Category: Politics (Page 1 of 32)

1949 All Over Again? How US-NK Deal Threatens ROK’s National Defense

The June 12 summit between the United States of America and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been hailed by Trump supporters as a historic success and received generally credulous coverage in the press as a harbinger of peace. The truth could not be farther from this naive wishful thinking. In fact, the real outcome of the Singapore summit was and is frankly miserable.

There was no promise for complete or verifiable dismantlement, not even a promise for any kind of denuclearization whatsoever. North Korea repeated the same vapid rhetoric like they had said many times before. Yet despite Kim Jong-Un giving him few concessions, Trump remarkably caved in on US-Korea joint defense exercises, a long-sought-after goal of the Kim regime, and even defended the thuggish dictator from criticisms of his human rights record.

“Complete, Verifiable, and Irreversible Dismantlement” (CVID) is probably the only denuclearization model that will work with North Korea, considering its track record of lying and dishonest negotiation. In both 1992 and 2005, North Korea, strongly asserted the a willingness for denuclearization and made promises to stick to a process, but each time, the rogue kingdom quickly broke its promises after extracting the concessions it desired. This time, American officials had talked about CVID in the run-up to the meeting, but the statement that emerged out of Singapore made no mention of CVID whatsoever.

An important and critical difference between CVID and the meaningless PR phrases in the document is that simply breaking a CVID agreement could be a direct justification for war in an extreme case. [Editor’s Comment: Is there a source for this?] Not only Trump, but also his officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton who are notable hardliners claimed to make CVID happen in the first place.

Pompeo was angry when asked by reporters about the lack of agreement for verification mechanisms. “I find that question insulting and ridiculous and, frankly, ludicrous. “I just have to be honest with you. It’s a game and one ought not play games with serious matters like this,” he said at a press conference in Seoul on June 13, the day after the meeting. He asserted that there was other work done that did not appear in the public statement. One may forgive observers for not particularly trusting North Korea’s seriousness to follow through on any hypothetical agreement that it did not even agree to put on paper.

Secondly, Trump administration has announced that UFG (Ulchi Freedom Guardian), which is the US-ROK annual joint military exercise, has been cancelled due to the summit. The status of other US-ROK joint exercises remains in doubt as the details of Trump’s promise to end what Trump has referred to as “war games” is ironed out. This decision is extremely irresponsible and ignorant; UFG and other cooperative exercises have existed to practice military and civic operations in wartime contingency. As the name suggests, there are defense operations to maintain preparedness in the face of extreme and intense North Korean threats.

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The Republicans have a problem

The Republicans just nominated alt-right, neo-Confederate Corey Stewart, a friend of Paul Nehlan, for Virginia’s US Senate seat. They nominated a theocratic, race-baiting child predator for Senate, Roy Moore, in Alabama. In other states, the Republicans have avoided the most embarrassing results. Coal baron who was convicted of safety violations connected to the deaths of 29 miners Don Blankenship lost the primary for the nomination for the West Virginia Senate seat. But the winner, as in most states, represented himself as a hardcore Trump supporter who professed his fealty.

The Republicans, of course, nominated Donald Trump for president and elected him to the office. Although the Republican’s national Senate organization has not endorsed Stewart, Trump, whom national Republicans have shown themselves incapable of resisting, praised the bigot heartily.

“Congratulations to Corey Stewart for his great victory for Senator from Virginia. Now he runs against a total stiff, Tim Kaine, who is weak on crime and borders, and wants to raise your taxes through the roof,” Trump said.

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On Trump’s meltdown at the G7

On the day the G7 started, Donald Trump was agitating for Russia to be allowed to join the G7/G8, despite the fact that Russia still occupies Ukrainian land and interfered in the American election (and the U.S. has a nominal trade deficit with Russia, an issue Trump makes of G7 members). Then after Trump had already agreed to the G7 joint statement and left the meeting early, he withdrew his agreement in a fit of social media rage after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a statement against Trump’s tariffs.

Initial reactions from B+D Facebook page and Editor:

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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Resolving the “52% of white women voted for Trump” question

“White women voted for Trump!” Both Trump supporters, trying to defend him from charges of his blatant misogyny, and identitarian Trump critics, trying to condemn white women, will cite this fact. Is it true? Is it meaningful?

Yes, a majority of white women did in fact vote for Trump. Just as they had voted for Romney, McCain, and Bush before him. White people vote Republican. The Republican candidate won the white vote in every election since 1976, according to data available at Cornell University’s Roper Center For Public Opinion Research. (The data only goes back to 1976.)

A majority of white women also voted for the Republican in the 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 election, elections for white CNN exit poll data was easily available. (Roper University data doesn’t break down gender by race, as CNN exit polls do.) In 1996, with Ross Perot running for president as a third-party, 43 percent of white women voted for Dole, and 48 percent for Clinton, while Dole won 49 percent of the white male vote. (2000’s exit polls did not appear to break down the racial vote by gender.)

Trump’s 52 percent share of the white women vote was the worst since 1996. Bush (2004), McCain, and Romney all exceeded 52 percent of the white women vote.

At the same time, the white male vote remains unchanged from 2004, so the gap between the white male vote and the white female vote continues to increase.

In short, Trump did win the white female vote, but that doesn’t imply that his sexism didn’t cost him anything or that white women are particularly supportive of Trump. White women were less supportive of Trump than they were of previous Republican presidential candidates.

A similar misleading narrative is at work when people argue that Trump performed well with minority voters, despite the fact that he had the second worst performance with minorities on record, as Bombs + Dollars has previously shown.

Data below:

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A disaster of a summit

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying could have chosen a better Chinese proverb to describe the meeting between North Korean sadist Kim Jong-un and Korean president Moon Jae-in. “Disasters are never powerful enough to separate real brothers, and a smile is all they need to eliminate the hard feelings,” Hua said.

And VX nerve agent is all it takes for a dictator to murder his actual brother.

The headlines said in 1994 and 2007 that North Korea would end its nuclear program. The headlines say now that they will make a peace deal.

The negotiators on the North Korean side are wily and skilled manipulators. Sitting on the Korean side was a liberal president with sympathies for “peace,” who served in the Roh Moo-hyun administration, which abstained from voting on a UN resolution condemning North Korea’s human rights abuses; and a chief presidential secretary, Im Jong-suk, who served prison time for organizing a propaganda trip to North Korea as a radical student activist in the 1980’s. The chief American negotiator, should a purported meeting go forward, is skilled at getting manipulated, has called Kim “very honorable” for hosting a series of propaganda summits in order to boost his own standing and already appears to trust North Korea enough to give them credit for things it hasn’t agreed to.

These are not things that inspire confidence.

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