Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stuff to Read (3/24/10): North Korean cuisine and Canadian hate-speech laws

Check these out:

-- Slate: "Kingdom Kim's Culinary Outposts," by Sebastian Strangio.

A fascinating look at North Korea's Pyongyang restaurant chain in Asia, open to the public but ruled over by Kim's state-run surveillance apparatus. The restaurants are apparently quite popular with South Koreans, with entertainment provided by "group[s] of pretty North Korean-born waitresses, who perform music and dance routines complete with tightly synchronized choreography reminiscent of North Korea's annual Mass Games." And what exactly do they serve? "Unlike North Korea proper, which is wracked by economic sanctions and constant famines, the food here is fresh and abundant. The menu features specialties such as Pyongyang 'cold noodle' (served encrusted with ice), barbecued cuttlefish, stringy dangogi (dog meat) soup, and countless variations on the kimchi theme, all served with glutinous white rice. Also available for sale are a series of North Korean products, including ginseng wine and some nameless bear 'product' promised to increase sexual virility." How do you say "Yum-O!" in Korean?

-- Salon: "The creepy tyranny of Canada's hate speech laws," by Glenn Greenwald.

Glenn rightly objects to Canada's objectionable (and wholly subjective) hate-speech laws, as I do (it's one thing about my country I really don't like), focusing on Ann Coulter's invitation to speak at the University of Ottawa, which essentially threatened her with legal action if she crossed the subjective line. "I think threatening someone with criminal prosecution for the political views they might express is quite 'hateful.' So, too, is anointing oneself the arbiter of what is and is not sufficiently 'civilized discussion' to the point of using the force of criminal law to enforce it... The hubris required to believe that you can declare certain views so objectively hateful that they should be criminalized is astronomical; in so many eras, views that were most scorned by majorities ended up emerging as truth." Be careful what you wish for, in other words, as the situation could reverse, the hunter become the hunted, the prosecutor become the prosecuted. (For more on Coulter's appearance in Ottawa yesterday, see Capt. Fogg.)

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