Taking a week downtime. Took the opportunity to load a few books on my Asus Transformer Prime.
One goal in life I have is – should the dictatorial Kim dynasty in North Korea collapse – is be one of the individuals that go into that country to help establish democratic reforms and government.
What boggles my mind is how the Kims – from Kim Il Sun to Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un – have established a cult of personality and what amounts to a communist dynasty that flows from father to son – the only one in history – and projects almost God-like powers upon them and by which they govern and bless North Korea. Prisoners (and I regard all citizens in North Korea as prisoners in their own country) worship the Kims the way Christians worship God or Muslims worship Allah.
Any good that happens is due to the Kims; any bad is because of evil Americans who continue to oppress their country.Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden tells the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, who was born and raised in Camp 14, a prison camp the size of Los Angeles and which inters approximately 15,000 politically unreliable North Koreans – those whose loyalty to the Kims are questions – and who can not be redeemed. You’re born in the camp and you work until you die, usually from being over worked.
Shin recounts the stories of torture and punishment he witnessed and endured, including watching his mother and brother being shot for planning an escape. And the shocking truth of how – and why – they got caught and what Shin endured afterwards.
You see, in North Korea, if you are guilty of an crime against the state, so is your immediate family. Not only will you disappear, so will three generations of your family to prevent whatever afflicts you from being further spread.
Shin finally does escape and make his way to the US, as is evidenced by the mere existence of the book, but finds that freedom is just as challenging as being a prisoner. He goes from the extreme of having every facet of life planned to having no facet of life planned and has difficulty to adapting.
Captivating read – I blew through it in four hours.The Reluctant Communist tells the story from an American soldier’s perspective. Charles Robert Jenkins on the night of January 4, 1965 abandoned his men at the Demilitarized Zone and ran 2.5 miles across the 38th parallel, dodging landmines, to get to North Korea.
Why? He was afraid of being shipped to Vietnam. His plan: run across the border, be handed to the Russians, and then be returned to the United States in a prison exchange.
Instead, he spent 40 years as one of a handful of known American inside the brutal regime where he was allegedly frequently beat by fellow American defector James Dresnok, who defected in 1962 because he was “fed up” with his life.
Jenkins, Dresnok, and two other American defectors eventually made a life for themselves in North Korea and largely assimilated, playing in propaganda movies and teaching English.
Jenkins eventually married a Japanese woman, Hitomi Soga, who was abducted by North Koreans to teach Japanese to North Korean spies. She was ultimately his ticket to freedom after Japan began making an issue of kidnapped citizens.
Soga made her way back to Japan and didn’t to return North Korea, paving the way for Jenkins and their two children to join her.
While I have nothing but contempt for a man that did what he did, I do admire him for surrendering himself to Army authorities and serving 30-days in the brig, a standard punishment.
His 40 year stint in North Korea was beyond any punishment any human could imagine.
Another amazing read that one would think if fiction.
What I’m Currently Reading
The End of Faith by Sam Harris goes into detail on how people suspend reason in favor of religious dogma, even when evidence of lack thereof if right in there face.
Harris pays particular attention to Islam, essentially arguing that Islam’s very nature if one of violence and there is no modernizing or moderating. When one believes that s/he will have infinite rewards in the afterlife it’s a strong motivator to be a martyr for a cause, regardless of how baseless it is.
I’m still reading it; I disagree with some of Harris’ reasons and/or conclusions, but find it extremely enlightening, but reminds me that as an agnostic I’m in the extreme minority.
While plenty of political insiders have written about specific campaigns, only Popkin–drawing on a lifetime of presidential campaign experience and extensive research–analyzes what it takes to win the next campaign. The road to the White House is littered with geniuses of campaigns past. Why doesn’t practice make perfect? Why is experience such a poor teacher? Why are the same mistakes replayed again and again?
Based on detailed analyses of the winners–and losers–of the last 60 years of presidential campaigns, Popkin explains how challengers get to the White House, how incumbents stay there for a second term, and how successors hold power for their party. He looks in particular at three campaigns–George H.W. Bush’s muddled campaign for reelection in 1992, Al Gore’s flawed campaign for the presidency in 2000, and Hillary Clinton’s mismanaged effort to win the nomination in 2008–and uncovers the lessons that Ronald Reagan can teach future candidates about teamwork. Throughout, Popkin illuminates the intricacies of presidential campaigns–the small details and the big picture, the surprising mistakes and the predictable miscues–in a riveting account of what goes on inside a campaign and what makes one succeed while another fails.
With the 2012 election looming right on the horizon, The Candidate is an essential read for everyone who is watching as President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney square off against each other. As Popkin shows, a vision for the future and the audacity to run are only the first steps in a candidate’s run for office. To truly survive the most grueling show on earth, presidential hopefuls have to understand the critical factors that Popkin reveals in The Candidate.
The Little Blue Book description via Amazon: Voters cast their ballots for what they believe is right, for the things that make moral sense. Yet Democrats have too often failed to use language linking their moral values with their policies. The Little Blue Book demonstrates how to make that connection clearly and forcefully, with hands-on advice for discussing the most pressing issues of our time: the economy, health care, women’s issues, energy and environmental policy, education, food policy, and more. Dissecting the ways that extreme conservative positions have permeated political discourse, Lakoff and Wehling show how to fight back on moral grounds and in concrete terms. Revelatory, passionate, and deeply practical, The Little Blue Book will forever alter the way Democrats and progressives think and talk about politics.
But, Chris, you’re a Republican and work only for Republican and conservative candidates – how you possibly read anything by a Democrat?
My answer: campaign strategy and tactics are apolitical the way sunlight is amoral – no party or ideology has a monopoly on specific strategy or tactics. They simply exist to be used.
I personally no more bat an eye at using the strategies and tactics of, say, Saul Alinsky, which, frankly, are genius, than those of Karl Rove.
The goal is to win – you don’t govern if you don’t win.
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