KCRWs Left Right & Center: Guns & Scotus, The DUDE

Surprise visit from The Dude: the real one, who inspired The Big Lebowski (Jeff Dowd) www.jeffdowd.com. He's a big fan of Left, Right & Center and dropped by to do KCRW's Guest DJ Project http://www.kcrw.com/music/kcrw-guest-dj- project. Meantime, on today's show we talk about Guns and SCOTUS; North Korea Nukes; Oil; Democratic Unity and Obamacons. Visit our new blog for links to articles mentioned http://leftrightandcenter.vox.com/; special guest right is Jim Antle, associate editor of the conservative mag, The American Spectator. Listen to today's show here: http://www.kcrw.com/media-player/mediaPl ayer2.html?type=audio&id=lr080627sco tus_on_gunsn_kore

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White House to Take North Korea Off 'Terror List' - However, SERIOUS Human Rights Problems Remain

The White House
announced today
that it is taking North Korea off the list of countries that 'directly support terrorism'.

This may be true. As far as we know, North Korea only supports counterfeiting, drug manufacture, and mass enslavement of its people, not manufacturing nuclear bombs for sale. (although they have been known to sell complete missile making kits to Middle Eastern and African nations)

So -this can be misleading! They are not on the right path, yet.

Shouldn't one of the major reasons for placing North Korea in the category of pariah nations be their horrible treatment of their own people?

In that respect, little has changed.

From the Bush administration statement:

""This can be a moment of opportunity for North Korea," said President Bush, announcing the declaration at the White House. "If it continues to make the right choices it can repair its relationship with the international community."

I would ask Mr. Bush to make a stronger effort to force North Korea to open up its borders and release the millions of people held in its huge network of slave labor camps, where human rights conditions are among the worst in the world.

Also, economic conditions in the parts of North Korea that are reserved for those from 'bad' 'family background' are so bad that cannibalism is not unknown (although it is punishable by death) For that reason, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have fled the only way possible, into China, where they are hunted down like animals, sold or kept in slavery as illegal immigrants.

This is a terrible situation. Surely, the United States has it in our hearts to provide some kind of help to North Koreans living as refugees in China.

North Korea pays China a bounty of around $300 for each North Korean caught and returned to North Korea. Returned escapees will typically be prosecuted, then imprisoned, or, if it is their third attempt, summarily executed, for the crime of betraying the fatherland by leaving.

Surely the US could match that $300 and provide a new start for North Korean refugees somewhere in the US, where they would be happy to get a new start. Many have led terrible lives and they are also discriminated against in South Korea (Still, around 3000 have finally made it there, often having had to traverse all around Asia to finally reach South Korea, since travel through the DMZ, and indeed, travel through the DPRK, since one needs a permit for any inter-county travel, is impossible.)

Several North Korean refugees live in the US. Many others live in South Korea. Their stories are heartbreaking, but they are also interesting because they show in graphic detail what life is like under totalitarianism. They will make you count your blessings.
The escapees accounts can be read on a number of websites that support North Korean human rights. This is an issue that transcends politics. Hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees hide in northeast China.

Their plight is also of crucial importance. They need a safe place they can go and live in peace.

I am linking to some web pages where you can learn more about human rights in North Korea after the link.

Please write your elected representatives and ask that the US put more pressure on North Korea to end the prison camps and open up to the rest of the world, regardless of the scrutiny that a legacy of 60 years of mass murder on a gargantuan scale would reveal.

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Obama And North Korea - Please Read - Important UPDATES

I heard recently that Barack Obama has quietly indicated that he would support the removal of North Korea from the US list of countries that sponsor terrorism. Update [2008-5-29 11:55:7 by architek]:See Obama Changes Tack on Terror Status for N.Korea.

I think that this is worse than a mistake. Mr. Obama is ignoring the kidnapping and murder of Kim Dong Shik, a Korean-American with dual South Korean and US citizenship and a former Illinois resident.

Rev. Kim disappeared several years ago. It came out in 2004 that he had been abducted from Chinese territory by the North Korean government and that he later died in a North Korean prison camp while under interrogation.

He had been assisting North Korean refugees in China in the illegal underground railroad that sometimes eventually allows them to reach South Korea. (but also often fails, and the refugees are captured and sent back to North Korea, where some are executed, because it is a crime to leave.)

By removing North Korea from the sponsor list, Obama is ignoring arguably the very worst human rights situation in the world.

There may be a tendency, to look at the Bush administration's posturing on Iraq, Iran and North Korea and to think that perhaps, its propaganda as far as North Korea. "Perhaps they are not that bad, after all" many of us might think. Some of the stories that periodically emerge about Kim Jong-il are seen as humorous.

That would be a terrible mistake, because the bizarre nature of the situation there masks misery on a huge scale. Like the situation with Hitler in the 1930s, all of the other players in the area, fearful of the consequences of an implosion of North Korea's regime and the flood of starving refugees that would emerge, greatly downplay both the danger and the suffering of the North Korean people.

The situation there is a bizarre legacy of the Cold War and it predates the Bush Administration by 50 years.

Perhaps there IS some kind of diplomacy that could break down the barriers around North Korea at some point. We have to hope. But the problem dwarfs politicians and rhetoric. It is such an intractable MESS that almost nobody outside of a small community of Korea watchers understand it. Certainly politicians are not aware of the depth of the paranoia and misery. It is like a bad, bad movie and indeed, Nort Korea has been the subject of many films. But none manage to capture the terror. Perhaps the closest might be films about other totalitarian countries such as "The Lives of Others" - films that can only be made by those who have experienced them.

Politicians may consider that North Korea is the most isolated place in the world, politically, They should understand that this doesn't happen overnight. They need to realize WHY.

Tactically, they might also start on their feet by trying to grok  that regardless of the terrorism factor it makes no sense to give away the prize before even beginning the negotiation.

And that you do not negotiate with Hitler-esque figures without an understanding and public acknowledgment of what is happening.

Imagine Stalins gulag, in the 21st century.

Obama criticizes others for every possible thing but he himself is committing a grave error in moral judgement by allowing North Korea to go unpunished for abducting a fellow Illinois citizen.

Update [2008-5-29 11:55:7 by architek]:

The Hidden Gulag: a report on North Korean prison camps
PBS Frontline show on "Kims Nuclear Gamble"
Escapees from North Korea
(both in hiding in China and safe in South Korea) tell their stories.

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Foreign Policy: The Home Stretch

As the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary rapidly approach, the "real" presidential campaign is about to begin. The first actual votes are about to be cast, lending a visceral certainty to a campaign season that has at times seemed amorphous and detached. As it has throughout the campaign, foreign policy is shaping both the candidates and the way voters perceive them. But in the final days of 2007, some surprises are emerging, both in the United States and abroad. As events unfold in the coming weeks, competing notions of foreign policy "experience" may have an unforeseen role in how the primary season enters the New Year.

In recent weeks, both the Democratic and the Republican fields have witnessed late challenges to the prevailing front runners. The successes of Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee are unique phenomena, but some have suggested that they share a common root: Neither candidate has much in the way of traditional foreign policy "experience," and with good news (or no news) recently emerging from the "axis of evil" countries of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, voters are becoming less concerned with international affairs.

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Dennis Kucinich On Weapons

Dennis Kucinich's whole candidacy is centered upon practical policies working towards peace; already introducing legislation for disarmament, banning weapons in space, and establishing the Department of Peace. He is firmly against the use of nuclear weapons and, as President, will finally lift up the U.S. to claim its responsibility as a global leader in working with other countries towards disarmament and the abolishment of nuclear weapons forever. We must claim this responsibility, applying the same principles to ourselves as the rest of the world, if we are to have any credibility in negotiations with the international community.

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