Monday, January 27, 2014

News Shows or News Programs?

"When men yield up the exclusive privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon." Thomas Paine 1774.

As citizens we need information. Real, and accurate information. We cannot acquire it ourselves. There are people who actually have jobs dedicated to digging, locating, finding that information for us and then enhancing that information, morphing it into knowledge and serving it up to us in a economic and palatable way so that as citizens we can make the most use of it. They are called, Journalists. This service they provide serves us as individuals, them as citizen agents, and the country and the world, as a whole.

However, if this trust is compromised, it fails us all. Journalists by necessarily need to be, for the most part, neutral. Anything that gives them an air of being other than neutral detracts from their work and the benefit we all receive from it.

We need our news agencies, we need all of them. But we need them to give us the news unhindered by polluting factors: big money, corporate and vested interests, and news shows/news networks that have been monetized. We need to separate out entertainment for market share, vested interest and, the actual news. If a news department loses money in serving the public, that needs to be okay, as it once was as part of a bigger concern. Concern for our country and the citizens which is to say, the customers.

These "news shows" as opposed to "news programs", if you will, are not just adjuncts to big money. They are our life blood as citizens of our country and our planet in needing to know what is truly happening in the world.

We need clean, accurate information. Otherwise what we have, what we end up with, is what we have been seeing in our country and in our world of late. Inaccurate information that is oriented to pay off toward these vested interests. To make money for the owners of these shows.

Corporations are not people. And stockholders are not all there is to consider in the world.

We need those who serve the news up to us to stop abusing the information and start serving the public, their lifeblood. When they start doing that, putting us first, then life for everyone will increase in quality.

It is true that those who are now seeding this abuse, will lose some amount of power. That is true. They will not have as much power as they could have, had they as they do now, squeeze every iota of every possibility of every dollar out of ever second of their effort.

Still, they just need to realize that this is really not bad for them, in it being good for us. It simply limits the heights to which their power can achieve. But with the rise of power for the citizen, it will enhance the country and that will enhance the economy of the world. And that, is good for everyone.

Monday, January 20, 2014

North Korea isn't what you think anymore

I just finished watching a Frontline episode titled, "Secret State of North Korea (2014). What a report!

North Korea's government's iron grip on its people is crumbing. Slowly. But it's beginning to happen, mostly because media creeping into the country. And we all know how hard it is to stop something like that, once it starts. However since like previous rulers, the current regime of Kim John Un is quite willing to indiscriminately kill people to maintain its grip, it may still survive for a long time.

Without help from outside. And there is outside help.

There is a South Korean TV show of North Korean defectors. There are people smuggling in media. It's reported there may be a million people there watching these smuggled in shows, films and radio shows available on wind up powered radios. Children of the top leaders even have seen these shows and many desire to defect.

All the current regime need do is to open up the country and give their people their freedom. If Kim Jong Un would only steal millions of dollars to guarantee he would live his life out in comfort, he could allow his country to open up to the world. He could even do it "legally". He would lose his power, but he could also live a very comfortable life until he dies. Is it ethical? No. But wouldn't it be worth it to his country for them to pay him off to give them the lives they deserve? Yes, quite so.

If he played his cards right he could end up being beloved by his people even more than his recent ancestors in giving his people their freedom. He could be viewed in the future as the new "founder" of North Korea. But he's been brainwashed himself and I don't have high hopes for this. People there believe that Kim Il-Song (Kim Jong Un's Grandfather) was much more compassionate a leader than either of his two descendants following him as North Korean leaders.

The NK people are starting to know about the world at large and actually are beginning to question their authorities. Even their authorities are questioning the authorities. Kim Jong Un has most likely been so cruel and iron-fisted because it's quite obvious to the regime they are losing control. Whenever that happens regimes tend to crack down, not realize the progression as it moves along, until finally there is a revolution, or other countries step in. Or millions may die, as in Cambodia with the Khmer Rouge where four million were lost overall.

One of the North Korean leaders who was under the previous regime and also a revisionist, and perhaps the West's best hope in positive change coming about, Jang Song Thaek, was the current leader's caretaker and guardian, and was executed recently on 12 December 2013. He was also Kim Jong Un's uncle.

The UK paper, "The Telegraph" has reported that the Kim family's former sushi chef has said that the uncle was executed over the 'pleasure brigade'. Kenji Fujimoto, a sushi chef who worked for the Kim family between 1989 and 2001, said that Jang Song Thaek was tasked with procuring young women for late dictator.

The UK newspaper also reported: “[Kim Jong Un] hates that kind of thing the most. His grandfather Kim Il Sung did similar things. His father also had quite a history with women. So having seen them, he wanted to prove that he’s different and that he would eradicate such practices,” Mr Fujimoto said.

It's questionable how wonderful a thing this is. So he may have some morals, but his own actions have made this questionable. When a rumor went around about his ex-girlfriend and a sex tape, she was among a dozen well-known North Korean performers who were executed by firing squad. 

From the Telegraph once again: "The 12 who were executed were singers, musicians or dancers with the Hyon's band, the Unhasu Orchestra or the Wanghaesan Light Music Band and were accused of making videos of themselves performing sex acts and then selling the recordings. All 12 were machine-gunned three days later, with other members of North Korea's most famous pop groups and their immediate families forced to watch. The onlookers were then sent to prison camps, victims of the regime's assumption of guilt by association, the reports stated.

On another who was executed: "Kim Chol, vice minister of the army, was executed with a mortar round in October 2012. On the explicit orders of Kim Jong-un to leave "no trace of him behind, down to his hair," according to South Korean media, Kim Chol was forced to stand on a spot that had been zeroed in for a mortar round and "obliterated.""

Kim Jong Un, is not a nice guy. But he is feeling the strain of losing control and things may only get worse. And since he's not that old, he's not that knowledgeable about being a leader. And he's failing. But before the regime falls, many more will die.

What can we do?

Others are doing their best in China and South Korea. the ex-patriots of North Korea have a definite iron in the fire in that they grew up in North Korea and still have relatives there, unless they have been imprisoned or killed already since committing a crime such as being related to a defector, which can lead to your family also being imprisoned up to three generations. In one example, family were rounded up who didn't even know they were related to a "state criminal" as he was only a "9th cousin" to them, and yet, they all went to prison camps. One of these many prison camps that echoes back to the old gulag style Soviet camps days is fairly new since Kim Jong Un took over and three times the size of Washington DC.

I think it's time we helped. It's not that I don't think we already are, I just think we need to step up our game.

There is already a radio station (so no need for a "Radio Free Europe" program) , TV show and locals doing what they can to open the minds of the North Koreans by smuggling in cell phones, laptops and thumb-drives with media on them. How about if the CIA started sending in cell phones with twitter capability hidden within them. The CIA itself has been bastardized these past ten years or so since 9/11 and it's gone from an intelligence gathering and subversion organization to pretty much an active paramilitary group. Recently this was attempted to be rectified by a bill submitted in Congress to give the drone program to the Pentagon, yet the Republican Congress blocked the move. Well, they are broken too.

We do have our own problems.

Some of the things they don't have in NK is social networking like Facebook and Twitter. The latter of which was so important recently in evoking serious change in other countries like Egypt, Libya and elsewhere. Already North Koreans have found through the availability of cell phones, that even though they can only make calls internal to the country, with changes made to the SIM cards, they can call out, instantly getting information and sending it out of country. There are high punishments for this and still, some of them keep trying. When cell phone first became available in North Korea it took two years for a million people to have one, the next year it took a year for another million and it's projected next there will be another million in six months time. It's not going to stop. So let's use it.

If the CIA were to start giving local ex-patriot North Korean black marketers to smuggle into the internal North Korean black marketers, supplying them with these altered cell phones, they could then wait until after enough of them have made it into the country. Flood the country with them. They could then "leak" information on how to enable an "Easter egg" in the phones, allowing a new capability suddenly available on any of these phones so that there would be millions of North Koreans who would have access to Twitter, or something like it.

It's really something to think about. And if Twitter isn't workable, I'm sure something could be set up to make this function available in the closed off country.

The biggest weapon against the North Korean child despot and his repressive regime is information and the active coordination of its citizenry, by themselves.

Think outside the box. Make it happen.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sounds Familiar - Her - a film by Spike Jonze

A while back in February of 2012, I published a sweet little short science fiction story that I titled, "Simon's Beautiful Thought". It pleasantly turned out to be one of my more popular stories. I had wanted to write something a bit more sci fi oriented, that was a lot less dark than my usual Horror tales.

It's about a socially somewhat inept but charismatic and good looking young man who just can't keep a relationship with a woman going. He ends up trying various things and finally falls for his smart phone AI, its Artificial Intelligence (yes, kind of like Siri, but not quite) "digital assistant", he called, "Sandy".

I knew several things when I decided to write this story. I knew that its time had come for such a story. I thought people would at first assume it was Horror, and you do just keep waiting for the other shoe to drop throughout the story, but it just never quite does. Or does it? I guess it depends upon your own orientation.

At least it doesn't in the way you might expect it to. Simon falls for his AI and the AI knows it and she is quite fond of him. Will she become jealous of any "real" women showing interest in Simon? Will she respond in a highly intelligent but jealous rage should someone show Simon romantic intent? Being a sophisticated AI she could make things highly interesting for Simon, either in ways that would be useful to him, or quite dramatically detrimental.

There were many ways I could have gone with this story. I knew if I didn't write it at the time, that someone else would. It's not like I was the first to write a story like this, it just seemed timely that I write one like it. I knew someone would come out with another eventually and it would be bigger, probably better, and get a lot more attention. There is after all only so much you can do in a short story. I just wanted to know that I had already gotten one out there. As I wrote it there was a sweetness that developed in the story line that I really liked. And, the meaning of the title fell together quite nicely in the end.

Anyway, someone finally did make a story about this concept. I mean, it was bound to happen and it did in Spike Jonze's new film, "Her", which is getting very good reviews. "Her" was chosen the best film of 2013 at the National Board of Review Awards. Good work guys. The film has also received three Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Screenplay and Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.

Staring Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly, the guy smitten and Scarlett Johansson as Samantha, the voice of the guy's computer operating system.
Joaquin as Theodore Twombly in "Her"

Both actors I enjoy watching a lot and I look forward to seeing the film, even though, sadly, you never actually get to see Scarlett, which is a lose in my book. Still, she has a great voice. Funny how the names of these things seem to start with an "S" (Siri, Sandy, Samantha).

Scarlett Johansson
Well that's really all I have to say. I am very much looking forward to seeing, "Her".

Just for fun I had to add this, preview of the film, "Him" (spoof of "Her").

Monday, January 6, 2014

Is God mental?

I just have to say this, after listening to yet another Israeli pounding his drum of how good they are, after many decades of their being overbearing and in many cases not adhering to the humanist line around the world, where were they when there were yet other examples of genocide around the world? Every time I hear about genocides, I wait to hear if Israel speaks out and their voice seems to be so often, strangely absent. Why aren't they always on the front lines of at least screaming about it to stop, at all costs? Why?

But this isn't just about Israel. Or Jews. Or just the "big three" Middle Eastern desert religions with their histories of violence, bigotry, slavery and so on.

This got me to thinking about all of us. Obviously the situation with African Americans in America with suffragettes, and inequality in general for the poor and women. It got me to thinking about Iran and how they outlawed western style neck ties, and unbelievably, ice arenas and how they have finally opened a famous one back up for their athletes because of the Olympics (good for them!), but not for couples skating in the Olympics (bad on them).

Any group or religion that strives to separate humans (racism), or men and women (genderism), and there are other things, are suspect in my book.

We as humans, or "God" as whatever "God" you find most palatable through acceptance, indoctrination, adherence, or whatever government (especially so) or, whomever whatsoever should all be bringing people together. The existence of a real "God" should be that people are brought together, not separated out. Otherwise I mark that "God" as being suspect in being real and not just another construct of humankind. "God" or "His" teaching thereof should not be adding to the geo/ethnoccentrism that is already rampant and inherent in ourselves and our civilizations and always eventually becomes yet another separation leading to even more ignorance and more abuse.

Think about that in your own religion, if you have one. If you find goodness in it, find also what negatives it leads to. Because a true religion or belief system that includes an ethereal being would be functional and would not allow for the negatives. As there is no religion like that on earth, they are all therefore defective in some way. And doesn't that sound an awful lot like other systems humankind has set up over the ages?

So, who am I talking about here? You know who you are.