Month: May 2018

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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