The blogger and economist Charles Steele, whom I read regularly – glad to see him back in action after a period of illness – has this to say about a US national sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour for the sin of preaching the Christian gospel. Mr Steele is not happy at the mealy-mouthed approach of, among others, the New York Times:
Sometimes the apparent helplessness and lack of courage of the “progressives” is hard to fathom. North Korea has us “in a bind?” My first reaction at seeing how NYT is framing this was to think of the following response the U.S. could give. Barack Obama could announce, publicly, that the United States is giving Kim Jong-un 24 hours to release Mr. Bae. Otherwise, starting 24 hours from now, each day the North Koreans keep Bae in custody, the United States will sink a North Korean merchant vessel on the high seas or in North Korean waters. And if the North Koreans kill or otherwise harm him, we will sink every North Korean merchant vessel on the high seas or in North Korean waters, and if they ever get a new one we’ll sink it, too. We don’t care what Jong-un says, if he likes he can denounce Bae and the U.S. in the strongest terms and claim it is from his from magnanimity that Bae is released — but release him or else.
A question is how far can or should a state go in dealing with such cases. Very recently, two UK nationals were jailed after being convicted for drugs offences in Dubai. They could have faced the death penalty. No doubt there are plenty of other cases, such as when foreigners fall afoul of Singapore’s tough approach to petty crime, and so on.
I take the view that it would be foolish to endanger more lives – including those of our own military – to enforce a harsh penalty on a nation such as North Korea unless – a big if – it could be shown that North Korea’s actions presented a direct and credible threat to ourselves…. which is the reason given, say, for toppling Saddam. Also, it would need to be shown that such action, given the risks, would be effective in establishing a clear principle that says governments cannot treat foreigners without regard to any norms of civilised behaviour. That doesn’t mean passively shrugging shoulders at its barbarism and if means can be found to make life even more unpleasant for the cretins who rule North Korea, well good.
It is not being weak, however, to point out that anyone who goes to this totalitarian state and who chooses to promote, say, Christianity, or classical liberalism, or anything else that is on the shit-list of the folk in North Korea, is taking an enormous risk. It is rather like a person choosing to climb Mount Everest without decent clothing and footwear.
North Korea is, judging by its behaviour in recent weeks, a country run by lunatics. Anyone who goes there without understanding this is acting at great danger to himself or herself. By all means turn the screws on this vile nation as hard as possible, but bear in mind that military action poses considerable risks that need to be considered. It is not being evasive or mealy mouthed I think to point that out.
The ever alert Mick Hartley links to this story:
A mosaic wall erected in the North Hamkyung Province town of Musan to idolize Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il collapsed shortly before the April 15th “Day of the Sun” festivities for the birth of Kim Il Sung, sources from the region have reported to Daily NK. They claim that corruption led to poor construction, and this left the mosaic unable to withstand recent high winds.
This is the first known occasion whereupon a piece of state construction for the idolization of the North Korean leaders has collapsed in this way. Given the rarity of the event and the seriousness with which the North Korean leadership takes the idolization project in general, serious censure is thought likely for those deemed to have been responsible.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Well, I know what I’m thinking. Who gives an expletive deleted about some ridiculous wall of worship that collapses, when people in North Korea are starving in their hundreds of thousands, and probably millions?
The answer, of course, is: the rulers of North Korea. A key moment in the history of a tyranny comes when the tyrannical system in question no long works even by its own tyrannical standards, and instead starts making the tyrants themselves appear ridiculous, even to themselves.
I therefore consider this a significant story. Not the least significant thing about the story being that it got out:
“A lot of people witnessed the collapse because it was built in the town center, so this news will spread rapidly and could easily become political.”
By the sound of it, it already has become “political”.
I read this and I must say I was a bit perplexed:
As tensions continue to escalate on the Korean peninsula South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said today that the North’s regime could be in danger of collapse “without change,” prodding Kim Jong-un to end his brazen threats of provocations and reform.
And North Korea collapsing would be… bad… why exactly?
Samizdata lurker Mike Ritchie has an observation to share:
John Sweeney’s undercover report on North Korea for Panorama on the BBC contains this steaming turd of a quote from a contributor – one Bryan Myers – a “Professor”, we are assured:
“…so I think it’s much more accurate to look at North Korea as a far-right state, an ultra-nationalist state”.
North Korea Undercover from 4:00 to 6:00 if you can bear it – do not feel compelled to watch the whole thing, it is superficial pap.
Another witless bozo who can not seem to grasp the logical outcome of putting the state in the driving seat, whatever the superficial branding/flag colour/exact nature of dynastic succession.
Of course, the Panorama editorial team seem more than happy to include this statement – you would almost think they worked for a state broadcaster
“The North Korean government has issued haircut guidance for its citizens and chosen 28 hairstyles it deems “appropriate” for members of the single-party state. According to the WantChina Times, photos of the 28 haircuts recommended by the totalitarian regime (pictured below) have been issued to salons around the country. The cuts were chosen for being comfortable and resistant to Western influences.”
Via The Register.
It is always interesting that when newspapers cover Chinese news, mentions of history’s most prolific mass murderer just get reported baldly without much comment:
Players won points for acts of selfless Communist spirit and the winners were greeted, on screen, by Chairman Mao in Tiananmen Square. Points were deducted, however, each time a player had to be taken aside by his local Party secretary for a “corrective chat”.
- China embraces online gamers
Yet somehow if a German videogame maker (let alone a government sponsored one) were to feature that also-ran mass murderer Adolf Hitler ‘greeting’ players on screen in a video game, I suspect the reportage might be… a tad different.
My son always wants to watch motorbikes on the telly. While watching an old episode of motorcycle adventurer Charley Boorman traveling through India by various means, I took note of Charley’s description of the ambulance service in Mumbai. He said that until recently there were no ambulances, so a group of entrepreneurs set up a service.
It is called Dial 1298 and it provides scheduled and emergency medical transportation. Even the poor are catered for:
The principle of cross subsidy is used wherein:
- Full charge to a patient going by choice to a private hospital.
- Subsidized charge to BPL (Below Poverty Line) patient going by choice to a government / municipal hospital.
- Free service to accident victims, unaccompanied, unconscious individuals and victims of mass casualty incidents.
One of their investors is Accumen Fund, who say: “We use philanthropic capital to make disciplined investments – loans or equity, not grants – that yield both financial and social returns.”
All good, voluntary stuff. Socialists hate it.
Last year, for the first time, sales of adult diapers in Japan exceeded those for babies.
- Here. I found it here.
In China, the government wanted to build a road where there were some flats. Instead of evicting the residents, they lured them away with money. But for one couple the money was not enough, so the rest of the building was knocked down and the road was built anyway. The couple who refused to move now live in the middle of the road.
The article does not mention whether they still have water and electricity, but it does give some other examples of similar situations where utilities were disconnected.
This is China, so it is likely that there is more going on than meets the eye. But on the face of it no property rights have been violated. The land the road sits on was bought fair and square. This situation demonstrates that compulsory purchase and eminent domain are not necessary to solve the problem of recalcitrant landowners: if all your neighbours sell it is likely that your property is about to lose value and you would be wise to sell also.
Economic wisdom from a rather surprising place:
Since 2007, 15 bridges have collapsed in China. Only three of them were more than 15 years old at the time of their collapse, according to a report by the Shandong Business Daily.
On Aug. 24, a 330-footlong approach ramp of Harbin’s Yangmingtan Bridge fell over, killing three and injuring five. The bridge had been in use less than a year and is the eighth bridge collapse in China this year. The Harbin administration has so far not openly addressed the case.
Zhao Wenjin, the lead commentator of Lanzhou Daily, commented on the incident, saying, “With each collapse, we need to reflect: why are we chasing GDP?”
According to a Jingyang Net report, Wang Yang, Party secretary of Guangdong Province, said at a provincial Party meeting in 2009: “Sometimes the GDP number looks good, but it didn’t really create wealth for society. It was, instead, a waste of society’s wealth.
“For example, building a bridge creates GDP. When the bridge collapses and is taken down, it creates another addition to the GDP. When the bridge is rebuilt, more GDP is created. As such, one bridge resulted in three additions to the GDP. But it was a tremendous waste of resources.”
Mainland media Chinese Business Daily said that sticks and pebbles were found in the concrete that made up the Yangmingtan Bridge, and the metal wires on the surface were also not tied together properly.
The headline above the article that the above paragraphs come from reads: Frequent Bridge Collapses Help Boost China’s GDP.
My thanks to Sean Corrigan of the Cobden Centre for sending out the multi-recipient email that told me about this story.
Nepal to ban independent trekking. Public safety, job creation and ‘stimulus’ all in one; how long before other nations follow Nepal’s lead?
It is said, probably apocryphally, that in rejecting an appeal for the great French chemist Antoine Lavoisier to be spared the guillotine, the revolutionary judge said, “The Republic has no need of scientists”.
The great Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam, the first Muslim to win a Nobel prize for science, has been written out of Pakistani history for being the wrong sort of Muslim, writes Rob Crilly in the Telegraph. Among the saddest aspects of this story is that when reading this I could not wholeheartedly join in with Mr Crilly’s wish that Professor Salam’s name should again be honoured in his homeland. While public and elite opinion in Pakistan remains such that it does not wish to claim a great nuclear physicist – and one of the architects of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme – as its own, better for the world that Pakistan gets its wish.