Author: Mitchell Blatt (Page 1 of 23)

2 new articles for Areo and Acculturated

Your editor Mitchell Blatt is back with big pieces in Accultrated and Areo Magazine.

First, commenting in Acculturated on the lack of appeal for a movie about failed candidate for Texas governor and two-time filibusterer Wendy Davis:

In an interview with Refinery 29, Davis said, “I honestly never believed something like this would happen” (before stating in the next sentence how many people were telling her after the filibuster that a film should be made about her). Indeed, she might be right. The movie idea is still in the early stages of development and might very well end up suffering the same fate as her TV series.

Full article: Why Would Sandra Bullock Want to Make a Movie About Wendy Davis?

Next, in Areo Magazine I point to the problem of clickbait reporting–when journalists and/or editors distort facts in their headlines and leads such that it fundamentally changes the meaning of the story.

If you were reading Salon, ThinkProgress, or Glenn Greenwald this October 3rd, you might think the United States under Trump’s leadership began the process of criminalizing homosexuality and executing gays…

Full article: Why Clickbait Reporting is the Real Problem, Not Liberal Bias

Trump campaigns for himself in speech to Korean legislature

Donald Trump can’t help but brag and campaign to an American audience in any speech he gives abroad.

The latest victims of Trump’s egotism were Korean legislators who heard him speak to their chamber. After going over the inspiring history of Korea’s development, Trump pivoted to one of his favorite topics:

Like Korea, and since my election exactly one year ago today, I celebrate with you.

The awkward syntax makes it seem like he only has been celebrating Korea’s success since his election. Probably he meant to say “since I read a one-page briefing a few days ago.”

Either way, he went on:

The United States is going through something of a miracle itself. Our stock market is at an all-time high. Unemployment is at a 17-year low. We are defeating ISIS. We are strengthening our judiciary, including a brilliant Supreme Court justice, and one and on and on.

That Trump’s overbearing language has become routine shouldn’t make it anymore acceptable. Miracle? Yahoo Finance’s Myles Udland reports, “The U.S. economy added 261,000 jobs in October… … Economists were looking for job gains of 313,000… … Wage gains in October were disappointing…”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie was attacking the economic conditions in Virginia in a race that he lost by nine, a referendum on Trumpism.

The stock market numbers and unemployment rate have been on long-term trajectories, of course. Unemployment has declined from 9% in 2010 to 7.9% in 2013, 5.7% in 2015, 4.8% at the start of 2017, and 4.1% now, and Trump hasn’t enacted any major economic policies in his ten months as president.

The mention of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is most insulting of all to Korean lawmakers, who have justices of their own to approve. Gorsuch is a qualified profession, as are the other eight justices on the Supreme Court, and there’s no reason he merits mention whatsoever in Korea.

But it’s a long-standing tendency of his to go off on brazen, self-congratulatory tangents at what are supposed to be speeches about serious international issues.

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Exclusive paper: Is fear of ISIS rational? A statistical analysis

Summary
In the context of ongoing discussion over whether or not publics in the world are rational in their views on terrorism, this analytical commentary uses data about fatalities from terrorist attacks and results of a Pew Research Center global survey on public attitudes to assess whether concern about ISIS tracks with the threat ISIS has posed to countries. This analysis found that concern about ISIS in most regions of the world tracked with both fatalities caused by all terrorism and fatalities caused by ISIS specifically. Globally, concern about ISIS in a country showed the strongest correlation with fatalities caused by ISIS. The publics of particular countries that faced divergent threat levels from ISIS-affiliated terrorists and non-ISIS-affiliated terrorists also showed the ability to distinguish between the different threats. The results indicate that publics are not, in general, extremely irrational.

My commentary on public opinion and ISIS has been published at the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies. Read my CEJISS commentary here.

Introduction
Are public fears about ISIS rational? A detailed global survey released by the Pew Research Center found ISIS is the issue the world’s people are most concerned about in a plurality of countries surveyed. Across 38 countries, 62 percent of the world is concerned about ISIS, narrowly surpassing climate change as the top issue[1].

This has caused some to suggest that the public’s fear of ISIS is irrational. Michael Cruickshank wrote, “Crazy how irrationally afraid people are off ISIS. Shows how effective their propaganda is”[2]. It’s true that everyday risks like car crashes and murders by common criminals are bigger threats for ordinary people[3][4], but the impact of intentional, targeted attacks on civilizational values causes a bigger fear impact in many people’s minds[5]. Whether or not that is “rational” per se is a question for psychologists and philosophers and others to debate some other day. Instead I shall undertake to assess whether, within the confines of human psychology, the relative risk assessments of various countries are in line with the threat posed to those countries by ISIS.

This analysis focuses on concern about ISIS, as registered in the survey; fatalities caused by terrorism within each country, as tracked by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism’s (START, at the University of Maryland) Global Terrorism Database; and fatalities caused by ISIS, also tracked by START’s database. The results were predictable: there were generally positive correlations between a country’s exposure to fatalities caused by terrorism and that country’s concern about ISIS. There were also some notable departures from correlation, which showed many publics are attuned to specific regional dynamics.

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Japanese election today — Will Abe stay in power?

All seats are being contested in Japan’s House of Representatives. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic administration has faced challenges this year. The cabinet’s disapproval rating eclipsed its approval rating in June for the first time since 2015. The current rate is 45 percent dispproval, 38 percent approval.

Challenging Abe is the Party of Hope’s coalition, a new conservative reformist party, and a liberal coalition consisting of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party, and the Social Democratic Party.

Yet even amongst those who disapprove of Abe’s administration in the Mainichi poll, a plurality, 26 percent, say they plan on voting for the Liberal Democratic Party, while 20 percent support the Party of Hope.

We will see later today if the third-longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history can keep his term going.

Update, 11 pm Tokyo time: Exit polls show Abe’s coalition projected to win, with 300 or more seats in the 465 seat chamber. Currently they control 329.

Weinstein, Trump, and the crisis of confidence in rule of law

Donald Trump’s politicization of the Justice Department hurts faith in rule of law when it is sorely needed. Film producer Harvey Weinstein has been investigated before for sexual abuse, and now, with many more allegations coming out publicly, it is likely that he might have faced serious investigations under any administration.

Yet the appearance of conflict-of-interest and the demonstrated intent of applying law politically casts an inescapable lack of confidence under anything the Justice Department does now. The admissions by Trump that he made explicit political calculations when staffing the Department of Justice and pressured the DOJ to investigate his enemies (Trump says he wouldn’t have picked Sessions if he knew he’d recuse himself, After attacking AG Jeff Sessions for failing to investigate Hillary Clinton, Trump won’t say if he will fire him, Comey documented Trump request to drop Flynn investigation in memo) imply that he would use, or try to use, his power to attack any political enemy he can.

Now it is reported in the Daily Mail that the FBI is opening up an investigation into Weinstein at the behest of the DOJ (although “it is unknown whether the DOJ order came directly from Sessions”). There’s a 90 percent chance that this is justified entirely on the facts of the case. In almost any other administration, there would be closer to 99 percent confidence.

We know how Trump responds to crimes committed by his political allies: he pardons them.

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The political meaning of Korean makgeolli

An excerpt of my latest travel article from my travel blog China Travel Writer:

Koreans have a saying, “Eat once in Jeonju, and you’ll be spoiled for life.” The city of 600,000, which is the capital of North Jeolla province, is a UNESCO Creative City for its gastronomical heritage.

On a visit this past July, I was excited to taste Jeonju’s legendary fare. So why, when I went with two Koreans to a famous dining district, was I staring down at a plates full of silkworm pupae, jelly made of smashed acorns, and a fish that has been fermented in its own urine?

We were at the Jeonmun Makgeolli Town, one of seven makgeolli towns prominently featured on tourism maps. Makgeolli is a Korean “farmer’s wine” made from rice and traditionally served in bowls. It has a reputation as being an honest, working man’s drink. It’s a drink that old men drink straight from the plastic bottle outside convenience stores at 3 in the afternoon. In fact, the national security law during the period of military rule was jokingly called the “Makgeolli Security Law” because so many people were arrested for things they said in casual conversation.

In short, makgeolli seemed to me to be a representative drink for the progressive stronghold of Jeolla, which was the site of both the 1894 Donghak Peasant Rebellion in Jeonju and the 1980 Gwangju Uprising to the south.

Read the full article: Silkworm pupae, urine fish, and farmer’s wine: A meal to remember in Korea’s culinary capital

Mafia Don: Trump as an Amoral Familist

Donald Trump’s presidency has been so strange it has caused columnists around the world to try to conceive of new frameworks to explain politics. But what if what is needed is really an old framework? In 1955, Edward C. Banfield visited a village in Southern Italy and described a dysfunctional politics based on the pursuit of personal and family profit above all else. He called the practitioners of this anti-social morality “amoral familists.” It was the behavior of the mafia and it is the behavior of Donald Trump and his cronies.

The amoral familist will, “Maximize the material, short-run advantage of the nuclear family” and “assume that all others will do likewise,” Banfield wrote. Trump has appointed his daughter and son-in-law into White House positions and put his two sons in charge of his business empire. The Trump administration has used official outlets to hawk his family’s products and has raked in cash from foreign diplomats staying at his DC hotel in the hopes of influencing him.

The effects of this lack of character and the assumption that all others lack character as well corrode to the core of a political system. Banfield noted how the locals in the small town had no trust in politics, and as such, no one trustworthy ran for office, and no one trusted the government to solve their problems. “[N]o one will further the interest of the group or community except as it is to his private advantage to do so.”

Banfield noted an additional 17 points that describe specific things one would expect to see in a society of amoral familists. It is worrying how many appear in Donald Trump’s United States in varying degrees.

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Memories of 9/11

When the editor of Bombs + Dollars heard that planes had crashed into the World Trade Towers, he knew it would change the world and affect his future path. A retrospective from 2014 on 9/11 and ISIS, originally published at China.org.cn.

I was in class in middle school when there was an announcement over the loudspeaker that airplanes had struck the World Trade Center towers in New York. The principal used delicate language when addressing the students, but I knew it was an attack. Commercial airline pilots don’t hit skyscrapers by accident. The rest of the day was surreal. Rumors circulated that a hijacked plane was heading towards my hometown, Cleveland, Ohio, but it turned out to be a false alarm. Even after watching the images on TV when I got home from school, the magnitude of the attacks was hard to comprehend.

It was like life stood still for the next week. All news was 9/11 all the time. The National Football League and Major League Baseball canceled all sporting events that week. I went to the Cleveland Browns game the next weekend. I remember the patriotic songs they played all throughout the game. “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free…” Lee Greenwood’s song became familiar at sporting events and was inserted into the seventh inning stretch at baseball games. Using the restroom, I could hear the guy next to me saying we were going to get bin Laden.

If seeing 3,000 of our fellow countrymen murdered in broad daylight and landmarks of New York City’s skyline disappeared from the sky wasn’t enough, the rest of the year featured anthrax letters and an attempted shoe bombing by Richard Reid. “Panic” might not be the right word — the threat posed by international terrorist organizations was real — but there were major changes made to people’s lives that seem unnecessary in today’s light. A school field trip to Washington, DC was canceled. Many Americans weren’t traveling anywhere, let alone to the capital.

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Korean Security Chat, II: Time to strike North Korea

“The only practical solution we have got is to make a first strike.”

Mitchell Blatt and Daniel Kim chat about North Korea’s sixth nuclear test and how this changes things.

Daniel Kim has served as an artillery man and an interpreter in the Republic of Korea Army and is currently enrolled at Eastern Washington University where he is majoring in interdisciplinary studies. He will be joining B+D on a regular basis to discuss Korea issues. Mitchell Blatt is a founder and editor of Bombs + Dollars and is pursuing a degree in International Relations at Johns Hopkins University.

Mitchell Blatt: So let’s start with the biggest news of the year: North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test. This time it was a hydrogen bomb over 100 kilotons. That’s over 10 times as large as the last bomb it tested. Ankit Panda and Vipin Narang write in War on the Rocks that North Korea is now a nuclear power. Are they right?

Daniel Kim: Apparently yes. However, no country is gonna accept them as an official nuclear power.

MB: Have they proven they have an ICBM capable of hitting the mainland United States? Do they have the reentry vehicle?
DK: It is still questionable, though, I’m sure they can hit US soil. They have successfully completed hydrogen bomb. I don’t think that they won’t be able to develop a capable ICBM, if they haven’t already. (Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon says they might launch one at full range on Saturday.)

This reckless action wont help North Korea at all. Although almost every major American media outlet, even the Wall Street Journal, a conservative newspaper, is bugging Trump a lot, there is one thing they don’t really argue with him on. It is North Korea.

Trump may end up being the worst president in history, but I guarantee that he won’t let America get hit by external forces.

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Korean Security Chat, I: Fallout from Trump-Kim confrontation

Yesterday morning, B+D editor Mitchell Blatt chatted with former Korean army soldier Daniel Kim about the tense situation on the Korean peninsula in the first of a new series. Later that day, North Korea launched a missile over Japan. In our conversation, we discussed Korea’s relations with Japan, White House shakeups and what effect they will have on U.S. policy towards Korea, and Korean President Moon’s “North Korean sympathetic” policy.

Daniel Kim has served as an artillery man and an interpreter in the Republic of Korea Army and is currently enrolled at Eastern Washington University where he is majoring in interdisciplinary studies. He will be joining B+D on a regular basis to discuss Korea issues. Mitchell Blatt is a founder and editor of Bombs + Dollars and is pursuing a degree in International Relations at Johns Hopkins University.

Mitchell Blatt: First off, White House advisors Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka have both been fired/resigned in the past two weeks. How do you think it will affect White House policy?

Let me start with my thoughts: Bannon was pushing for a minimalist response to North Korea. He let loose in an interview with The American Prospect the night before leaving, promising to fire many of the State Department’s East Asia specialists and undercutting Trump’s threats of military force against North Korea by saying, “There’s no military solution.” Trump was saber rattling, but it seemed like Trump was bluffing the whole time. I think Bannon leaving reflects existing White House policy more than meaning any changes. Mattis and McMaster have the situation in their hands. They want to increase pressure but do so rationally, knowing the risks of war.

You?

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