Otto Warmbier Story: Don’t make North Korean policy off the news

Making good policy requires sober analysis. Emotionally-charged words devoid of any real meaning do a disservice to the pursuit of sound policy.

North Korea represses 25 million people. Its government has killed hundreds of thousands of the people who live there by policy-induced starvation, assassinations, and death camps. It is building nuclear weapons, and just a few months ago it brazenly assassinated the exiled brother of the dear dictator on foreign soil. But now it is the death of an American tourist that has caused National Review to call for kicking North Korea out of the United Nations.

Calling the death of Otto Warmbier an “act of war,” National Review calls for ratcheting up pressure on the rouge regime to punishing levels. That’s all well and good–North Korean tyranny deserves to be resisted–but why did it take the death of an American to inspire such passion?

To be sure, National Review mentions the horrible crimes North Korea commits against Koreans and others in its article. But it is only now that they said the U.S. should emphatically step up its game: “North Korea’s brazen murder of an American citizen is reason to reevaluate.”

North Korea’s ongoing campaign of torturing refugees wasn’t reason to reevalutate? Its sinking of the Cheonam wasn’t reason to reevaluate? Its continued threats to turn Seoul into a sea of fire?

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Will Trump and Merkel clash in G20?

Radio Sputnik, Scotland, interviewed me.

Most of you know that I am not very optimistic about a German-led EU in the long run.

That said, it’s more complicated than a simple yes or no answer.

Here are my thoughts, have a listen.

 

Defining Conservatism for the 21st century

Mitchell Blatt defends “Never Trump” neoconservatives from my argument that they are not conservative. It is a civil, spirited and substantive piece. I shall endeavour to uphold these virtues in my response.

I do not think neoconservatives are pseudo-conservative because they are “small government, pro-free trade” supporters of “a strong role for America in the world”. None of these positions are contrary to conservatism in broad terms but they can be depending on their particular forms.

There is a question of scale. Salt is important in cooking yet it can be overused. Supporting an American influence in the world can be conservative yet backing regime change and democratisation is not.

There is also a question of ends and means. Small government and free markets might be means of maintaining peaceful and prosperous societies but are not ends in themselves. They can produce positive economic outcomes but if these arrive too gravely at the cost of social cohesion, cultural standards, environmental preservation and personal fulfilment something can be wrong, or, at least, can be missing. 

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The triumph of bullshitting: Why Trumpcare probably won’t hurt Trump

What happens when a “populist” conidate becomes president and has to account for the contradictions between his rhetoric and his real platform? What happens when a bill is on his desk and he has to either sign it or veto it and can’t do both? With the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate trying to push through TrumpRyancare in a span of two weeks, we may soon see.

Slate‘s Jamelle Bouie says that for Trump to sign Trumpcare, Medicaid cuts, tax cuts for the rich, and the rest of his typical Republican agenda, he will lay bare the phoniness of his “populism,” alienating him from the “working class” voters who are credited with powering him to victory. I’m not so sure.

Bouie cites recently released studies of cultural-identity politics views and the 2016 election. Of particular interest is Lee Drutman’s study, which plotted voters on quadrants by economic views and social views in order to arrive at four groups: traditional conservatives (conservative on economic and cultural issues), traditional liberals, and, most important, “populists” (liberal on economic issues and conservative on cultural issues). You might associate these groups with particular candidates: Mitt Romney and House Speaker Paul Ryan in the traditional conservative camp, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama traditional liberals, Gary Johnson a populist, and Donald Trump a “populist.”

As you can see, “populists” are a big group, and Republicans seemed to do win more of them than did Democrats, despite the fact that those voters should agree with the Democratic economic agenda more than with the Republicans.

The data bares out that Trump won the vast majority of “populists”:

Why didn’t Republicans win “populists” in 2012 or 2008? One key point: Even as Romney and Ryan might well be more conservative/right-wing than the general public on cultural issues, they are not as conservative, and importantly, not as vocal in expressing those views, as Trump is.

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Post-election survey finds ethnocentric, identity politics factors in election

Trump supporters don’t terribly like immigrants or Muslims, and white Democrats like African-Americans more than white Americans.

Those are some of the findings of a large-scaled post-election study by John Sides, professor of political science at George Washington University. The survey data comes from multiple surveys by YouGov of 45,000 respondents, including 8,000 respondents who were interviewed both in 2011-2012 and 2016. One of the questions asked voters to rate certain ethnic and religious groups on a thermometer scale:

A few things that can be said:
– For all groups surveyed, immigrants and Muslims rated second to last and last, respectively, but the difference was much greater with Republicans and Trump primary voters.
– Trump voters ranked white people more favorably than any other group ranked them and ranked minorities (excluding Jews) lower than every other group.
– While Trump voters ranked Jews slightly lower than did Republicans as a whole, their rating of Jews is lined up pretty evenly with the rating of Jews by Democrats, white Democrats, and the population at large–around 75.
– Democrats ranked blacks, Hispanics, and Jews noticeably higher than they ranked whites. Even white Democrats ranked blacks and Jews slightly higher than they ranked whites. The gap in the ratings of whites by Democrats as a whole is thus due partially, but not entirely, to the fact that there were many more blacks and Hispanics represented in the survey sample of “Democrats” (as opposed to “white Democrats”).

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Freedom of expression is for everyone in a democracy

Following the far-right terrorist attack at the Finsbury Mosque at 00:21 am on Monday, June 19, Tommy Robinson went on Twitter to say how he felt about the attack. Once again he put his foot in it by appearing to suggest that those outside the mosque who were run-over, while not directly responsible for their injuries, were nevertheless tangentially responsible as the mosque had a long history of creating and sheltering extremists and that a reprisal of this sort was just waiting to happen following the recent Islamist attacks in Manchester and on London Bridge.

Predictably, the Twittersphere sounded like the Twitterpocalypse had come, with scores of people slamming him for his tweets. I am not defending what Robinson said in his tweets, and think that they were poorly worded. I do however defend his right to tweet what he did. Robinson did say in later tweets that he didn’t want this to happen and that he’d been warning about it for years, but the damage had already been done. It made him look worse in many people’s eyes than he did already and confirmed other peoples’ suspicions about him.

Robinson then went in ITV’s Good Morning Britain, ostensibly to defend himself on national TV. However, the “interview” didn’t really turn out the way he might have hoped. What unfolded was extraordinary by any measure, and has caused more controversy than if Robinson had not been invited and just been left with his tweets for company.

He began by saying that there was no such thing as “Islamophobia”. A phobia is an irrational fear, and he said that it wasn’t irrational to fear these things, i.e. Islamist terror. 

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Otto Warmbier and North Korea: The larger meaning

Otto Warmbier was released from North Korea in a coma and died.

The story of the American arrested in Pyongyang and sentenced to 15 years for allegedly trying to take a propaganda poster back home captivated the American media and was the source of a fair share of hot takes. As usual, it was quickly turned into a pointless political football to be tossed around by the cultural right and the social justice left. Some idiots on the left (a Huffington Post unpaid blogger, Salon, Larry Wilmore — no one of too much influence) took a sick kind of schadenfreudic pleasure in seeing a white man arrested and sentenced to a harsh prison term. Conservatives took these silly statements by a few liberal bloggers and thus used them as examples of the “moral perversion” of the “social justice left” (Noah Rothman of Commentary, Nick Gillespie of Reason).

It’s a distraction from the issue here. North Korea arrested someone for a minor offense and sentence him for one and a half decades–and possibly mistreated him (we can’t speculate too much without facts). For race-obsessed morons who have no sympathy for white people, consider this: The vast majority of North Koreans are Korean people. The same government that uses Americans–of all races and genders (including journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling and professor Kim Sang-duk) as bargaining chips tortures and kills Koreans. An estimated 200,000 Koreans are in concentration camps as a result of political “crimes.”

The same government that will throw an American in jail for 15 years for stealing a propaganda sign forces local people to have portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il on every wall. In the same place that an American may have contracted botulism, hundreds of thousands, maybe over a million, have starved to death over the years.

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“I’m not a feminist” : What Kara McCullough taught me to say proudly.

For a working-class girl, who’s studying and working at the same time, let me be honest about something that I always wanted to declare: “I am not a feminist.” That F word has been captured by the intersectional postmodern left, given a complete makeover, and is now heading the realm of an authoritarian and fascistic campaign while proclaiming to be an emancipatory reform movement. This once truly and proudly progressive word helped women win some of the biggest battles, including fairness and free speech, among many others. Now the neo-feminist establishment is tarnishing the work of our foresisters, destroying the foundations of what was being built to create a world that man and woman can live side by side in total fairness, while dividing the movement further in race and completely manufactured gendered terms.

The latest victim to be attacked by this aggressive and mephitic army, just because they simple don’t agree with the extremism and bigotry these people are preaching? Our very intelligent, sexy heroine Miss USA Kara McCullough.

For the uninitiated, McCullough works as an emergency preparedness specialist in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response after earning her Bachelor’s degree in chemistry; at the age of 25 years old she just won Miss USA, and has been inducted in the National Society of Black Engineers and the Golden Key International Honor Society. Not only is she incredibly intelligent, she is also fiercely independent. Standing in front of the world, in one of the biggest competitions of her life, being judged on the kind of person you are, she decided to not sugar coat her opinions on equality and feminism, saying the brave words I started this article with: “I am not a feminist.”

The internet obviously lit up instantly, with sisterhood trolls gathering together to coerce and attack the tenacious scientist. Blasphemy, heresy, stupidity… I read it all on our illustrious Twitter hashtags (we all know how much I adore hashtags) none truly informing us curious audience, as to why not being a “man-hating” feminist is a bad thing.

This isn’t unique. Recently in the West, the postmodern liberal left seems to have some curious ideas as to what constitutes as real problems for women in the real world.

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Will the real conservative please stand up?

Who is a conservative? Burke or Buckley? Is Bill Kristol a conservative or Victor Davis Hanson? David Cameron or Peter Hitchens? Or are they all conservatives? Will Narendra Modi of India be considered a conservative? Is Vladimir Putin’s vision of a society conservative, or Rodrigo Duterte’s forceful authoritarian law and order imposition against deviant drug addicts a conservative approach? In that case what is conservative? How can it be defined and charted for this new young century?

For those of you paying attention, two of my colleagues recently started this topical and timely debate. Ben Sixsmith, critiquing Noah Rothman’s Commentary piece, stated that #NeverTrumpers are pseudo-conservatives. Mitch Blatt countered that they are indeed conservatives, because there isn’t any fixed definition of conservatism.

For a non-European/non-American reader of politics, the arguments of both sides might seem odd. Both are correct, both are circular and axiomatic. Both, in some ways, logically contradictory. And both, never tries to define what it tries to critique. Without summarising the aforementioned pieces, (readers can read them, in their due time) let me highlight the contradictions.

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Finsbury Park Mosque attack sign of a society coming apart

On the morning of Monday, June 19, at 00:21 am, a white van ploughed into a crowd of worshippers who had exited the Finsbury Park Mosque. 10 people were injured, eight are in hospital with several whose conditions have been described as very serious. One person was killed.

The far-right terrorist, for that, is what we must call him, was held down by members of the congregation while the police were called. The imam protected him from the anger of the crowd so that the police could do their job properly when they arrived. The man reportedly said that he’d done his job, and apparently shouted that he wanted to kill all Muslims.

This attack came just over a year after the murder of the MP Jo Cox by another far-right terrorist. Anniversaries are important for terrorists.

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