Tags: North Korea

No, The Interview Is Not Like Shouting ‘Fire’ in a Crowded Theater


The MSNBC host Touré​ — who has made his share of controversial statements in the past — asked his guest moments ago whether Sony Pictures’ making The Interview amounted to “shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” He later asked if depicting the assassination of Kim Jong Un was “inappropriate.”

(It’s as if he wanted to illustrate David French’s point that “free speech may be a value people broadly support, but they also take it completely for granted, giving it zero thought in their daily lives. . . . A critical mass of Americans are not necessarily going to see the meaning and purpose of enduring even the slightest risk for a raunchy comedy.”)

Touré is not alone:

In The Atlantic, Trevor Timm pointed out that the vast majority of those who invoke the “fire in crowded theater” point completely misunderstand its context and legal relevance:

Today, despite the “crowded theater” quote’s legal irrelevance, advocates of censorship have not stopped trotting it out as the final word on the lawful limits of the First Amendment. As Rottman wrote, for this reason, it’s “worse than useless in defining the boundaries of constitutional speech. When used metaphorically, it can be deployed against any unpopular speech.” Worse, its advocates are tacitly endorsing one of the broadest censorship decisions ever brought down by the Court. It is quite simply, as Ken White calls it, “the most famous and pervasive lazy cheat in American dialogue about free speech.”

The thinking of the censor-minded is that somehow, Sony should have known that depicting Kim Jong Un in a humiliating way would have generated a furious, dangerous, threatening response. This is a bit of First Amendment jujitsu, where somehow you’re responsible not just for what you say but for how someone else reacts to it. You’re expected to have clairvoyant abilities of how someone is going to react, and then not speak aloud the argument you wanted to make, because preventing their potentially violent, dangerous, or threatening reaction is more important than your right to speak.

Note that the quote is: “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”

There cannot be any lawful limitation on truthfully shouting fire in a theater. While The Interview is fiction, the film’s portrayal of North Korea as a dangerous, paranoid, despotic state run by a young lunatic is pretty darn accurate.

Tags: North Korea , First Amendment

The North Korean Hacking Threat Hits Close to Home


Featured in the last Morning Jolt of the week:

The North Korean Hacking Threat Is Closer Than You Think

The latest news out of North Korea is outrageous, and I’ve just about had it with this — BZZZZT #*%#&$^#($*

Ha-ha-ha, Morning Jolt Readers! It is I, Kim Jong-un, and my friends at Guardians of Peace group have helped me hack into the Morning Jolt newsletter!

Now I can interrupt Jim’s writing whenever I want, and he’ll have no idea! Finally, we the Heroic People’s Collective of Noble Righteous Revolutionary Justice can stop Jim’s capitalistic running dog propaganda. Let’s check in to see what he’s saying, and laugh at how he doesn’t know we’re doing this . . . 

BZZZZT #*%#&$^#($*

. . . This fat pant-load thinks he can push us around. I’d say we need to give this guy a little chin music, except I can’t decide which chin to start with. I’ve never seen a one-man cause of national starvation. I understand he was initially excited about the proposed plan of revenge against Sony, because he thought the plan involved snacking.

BZZZZT #*%#&$^#($*

This is not funny, Running Dog Geraghty. Words can hurt, you know. Dad said I was big-boned.

BZZZZT #*%#&$^#($*

It looks like we’re being threatened by the little kid from Pixar’s Up.

He’s the only world leader whose haircut gets worse every single time. It’s like his barber used up all the electricity in the country shaving the sides. You can tell every general standing behind him is trying to not stare at it, because they don’t want to. There’s that awkward silence, nobody knows how to talk to him. Obviously, the only reason anybody hung around with this guy was because his dad was a homicidal maniac who ran the country.

BZZZZT #*%#&$^#($*

That is really uncalled for. It’s lonely being the heir to the throne of a Communist monarchy.

BZZZZT #*%#&$^#($*

Think about it, the only reason women sleep with him is because he can kill their families. He couldn’t even get a real NBA star to come over to his country and hang out; he had to settle for Dennis Rodman. He grew up a die-hard Michael Jordan fan, and he has to settle for Rodman. At least hold out for Scottie Pippen!

BZZZZT #*%#&$^#($*

Why is everyone always so mean to me?

BZZZZT #*%#&$^#($*

I’d call for a retaliatory cyber-strike taking down the North Korean electrical grid, except nobody would notice. When he says “it’s time to turn out the light” at bedtime, he means the country’s lone electrical light. This is why “how many North Koreans does it take to screw in a light bulb” jokes don’t work there. But that’s okay, because nothing else works there, either.

You and I may not have the money, power, palaces, and alleged nuclear arsenal that Kim Jong Un has, but we can hold our heads high in a way he can’t. We don’t have to wrap ourselves and our entire country in an endless labyrinth of lies to prevent everyone around us from killing us, and we don’t live in constant terror that people will see the world as it actually is and us as we actually are. What a pathetic form of existence.

You’re mean, Running Dog Geraghty. Really, really mean.

Tags: Something Lighter , North Korea

Bloomberg: The Real Threat with North Korea Is U.S. Overreaction


The editors at Bloomberg have identified the real threat in the controversy over The Interview and North Korea’s hack attack: American overreaction.

Like so many Hollywood movies, North Korea’s offensive against Sony Pictures Entertainment could end badly — which is why U.S. officials have to be careful not to overreact.

. . . Now that unnamed U.S. officials have claimed North Korea is behind the cyberattack that crippled Sony’s computers, some are calling for the government to retaliate. That would be a mistake.

. . . Sony and other corporations can’t expect the U.S. government to respond to every attack on their behalf. However embarrassing and costly to the studio, the hacking represents a cybercrime, not an act of cyberterrorism directed at civilians or vital national infrastructure. (By the same token, threats against theaters showing a Hollywood comedy that mocks Kim Jong Un hardly compare with the vows of annihilation that constantly pour out of North Korean state media.)

What about the consequences of underreaction?

You can literally watch the reaction to a threat from a foreign power in our cities, as Sony quickly removes the billboards . . . how in the world is our reaction the problem here?

Why do we have to be so careful to not provoke them? Why doesn’t anybody ever fear the consequences of angering Americans?

Tags: North Korea

How Many Americans Are Being Held Hostage Overseas?


A point in today’s Jolt spotlighting further . . . 

To get Bowe Bergdahl back, the United States took five of the worst captured killers in Guantanamo Bay and released them to Qatar. To get the release of Alan Gross, an American aid worker illegally detained in 2009, Obama normalized relations with Cuba. (Do you notice that Obama’s “concessions” to get prisoners back always involve him doing something he wanted to do anyway?)

Even if you thought the embargo was ineffective, it is exceptionally dangerous for the United States to give a hostile regime everything it wants for releasing an American.

How many Americans are being held hostage abroad? Nobody’s sure of the exact number, and our government won’t tell us, according to this September report:

Gross is one of possibly hundreds of Americans being held abroad by hostile regimes, terrorist groups and criminal organizations that don’t provide due process, according to the David House Agency, a Los Angeles-based international crisis resource agency. Given the U.S. government’s longstanding policy of not negotiating with terrorist groups and its lack of formal diplomatic relations with countries like Cuba, Iran, and North Korea, getting Americans out of trouble and back onto U.S. soil can be complicated or even impossible.

“It’s not just a global problem. It’s an international reality,” said Eric Volz, managing director for the agency. “Institutional kidnappings are at a rate never seen before. More Americans are traveling internationally and doing mission work. That’s why we are seeing it at a higher rate.”

“It’s reaching a tipping point,” he added. “These are just not isolated incidents.”

State Department officials declined to comment on any Americans being held captive overseas citing “privacy issues.” The department has reportedly told families of hostages held by terror groups not to publicize their plight, warning that it could put them in greater jeopardy. But the families of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, both of whom were beheaded in recent weeks by an Islamic State extremist in videos released on the Internet, have angrily denounced the U.S. government for not doing more to help free the men.

These concessions make us less safe. The Pentagon has noted “the increased frequency of hostage-taking of Americans overseas” and is reviewing its policy options.

You’ll recall that back in 2009, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il got what he wanted — a meeting with former president Bill Clinton in Pyongyang — and then released two detained American journalists:

If you’re hostile to the United States, why not take hostages? Sure, there’s a chance the Americans may try to send in Navy SEALs. But there’s a pretty good chance this administration will play ball.

Tags: Cuba , North Korea , National Security

How Much Did the State Department Consult on The Interview?


A disturbing wrinkle in the controversy over the comedic film The Interview:

CEO Michael Lynton showed a rough cut of the movie to U.S. officials before moving ahead. Now hackers are threatening to bomb any theater that shows it.

The Daily Beast has unearthed several emails that reveal at least two U.S. government officials screened a rough cut of the Kim Jong-Un assassination comedy The Interview in late June and gave the film — including a final scene that sees the dictator’s head explode — their blessing.

The claim that the State Department played an active role in the decision to include the film’s gruesome death scene is likely to cause fury in Pyongyang. Emails between the Sony Entertainment CEO and a security consultant even appear to suggest the U.S. government may support the notion that The Interview would be useful propaganda against the North Korean regime.

According to the e-mails, the government officials are “someone very senior in State” and “Robert King, U.S. special envoy for North Korean human-rights issues” who “was helping to consult on the film.”

Hollywood and government officials working together isn’t, by itself, ominous and menacing. Michael Bay’s relationship with the Pentagon ensures all of those glamorous shots of military hardware in the Transformers movies, and we know how closely members of the administration worked with the makers of  Zero Dark Thirty, with one of the producers getting access to a CIA awards ceremony with then–CIA director Leon Panetta in attendance.

The e-mails suggest everyone involved had good intentions — the producers didn’t want to depict something that would spur a violent response from Pyongyang, and the government officials attempted to give their best assessment of how North Korea would respond. But what if the State Department officials had said parts of the film were a bad idea and would be too provocative to depict? Doesn’t this amount to giving the U.S. government de facto creative control over the film?

The point may be moot, as North Korea has learned the lesson of the Mohammed cartoons and demonstrated that they can restrict American freedom of expression through threats.

Tags: North Korea

Pyongyang Defeats Hollywood


No getting around it in today’s Jolt; the middle of the week turned deeply depressing, quickly. Besides the Cuba news, North Korea now enjoys veto power over what’s playing at your neighborhood movie theater:

Pyongyang Defeats Hollywood

Elsewhere in “Unconditional Surrender” news . . . 

Hours after an announcement that U.S. authorities determined North Korea was behind the recent cyber-attack on Sony Pictures, the entertainment company announced it was pulling the release of the film The Interview.

The comedy about journalists who score an interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was scheduled for a Dec. 25 release.

“Sony Pictures has no further release plans for the film,” according to a statement from the company.

Sony also removed any mention of the movie from its website by Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier Wednesday, a federal law enforcement official offered the news about North Korea.

The official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said a formal announcement of attribution by the U.S. government could come as soon as Thursday.

U.S. investigators believe the attacks originated outside North Korea, but they have determined that the actions were sanctioned by North Korean leaders, a second U.S. official said Wednesday.

The U.S. government is not prepared to issue formal charges against North Korea or its leadership, but the official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said a lesser statement of attribution is expected.

They get veto power over our films now.

No formal charges? How about a cyber-counterattack?

This is one of those days where Hollywood stars are on our side:

Rob Lowe just blasted Sony, calling the movie company a spineless sellout and comparing it to the famous British Prime Minister who caved in to Hitler.

Lowe reacted to Sony’s decision to pull “The Interview,” saying, “Saw @Sethrogen at JFK. Both of us have never seen or heard of anything like this. Hollywood has done Neville Chamberlain proud today.”

Chamberlain famously conceded Czechoslovakia to the Nazis in 1938. His policy of appeasement became synonymous with cowardice.

So far no word from Seth Rogen on whether he embraces Rob’s statement.

Jimmy Kimmel tweeted, “An un-American act of cowardice that validates terrorist actions and sets a terrifying precedent.”

And Newt Gingrich got into the act, tweeting “@RobLowe, No one should kid themselves. With the Sony collapse America has lost its first cyberwar. This is a very very dangerous precedent.”

To which Rob retweeted “It wasn’t the hackers who won, it was the terrorists and almost certainly the North Korean dictatorship, this was an act of war.”

Michael Moore just fired his own salvo saying, “Dear Sony Hackers: now that u run Hollywood, I’d also like less romantic comedies, fewer Michael Bay movies and no more Transformers.”

You’re not allowed to see this movie. Kim Jong Un says so.

Remember when we thought the Red Dawn remake was silly for changing the villains from China to North Korea? It was strangely prophetic.

Tags: North Korea , Hollywood

How Far Is North Korea Willing to Go to Derail a Critical Movie?


From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Just How Far Is North Korea Willing to Go to Derail a Critical Movie?

Up until now, the hacking of Sony Pictures — suspected to be the work of North Korea, in response to the upcoming comedy film The Interview — has been mostly fun and games as long as you don’t work in Hollywood. (Our Tim Cavanaugh points out that we’re all chuckling about messages that constitute stolen property.)

The furious reaction from Pyongyang is particularly ironic, since having a hostile foreign state with nuclear weapons throw a temper tantrum and/or launch a cyber-war is basically the greatest publicity a film could possibly want. Considering the way they’re reacting, you would think The Interview has actual footage of Kim Jong Un dancing “YMCA” in pink underwear or something. (Actually, the film’s climax features an actor playing Kim Jong Un meeting a spectacularly unfortunate end. Spoiler and content warnings for that link.)

The fun just stopped:

The Sony hackers have threatened a 9/11-like attack on movie theaters that screen Seth Rogen and James Franco’s North Korean comedy “The Interview,” substantially escalating the stakes surrounding the release of the movie.

The attackers also released the promised “Christmas gift” of files. The contents of the files are unknown but it’s called “Michael Lynton,” who is the CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“The world will be full of fear,” the message reads. “Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.) Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.”

Past messages have included budgets to Sony films, salary information of top executives, and employee medical records and social security numbers.

There have been suspicions that the attack may have been launched by North Korea in retaliation for “The Interview’s” depiction of an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-un. The country has denied involvement but praised the attacks.

North Korea — or somebody working on their behalf — wouldn’t be dumb enough to launch a terror attack on American movie theaters on Christmas Day, would they?

Somebody’s getting nervous.

“The Interview” stars Seth Rogen and James Franco have canceled all upcoming media appearances following the latest threats made against theaters showing the movie, Variety has confirmed.

The duo has withdrawn from previously scheduled press appearances, including Rogen’s Thursday appearance on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and a chat with Buzzfeed Brews, leading up to “The Interview’s” Christmas Day release.

According to insiders, Rogen and Franco are still scheduled to appear at Thursday’s New York special screening of “The Interview.” The two were at the Los Angeles premiere last week, but didn’t do press interviews.

Sometimes North Korea’s idea of saber-rattling is drawing the saber and stabbing you:

The ROKS Cheonan sinking occurred on 26 March 2010, when the Cheonan, a Republic of Korea Navy ship carrying 104 personnel, sank off the country’s west coast near Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea, killing 46 seamen. A South Korean-led official investigation carried out by a team of international experts from South Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Sweden presented a summary of its investigation on 20 May 2010, concluding that the warship had been sunk by a North Korean torpedo fired by a midget submarine.

The Norks’ entire concept of deterrence, and what kind of risk is acceptable in their metronomic brinksmanship, is completely different from ours.

Maybe the threat to movie theaters is nothing but bluster. But we’ve seen a gunman shoot up the Canadian Parliament, a guy out on parole take hostages and kill hostages in an Australian chocolate shop, and the Taliban massacre children in a school. The sense of what’s really “unthinkable” in our chaotic world gets a little narrower, week by week.

What, “two thumbs down” just isn’t enough for the Norks?

Tags: North Korea

Fake Standards In the Sony Hack


While stolen information from the Sony hack continues to fill editorial holes around the country, the theft of a reported 100 terabytes of information by criminals apparently working for the dictator Kim Jong-Un has raised two very important questions.

First, is there a stooge angle in all this? The Three Stooges shorts were all produced by Columbia Pictures, which is now owned by Sony. Film libraries are scattered and chopped up in ways that generally make studio identities meaningless, but Sony in 2012 brought out Three Stooges: The Ultimate Collection, so they presumably still own the canon. If America’s stooge supply is at risk, the words “act of war” no longer seem so abstract.

Second, I noted the other day that the establishment media are filling their bellies with what is essentially stolen property. There are no laws preventing The New York Times or The Washington Post from trafficking in this material, and the only duty of journalism is to publish news that is accurate and interesting. The problem is that these publications all believe journalism has other solemn duties — notably to police yellow journalism, act as a gatekeeper against sleazy news practices, and generally decide what is and is not Fit To Print. By that standard I don’t see how the destination media are passing their own test in this case. I cited several examples of sanctimony in my article last week, but my friend Sean Malone pinpoints a more recent example and highlights a type of hypocrisy I may not have fully articulated:

A couple months ago the private data – in the form of nude photos – of several famous people was hacked and released publicly. When that happened, all the same publications that are gleefully sharing every email and statement they can dig up that is of any marginal interest from Sony, were busy claiming that by even so much as *looking* at the nude photos, people were as bad as the hackers themselves and the moral equivalent of rapists in some cases.

Now . . .  As with anything digital, once it’s out there, it’s out there. Interested parties can access the Sony data, or Jennifer Lawrence’s nudes, or X-Men Origins: Wolverine within a few keys and clicks.

But can you imagine the outrage if major news outlets had posted the nudes, or say, Kim Kardashian’s full sex tape in dozens of articles for two weeks straight on their front pages? No? Well . . .  That’s exactly what we’re seeing at The Hollywood Reporter and the NY Times with the Sony hack.

The material selected for heavy coverage in the Sony hack includes plenty of interesting business and entertainment stories. Conveniently, much of it — such as the news that Jennifer Lawrence got slightly lower participation points than her male co-stars in American Hustle — fits into pre-existing narratives that are of great interest to the mainstream media. Some of it even fits narratives of interest to me: Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin’s jocular speculation about President Obama’s only being interested in black movies seems like a strange case of people getting in trouble for privately expressing attitudes they hold quite openly in public. Executives in liberal Hollywood talk freely about their reluctance to hire black stars out of concern for unspecified overseas audiences and foreign backers. Ridley Scott said more or less exactly that in  a recent interview about the casting on Exodus: Gods and Kings — which is shaping up to be a considerable bomb despite its white cast. (That attitude even shows up in the movie that provoked Kim Jong-Un’s wrath, The Interview, a picture that is obviously based on Dennis Rodman’s high jinx in the Hermit Kingdom yet stars those two soul brothers Seth Rogen and James Franco.) Other stolen Sony property has been catnip to reporters on the hunt for evidence of gender pay disparities, ill-treatment of below-the-line workers by gilded executives, and so on.

But the free-for-all over this ill-gotten loot reveals an interesting mindset: that business information is somehow less privileged than other types of information, and in particular that the business of entertainment doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously as a business. Over the weekend I saw plenty of low-level Hollywood types gleefully passing on information showing how rotten the Sony fatcats are, even thanking the Kim dynasty for making it all public. Once again, Team America: World Police has proved prescient: When push comes to shove, Hollywood liberals will even line up with North Korea.

Tags: Hollywood , Internet , Crime , North Korea

Cue Rockwell’s ‘I Always Feel Like . . . Somebody’s Watching Me!’


Today’s Morning Jolt, the last of the week, features an unexpected Republican speaker at the Davos World Economic Forum, the problem with the mostly enjoyable new action film, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and a feeling somebody’s watching Marco Rubio.

Pretty cool picture, sent by Marco Rubio’s office, from his overseas trip that included a visit to South Korea and the DMZ:

A North Korean soldier takes a picture of Senator Marco Rubio through the window as Rubio stands in a conference room in the De-militarized Zone between North and South Korea.

Yeah, that photo’s going in some intelligence file somewhere.

UPDATE: I hang my 80’s music-fan head in shame; the headline originally said, “I gotta feeling . . . somebody’s watching me” when the lyric is “I always feel like . . . somebody’s watching me.” I guess I’m not as astute on this as I thought I was; apparently I’m just an average man . . . with an average life.

Tags: Marco Rubio , North Korea

Fluff Stories Conveniently Distract from the Government Failures Around Us


From today’s Morning Jolt

Forget the Rest of the World; President Personally Calls Some Athlete You Never Heard Of Before

Hey, remember North Korea? They’re detaining a U.S. citizen.

Unless the Syrian rebels figured out some way to fake the presence of Sarin in the bloodstream of some volunteers, the Syrian regime used chemical weapons and crossed the red line… and no one can come up with a way to demonstrate the consequences of crossing that line.

Oh, and the guys we may soon intervene to help, the Syrian rebels, may have just tried to shoot down a Russian airliner.

Remember Boston?

But U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) told ABC News yesterday that the FBI is also looking into “persons of interest” in the U.S. possibly linked to the Boston bombings.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said he’s spoken with the FBI about the probe into possible trainers the brothers had.

“Are they overseas in the Chechen region or are they in the United States?” he said. “In my conversations with the FBI, that’s the big question. They’ve casted a wide net both overseas and in the United States to find out where this person is. But I think the experts all agree that there is someone who did train these two individuals.”

Remember Boston, again?

State lawmakers have launched an investigation into whether the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings improperly received public benefits.

Sources who have seen the 500 pages of documents sent to the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight told News Center 5’s Janet Wu that the Tsarnaev family — including the parents of the two bombing suspects, the two suspects themselves, their sisters, the widow of the suspect killed and their child — received “every conceivable public benefit available out there.”

Remember the economy?

We’re still stuck in the muck.

That’s the conclusion to draw from the new report on gross domestic product. The U.S. economy grew at a 2.5 percent annual rate in the first three months of the year, which was an improvement from the weak 0.4 percent of the final months of 2012… We’re muddling along at basically the same pace we’ve been at for nearly four straight years of this dismal recovery, with growth too slow to make up the lost economic ground from the 2008-2009 recession.”

National debt? $ 16,756,644,393,707.05,as of Friday. (That’s $16.7 trillion.)

Remember Obamacare?

In total, it appears that there will be 30 million to 40 million people damaged in some fashion by the Affordable Care Act—more than one in 10 Americans. When that reality becomes clearer, the law is going to start losing its friends in the media, who are inclined to support the president and his initiatives. We’ll hear about innocent victims who saw their premiums skyrocket, who were barred from seeing their usual doctor, who had their hours cut or lost their insurance entirely—all thanks to the faceless bureaucracy administering a federal law.

With all of this going on, guess what the top story was on Memeorandum, measuring what bloggers and news sites are writing about?

An NBA player coming out of the closet as gay. Wait, there’s more:

A groundbreaking pronouncement from NBA veteran Jason Collins — “I’m gay” — reverberated Monday through Washington, generating accolades from lawmakers on Twitter and a supportive phone call from President Barack Obama.

Hours after Collins disclosed his sexuality in an online article, Obama reached out by phone, expressing his support and telling Collins he was impressed by his courage, the White House said.

Collins, 34, becomes the first active player in one of four major U.S. professional sports leagues to come out as gay. He has played for six teams in 12 seasons, including this past season with the Washington Wizards, and is now a free agent.

This president can’t get squat done about North Korea or Syria, and so he doesn’t want us to focus on those far-off lands. His policies have done diddlysquat for most of the long-term unemployed. He’s not interested in throwing people off public assistance, even when they don’t deserve it, and he wants to insist that every terror attack is a one-time occurrence, instead of connected bits of an international ideological movement dedicated to killing Americans. Obamacare’s a mess, and he’s hoping you don’t notice. The debt continues to increase, even with the alleged horrors of sequestration.

“God, gays and guns.” That’s what he’s got left. And that’s what he hopes stays on your mind, for as many days between now and November 2014 as possible.

Tags: North Korea , Syria , Economy , Debt , Barack Obama , Boston Marathon Bombing , Obamacare

Dennis Rodman, the Kissinger of Our Time


The first Morning Jolt of the week features some good news on the search for a cure for AIDS, a few recommendations on folks to keep an eye on in the political online world, and then this… utterly bizarre bit of weekend news:

Shocking News: Dennis Rodman Meets With North Koreans! Also, Dennis Rodman Is Still Alive!

This weekend was dominated by perhaps the very weirdest of news:

In his first interview since returning to the U.S. from an unprecedented visit to North Korea last week, former NBA star Dennis Rodman said he bears a message for President Obama from the country’s oppressive leader, Kim Jong Un.

“He wants Obama to do one thing: Call him,” Rodman told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.” “He said, ‘If you can, Dennis – I don’t want [to] do war. I don’t want to do war.’ He said that to me.”

The athlete also offered Kim some diplomatic advice for potential future talks with President Obama.

“[Kim] loves basketball. And I said the same thing, I said, ‘Obama loves basketball.’ Let’s start there,” Rodman said.

Rodman’s comments come just days after the basketball star shocked the world with an unexpected trip to Pyongyang, North Korea, becoming the first known American to publicly meet with the mysterious Kim since he assumed command of the totalitarian nation after the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il in 2011.

This is one of those news stories I hate, because the news itself is so spectacularly absurd, it’s almost impossible to mock.


Boy, quite the “get” there, huh, George Stephanopolous? You advised Clinton and anchor Good Morning America, and now you have to treat the NBA’s equivalent to Ruby Rhod like he’s the second coming of Henry Kissinger. You know, back in 2008, we mocked Obama as a “celebrity.” Now we’ve reached the point where guys who can’t qualify for Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice are running around the world holding summits with the world’s most dangerous men. It’s enough to leave you yearning for the gravitas and seriousness of Jesse Jackson’s freelance diplomacy.

Next week, Scottie Pippin tries to talk down Bashir Assad, and Phil Jackson is supposed to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, because talking the Iranians out of their nuclear program will be easier than picking up the pieces of what’s left of the Lakers after this year.

You should have stuck it out with him, Carmen Electra! Anyone could have seen this man was going places!

The entire bizarre spectacle left Bethany Mandel fuming:

Upon leaving the country, Rodman promised that Kim would have a “friend for life” and declared that Kim Jong-un was an “awesome guy” and that his father and grandfather, other homicidal leaders of the country, were “great leaders.”

What could have prompted this effusiveness from Rodman? Despite the country’s total lack of infrastructure, freedom and food supply, enormous shows and basketball matches were put together for Rodman, the Harlem Globetrotters and their entourage. It’s not likely Rodman was aware of the dire situation for most North Koreans given that as he boarded his flight he tweeted about looking forward to meeting South Korean pop star Psy. Even as he was about to enter the country, Rodman couldn’t differentiate between the poverty-striken North and the affluent and capitalist South.

Many stories in the news media of the visit included reports of the human rights situation in the country. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer declared Rodman achieved a “diplomatic triumph,” however a report from his own network told a different story:

It was unclear whether Rodman, who is accompanied by Globetrotters Bull Bullard, Buckets Blakes and Moose Weekes, will be taken to North Korea’s countryside, where aid groups say malnutrition is rampant.

According to Human Rights Watch, hundreds of thousands of people remain enslaved in prison camps, which are “notorious for horrific living conditions and abuse.”

It appears the North Koreans provided the group with “a feast” amidst a reported famine

She points out that the silver lining is that North Korea’s brutality is back in the headlines again.

One other upside? For once, we can’t blame the Obama administration for going over and treating one of the world’s most ruthless regimes as if they’re hunky dory. Unlike some people we know…

All in all, the trip represents an opportunity missed: why couldn’t the North Koreans keep Rodman?

Finally, maybe this can all be chalked up to sleepless nights: “North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un is a new father after his wife secretly gave birth to a child that intelligence officials believe could emerge as the communist dynasty’s fourth hereditary dictator.”

Tags: George Stephanopolous , North Korea

North Korea Blows Up Chance to Dominate the News Cycle


The last Morning Jolt of the week features polling news and more Rosen, but begins with last night’s big news . . .

North Koreans Launch New Three-Stooge Rocket

I love it when “Korean Peninsula Tensions” stories turn out like this . . . and dread the day they don’t:

North Korea launched a multistage rocket Friday morning, again defying countries that want it to stop pursuing advanced weapons, but it reportedly blew up less than two minutes into flight and parts crashed in the Yellow Sea off South Korea.

The rocket took off around 7:39 a.m. local time from a new launch facility in the country’s northwest corner and flew south towards Japan’s Ryuku Islands, the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia.

About 90 seconds into flight, roughly the time its first stage should have burned out and second stage kicked in, the rocket flared brightly and apparently exploded, according to ABC News, which cited U.S. defense officials. Parts fell into water near South Korea’s Jeju Island, South Korean media reported.

Intel bonanza, people!

So why did they do it? CNN suggests too much upside, too little downside:

The United States and its allies had been if anything unambiguous with their thoughts on the launch. So just why did Pyongyang go ahead with the launch? There is no shortage of answers or theories to that question, but many analysts who follow the country say the regime simply does not have that much to lose, and thus need not weigh much in the way of costs versus benefits going forward.

“How much more isolated can you get?” asks James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The United Nations has sanctioned North Korea many times over for its provocative acts of the past, and the country’s largest economic and political benefactor China, is unlikely to support any additional penalties at the Security Council this time. “There may be some financial sanctions that the United States and its friends can unilaterally apply, but this is already by a long way the most isolated country on Earth,” Acton said. “The truth is that our ability to inflict significant costs on North Korea is not all that large.”

The timing of the launch was not coincidental, and that too played into the North Korean calculus. For years, North Korea has been planning to mark 2012 as a year in which it would show the world it has become a great and prosperous nation. In homage to the centenary of the country’s founder Kim ill Sung, his son and successor Kim Jong-Il had ordered the launch of the satellite around the birthday of Kim Il Sung on April 15.

I would note that when we keep offering them food aid in response to tantrums, well . . . they seem to sense that we’ll always come around and capitulate sooner or later.

Zero Hedge: “North Korea is redefining the term, ‘minuteman’.”

Patrick Kronin, Senior Director, Asia-Pacific Security Program, Center for a New American Security, remarked dryly, “Next time, we should not have to rely on North Korean technical incompetence for our security.”

The endlessly irreverent Duchess Rebecca: “Imagining Kim Jong-Un sitting alone, crying, listening to ‘Rocket Man’ on repeat.”

Chris Albon: “Dear Kim, Angry Birds Space is not a rocket guidance system.”

Cuffy Meh: “CNN guy just said the people of North ‘Carolina’ are starving.”

Well, maybe the barbeque hasn’t been served yet.

John Noonan: “So nice to be an Air Force ICBM vet tonight, a stark and cheerful reminder that our missiles actually work.”

I’d just add, may we never have to demonstrate that to the world.

Andy Levy: “C’mon, NoKo, this isn’t rocket science!”

Cameron Gray: “That North Korean rocket broke up faster than Kim Kardashian and . . . fill in the blank.”

Tags: North Korea

Jimmy Carter, Increasingly Beyond Parody


From the last Morning Jolt of the week . . .

Cam and I talked about this a bit last night — he’s shocked that Jimmy Carter went to North Korea and accused the United States of abusing North Koreans’ human rights by withholding food aid; I’m not surprised anymore. If you’ve gone to bat for Saddam Hussein, it’s no great leap to go to bat for Kim Jong Il.

Chris Suellentrop at Slate recounted how Carter did everything possible to dissuade U.S. allies from cooperating with American foreign policy he disagreed with: “During the buildup to the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991, Carter unsuccessfully worked to undermine the foreign policy of America’s democratically elected president, George Bush. Carter behaved as the Imperial Ex-President, conducting a guerrilla foreign-policy operation that competed with the actual president’s. What’s disturbing about this behavior is not that Carter opposed war with Iraq. Many Democrats opposed going to war, and they worked within the American system to try to prevent a war that many predicted would be bloody (which it was, for Iraq). But Carter went further than merely lobbying Congress to oppose military action or speaking out in an effort to tilt popular opinion against the coming war. He used his status as a former president to engage in foreign policy, a deliberate effort to subvert the democratic process.

. . . Right up to Bush’s Jan. 15 deadline for war, Carter continued his shadow foreign policy campaign. On Jan. 10, he wrote the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria and asked them to oppose the impending military action. “I am distressed by the inability of either the international community or the Arab world to find a diplomatic solution to the Gulf crisis,” he wrote. “I urge you to call publicly for a delay in the use of force while Arab leaders seek a peaceful solution to the crisis. You may have to forego approval from the White House, but you will find the French, Soviets, and others fully supportive. Also, most Americans will welcome such a move.” Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft later accused Carter of violating the Logan Act, the law that prohibits American citizens from conducting unofficial foreign policy.

Bryan Preston, writing at Pajamas Media, concludes, “Jimmy Carter really has never forgiven Americans for firing him in 1980, has he? In the former president’s mind, here’s the logic of his latest statement, transcribed below: If American taxpayers don’t pony up to pay for the food of people on the other side of the world who have been brainwashed to want to exterminate us in nuclear Armageddon, we are violating their human rights . . . You, American, are violating North Koreans’ human rights by not automatically opening up your wallet every time Kim gets lonely and starts threatening to turn the Korean peninsula into a sea of fire. Jimmy Carter wants you to be ashamed. It’s not like Carter arrived at this strange position due to experiencing the personal charisma of the Dear Leader himself: Kim reportedly wouldn’t even meet with him.”

We knew Jimmy Carter was so deluded that he didn’t know when he was being used. But now we know he’s so deluded he doesn’t even know when he’s being snubbed.

By the way, Carter is implicitly accusing President Obama of human rights violations. Any lefties want to criticize the peanut farmer over this?

Tags: Jimmy Carter , North Korea

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