Month: March 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

Under investigation, Trump calls for Flynn to have immunity from prosecution

On February 13, then-national security advisor Michael Flynn resigned and/or was fired by the Trump administration after the Washington Post reported that he had spoken to the Russian ambassador about lifting sanctions at the same time Obama was implementing sanctions against Russia for interfering in the U.S. election.

On March 20, FBI Director James Comey confirmed the FBI was investigating Trump associates to see if there had been any coordination with Russia.

Now Donald Trump is calling for Flynn to be given immunity from prosecution:

Trump tries to deny reality at every point. For many weeks after the FBI and CIA had confirmed that Russia hacked into Clinton-related emails, Trump claimed they hadn’t and even compared the CIA to Nazis. He has lied about many simple topics, including how many electoral votes he won. So now he keeps saying there is no kind of legitimate investigation happening.

In his testimony before Congress, Comey said, “The FBI, as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election. That includes, investigating the nature of any links between associates of the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaigning the Russian effort.”

However, Trump has previously suggested that anyone who asks for immunity must be guilty. At a campaign rally on September 27, he said, “If you’re not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for?”

In fact, he raised this line of thinking on immunity multiple times:

If one were to follow Trump’s logic, he or she would wonder why Flynn’s lawyer is trying to get immunity and why Trump thinks he should.

Korea’s impeached president Park Geun-hye arrested

Does the law apply to presidents?

Former president Park Geun-hye, who was removed from office on March 10, was arrested this morning, South Korea time, in connection to the corruption scandal that caused her impeachment. She is facing 13 potential charges, and she can be held for up to 20 days before she must be either released or indicted. She is suspected of having coerced companies like Samsung to donate US$70 million to groups linked to her aide, Choi Soon-sil, who has also been arrested, in exchange for providing political favors.

Park becomes the latest in a long line of disgraced ex-Korean presidents.

The last time South Korean presidents were arrested was 1995, when Chun Doo-hwan and his successor Roh Tae-woo were charged and convicted in relation to the coup that brought Chun to power and the Gwangju Massacre of 1980, a military suppression of a protest-turned-riot that killed hundreds. Both were pardoned in December 1997, in an effort to bring reconciliation to the young democracy.

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An incredible liar: Post-modernism and the presidency

Women are paid 77 percent of what men are paid for the same job. Michael Brown was executed in cold blood. Donald Trump was wiretapped.

All lies, all made up to spread an agenda, reflections of a post-modern, reality-denying trend in the United States and the West. This trend is particularly attributed to academia, activism, and now, especially now, to politicians and the president.

Time‘s cover piece “Is Truth Dead?” includes some incredible quotes:

“I’m a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right,” Trump told TIME two days later, in a 20-minute phone interview from the Oval Office. The testimony, in other words, had not fazed him at all. He was still convinced he would be proved right. “I have articles saying it happened.”

“When I said ‘wire tapping,’ it was in quotes,” he said.

Read the full article.

Meanwhile, at Areo Magazine, I add more examples of unhinged lies from Trump:

Want to talk about ignoring facts for the purpose of serving a pre-existing agenda? At Trump’s February press conference, he claimed to have won the largest electoral college victory since Ronald Reagan in 1984. He won 306. Obama won 332 in the last election and 365 the election before that. That’s something you can check on Google. You don’t even need to do a survey on that.

Add that to, “I had the largest inauguration crowd ever,” “3 million people voted illegally,” and “the Bowling Green terrorist attack was ignored.”

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“Fake news,” Cernovich, and how the Trumpist right denies reality

Alt-right blogger Mike Cernovich was featured on 60 Minutes for a segment on how bullshit and fake news spreads around the public discourse.

CBS’s Scott Pelley cited one story Cernovich published himself at his website Danger & Play titled, “Hillary Clinton has Parkinson’s Disease, Physician Confirms.” The only source of information cited was Ted Noel, an anesthesiologist who later recorded a video. That means diagnosis of Parkinson’s is not even his area of expertise in the first place–and he didn’t examine Clinton, either.

If people could be diagnosed from news reports and videos, then Donald Trump and Barry Goldwater would be clinically-diagnosed narcissists.

Cernovich stood by his story, though he offered no evidence beyond his own hate of Clinton.

I don’t take anything Hillary Clinton is going to say at all as true. I’m not going to take her on her word. The media says we’re not going to take Donald Trump on his word. And that’s why we are in these different universes.

Yet, even if one were to distrust Clinton, distrusting her can’t prove she has Parkinson’s.

But let us move to a bigger point: Cernovich tried to equate his own website with actual news outlets that employ people to look into issues, ask questions, investigate, and confirm news before they report it. He equated himself with CNN and the Washington Post.

The truth is you’ve talked to a person who sincerely believes true, you must also admit that there have been many stories reported by major outlets like The New York Times, the Washington Post, and Rolling Stone, that were false. … People get it wrong, so why then come guns blazing at me, and not guns blazing at everybody?Why isn’t this segment going to say, how did the New York Times get conned? How did the Washington Post believe that Russia had hacked the power grid?

The story he’s talking about with regard to the power grid is one the Post published on December 31, 2016 about how Russians may have hacked a computer at an electric utility.

A code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont utility, according to U.S. officials.

The original article overstated what happened, and the Post corrected it and added an editor’s note:

An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.

AOL:

So did the Russians attack a laptop at a public utility, even if it wasn’t connected to the electric grid?

It’s possible, but not certain.

The malware found was certainly Russian made and related to the malware used to infiltrate the DNC. But that does not mean that it was used by Russians.

So the Washington Post reported a story based on information from credible sources and then corrected the part that was wrong within 24 hours of its publication.

Has Cernovich retracted or offered any kind of additional note to his blog post from August 12, 2016? No, it’s 227 days later, and he still says he believes it.

Mitch Blatt in The National Interest on North Korea

Bombs + Dollars editor Mitchell Blatt was published in The National Interest‘s website on U.S.-China relations with regard to North Korea.

Although he put Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments in context, noting that they don’t necessarily mean a vast change in policy, he did say that certain actions the U.S. has already taken, like the deployment of THAAD, and any possible change in policy to be more aggressive, are not acts of provocation but rather responses to growing North Korean provocations.

“But if the Trump administration does up the ante, it will be because proposals to engage in toothless talks with North Korea—like that made this week by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi—have utterly failed, and China hasn’t done its part to try to reign in its rogue frenemy,” he wrote. “Juxtaposed against its vitriolic response to the South Korean deployment of Terminal High Area Altitude Defense, China’s impassive response to multiple North Korean nuclear tests, always predicated on the same “firm opposition” talking point, which makes it look like China hasn’t been taking the threat of a nuclear North seriously.”

He pointed out that China hasn’t been faithfully enforcing some of the sanctions they agreed to against North Korea.

In summary, “As long as North Korea is an out-of-control threat, South Korea will need to take tough actions. China is reaping what it sowed from years of complacency.”

The whole article can be read here: Why China Must Confront North Korea.

The UK’s MoneyWeek also quoted Blatt’s article:

On the contrary, “China has largely itself to blame” if the US now pursues a more militaristic agenda towards North Korea, says Mitchell Blatt in the American magazine The National Interest. Beijing has spent years “turning a blind eye to sanctions violators and keeping the dangerous North Korean regime alive and its leaders well fed”, so it is not surprising that Washington now thinks “enough is enough”. China has also reneged on promises to limit imports of North Korean coal. Overall, “if China wants to avoid instability, then China must take an active role and take responsibility”.

Blatt also has an article about South Korea-China relations coming out in The Korea Times on Tuesday.

Healthcare fail puts the lie to Trump’s power narrative

Less than three months into Donald Trump’s presidency, and already the Republicans have given up on their #1 promise. Repealing Obamacare was what you could count on almost any Republican to say at almost any campaign event.

They won a majority in the House of Representatives in 2010 campaigning on repealing Obamacare. They won the Senate in 2014 campaigning on repealing Obamacare. And in 2016, Donald Trump won the presidency on a campaign of selling himself as a strong leader who would dispense with the niceties of the weak Republican establishment.

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Why Korea’s election might not change North Korean policy

With the dismissal of South Korea’s former president Park Geun-hye from office, a new presidential election is coming up on May 9, and a change of parties is not only expected—it is almost certain. With the liberal Democratic/Minjoo Party replacing the conservative Korean Liberty Party/Saenuri, what kind of changes can the world expect with regard to U.S.-Korean relations and policy towards North Korea?

Throughout the past year, the Minjoo Party criticized Park’s decision to deploy the U.S.-produced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. The leading Minjoo Party candidate, Moon Jae-in, served as the chief of staff to the last liberal president, Roh Moo-hyun, who supported policies of engagement with North Korea. So will the next government be more open to diplomacy at this dangerous time on the Korean peninsula?

To answer these and other questions, I talked to John Lee, who is the Conservative Columnist at NK News and the writer behind The Korean Foreigner.

Lee said that because of the reality on the ground, the next president, whoever it is, will be constrained in his choices. The Minjoo Party will have to accept THAAD, because it is already a done deal. The first components of THAAD arrived at Osan Air Base, outside of Seoul, on March 6, and the system is in the process of being assembled. “By the time the elections are over, this is going to be a done deal, and they will have no choice but to accept it. They’ll just blame it on the Park administration,” Lee said.

As for possibilities of dealing with North Korea,

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John Lee on Korea’s election, North Korea, and why South Korea isn’t “ethnically pure”

John-Lee-copyJohn Lee is the Conservative Columnist at NK News and the writer behind The Korean Foreigner. Born in Brunei to immigrant parents, Lee was educated in English (a legacy of British colonialism) and then went to study in the U.S., before taking up citizenship in his ancestral Korea. As such, he says he feels like “a foreigner in my own country.” I interviewed him about the upcoming Korean elections, policy towards North Korea, Korean politics, and other topics.

Mitchell Blatt: There’s been lots of news about North Korea launching missiles and threatening to test an ICBM that could hit the U.S. South Korea is having elections, and the Trump administration seems to be suggesting that they might take a more aggressive policy towards North Korea. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the time for “strategic patience” is over. Do you think that Trump and Tillerson are going in the right direction on this?
John Lee: I don’t think that either Donald Trump or Tillerson are going in any direction regarding North Korea. Just recently they said that all options are still on the table. But that’s the same thing they’ve been saying since the Clinton administration. And anytime you say, ‘All options are on the table,’ what that means is, yeah, we have options, but we haven’t picked one yet. So I think they’re just going with being ‘tough’ on North Korea as far as their rhetoric goes, but I am not convinced that their rhetoric can be backed up by any significant actions.

Blatt: Suppose there was an attempt to go in a new direction. Do you think a new direction is needed?
Lee: If by “new direction,” you mean something more kinetic, then I think that would be a horrible idea. I think deterrence has worked for the past seventy years, and I think it can continue to work. Strong deterrence militarily and economic sanctions, I believe will help contain the situation as much as possible, but something more kinetic would involve a lot of human lives being lost. I think that would be the absolute worst case sanctions.

Blatt: China is talking about trying to open up four party talks. What kind of role does China play in this, and is there any possibility for China to play a bigger role in keeping North Korea in check?
Lee: I think China’s role is more limited than people think it is. It has been proven repeatedly that the North Koreans do not listen to China all that much. China does not want the North Koreans to conduct these missile tests, but they’re conducting them anyway. Recently, because of the unofficial sanctions that the Chinese has imposed on South Korea, China has lost a lot of good will with the South Koreans, too. Four party talks might be enticing for the next progressive government, but I think they will have a hard time juggling the economic interests of China with the military alliance of the United States. The military alliance, as much as they [the progressives] disdain it, is not something that they can just ignore. It would just be irresponsible.

Blatt: One of the big sticking points there is THAAD, and most of the Minjoo Party candidates over the past year have opposed it, but now they seem to be shifting their positions. Do you think in the end, they are going to—if not support THAAD—support the status quo, which is the deployment of THAAD?

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Trump’s North Korea policy causes Trump to withdraw campaign pledges

If Donald Trump wants to turn the heat up on North Korea and China, as recent statements by himself and his administration leaders suggest, then he’s going to have to fail to implement many of his campaign promises.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on his visit to Seoul,”Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended. We are exploring a new range of security and diplomatic measures. All options are on the table.” UN Ambassador Nikki Haley two weeks ago said there was no time for talks, which she doesn’t expect would go anywhere, with North Korea.

Trump weighed in on Twitter: “North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been “playing” the United States for years. China has done little to help!”

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Trump, China and trade war : two short op-eds

Trump declares (trade) war…for now

Donald Trump’s inauguration marked a change in the world order, the free market liberal order that continued from 1945 in the West, and spread across the world around 1989. Here’s the transcript of the entire speech. But here are my quick three takeaways. The speech means, firstly, Trump is planning a 1930s-type national nation building project. Secondly, and inevitably, there’s now all possibility of a devastating trade war. And thirdly, Islamists are now the prime target of the administration.

The speech highlighted the new American credo of manufacturing in US, with American workers, and American infrastructure getting priority. It is unclear how he can do it, however, as if he imposes legal procedures on manufacturing outside US, his own company which outsources to China, will also suffer. The world is not stuck in the 1930s, and one cannot change the direction of capital flow or alter the comparative advantages. The center of gravity of economy moved to the East, and one can only adapt so far.

Trump’s inauguration statement was straightforward and refreshingly neutral in tone. In a certain way, it was without all the ridiculous and optimistic and hopeful balderdash we seem to have expect from American inaugurations. This was like a whistle for a firing squad. The world is now without leadership, and every power for its own. If you’re a strong power, then be stronger, if you’re weak, choose a side. Simple as that.

Researchers who deal with grand strategy often tries to find historical patterns in foreign policy. 

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