Category Archives: blogging

On Trying to Reach H&R Block’s Tech Support

I’ve been a little bogged down lately trying to complete my taxes for 2005 before heading off for Japan again in March. This is my second year of using H&R Block’s TaxCut after more than a decade of TurboTax, whose customer service has got progressively worse after it was taken over by Intuit. (I’m not talking about either tax advice or tech support. They couldn’t even manage to deliver their product to me the last two years before I dropped them.)

Well, after I recently took advantage of TaxCut’s online tax advisors, who came back with useful advice, I tried to give a little feedback to their tech support, which seems to reside behind an impenetrable phalanx of automated responses. Here’s the record of my attempts to get feedback to their tech support.

Joel to onlinetaxesfeedback@hrblock.com:

I posted a tax question to your online tax advisor. The textbox into which I typed by questions stripped all punctuation from my sentences and didn’t allow me to navigate with up and down arrows (only left and right). Later, when I entered by payment information, the Address box only allowed [14 characters]; I can’t imagine that many people have addresses short enough to fit in that box.

I trust that you handle numbers better than text input, but at this point I’m not very hopeful that I will get any useful text back in reply to my request for tax advice. If I get back an autogenerated reply, I am not likely to use your tax advisor again, nor to recommend it to anyone else.

Online Taxes Feedback to Joel:

Thanks for your feedback. We take customer comments very seriously and use them to continually improve our products. Thanks for taking a moment to share your thoughts.

Your message won’t reach technical support. If you need immediate assistance with your taxes or have a question about a product, click here to sign in to your account. Or, copy and paste this URL into the address bar of your browser: http://www.hrblock.com/customer_support/online.html. You can search the Help Center or click the Contact Us link at the top of the page to contact technical support by phone, e-mail or chat.

Thanks for using H&R Block.

Joel to onlinetaxesfeedback@hrblock.com:

I see. You make it absolutely impossible for customer feedback to get to your technical support. When I login, I just get shoved through to tax advisor screens, well past the Contact Us. When I filled out the message box at Customer Support, I got an automated reply from clarify@fin.hrblock.com. No wonder your online interface sucks. The main reason I switched to TaxCut from TurboTax was for the same kind of incompetent handling of customers.

Online Taxes Feedback to Joel:

Thanks for your feedback. We take customer comments very seriously and use them to continually improve our products. Thanks for taking a moment to share your thoughts.

Your message won’t reach technical support. If you need immediate assistance with your taxes or have a question about a product, click here to sign in to your account. Or, copy and paste this URL into the address bar of your browser: http://www.hrblock.com/customer_support/online.html. You can search the Help Center or click the Contact Us link at the top of the page to contact technical support by phone, e-mail or chat.

Thanks for using H&R Block.

Joel to clarify@fin.hrblock.com:

I posted a tax question to your online tax advisor. The textbox into which I typed by questions stripped all punctuation from my sentences and didn’t allow me to navigate with up and down arrows (only left and right). Later, when I entered by payment information, the Address box only allowed [14 characters]; I can’t imagine that many people have addresses short enough to fit in that box. I trust that you handle numbers better than text input, but at this point I’m not very hopeful that I will get any useful text back in reply to my request for tax advice. If I get back an autogenerated reply, I am not likely to use your tax advisor again, nor to recommend it to anyone else.

clarify@fin.hrblock.com to Joel:

Thank you for contacting H&R Block.

An H&R Block tax professional will be happy to assist you with your tax-related questions. With H&R Block’s Satisfaction Guarantee, you can try us out risk free.

To locate a tax professional in your area, click on http://www.hrblock.com/universal/office_locator.html

If you prefer, tax help is available online for an affordable fee. To get the right answers to your tough questions, go to http://www.hrblock.com/taxes/doing_my_taxes/products/advisor.html

Should you have any future questions we would be happy to assist you. Please contact us at 1-800-HRBLOCK (1-800-472-5625) to speak with a Customer Support Specialist.

The Client Relations Team
H&R Block

===============================================
Please do not reply directly to this e-mail address (do not use your e-mail ‘reply’ button). If additional help on this or any other subject is required, assistance is available via the Internet by going to http://www.hrblock.com.

Thank you for your inquiry.

Okay, then. Just keep your crappy online interface.

UPDATE: Reader Justin in DC describes even worse problems with H&R Block’s total incompetence online and complete resistance to customer feedback. Are they hiring too many ex-employees of the IRS?

Found this on google, wanted to add that I totally agree how UNBELIVEABLY BUSH LEAGE HRBlock and their website really is.

I made the HUGE mistake of using it, rather than Intuit in 2003 for a return. I now have a problem where I need to access that old filing. I could not remember my password, and their ‘system’ to reset it reuqires you enter your Username, Social, and Birthdate to check against your filing. It then attempt to hit your credit card to ‘confirm’ your ID.

The problem is the credit card MUST be the same one one you used origingally with HRBlock. I have the card, but expired in 2005 before I moved. Their ‘form’ doesn’t have 2005 even available in the year drop down, and if I use a current card I am told it does not match their records.

So basically if you move, there is LITERALLY no way to reset your password and get to YOUR finical info.

I did try to call on the phone and wade through the 40 automated menus and finally got to a customer Rep.

She didn’t seem to have a clue, and walked through the form because ‘I might be entering information correctly’. Once she understood what the problem was she asked me to hold, and after 5min I was greeted with the DIAL TONE.

I called back, and got a guy, who although didn’t hang up on me wasn’t any help. I have the HRBlock original registration emails, the email with my transaciton code and order id from HRBlock, any other info they want (I offered to fax birth certificate, anyting!) and was told too bad and “thats just the way it is”

I did inform the clown there, that their ‘inteface’ is retarded and designed with some VERY significant holes in it. He didn’t agree, and I just thanked him for not hanging up with me and left it at that.

AVOID HR BLOCK (online at least) ALL ALL COSTS!!!!!!
Justin in DC | 04.28.06 – 4:39 pm | #

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Far Outliers Blogpost 1000

I started blogging almost exactly two years ago this week, and this constitutes my 1000th blogpost in that span of time. My Sitemeter stats show I’m closing in on a fair-to-middling 85,000 visits, and 125,000 page views, but I know that some people rely on syndication via Blogger’s Atom/RSS feed, which bypasses Sitemeter. Still, these are far greater numbers than will have read all of my obscure linguistics articles and reviews within my lifetime (or perhaps even the current millennium).

In the past, I’ve assembled links to my own favorite blogposts before taking an extended break from the blog. This time, I’ll post some of the apparent external favorites of search engines and specialty sites, judging impressionistically from my referral logs. The following hit parade is in chronological order, not in order of popularity. If I’m reminded of more, I’ll add them to the list.

I’ll take this opportunity to add a link to my policy statement on extract quotes from published books.

I’m not planning another hiatus until March, but I need to spend a little more time over the next several weeks on an old-fashioned publication project.

UPDATE: My thanks to The Argus, now Registan, for the first external link, and to The Marmot for both the second link, and the latest spike of traffic sent my way.

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Now Where Was I?

Over Veterans Day weekend, I vowed to finish revisions to a linguistics paper provisionally accepted to a volume in memory of a departed colleague–and to stop blogging until I had done so. Well, the revisions dragged on for a week, for no particularly good reason. Generalist blogging is just so much easier than finalizing words to be printed in indelible ink on acid-free paper for the benefit of an obscure bunch of academic specialists.

The other reason for light blogging has been my reading matter lately, which has not easily lent itself to excerpting:

Here’s a short paragraph from Days of Obligation (p. 29) that captures one of my favorite things about Rodriguez. He has a keen sense of tragedy, and no desire for utopias.

I have never looked for utopia on a map. Of course I believe in human advancement. I believe in medicine, in astrophysics, in washing machines. But my compass takes its cardinal point from tragedy. If I respond to the metaphor of spring, I nevertheless learned, years ago, from my Mexican father, from my Irish nuns, to count on winter. The point of Eden for me, for us, is not approach, but expulsion.

In the wake of Veterans Day, that passage seemed especially appropriate.

UPDATE: While I’ve been reading about John Peabody Harrington, Impearls has posted huge chunks of Harrington’s contemporary (and my dissertation advisor’s teacher) A. L. Kroeber‘s Handbook of the Indians of California, with some great maps, too.

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August Hiatus

The Far Outliers will be traveling in the far abroad over the next month, in their first trip back to Japan since the latter 1980s. I won’t likely be posting much while we’re on the road, but will probably resume posting in late August or early September. In the meantime, please sample some of the diverse range of blogs linked on the right. Here are three of my recent favorites.

Australia-based Macam-macam has been doing yeoman work digging up underreported stories from Southeast Asia–something I made a few stabs at before falling into a pattern of excerpting regularly from the books I’ve been reading. Some recent highlights include: new movement toward peace plans in Aceh (one of the few positive outcomes of the tsunami), Australia’s new willingness to split oil and gas revenues with Timor Leste, and possible Burmese military plans for defense in depth.

London-based A Step At a Time has been translating a lot of stories from Russia: about a Finland-Swedish businessman on Chechnya; about a trip to Grozny:

I soon got the jitters. The driver was talking in Chechen, and rather rudely, too, shouting something, waving his hands. Then I understood what the matter was: he was asking who hadn’t paid. It was me, of course. The whole minibus turned round and looked at me as though I were an enemy of the people – by now they had realized that I knew no Chechen.

and about campaigning around Russia with Garry Kasparov:

At the end of the last day of our trip they finally let our airplane land in Rostov – so that Kasparov and Co. could hurry off back to Moscow. “Can you believe that only five days and four nights have passed since we left Moscow?” Kasparov asked. “It feels like a month and a half.” Most importantly, it was hard to believe that five days ago we were an excited group from Moscow, content, smug, traveling in a chartered plane (by the way, the VIP room in Stavropol we reserved in advance was suddenly closed on the day of our arrival for “failure to conform to regulation”). Now we presented a pathetic picture: exhausted, dressed in clothes ruined by eggs and ketchup.

New York City-based Pearsall’s Books has been doing an enlightening series of demographic studies, two recent examples being an analysis of census statistics on the ethnic make-up of Young America and a fascinating comparison of two U.S. drug epidemics, crack cocaine and crystal meth. Here’s a sample of the latter.

What started out as a local problem on the West Coast has slowly begun to make its way east, with major meth epidemics springing up all throughout the Midwest and the Southeast, particularly in Appalachia, but not yet in the Northeast, at least outside of the gay community, where meth use is now a truly national crisis….

For the most part, the typical meth addict is a member of the white working-class, usually living in rural areas or small towns (hence the occassional nickname of “trailer park crack”). The spread of methamphetamine addiction has led to steep increases in crime rates in many formerly peaceful and safe communities. Meth-related crime has also, in parts of the country, been the main factor behind steep increases in the number of whites going to prison. This can be seen in, among other places, Minnesota and Arkansas, where meth-related crimes have been responsible for a surge in the white prison population, such that for the first time in decades both of these states have white majorities within their corrections systems….

What I find interesting is that, despite the explosion of meth addiction in recent years it seems to have taken far longer than crack in the 1980’s to really make an impression on the national consciousness, and it seems to have made little impact on popular culture. I have a couple of ideas as to why this is so. For one thing, it has not really touched the East Coast yet, where most of the news media is based. All of the tv networks are based in New York, as are most of the big news magazines and the most famous paper in the nation, The New York Times. The major media, for the most part, only really focuses on the rest of the country as it needs to, and meth, happening as it does in fairly out-of-the-way places, is not really the sort of story that is easy to tackle from a New York mindset.

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GooglePrint and Extract Quote Policy

The New York Times of 25 May 2005 carried a story expressing the concerns of certain publishers about Googleprint’s plans to index and excerpt from works under copyright.

How long is a snippet? That is one of more than a dozen questions directed at Google Inc. this week by the executive director of the Association of American University Presses, the trade group representing university presses. At issue is whether Google Print for Libraries, the company’s plan to digitize the collections of some of the country’s major university libraries, infringes the copyrights of the authors of many books in those collections. The program will allow users to search the contents of books, displaying context-specific “snippets” of the texts of copyrighted works.

Well, similar questions apply to Far Outliers, now Kotaji, and other blogs that frequently publish excerpts from printed sources. So it seems appropriate to issue a statement about the policies of this blog with regard to excerpting from printed sources under copyright.

1. Far Outliers is strictly a noncommercial enterprise. I accept neither cash donations nor paid advertising. I earn no revenue and incur no cash expenses, other than the not inconsiderable cost of buying printed books. I buy and read a lot of books, many–if not most–of them from university presses.

2. I try to extract and post stand-alone vignettes that capture passing insights of larger works, many of which have to do with the stated theme of this blog. In other cases, I try to quote passages that add a degree of arms-length historical or extraregional perspective to current debates in the blogosphere.

3. I try to limit my excerpts to the equivalent of about 1 printed page per chapter. If too much of one chapter proves irresistible, I force myself to skip other chapters. I also try to quote much less from brand new titles than from older works.

4. For each extract quote, I provide a full bibliographical citation and include a link to either the publisher’s website (especially in the case of university presses) or to an online bookseller that carries the book. If the author has an informative website, I’ll often link to that, too. Most larger commercial presses do not sell from their own websites, but university presses often do because they publish such a large number of titles with such meager marketing budgets that they have a much harder time promoting their obscure and offbeat titles, which are often the ones that tend to capture my fancy. In short, I encourage my blog readers to purchase the books I find quotable.

5. If any publishers feel I have overstepped the bounds of fair use, they have only to email me and I will forthwith remove all citations of their works. But I would hope that most publishers recognize some promotional value in my citations from their works.

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The Periscope on Ukraine

The Periscope blog has Victor Katolyk live and reporting up a storm in Lviv, Ukraine. Fistful of Euros is also compiling threads from all over.

via The Argus

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From Watergate to Rathergate: 1972 vs. 2004

I’ve been asking myself lately how a widely reviled incumbent like Richard Nixon could have won in a landslide of such monumental proportions over a well-known U.S. senator–and a courageous war veteran–like George McGovern in the 1972 U.S. presidential election.

Full disclosure: I reviled Nixon, and I voted for McGovern in 1972. In fact, I’ve never voted for a Republican presidential candidate unless you count John Anderson’s third-party bid in 1980, when I helped collect signatures to put him on the ballot. In 1968, I was too young to vote, but did campaign a bit for Hubert Humphrey. In 1972, I was fresh out of the Army, old enough to vote, and newly arrived in Hawai‘i to finish college. But even staunchly Democratic Hawai‘i went for Nixon that year, as did McGovern’s home state of South Dakota.

So, what happened? When I did a web search on “1972 Nixon McGovern” Google’s top-ranked page was a synopsis for a political science course at Kennesaw State College, GA, which provides decent fodder for a compare-and-contrast essay. (I’ve corrected a few minor errors therein.)

1972’s election outcome was decided early on in the Democratic primary. The Democrats were trying to oust a sitting president who, although not very popular, was an effective president. What made their task even harder was that the Democrats lost their front runner candidate, Edmund Muskie, early because the media portrayed him as an emotionally unstable person because he appeared to be “crying” while he was denouncing a news paper editorial that attacked his wife. The incident left the Democratic party without a candidate capable of unsetting the President.Since the outcome of the election was not in doubt, the only thing that was memorable about the 1972 election was the Watergate scandal that started out small and eventually forced the President to resign for the first time in the history of the U.S.A. The Democratic Party was in disarray as they were in the 1968 election. They nominated McGovern who was known as a very left wing liberal and an ineffective campaigner. In addition, the candidate’s first choice for a running mate was forced to resign because the media found out that he had received shock therapy. The candidate was forced to look for another Vice President nominee at the time he should have been focusing on getting his message across to the voters. The person he picked for the Vice President was President Kennedy’s brother in law, Sergeant Shriver, who had never run for elected office and his only experience in the government was being the first Peace Corps director under the Kennedy administration.

This sounds familiar. The Democratic Party is once again now in disarray, with weak leadership unable to decide whether it’s a war party, a peace party, or a party of irrelevant anachronism.

The role of the major media in the 2004 election, however, seems almost exactly the opposite of what it was back in 1972.

The press constantly criticized the Democratic candidate for everything from his stand on the issues to his strategy. President Nixon’s campaign was portrayed as an efficient and superior model of how to run a successful campaign. The press took the Nixon campaign portrayal of the McGovern policies as out of the main stream and ran with it without investigating it and finding out for themselves. The McGovern campaign was no match for the Nixon campaign organization and their constant distortion of his ideas to the media. The media took as a fact most of the distortion without trying to ascertain the fact….The media hated Nixon until he became President…. Once he became President, he mostly eliminated the reporters he did not like by not granting privileges to the White House and by not granting access to the administration officials. The action forced the media to be exceedingly fair to the Nixon administration until the Watergate scandal erupted. Many reporters did not want to report negative stories about the administration because they feared losing sources and access to the White House. The media also did not like the Democratic candidate and many newspapers endorsed President Nixon. That is one reason why many newspapers, except the Washington Post, did not bother to dig deep when the Watergate scandal broke out….

With the help of the media, Nixon won a second term in one of the biggest landslide elections in the U.S. history.

Despite the various scandals their respective enemies attempted to uncover or create, however, Nixon was re-elected, Clinton was re-elected, and G.W. Bush is likely to be re-elected. A party that relies on scandal to win elections is intellectually bankrupt, especially when it has to dig down 30 years to find them. I heartily agree with the following conclusion of the synopsis cited above.

The lasting legacy of the Watergate scandal is that the media now thinks every mistake a President makes is another Watergate that needs to be investigated and reported as a scandal without any evidence. Not only do reporters portray small mistakes as a scandal, they also go out of their way to investigate and dig for “dirt” to see if the person is clean and worthy of being a President. The unintended cost of the media’s obsession with scandal and investigation is that it turns people off from seeking elected office because they do not want their privacy to be violated. It also makes it harder for the candidates to convey their messages to the voters because what the media reports give priority to the scandal, not for the candidate’s ideas.

The saddest omission from this political science synopsis of the 1972 presidential race is the failure to mention any of the real issues of the day. The sole focus is on who controls the discourse, as if the voters are mere “sheeple” who would be lost without the press to let them know what they should think. Well, those days are long over, if they ever existed. And ever since this very date three years ago, the major parties and the major media have both been rapidly losing what control they once had over public discourse.

Speaking for myself, I’ve been subjecting my whole epistemology to a deliberate but thorough reassessment over the past three years, and have severely downgraded the reliability of most of my traditional sources. Fortunately there is a greater variety of sources available now than ever before.

As far as I’m concerned, the partisan hacks of both major parties have now thoroughly disgraced themselves. Throughout the Clinton presidency, the Republicans discredited themselves by focusing too much of their energy on obstructionism and scandal-mongering. During the current Bush presidency, the Democrats have discredited themselves by doing precisely the same.

All the while, for the duration of both administrations, the major media have disgraced themselves twice over, by devoting far, far more coverage to anti-incumbent scandal-mongering than to constructive analysis of issues. And now, as Dan Rather just demonstrated on 60 Minutes II, they’ve gone beyond looking for and vetting incriminating evidence. Now they’re accepting whatever meets their agenda, regardless of its merits; and dismissing whatever doesn’t, again regardless of its merits.

I served as a company clerk in the Army in 1970-71, producing official documents on a sturdy old manual typewriter with a Courier typeface. Every document I produced had to conform to a uniform template. Never did I see any officer type his own document. In fact, one of my company commanders was taking extension classes at a local college and he had me type his papers for him. In graduate school during the mid 1970s, I did most of my work on an IBM Selectric, using mostly the Prestige Elite and Letter Gothic type balls, which were standard in many military and civilian offices in those days. In 1979, I used the clunky IBM Composer in a publications office to produce justified text in a proportional typeface that was a relatively crude (and unkerned) version of Times.

I have enough experience in typefaces to be able to distinguish easily among a manual typewriter’s Courier, an IBM Selectric’s Prestige Elite, an IBM Composer’s crude Times, and MS Word’s Times New Roman typefaces. The last was used in the CBS forgeries, which don’t even pass the laugh test to anyone who knows much at all about both military documents from the Vietnam era and the evolution of typefaces on standard office equipment over the past three decades. 60 Minutes apparently doesn’t even have that level of talent in their research department.

Fortunately, a huge army of bloggers of all ages has reported for duty over the past three years, while the smug patricians in the media have either slacked off or gone AWOL. The bloggers are much more evenly divided along partisan lines than the major media, and there seems to be more indirect cross-dialog in the blogosphere, thanks to a small cadre of fair-minded partisans and a few resolute centrists.

Blogger networks provide a level of distributed intelligence that no newsroom can match. Perhaps the most comprehensive round-up of the many blogger contributions to Rathergate can be found at Hugh Hewitt and Powerline. The latter has also added a dismal (and somewhat over the top) postmortem on the willingness of mainstream “news” organizations to trade their most valuable asset, credibility, for political goals.

Although the major media continue to be far more influential than bloggers, parts of the blogosphere are gaining credibility while some major news media are throwing theirs away. Moreover, many bloggers on the right feel that Rathergate is the 2004 equivalent of the old media’s Watergate in 1972, even though the former are in this case defending the White House, rather than attacking it. And their enemy of the moment, Dan Rather, is responding much the way the Richard Nixon did. Third-rate forgeries, compounded by stonewalling and cover-up, are destroying his pretense of professional detachment. Other media bigwigs, like the Boston Globe, are responding similarly. Watergate may have marked the zenith of the press as honest broker. Rathergate marks the nadir of a long decline.

This has of course led to a certain degree of overwrought blogger triumphalism on the right. Some bloggers had already begun to compare blogging to the Protestant Reformation, during which the printing press helped a broader audience bypass the religious monopoly of a corrupt priestly class. Belmont Club, who reads the media the way Kremlinologists used to read the Soviet press, calls Rathergate the Shot Heard Round the World, and quotes a bit of King Henry V’s rousing St. Crispin’s Day speech at the battle of Agincourt, where his scruffy band of brothers defeated the flower of French chivalry.

The world has changed much over the past three years. For September 11th people, many pillars of conventional wisdom began falling with the twin towers–and they’re still falling. For September 10th people, who appear to predominate in the media, every development since that day has just confirmed their earlier conventional views of the world. The saddest people of all are those who now, in 2004, are still refighting the election of 1972.

UPDATE: Jay Rosen’s PressThink has further analysis of the implications for Big Media, including the following Big Picture quote from Belmont Club.

The traditional news model is collapsing. It suffers from two defects. The “news object” can no longer be given sealed attributes in newspaper backrooms. The days when the press was the news object foundry are dying. Second, the news industry is suffering from its lack of analytic cells, which are standard equipment in intellgence shops. Editors do some analysis but their focus is diluted by their attention to style and the craft of writing. The blogosphere and other actors, now connected over the Internet, are filling in for the missing analytic function. And although the news networks still generate, via their reporters, the bulk of primary news, they generate a pitiful amount of competent analysis.

QandO offers a compendium of the typographical, stylistic, and personal evidence. A Carnegie-Mellon computer scientist who was a pioneer in electronic typesetting presents a detailed technical analysis of the typography. His verdict:

The probability that any technology in existence in 1972 would be capable of producing a document that is nearly pixel-compatible with Microsoft’s Times New Roman font and the formatting of Microsoft Word, and that such technology was in casual use at the Texas Air National Guard, is so vanishingly small as to be indistinguishable from zero.

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Chun Doo-hwan Email Scam

I get a lot of so-called Nigerian scam letters by email. But yesterday was the first time I noticed a sender attempting to impersonate a Korean.

My name is JANG DOO-HWAN, The brother of Mr. CHUN DOO-HWAN, the former President of South Korea who seized power in a military coup in 1979 and who ruled from 1979 to 1987. My brother was pushed out of office and charged with treason, corruption and embezzlement of over 21billion won. He was wrongly sentenced to death but fortunately AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL stepped in and commuted the sentence to life. We thank God that he has finally being released though still under house arrest in the sense of conditions of the freedom. During my brother’s regime as president of South Korea, we realized some reasonable amount of money from various deals that we successfully executed….

Gee, I can understand why Gen. Chun’s brother would change his surname to Jang, but how could two brothers share the same given name? Were they perhaps conjoined twins at birth? Did the parents call one Doo and the other Hwan? These and other questions must receive satisfactory answers before I send any financial data to mrjangdoohwan@pnetmail.co.za.

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Suppression of Free Speech in South Korea

The Asia Times runs a Pyongyang Watch series by Aidan Foster-Carter, who on 18 May 2004 described a sad case of Double jeopardy for North Korean defectors, but also bemoaned broader tendencies toward the suppression of free speech in South Korea. And this was before the SK government began restricting Internet access.

In the new South Korea, thuggery pays. It is here that bullies, enemies of free speech, of toleration, of democracy are being nourished in the country’s so-called progressive democratization. Not only are they challenging the values of free speech and toleration, but now they are attacking the victims who seek asylum from the tyrannical regime in North Korea….

You’d suppose that these refugees, many of whom have suffered terrible privation and persecution, would be welcomed with open arms in Seoul, wouldn’t you? Don’t the hearts of all good South Koreans go out to their oppressed, starving Northern brethren? Don’t they embrace the few who make it to freedom? Don’t they give them every help and encouragement, to bring closer the day when all Koreans can reunite in the freedom and prosperity that the South now takes for granted?

Well, no. Make that, hell no. And listen to this: on April 20, North Korean defectors opened an Internet radio station in Seoul. (Korean speakers can access it at www.freenk.net)…. What person with an ounce of human decency could possibly not wish Free NK well?

Fact is, many South Koreans are not sympathetic – and some are downright nasty. From day one, Free NK has been hassled and harassed – to the point where, after less than a month on the air, it now may have to close down: the building’s landlord can’t cope with the pressure, so he’s given Free NK notice to quit by the end of this month.

It’s an astonishing and shameful tale…. [They] have been subjected to “continuous threatening phone calls” and e-mails…. Critics get physical, too. A guard at the building said “strange people” come to protest every day….

Even if the actual bullies are a minority, their violence – for that’s what it is – has been nourished in a noxious new soil that is spreading in Seoul these days. I fear I was wrong about democratization in South Korea. At least some of those who fought against dictatorship weren’t, and aren’t, true democrats. What they hated was the generals’ right-wing politics, not authoritarianism per se.

Such self-styled “progressives”, who rule the roost in the new South Korea, seem to me merely to have turned the old values inside out, rather than made true progress. I sometimes think Koreans don’t do shades of gray, but prefer gestalt conversions: a total switch of world view. They flip.

In the bad old days, woe betide you if you said anything good about North Korea in Seoul. Now it’s a mirror image: If you say anything bad about Kim Jong-il, you’re a traitor. Even if, like the defectors of Free NK, you’ve suffered grievously under the Dear Leader – and therefore know whereof you speak, unlike head-in-sand fellow-travellers living safely south of the border.

I find this mentality not only despicable, but baffling. What is wrong with these people? Why do they not only defend tyranny, but attack its victims? What’s in their minds, let alone their hearts?

See also NKZone‘s post entitled Big Brother in South Korea.

UPDATE: Muninn offers a more nuanced take on Korean Media and the Political Pendulum.

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Religious Blogospheres

If the Jewish blogosphere is jBlog, and the Catholic blogosphere is St. Blog’s Parish, what does the Mormon blogosphere call itself? Over at the Mormon blog Times and Seasons, the Bloggernacle Choir seems to be carrying the day.

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