme assist in January. The Supreme Court, by a 5–4 vote along party lines, decided in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission [130 S.Ct. 876] that the First Amendment applies to corporations, which now would enjoy the same protections given to citizens and associations of citizens. The decision essentially obliterated the gains made by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (known as the McCain–Feingold Act) and a Supreme Court decision (McConnell v. FEC; 540 U.S. 93) a year later that ruled most of the Act constitutional.

          In a strongly-worded dissent in the Citizens United case, Justice John Paul Stevens declared the Supreme Court's decision "threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. . . . [It is] a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt." Justice Stevens further argued that, "While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics." President Obama called the decision, "a major victory for Big Oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans."

          Eight of the 10 groups that have bought the most TV advertising this election lean to the Republicans, according to an analysis of by the Wesleyan Media Project.

          And that brings us to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, second in spending only to the Republican Governors Association. The Chamber of Commerce, along with the National Rifle Association, was one of the most vigorous supporters of the Citizens United legal case to extend First Amendment protections to corporations. At one time, the Chamber was non-partisan. During the past decade, it has become an advocacy group for conservative candidates and ideology. For this election, it has promised to spend about $75 million in campaign ads. Because the Chamber, a non-profit agency, doesn't need to report its contribution and spending to the Federal Elections Commission, the nation is left wondering if it's true, as the President charges, that significant donations are from foreign companies and governments. Those contributions are illegal under U.S. law. The Chamber claims it does receive foreign money but doesn't use it for political advertising—but refuses to disclose specifics. Even if the Chamber doesn't use foreign money for political ads, the revenue it receives from foreign money frees up its budget to increase spending for a right-wing agenda. Four years ago, almost every organization disclosed where their funds came from. This year, according to FEC data, only about one-third of the organizations have done so.

          Republicans have put a "face" on their attack ads, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who appears in more anti-Democrat campaign ads than any Democrat running for office, is seen as everything evil. Perhaps it's because she is a powerful woman who represents San Francisco, a district that is racially, culturally, and ethnically diverse. Pelosi, and most Democrats in hotly contested races, are portrayed as Pelosi puppets who voted for the stimulus bill and health care reform, both seen erroneously by the ultra-conservative wing as socialist or Marxist programs. Most objective analysts say that the stimulus bill, even with its flaws, kept the nation out of sinking into a Depression, and that health reform, derisively known as Obamacare, has significantly improved the nation's health care while keeping costs down. However, President Obama doesn't appear in too many attack ads. For the Party on the White to emphasize the "evils" of President Obama could result in a backlash.

          In response, the Democrats have charged Republicans as being the "Party of NO," with no social conscience and no political agenda, a party that blocks any reform or progress solely for political reasons. What the Democrats didn't do is more important than what they did do. The Democrats have been unable to effectively use campaign advertising to portray the Republicans as the party in power when the nation entered into an unjustified $1 trillion war in Iraq, created the greatest deficit in American history, refused to stop Wall Street and bank greed, allowed the mortgage crisis to develop and undermine American security, brought about double-digit unemployment, and shoved the nation into one of its greatest recessions.

          But, here's another reality. TV ads, like newspaper editorials, seldom change anyone's preconceived opinions. Liberals continue to support liberals. Conservatives continue to support conservatives. The "independent" middle, sometimes known as a "soft vote" because both parties try to grab it, is largely a myth. The "soft middle" may not be influenced by any campaign ad—and they may not even vote.

 

          So, what is the purpose of TV ads and the significant increase in funding? Simply, it's to hold and reinforce the base. Conservatives have done much better to rally their base than have liberals this year. If the conservatives retake either or both houses of Congress, it will not be because the Obama administration failed. It will be because the conservatives spent significantly more on a full-range media campaign that included a dominant TV presence, rallied their base, controlled the news media, which controlled the agenda, and effectively blocked an ineffective Democratic response that failed to counter lies, distortions, and half-truths.

 

[Walter Brasch's latest book is Sex and the Single Beer Can, a witty and probing look at the media and American culture. It is available from Amazon.com and other stores.]

 

 

 

TV Political Ads: Ditching Democracy 30 Seconds at a Time

 

by Walter Brasch

 

        There's good news this week. There's only about two weeks before the midterm elections.

          Now for the bad news. There's still about two more weeks to be garroted by TV ads.

          Back-to-back-to-back, we are choking on lies, distortions, and half-truths. This year may go into history as having the most vicious attack ads since the "dark ages" shortly after the nation was founded. Biggest difference? More than two centuries later, most of the ads scream at you from television rather than partisan newspapers.

          Between $3.5 and $4.5 billion will be spent on campaign ads this season. That's one to two billion more than was spent during the midterm elections four years ago.

          One of the reasons for the increase in spending is that the conservative wing of the Republican party has launched an all-out assault to once again take over Congress. Another reason is that they got a supreme assist in January. The Supreme Court, by a 5–4 vote along party lines, decided in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission [130 S.Ct. 876] that the First Amendment applies to corporations, which now would enjoy the same protections given to citizens and associations of citizens. The decision essentially obliterated the gains made by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (known as the McCain–Feingold Act) and a Supreme Court decision (McConnell v. FEC; 540 U.S. 93) a year later that ruled most of the Act constitutional.

          In a strongly-worded dissent in the Citizens United case, Justice John Paul Stevens declared the Supreme Court's decision "threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. . . . [It is] a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt." Justice Stevens further argued that, "While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics." President Obama called the decision, "a major victory for Big Oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans."

          Eight of the 10 groups that have bought the most TV advertising this election lean to the Republicans, according to an analysis of by the Wesleyan Media Project.

          And that brings us to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, second in spending only to the Republican Governors Association. The Chamber of Commerce, along with the National Rifle Association, was one of the most vigorous supporters of the Citizens United legal case to extend First Amendment protections to corporations. At one time, the Chamber was non-partisan. During the past decade, it has become an advocacy group for conservative candidates and ideology. For this election, it has promised to spend about $75 million in campaign ads. Because the Chamber, a non-profit agency, doesn't need to report its contribution and spending to the Federal Elections Commission, the nation is left wondering if it's true, as the President charges, that significant donations are from foreign companies and governments. Those contributions are illegal under U.S. law. The Chamber claims it does receive foreign money but doesn't use it for political advertising—but refuses to disclose specifics. Even if the Chamber doesn't use foreign money for political ads, the revenue it receives from foreign money frees up its budget to increase spending for a right-wing agenda. Four years ago, almost every organization disclosed where their funds came from. This year, according to FEC data, only about one-third of the organizations have done so.

          Republicans have put a "face" on their attack ads, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who appears in more anti-Democrat campaign ads than any Democrat running for office, is seen as everything evil. Perhaps it's because she is a powerful woman who represents San Francisco, a district that is racially, culturally, and ethnically diverse. Pelosi, and most Democrats in hotly contested races, are portrayed as Pelosi puppets who voted for the stimulus bill and health care reform, both seen erroneously by the ultra-conservative wing as socialist or Marxist programs. Most objective analysts say that the stimulus bill, even with its flaws, kept the nation out of sinking into a Depression, and that health reform, derisively known as Obamacare, has significantly improved the nation's health care while keeping costs down. However, President Obama doesn't appear in too many attack ads. For the Party on the White to emphasize the "evils" of President Obama could result in a backlash.

          In response, the Democrats have charged Republicans as being the "Party of NO," with no social conscience and no political agenda, a party that blocks any reform or progress solely for political reasons. What the Democrats didn't do is more important than what they did do. The Democrats have been unable to effectively use campaign advertising to portray the Republicans as the party in power when the nation entered into an unjustified $1 trillion war in Iraq, created the greatest deficit in American history, refused to stop Wall Street and bank greed, allowed the mortgage crisis to develop and undermine American security, brought about double-digit unemployment, and shoved the nation into one of its greatest recessions.

          But, here's another reality. TV ads, like newspaper editorials, seldom change anyone's preconceived opinions. Liberals continue to support liberals. Conservatives continue to support conservatives. The "independent" middle, sometimes known as a "soft vote" because both parties try to grab it, is largely a myth. The "soft middle" may not be influenced by any campaign ad—and they may not even vote.

 

          So, what is the purpose of TV ads and the significant increase in funding? Simply, it's to hold and reinforce the base. Conservatives have done much better to rally their base than have liberals this year. If the conservatives retake either or both houses of Congress, it will not be because the Obama administration failed. It will be because the conservatives spent significantly more on a full-range media campaign that included a dominant TV presence, rallied their base, controlled the news media, which controlled the agenda, and effectively blocked an ineffective Democratic response that failed to counter lies, distortions, and half-truths.

 

[Walter Brasch's latest book is Sex and the Single Beer Can, a witty and probing look at the media and American culture. It is available from Amazon.com and other stores.]

 

 

 

How Many J-Words Can Dance on the Tip of a Tongue?

CNN’s Rick Sanchez decided to go toe-to-toe with faux newser Jon Stewart and suffered the same fate as the last CNNer to do so – Tucker Carlson. However in the aftermath, we have a sort of “how many J-Words can dance on the tip of the tongue” argument brewing.

Stewart had been doing to Sanchez what he’s done to so many others for weeks – made fun of him. It’s the penalty one pays when one is famous and says dumb things. It’s all too easy for Stewart’s crack staff to find double-speak video and other public statements to hold crapweasels up to ridicule. I think Stewart’s brand of ridicule, despite its definite bite, is far less passionate than Keith Olbermann‘s skewers of the famous and inane. One gets the sense that Jon knows it’s a joke while Olbermann actually believes his targets are the Worst Persons in the World.

But then, I ain’t famous so what do I know?

Punking Yourself
If you live under the glare of studio lights and talk for a living – incessantly – you’ll punk yourself occasionally. It happens. And when it does, you have to either have a great sense of humor or develop tough skin, because the dumber you are, the more you’ll be held up to ridicule. Exhibits A-D, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Christine O’Donnell, and Sharron Angle, et al.

Sanchez’s skin is apparently as thin as John McTheusela’s, as is the skin of Sanchez’s CNN overlords. Sanchez let the J-Bombs fly, CNN fired him, he apologized to Stewart soon after and Jon and Rick rode into the sunset, at least if not BFFs, OK with things. And, Christopher Hitchens takes up Sanchez’s cause.

Hitchens? Really? Famous crusading atheist? Has cancer?

One in the same.

Hitchens argues that Sanchez’s anti-Jewish statements are literally true. Despite the anti-semitic overtones, he says Jews (along with white Christians) actually are disproportionately represented in media and entertainment boardrooms. To Hitchens, Sanchez simply stated a fact no more problematic than saying African Americans are under-represented. And as boneheaded as Hitchens often is, he has a point. But, it was never about THAT point and it isn’t a necessarily a socially polite thing to say.

It all boils down to a “who can safely say the N-word, or in this case, the J-word”. Sure, Sanchez was unbelievably stupid, but if we’re going to fire every TV personality who’s stupid, TV would consist of lots of HD snow and annoying test pattern buzz.

But, you could make an argument that would be an improvement.

Not a White Supremacist Candidate
I personally find Sanchez annoying and I suspect his assumed anti-semitism may be real to some degree, although, barring any information to the contrary,  I’m not so sure he’d be a good candidate for your neighborly white supremacist enclave.

I don’t condone what he said. In fact, I don’t think it is as literally true as Hitchens does either. But, I’m not sure if it’s a firing offense when put in context.

Sanchez did the right thing in calling Stewart to apologize – though he wimped out by letting his wife announce it to the public on Facebook. Everyone might have been better served if the apology was both personal and public. A true mea culpa with some teeth – perhaps a show or series of shows devoted to anti-semitism coupled with some work with Jewish charities and up close and personal exposure to Jewish people. The Jewish religion believes in atonement, a earthly one to be sure, but atonement nonetheless.

If Sanchez refused to do these things, if his superiors had to co-opt him to do them – in a very public way – they, and those calling for his resignation, would have every right to say, “don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.” Or, if he did it again, ala Mel Gibson, away with him. No one has to cut the man some slack and some believe no one should.

But we might all learn a little about ourselves and each other if we did.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

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