U.S. doesn’t need anything from North Korea and shouldn’t meet

Kim Jong-un has threatened twice in the past week to cancel the meeting that he himself proposed with U.S. president Donald Trump. He appears to be acting out in his typical manner in order to try to put pressure on the United States and Korea and to win concessions.

The United States isn’t in a dire position, however, and the U.S. doesn’t need anything from Kim Jong-un so badly as to justify making extreme concessions. If Kim doesn’t want to denuclearize for limited concessions, if he is unwilling to negotiate sincerely, then the U.S. shouldn’t meet him.

The first time Kim threatened to pull out was after Trump’s National Security Advisor and former Bush advisor John Bolton called for a “Libya-style” denuclearization. Bolton is a hawk who has long called openly for overthrow of the North Korea regime, a worthy and moral goal (if reasonably possible) to be sure, but talking about or implying it obviously isn’t something that will help get to an agreement for Kim to voluntarily denuclearize.

The next and present reason Kim is using to threaten going forward with the meeting is much less reasonable. He wants the U.S. and Republic of Korea to end joint-self defense exercises. He thinks those exercises–and indeed the presence of U.S. troops in Korea–threaten his regime. Those troops are present because his grandfather invaded the Republic of Korea, his father sunk a Korean ship, and he shelled an island with civilian residents. They kidnapped Koreans and Japanese and tortured people for watching DVDs. Aggressive acts and attacks beyond borders are almost always caused by the totalitarian regime north of the 38th parallel.

The U.S. and Korea have already delayed military exercises, before the Korean Olympics, and now before the proposed meeting. But North Korea’s foreign ministry continues to make demands, saying, as characterized by Reuters, “the future of summit is entirely up to Washington.”

Well, if Kim doesn’t want this summit to happen, then it doesn’t have to happen. Washington doesn’t have to–and shouldn’t–do anything more for it to happen than it already has.

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Harvey Weinstein isn’t a Democratic Senator, and neither is Al Franken anymore

“The Right” has an unfortunate tendency to make broad, meaningless statements about “the Left.” To be more precise, in this case, David French of National Review made a broad attack on “the Left” on the basis of some people having been punished for having committed sexual assault.

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Korean corruption scandal and Donald Trump

When Korea’s former president Park Geun-hye was in the midst of being impeached over a corruption scandal, in December 2016, “T.K.”, the anonymous blogger behind Ask A Korean, wrote,
“[W]hat we are seeing in Korea now is the future of Trump. Korean politics already had its own Trump, and it is now showing the world what is going to happen next.”

I, too, noticed similarities between Korean politics and American politics while I was in Seoul in February and March, as the Constitutional court was ruling on her impeachment. Park’s supporters attacked the media. “The press = liars. Mass media = murder weapons,” a sign at a rally read. Some even posted signs praising Trump.

Now it’s more than a year since impeachment proceedings against Park began, and look at the news in America:

Financial records reviewed by The New York Times show that Mr. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer and longtime fixer, used the shell company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., for an array of business activities that went far beyond what was publicly known. Transactions adding up to at least $4.4 million flowed through Essential Consultants starting shortly before Mr. Trump was elected president and continuing to this January, the records show.

Firm Tied to Russian Oligarch Made Payments to Michael Cohen
Trump’s lawyer pitched himself as a fixer to Novartis and got paid $1.2 million
AT&T Paid Cohen For Advice On $85 Billion Time Warner Merger
South Korean defense company that paid Trump lawyer Cohen $150,000 is poised to win part of a $16 billion Pentagon deal
AT&T Paid Cohen Up to $600,000 for Trump Insights, Source Says

Wow. What does this sound like?

Media outlets reported that Choi and President Park’s senior staff members, including both Ahn Jong-bum and Jeong Ho-sung, have allegedly used their influence to extort ₩77.4 billion($60 million) from Korean chaebols—family-owned large business conglomerates—and set up two culture- and sports-related foundations, Mir and K-sports foundations.

Choi was found to have had used her presidential connections to pressure conglomerates – including electronics giant Samsung – for millions of dollars in donations to two non-profit foundations she controlled.

BBC

Reuters reports that in 2015, Samsung paid $18 million (£14.8 million) to Core Sports International, a consulting firm owned by — you guessed it — Choi Soon-sil.

Put it this way:
Donald Trump is Park Geun-hye, an incompetent, self-dealing heir of a dynastic family who is surrounded by corrupt loyalists.
Michael Cohen is Choi Soon-sil, a long-time associate of the president who was given way too much access, which he sold for profit.
AT&T and the other companies are Samsung and the rest.

We know what will likely happen next.

Long essay on the British housing crisis


 

Not my usual style, but I had the fantastic opportunity to write a feature after a long time, thanks to Lapsus Lima magazine, a beautifully designed magazine from Peru.

Here’s the whole piece.

 

 

The real Nobel comparison? Kim Dae-jung and the failed Sunshine Policy

Donald Trump’s supporters and those optimistic about prospects for his apparently upcoming meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un are preemptively calling for Trump to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Remember, Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize at the end of just his first year in office, before he even accomplished anything? And the prize was criticized by conservatives then, and rightly so. I address the argument in my new video, contained at the end of the post. But a better comparison might be Korea’s third democratically-elected president, Kim Dae-jung (president from 1998-2003).

Kim met with Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang in 2000. As with the meeting between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un and the proposed meeting between Trump and Kim, there were high hopes for “peace” and expectations that things would change. Kim Dae-jung began implementation of the “Sunshine Policy”, which offered unconditional aid to the North and opened up the Kaesong Industrial Region. The idea was to promote good will, but North Korea’s regime took much of the aid for itself and its military, and the policy did not prevent North Korea from developing its nuclear program.

The Nobel committee, as they often do, awarded the prize prematurely. The meeting happened, but nothing substantial ultimately came out of the meeting. Later it was revealed that the Kim Dae-jung administration had paid the Kim Jong-il government US$500 million for the meeting.

Kim might have been deserving of the Peace Prize for his non-violent campaigning for democracy in Korea. He nearly lost his life multiple times, once when he was kidnapped by the Park Chung-hee government, while living in exile in Japan in 1973, and nearly murdered, and again when he was sentenced to death after the Chun Doo-hwan government’s 1980 coup and martial law crackdown. The Nobel committee says he was awarded “for his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and in East Asia in general, and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular.”

See my video on Trump and the Nobel:

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Resolving the “52% of white women voted for Trump” question

“White women voted for Trump!” Both Trump supporters, trying to defend him from charges of his blatant misogyny, and identitarian Trump critics, trying to condemn white women, will cite this fact. Is it true? Is it meaningful?

Yes, a majority of white women did in fact vote for Trump. Just as they had voted for Romney, McCain, and Bush before him. White people vote Republican. The Republican candidate won the white vote in every election since 1976, according to data available at Cornell University’s Roper Center For Public Opinion Research. (The data only goes back to 1976.)

A majority of white women also voted for the Republican in the 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 election, elections for white CNN exit poll data was easily available. (Roper University data doesn’t break down gender by race, as CNN exit polls do.) In 1996, with Ross Perot running for president as a third-party, 43 percent of white women voted for Dole, and 48 percent for Clinton, while Dole won 49 percent of the white male vote. (2000’s exit polls did not appear to break down the racial vote by gender.)

Trump’s 52 percent share of the white women vote was the worst since 1996. Bush (2004), McCain, and Romney all exceeded 52 percent of the white women vote.

At the same time, the white male vote remains unchanged from 2004, so the gap between the white male vote and the white female vote continues to increase.

In short, Trump did win the white female vote, but that doesn’t imply that his sexism didn’t cost him anything or that white women are particularly supportive of Trump. White women were less supportive of Trump than they were of previous Republican presidential candidates.

A similar misleading narrative is at work when people argue that Trump performed well with minority voters, despite the fact that he had the second worst performance with minorities on record, as Bombs + Dollars has previously shown.

Data below:

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A disaster of a summit

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying could have chosen a better Chinese proverb to describe the meeting between North Korean sadist Kim Jong-un and Korean president Moon Jae-in. “Disasters are never powerful enough to separate real brothers, and a smile is all they need to eliminate the hard feelings,” Hua said.

And VX nerve agent is all it takes for a dictator to murder his actual brother.

The headlines said in 1994 and 2007 that North Korea would end its nuclear program. The headlines say now that they will make a peace deal.

The negotiators on the North Korean side are wily and skilled manipulators. Sitting on the Korean side was a liberal president with sympathies for “peace,” who served in the Roh Moo-hyun administration, which abstained from voting on a UN resolution condemning North Korea’s human rights abuses; and a chief presidential secretary, Im Jong-suk, who served prison time for organizing a propaganda trip to North Korea as a radical student activist in the 1980’s. The chief American negotiator, should a purported meeting go forward, is skilled at getting manipulated, has called Kim “very honorable” for hosting a series of propaganda summits in order to boost his own standing and already appears to trust North Korea enough to give them credit for things it hasn’t agreed to.

These are not things that inspire confidence.

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Free speech ≠ forced speech; Facebook can and should control its own platform

Conservatives are playing victim once again and whining about yet another instance of some supposed anti-“conservative” bias by a company. Now it’s Facebook apparently limiting the reach of “Diamond and Silk” on Facebook’s own network. It is important to put “conservative” in quote marks here. Diamond and Silk are a pair of Trump surrogates, named Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, who speak at Trump campaign rallies, sell Trump merchandise, appear on racist white supremacist radio shows, and make pro-Trump videos. Like many of the pro-Trump social media genre, they don’t talk about conservative policies or appear to have any considered beliefs. They can hardly be called conservatives.

I quote a brief excerpt just to illustrate:

<

blockquote>”This week’s bowl of stupid goes to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Both of these here two morons exhibiting moronic behavior. Now, this one right here, Chuck Schumer done shut down the government because he is trying to tie DACA to the government spending bill. Now we gotta fund the government. Now what he want to do is he want to not fund the government and he want to fight for these DACA [inaudible] that’s illegal aliens that’s in our country and not fight for the American People.

Really, high-brow stuff. Intellect on level with the president of the United States. If this is what American Senators (Ted Cruz) are spending official time asking Mark Zuckerberg about during Congressional testimony, we must fear for our republic.

Editors need to control what they publish in their papers, and platforms need to control what they publish and broadcast just the same. Facebook is a private company with its own network and its own algorithms, and somehow people think that they should have full control over someone else’s platform. One week ago, an extreme lunatic shot up the YouTube offices because she was upset that her ad revenue declined after an algorithm change. Ben Shapiro is moaning that Facebook’s apparent algorithm changes to improve the quality of its feed are supposedly impacting him and other low-quality viral conservative pages.

“Toleration implies the existence of a distinctive procedure for testing ideas… It has nothing to do with a cacophony of screaming fakers marketing political nostrums in the public square.” – Barrington Moore

What these entitled outrage-mongers forget is that it’s Facebook’s network in the first place! How did they think their websites were getting so much traffic? Facebook created an algorithm in the first place that favored low-quality clickbait bullshit. They benefited from it and molded their websites and their social presences to leverage it. Now they talk about Facebook trying to “control” what we read; Facebook already was controlling what was showing up in our feeds. The 2016 election showed just how destructive this kind of viral garbage, partisan hackery, and outright lies and conspiracy theories can be to the quality of our public discourse.

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Read Ralph Peters’ letter disavowing Fox News as a Trump’s propaganda arm

Ralph Peters was a long-time defense analyst for Fox News. Now he has decided to part with the network over its unprincipled efforts to push Trump’s agenda.

His email to colleagues was published by Buzzfeed. Here’s a juicy excerpt:

Four decades ago, I took an oath as a newly commissioned officer. I swore to “support and defend the Constitution,” and that oath did not expire when I took off my uniform. Today, I feel that Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.

In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration. When prime-time hosts–who have never served our country in any capacity–dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller–all the while scaremongering with lurid warnings of “deep-state” machinations– I cannot be part of the same organization, even at a remove. To me, Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.

As a Russia analyst for many years, it also has appalled me that hosts who made their reputations as super-patriots and who, justifiably, savaged President Obama for his duplicitous folly with Putin, now advance Putin’s agenda by making light of Russian penetration of our elections and the Trump campaign. Despite increasingly pathetic denials, it turns out that the “nothing-burger” has been covered with Russian dressing all along. And by the way: As an intelligence professional, I can tell you that the Steele dossier rings true–that’s how the Russians do things.. The result is that we have an American president who is terrified of his counterpart in Moscow.

Read it in full at Buzzfeed: An “Ashamed” Fox News Commentator Just Quit The “Propaganda Machine”

A Conservative reading of Pinker’s new book

Review: ‘Enlightenment Now,’ by Steven Pinker

I was made to read Steve Pinker’s new tome, by someone very close to me.

To start with, I don’t disagree with his data, or his stance against Post-modernism, for example. But, here’s my review of his attempted, ahistoric Nate Silver-isation of Renaissance.

It’s a good book, even though I disagree with it, gigantic dataset compilation that will provide joy to optimists. True Conservatives, such as yours truly, are however, rarely optimistic. Simply because we don’t believe history is inexorably progressive or teleological.

Excerpt: 

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