Category: Politics (Page 1 of 23)

Trump-Comic-Final

Trump flunks Middle Eastern geography test

While Donald Trump was meeting with Israelis, he seemed clueless as to Israel’s geography. “We just got back from the Middle East,” he said.

Some Twitter users thought they caught Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer stiffling a laugh.

Other things we have learned from Trump himself in his short tenure in office:
– Frederick Douglas is just now getting the credit he deserves.
– Korea was once a part of China.
– China has 8,000 years of history as a civilization. (Even the Chinese themselves only assert 5,000.)
– The Civil War would have been so easy to prevent. Andrew Jackson would never have let it happen!

And some we’ve learned from the Trump press office and other members of the administration:
Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons. Well, at least he didn’t use chemical weapons on his own people. I mean… (via Spicer)
The Jews didn’t suffer enough in the Holocaust to afford a specific mention on Holocaust Remembrance Day. (the whole administration)
Historically black colleges were pioneers of “school choice,” not the result of segregation. (DeVos)
– Trump had the largest inauguration crowd in history. (Spicer)

The exclusive cartoon was drawn by Xia Lan and provided to Bombs + Dollars for use.
Trump-Comic-Final

join labour

Labour’s manifesto and Marxism’s rotten heart

After the shambolic leak of Labour’s draft manifesto, Comrade Corbyn launched the party’s manifesto to the public in Bradford on May 17, to rapturous applause from the party faithful. As one would expect from Corbyn and his team’s track record as apparently cuddly socialists, it’s an incoherent grab bag of policies designed to massively expand the role of the state in people’s everyday lives, supposedly in an aim to help people, all the while chipping further away at the now rather eroded foundations of freedom and liberty that British society was founded on.

Not only was the leak shambolic, but the big release was also as full of holes as Corbyn’s cardigans. His spending plans would cause the UK’s debt to explode by £250 billion (US$325 billion), and would see the government aiming to spend an extra £48.6 billion (US$63 billion) per year. Indeed, the chaotic nature of the unveiling was elevated to levels of parody by the fact that even though the manifesto – titled “For the Many, Not the Few” (ruin for the many, not Corbyn’s nomenklatura few) – claims to use an economic model entirely devised by world leading economists, the policy of a levying a tax on offshore company property actually relied in part on a database created by the current events and satire magazine Private Eye.

Policy proposals include free childcare for all 2-4 year olds, a fat-cat tax on city-banks and the super-wealthy that would be worth 2.5% of incomes over £330,000 (US$428,000) and 5% of incomes over £500,000 and a raise in the corporate tax from 19% to 26%, nationalisation of the railways and water industries, re-nationalisation of the postal service, and a new 45p tax threshold for incomes of £80,000 (US$104,000) a year and over and 50p on incomes of £123,000 and over, which would affect 1.3 million people who would end up paying £5,300 (US$6,900) more in tax. According to IFS estimates, the tax burden could increase to 37% by 2022 under a Labour government, dragging us back not the 1970’s but the 1950’s, when Britain was a bombed out shell living on debt and US subsidies. Labour says all its plans for spending, borrowing and taxing are fully costed, but as Matthew Lynn points out, this view seems to belong in another reality.

To conclude the economic arguments against the Labour manifesto, none of Corbyn’s sums add up. Because of the reasons already discussed, the Labour tax plans would actually bring in less tax revenue, and would only raise £20bn-£30bn, leaving a potential shortfall of £28.6 billion (US$37 billion), to be covered by guess what? More borrowing.

The fact is, higher tax rates and stifling economic intervention would lead to poorer economic growth, which in turn would result in lower revenue and adding to the shortfall. One can see how £250 billion more in debt suddenly looks frighteningly realistic.

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These past two weeks of Trump scandals were entirely predictable

The Republicans played with fire, and now they’re gonna get burnt

The past two weeks have brought developments in the ongoing saga of America’s executive office dysfunction that have shattered even previous high water marks of unbridled incompetence, corruption, and abuse of power. On May 9, Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on transparent pretexts. A couple of days later, Trump admitted his pretexts were false. Later he made a threat to Comey, who is invited to testify before Congress, about having supposed “tapes” of his conversations, and the White House still won’t say if it is recording conversations, even as it faces a subpoena from Congressional investigators. Now, in the past few hours, it has come to light that Comey produced a memo stating Trump had told him to end the investigation into Michael Flynn.

If Trump’s attempts to derail the Russia investigation weren’t enough, Trump met with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov literally the next day after firing Comey. Apparently without the White House’s permission, the Russian government photographer shared photos of the two men yukking it up in front of Trump with the Russian media that would go viral around the world—even as Trump didn’t allow any American photographers to capture images of the meeting. Didn’t Trump already learn from Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions the perils of meeting with Kislyak?

But the optics disaster was only foreshadowing what the public would soon find out happened during the meeting.

On May 16, it was reported by the Washington Post that “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador.” The information revealed was reportedly enough to let Russia figure out the source of intelligence shared by an ally (a very strong ally that Trump made much of claiming to support). Trump’s irresponsible mouth puts Israeli spies in ISIS-controlled territory at risk. It may threaten U.S. intelligence-sharing with Israel.

The saddest thing is, this was all completely predictable.

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Optimism in Korean peninsula

After months of political drama liberal Moon Jae-in decisively won in South Korea, a victory that ended over a decade-long conservative rule, which was by the end tarnished by extreme corruption and scandal, and ended in the impeachment and arrest of Park Geun-hye which triggered a snap election. The liberal victory was expected, given the current mood of South Korea, and a high turnout almost guaranteed the defeat of the incumbent conservatives. A simple plurality was needed for the liberals to win. Speaking at a makeshift podium, Moon was quoted to say “I will make a just, united country. I will be a president who also serves all the people who did not support me.”

In an interesting development, Moon said that he would be willing to go to North Korea to meet its leader Kim Jong-un, in a notable change of track from the previous conservative governments. Signaling that he is flexible and expressing willingness to negotiate immediately, the left-liberal-leaning Moon said that he is willing to do anything that might help bring peace to the continent. “I am willing to go anywhere for the peace of the Korean peninsula if needed. I will fly immediately to Washington. I will go to Beijing and I will go to Tokyo. If the conditions are right, I will go to Pyongyang,” he was quoted by Guardian.

Perhaps in a further indication that the new administration would be different than the old one, Moon even considers reviewing THAAD system placed in South Korea. The system has been a bone of contention between China and United States and was installed just a week before the elections. China has consistently opposed and urged the new president to scrap the system.

There has been talks reported by Reuters, where US officials have anonymously raised their concerns, about the new volatility in ties between South Korea and US. Moon and US President Trump are very different characters. There are chances of confrontation. Trump recently also demanded payment for THAAD placed in South Korea. That, added to the fact that Trump is positioning himself as a North Korea hawk, means that there are chances of difference of interest.

The US, of course, as per diplomatic rituals congratulated Moon, just as China and Japan did. The White House press secretary spoke of a continuing a strong alliance and enduring partnership.

That said, I would suggest a few cautions for both South Korea, and US. First of all South Korea needs to realise that any diplomatic maneuver, especially in such a volatile situation will inevitably bring up risks of cheesing off partners and adversaries. Any individual single effort to solve the Korean crisis would anger hardliners in both Washington and Tokyo. It is unlikely that Seoul, despite its good intentions is willing or able to take that risk or go that far. The idea in Washington is simple, that America is unwilling to coexist with a nuclear North Korea and that North Korea is a danger to American interests in the Pacific. Given that situation, if any country, especially South Korea intends to bypass American intentions to hand olive branch to the North, they will risk a collision course with Washington.

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Fox News pundits have got to be feeling embarrassed now

No less than 2 days after Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Fox News’s leading prime time hosts, and some guests repeating White House spin on the firing of FBI Director James Comey, Donald Trump stepped in to scuttle their (and his own) narrative.

On May 10, the day after Comey was fired, Joe Concha joined Tucker Carlson to bemoan the media’s coverage of Comey being fired in the midst of an investigation Trump desperately wants to go away. Concha repeated Trump’s claim that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein recommended Comey be fired.

“You have a Deputy Attorney General, just appointed two weeks ago, 94-6 vote, so he’s not seen as a partisan, recommending that Comey be gone,” Concha said.

That echoes statements from the Trump administration attributing the firing to Rosenstein’s purported recommendation that Comey be fired. The letter signed by Trump says, “I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” The statement from the White House press office says, “President Trump acted based on the clear
recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

On May 11, however, Trump admitted that he himself made the decision to fire Comey. In an interview with NBC News, Trump said,

He [Rosenstein] made a recommendation, he’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him, the Republicans like him. He made a recommendation. But regardless of [the] recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. Knowing there was no good time do it!

He also said he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to fire Comey:

And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, “You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

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Hugh Hewitt on James Comey then and now

Conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt defended Donald Trump’s act of firing FBI Director James Comey, who is presiding over an investigation of Trump’s campaign and administration officials for possible collusion with Russia’s interference in the election, on the grounds that Comey shouldn’t have held a press conference announcing the results of the FBI investigation into Clinton’s email server. The press conference, in which Comey condemned Clinton, was viewed by many, including Hewitt, as damaging to the Clinton campaign.

Here’s what Hewitt wrote in his syndicated column defending Trump:

Last summer an old D.C. hand took me to one of those Beltway places of lore for lunch and a cigar and talked candidly about how shocked he was at then-FBI director James Comey’s decision to publicly discuss the Hillary Clinton email investigation and to walk the public through a hundred details of the case and then conclude she should not be prosecuted. Agree or disagree with that decision, he said, it’s not what the FBI does. Ever. Agents present facts to prosecutors. They may nudge or even push in one direction or the other, but they don’t decide. My interlocutor, a former assistant U.S. attorney and then-senior official in numerous positions and companies, was not so much outraged by Comey’s actions at the time as puzzled, perhaps even shocked.

Curiously, in an MSNBC segment with Brian Williams on the day of Comey’s press conference, Hewitt said of Comey’s decision to announce publicly:
“I think he may have made a political decision in the best interest of the FBI.”

One wonders how it could have been in the best interest of the FBI if it had harmed trust in the FBI or in the FBI’s director, as Hewitt and other conservatives now argue. Hewitt was either wrong then or he’s wrong now.

In the Brian Williams segment, Hewitt was never asked directly about whether he thought it was the right decision to announce. He did, however, make many gleeful statements about how much he felt the announcement hurt Clinton.

“Look, she wasn’t indicted today, but she was convicted. Director Comey convicted her of lying repeatedly about not receiving or sending classified markings. She was convicted of being vulnerable to hostile agents. Her aides are convicted of actually having been penetrated by hostile agents. So I think you’re going to see Donald Trump and his surrogates in the Republican Party play the Comey press conference again and again and again. It was damning.”

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First thoughts on election of Moon Jae-in as president of Korea

The election turned out just as expected. Moon Jae-in won with just over 40 percent, right around where the final polls predicted. The moderate and conservative split the hard-on-North-Korea vote. In fact, the next three candidates combined, conservative Hong Jun-pyo (KLP), moderate reformer Ahn Cheol-su (People’s Party), and reformist conservative Yoo Seoung-min (Baerun), combined for over 50 percent.

While Moon has expressed the desire to visit North Korea “if the time is right” and talk, he might be constrained by the political and security situation, I write in a forthcoming column I will link to.

UPDATE: My article is now published: A new president and new opportunities in Korea

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Korean presidential hopefuls campaign with children’s song on final day

It’s the last day of campaigning before the Korean presidential election to replace impeached and indicted Park Geun-hye. That means Korea’s top candidates have mobile campaign platforms set up in Seoul to give speeches and sing children’s songs.

The song they really love to sing is a modified version of “Airplane” (비행기), which is itself a version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” The lyrics, “Let’s fly…”, have been replaced with the names of the candidates (listen for “Mun Jae-in” and “Hong Jun-pyo” in their respective songs).


Overall, the mood and location of the rallies seems to reflect the particular personalities and support bases of each candidate.

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healthcare feature

What both sides would say about healthcare if they were honest

With the passage of the “Obamacare repeal” bill in the United States by Republicans in the House of Representatives last week, the debate over healthcare is full of bad faith arguments, oversimplifications, and lies.

Much of what the bill does is being mischaracterized, starting with “repeal.” The bill didn’t call for repealing Obamacare. It would change Obamacare. It would cut Obamacare. But it wouldn’t repeal Obamacare.

The Republicans, arguably because they are in the majority and thus must put forward an expansive argument about what their bill will do, are responsible for some of the most egregious dishonesty. But the Democrats have been intellectually dishonest in some of their attacks on the bill, too. It doesn’t “classify rape as a preexisting condition.”

The main reason each side has to resort to bad faith arguments is because they don’t want to be honest about the ideological underpinnings of their convictions and the costs and benefits of each approach.

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May elections: Why Korea and United States should consider two-round voting

It looks like when Koreans go to the polls to elect their next president on Tuesday, May 9, it will be the sixth time in their seven elections as a democracy that the winner did not receive a majority of the vote. Coming two days after the second round of the French elections, it ought to be a time for Koreans and citizens of other democracies around the world to consider the pros and cons of two-round voting systems.

In the wake of the Park impeachment scandal, Koreans are once again debating why their presidents are such bad leaders and what can be done to fix the system. Park is only the third Korean president to have been arrested after leaving office. Another, Roh Moo-hyun, committed suicide in the midst of an investigation. Presidents in the pre-democratic era have been assassinated, deposed by coup, and died in exile. One proposed reform is to allow for Korean presidents, who are restricted to a single five-year term, to run for reelection. “In order to get them motivated to not be as unpopular as they usually end up becoming, a good idea is to give them the opportunity to run for a second term,” John Lee said in an interview with Bombs + Dollars.

Another idea would be to have two-round elections.

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