Sunday, December 5, 2010

Korean-ing Off The Rails, Part 3

North Korea is still putting out quite a stink over South Korea's increase in military drills and live fire exercises.

North Korea said South Korea is raising tension on the Korean Peninsula to an “uncontrollable extreme phase” by holding military exercises with the U.S. and planning a live-firing drill today by navy ships.

The South Korean government “is so hell-bent on the moves to escalate the confrontation and start a war that it is recklessly behaving bereft of reason,” the state-run Korea Central News Agency said in a commentary yesterday. North Korea is “now maintaining a maximum self-possession and self- control,” it said.

Today’s drills will include live firing from ships into seas near Daecheong Island, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said last week. North Korea said the exercise will result in shells landing in its territorial waters.

I'm not sure what the Korean equivalent of kabuki is, but I have a feeling we're seeing it here and with all the bells and whistles. It's only a matter of time before something particularly provocative is going to happen unless cooler heads prevail, and frankly cooler heads are nowhere to be found on the Korean Peninsula.

Robert Ludlum's The Assange Supremacy

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is warning that if anything happens to him or his site that he has the insurance of a "poison pill" of potentially devastating secrets waiting to be released.

Assange warns that any government that tries to curtail his activities risks triggering a new deluge of state and commercial secrets.

The military papers on Guantanamo Bay, yet to be published, have been supplied by Bradley Manning, Assange’s primary source until his arrest in May. Other documents that Assange is confirmed to possess include an aerial video of a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan that killed civilians, BP files and Bank of America documents.

One of the key files available for download — named insurance.aes256 — appears to be encrypted with a 256-digit key. Experts said last week it was virtually unbreakable.

You had to have figured that Assange had something like this, a mutually assured destruction type backup plan, in case his site was obliterated. Putting out an example file and daring the NSA to break it is a damn good way to assure the US and other governments that he has the goods as well, and that calling his bluff would be a bad idea if he's actually holding the cards. Should the NSA be able to break the file's encryption, they only learn how serious Assange is on his threats.

Even better, you have to assume now that people will be ready to believe whatever this insurance file contains, even if it's fantastic or not. Assange has the credibility right now based on the massively disproportionate reaction by world governments to his cable leaks. If Assange tomorrow completely fabricated files tomorrow purporting contact with aliens from another solar system, he'd have more credibility than world governments right now, and all sides know it. Even if the NSA is unable to break encryption on the file, they have to take that into account.

That's why the lunatic idea of openly calling for Assange's assassination plays right into his hands and ironically makes his position stronger. The calls for such action are by no means new but are increasingly getting louder...and more self-defeating by the day.

It's a hell of a dangerous game he's playing, but so far Julian Assange is playing it well.

The Zealot References Are Valid

I talked earlier this week about Republican religious zealots who have no tolerance for anyone who isn't Christian enough or who isn't conservative enough in their Christianity for them. Anyone else found wanting is at best a second-class citizen and at worst open persecuted by these maniacs. Yesterday's story about the problems some of these nut jobs have with the Speaker of the Texas House being Jewish is just the beginning.

This week's story about taxpayer money being used for a Creationist Noah's Ark theme park here in Northern Kentucky was bad enough an example of this hypocrisy, but I had missed the connection with that and the whole fundamentalist outrage over wanting the entire Smithsonian museum funding revoked over an exhibit that dared to acknowledge that LGBT Americans exist.

Luckily, Stephen Prothero at CNN's Belief Blog notes the dangers of trying to legislate a national religion.

I write not to raise First Amendment questions about elected officials transforming themselves into self-appointed curators, but to ask whether these officials are really concerned (as they claim) about the use of taxpayer funds to weigh on matters of the spirit.

In a press release yesterday, Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky announced that his state had entered into a deal with the folks behind the Creation Museum to break ground for Ark Encounter, a $150 million theme park complete with “a full-scale model of Noah’s Ark.”

Rather than speaking of his state's support of this group’s creationist agenda, Gov. Beshear spoke of employing 900 workers and drawing 1.6 million visitors a year. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, however, the tax breaks offered by the state to Ark Encounter, as the theme park is being called, “could surpass $37 million.”

The entire exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery (of which the brief clip by the late artist David Wojnarowicz was a small part), cost, by contrast, $750,000, and all of that from private donations.

So my question to Representatives Boehner and Cantor, and to Glenn Beck and others who are working themselves up into a lather over this supposed attack on Christianity, is this: Are you equally outraged over millions in tax breaks to a group promoting fundamentalism? 

Would you be outraged at all if the clip in question concerned not an "antsy Christ" but an "antsy Buddha" or an "antsy Christopher Hitchens"? And how loud would the outrage be in Washington if Kentucky's governor was offering millions in tax incentives to a Hare Krishna theme park? Or a Disney Land of Atheism?

It's these same fundamentalist zealots that constantly accuse Obama of being a "secular fascist" and question his faith. It's the same zealots who declare that their religious beliefs are under attack by a country that wishes to persecute them, warning that everyone else is coming to destroy them in their own paranoid shrieking.

But it's these same zealots who use their secular political power to actively legislate against anyone who is not like them, based solely on their rabid beliefs that everyone must agree with their narrow definition of Christianity. We hear it all time: America is a Christian nation.

That's not true, of course. But this stale bigoted twisted version of Christianity that has no room for anyone else in America to exist gets special protected status when it comes to our government, and its adherents wish only to legislate those views upon all America because they believe it's the right thing to do.

This dangerous religious hypocrisy needs to be stopped.
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