Posts tagged ‘North Korea’

Holy Mackerel, or Republicans are Evil

I don’t know what to tell you. I started this blog to write about policy and the failed logic of conservatives and some Democrats and now I am reduced to trying to explain insanity. Oh, and I would have titled this particular blog Holy Shit, but I am trying to clean up my language. I listen to the news now and must say holy shit at least 50 times a day. Oh what I would give for a slow news day.

I have spoken of the fire and fury and then the doubling down, the myriad of contradictory messages coming out of the government, but the one that got me the most was the Village Idiot’s comments about the 755 State Department employees told to go home, actually thanking Vald:

“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll, and as far as I’m concerned I’m very thankful that he let go a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll,” Trump said. “There’s no real reason for them to go back. I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’re going to save a lot of money.”

So people who have dedicated their lives to foreign service are just dead weight on a payroll? Now you know how he really feels just about all Americans, they are a means to an end and when they are no longer necessary, kiss your ass goodbye. If you did not think there was Russian collusion or some kind of a Russian hold on the Village Idiot, this should give you pause.

Republicans are living out a self-fulfilling prophesy. They claim government is incompetent and now, by cracky, they have instituted one that makes incompetent look absolutely first-rate. I have said many times, and been accused of hyperbole, that Republicans are evil. But step back for a moment and think about it. The Village Idiot is not an aberration, but the result of a long campaign to dumb down and lie to the American people. Then they are shocked, shocked I tell you at the monster they have created. Then when he got elected, they all fell in line.  How’s that for evil?

The critical evidence in their evilness was the failure to repeal and replace Obamacare. They only needed 50 votes in the Senate and lo and behold, some of them figured out they had no solutions for the replace part of the replace and the repeal, and at least for some, was too cruel (and maybe career ending which is the only thing most politicians respond to). In fact Republicans have no workable solutions for almost any of our critical challenges we face today. They never had to have any as they opposed Obama and became ever more ideological, and now their ideology is a dead-end with no space to turn around. The difficult problems like economic inequality, global warming, failing infrastructure, education costs going through the roof, and loss of high paying middle class jobs are not solved “by the miracle of the market place”.

But we are faced with an increasingly insane* approach to North Korea which could kill millions and destroy much of the world’s economy, and no approach on the “nonexistent” global warming, both will have dire consequences for it now turns out, us, and our children, and we have insanity and evilness at the helm. Had we elected the establishment Hillary and a few progressive Democrats, both situations would have been in good hands.

And all of this makes no mention of a federal budget or the debt ceiling crisis looming. Once again ideology is going to get in the way. The Republicans will scream deficit, deficit, deficit and they will not authorize any more debt, except we already incurred it when they voted for things so now what they are doing is welshing on paying their bills. An it has become an article of faith with many Americans that debt is just bad and we should balance the budget. There is an element of truth herein controling our debt, but in general both are wrong and I have written copiously about why they are wrong so I won’t go into it again.

So they are poised to destroy America as a leader in the world, maybe start WWIII, do nothing about global warming that will destroy much of the world as we know it, destroy our economic standing in the world, and have no workable solutions for any of our domestic challenges except less government and cutting taxes, and you wonder why I know they are evil? They enabled everything we see before us. The people who pride themselves in believing hard work and discipline is all that is required to succeed, have been selling us a free ride for the last 50 years and nothing is free. Government leveling the playing field and making investments in our future, not our rich is what it is going to take. That would be heresy in Republican land.

One final thought. I watched the Village Idiot claim that Manafort is a nice man, but basically who knows. He knows. He put him in charge of everything for two months. He now knows that the government has the goods on collusion and illegal financial dealing and he is trying to distance himself, with the defense, “I had no idea.” It won’t wash which is why we should be very afraid about North Korea. It is the ultimate subject changer. Have a lovely weekend. I am stocking up on survival rations. That would be wine and lamb. Oh, and some beer and wings when I play my DVD recordings of all ball games. I already have a generator.

*You know I do have one crazy thought. While North Korea is crazy and unpredictable, maybe if they see that Trump is the same way, they might actually fear him. Then again they might actually engage him in a war. We will see.

Surprise!

North Korea is not a surprise, yet it captured the news yesterday, whether true or not. Sooner or later they were going to get there and like Trump the President, who they are is no surprise from who they have been. China and the United States, the two parties that could have solved this together, have failed to, looking to their own selfish needs and kicking the can down the road. The can has now arrived. No more road to kick down. And North Korea is no Soviet Union of old. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) may not force people to be rational. I have argued for years that North Korea is a living hell on earth and that China and the United States could not or would not force regime change was a political and moral failure. Now we have saber rattling with a moron for President.

Make no mistake, the United States could not solve this without China. And China in its own self-serving needs for trade and a firm border to keep immigrants out and buffer to US backed South Korea, could not bring itself to deal with a painful problem. And too many times we have thrown our hands up and just said well, maybe the government will fall. In North Korea, falling means taking everyone with you. That is the critical understanding we have failed to understand. So now we have entered very dangerous times because we refused to do the hard things when we needed to. Now the hard thing is unimaginable. And we have a moron for President.

Oh, and global warming is happening faster and may be more drastic than anticipated. Surprise! Not. We have known about global warming since the 1980’s. We have seen our impact on the planet, not just its weather, but its species for hundreds of years and we do nothing. Oh there are little movements around the edges, but business must come first. Now we are faced with the reality of once again kicking the can down the road, and the road is coming to an end. No more kicking. But like the North Korea problem, we have a moron for a President (not to mention a whole Party in charge of the country whose litmus test is not believing in science).

There has been some debate about whether the latest government report on the rapid increase in the impacts of global warming might force the moron President to change his stance. Sometimes I wonder what planet these people are on. Donald Trump got here illegally by laundering money for the Russians and he certainly colluded with them in the election. The investigation is tightening and he needs his base to terrify Republicans into not impeaching him when the other shoe drops, as it most certainly will. So he is not going to change on global warming, and we are going to see it it full force, and like the Korean thing, the outcome will be disastrous.

Meanwhile in the world of economic inequality, the inequality grows. And sooner or later the markets will come crashing down because the part of the pie that goes to the majority of consumers will be too small to sustain it. The markets are at record highs this week, believing that our moron President will cut regulations and taxes so they can further increase their profits with no concern for the damage they are doing. We have legitimized economic inequality by believing a high tide lifts all boats, except it hasn’t, and we have also kicked this can down the road, and sooner, rather than later, the market is going to crash.

Are you sensing a trend here? We Americans, who can do anything, have done nothing. When things got hard, we went looking for easy simple answers that ignore reality. Enter the Republican Party, facilitated by the Democrats, who know how to pander to Americans looking for the easy answer. Ronald Reagan, the prince of government is the problem, told us to be selfish and seek out gains for ourselves and everyone would prosper. Kiss “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” goodbye. We got tax cuts pay for themselves and the private sector will solve all problems. Driven our roads lately? We are starting to look third world. But don’t forget their main message, investing in government through taxes is a waste of money. Now look at us.

We are reaching a point where ignorance is considered a virtue (remember the rural wisdom of Sarah Palin?),where the ignorance of the base chose a leader that could finally push us over a cliff. We are approaching a critical turning point in the history of our world, conservatism has run its course and almost destroyed us, and we have a moron for President. I don’t think we can wait four years. If Trump continues his “fire and fury” (remember how well shock and awe worked out?) rhetoric, we may not have to worry about global warming as the aftermath of a nuclear war could be much worse. But if we somehow get through this, will we have learned our lesson? Or will we go looking for the next easy answer and not doing the hard things that make life and our country great? I am not optimistic after watching the last 50 years.

America really does have some amazingly hard working and smart individuals and we could solve these problems if we had a leader that made Americans aware of their failures and showed us a path forward.  Even the mindless base of Donald Trump might be led out of the wilderness of ignorance if they understood the challenges before us and a leader who inspires sacrifice.  But where is he/she?  Right now the one we got thinks the solution to jobs is to bring back coal which is never coming back and backed up by a pack or sience and reality deniers.  Hey! Bring on the fire and fury! All we need is a leader who can one again inspire us with, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” and get on with it.  So far we got the moron President and his scared shitless Party.

Monday Morning

I drove my son to the airport at o’dark thirty this morning. It is about a 65 mile drive each way and we left my place at 4:20 am for a 6:30 flight to San Diego. Nothing is ever simple. It turns out that they are doing major work on the bridge that crosses the Sacramento River so we were warned of massive traffic backups. So we were seeing how close you can get to our normal turnoff (I-5) before you get caught in traffic and running alternate routes through our heads. It actually wasn’t that bad and we were able to stay the normal route with little delay, sort of. Then about 2 miles from the Airport, stop and go traffic on a real straight stretch of I-5 and sure enough some kind of spin out and major crash. All I could think of is how do they do it? It is straight, there are no on or off ramps, and they run into each other. Made it to the airport on time so no problem there, but on the return trip I noticed that we got through the construction just in time as there were major backups. Do we drive anywhere anymore that does not have some kind of delay/construction?

Okay on to news of the day. All the talk is about sanctions on North Korea that were worked out in a conference in the Philippines with all the South East Asia nations and us of course. I hope it works because the alternative is very frightening. It really is the only way to go at this time, but I have little optimism. The big assumption here is that North Korea wants more than anything else to stay in power and they will see that to do this they will be willing to give up their nuke program. The thinking is that China wants to maintain North Korea as a southern buffer to USA aligned South Korea, and China has no interest in seeing North Korea fail because there would be a massive refugee problem as North Koreans have a chance to flee their living hell.

I don’t think this logic holds because North Korea is first and foremost an abomination as a country. There is no way for the North Koreans to continue to hold power without the extreme dictatorship and threat from the wicked United States. The assumption that this mentality is rational, I believe, is flawed. Or maybe it is rational. The only way they can stay in power is to hold on to their nukes and continue to stoke the fears of invasion. If things got materially better there, would not the improved economic situation drive change that would be antithetical to the North Koreans holding power? The calculation has to be what can prevent a war until the North Korean regime collapses under its own weight hoping they don’t decide to take Southeast Asia with them. Then there is the dubious calculation that we will empower this brutal dictatorship to remain as long as there is no nuclear threat. I think North Korea sees through this one.

Paul Krugman has an interesting discussion about where Democrats should go on healthcare and I think he is dead on. If you followed my discussions before, to reduce the cost of healthcare for all of us, we have to share the costs with the widest possible pool (universal coverage) and ensure that the plans we have cover most of our needs (regulated market). Now how you get there is the issue (and not counter to what Republicans are pushing which is “choice and deregulated markets” which the CBO scores again and again as a failure). So is single payer the answer? The answer is maybe, but he points out that other countries get there by everything from Obamacare expanded to Government healthcare:

Look at the latest report by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund, comparing health care performance among advanced nations. America is at the bottom; the top three performers are Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands. And the thing is, these three leaders have very different systems.

 

Britain has true socialized medicine: The government provides health care directly through the National Health Service. Australia has a single-payer system, basically Medicare for All — it’s even called Medicare. But the Dutch have what we might call Obamacare done right: individuals are required to buy coverage from regulated private insurers, with subsidies to help them afford the premiums.

 

And the Dutch system works, which suggests that a lot could be accomplished via incremental improvements in the A.C.A., rather than radical change. Further evidence for this view is how relatively well Obamacare, imperfect as it is, already works in states that try to make it work — did you know that only 5.4 percent of New Yorkers are now uninsured?

So he then argues that give the systems in place, instead of focusing on single payer, we improve Obamacare with maybe a single payer option as politically and functionally the best way forward. I have to agree. I have argued for single payer forever, but I am not ideologically wedded to it and neither are most Democrats although that is how they are painted. What we want is universal coverage and the best way forward to do that. That is the real debate and I think Krugman nailed it.

Finally, I think what is worth noting this morning is how the Trump administration is trying to open up public lands in the West to coal mining. Now aside from the argument that coal used in anything destroys the planet with its CO2 emissions and the damage done to the environment itself in the mining, the question has to be, who wants the coal when there are cheaper cleaner fuels? Also one might ask, what jobs when coal mining in general is going to more and more mechanization. But the real point here is that there is not a shortage of coal based up demand and so this is an attempt to say, if we supply it they will buy it. I think we have already seen this fail over and over again. There has to be pentup demand. So this, besides destroying the environment and contributing to the overheating of the planet will be another experiment like Kansas (tax cuts will pay for themselves) where we will see the failure of Republican ideas. As Thomas Wolfe famously wrote, You Can’t Go Home Again. Time to move on.

Shooting in Washington, Julius Caesar, North Korea, and Little Jeffy Sessions

I am not surprised.  Sadly sooner or later someone was going to go postal as the Republican Party did their damage to lives and our country.  Of course it will just make the situation worse, and like all or at least most Americans, hope no one was seriously hurt.  This is how one loses a democracy because as bad as I and others think Republicans are, violence just begets violence.  One of the representatives at the GOP softball practice that was not shot, who, according to reports, was helping the wounded said this:

“My adrenaline is raging. It’s not easy to take when you see people around you being shot and you don’t have a weapon yourself.”

Softball uniforms with guns.  Perfect.  They will never see the connection between their hard hearted policies and more guns for an answer to everything. We still don’t know who the shooter was or what was his motive so all of this is just supposition.  But the irony here is ripe.  If it is a disgruntled constituent, it was not the Democrats who were pushing violence and 2nd amendment solutions to take back their country.  We will certainly get the both sides do it argument again, but after this election, that is hard to justify.  

All of this again plays into the ongoing brouhaha about Julius Caesar in the park:

Delta Air Lines and Bank of America drew headlines this week for pulling their support from New York’s Public Theater in response to criticism about its production of “Julius Caesar,” in which the titular character — made up to look like Mr. Trump — is assassinated.

Apparently most people only got the scene where they killed Caesar, not how it destroy the democracy they were trying to save, and let slip the dogs of war.  It is a warning tale not a prescription.  Oh, and whether you remember or not, a few years ago they had an Obama like character play Julius.  Where was the false outrage then?  It is just a dramatic ploy to try to make the play more contemporary for those who can’t draw the obvious lines.  Also clearly as even Ross Douthat noted:

The theater goers who show up to watch a Shakespeare play in Central Park are — I hope — not high on the Secret Service’s watch list. And the play’s tragic arc does not exactly make tyrannicide look like the wisest of strategies…

Enough said.  It is nice to know that companies like Delta and BofA are looking out for our best interests by dumbing us down.  Let’s talk North Korea.  Again it is truly sad about young Otto Warmbeir, but, and a big but, what was he thinking going to North Korea.  I spent some of my young life flying reconnaissance along the DMZ and I was well versed in just who they were.  Otto learned the hard way.  I cringe when I see his sobbing plea for leniency which of course they will not grant.  One, if one could, should spit in their eye and die quickly rather than be used as a pawn in their games. At least that was my thinking back in the day. I cannot recommend The Orphan Masters Son enough.  It is fiction and a fantasy, but captures the inhumanity and insanity perfectly.

Finally, just some  thoughts about Little Jeffy Sessions.  Little because of stature and heart, he is very little.  I think Frank Bruni caught it perfectly when he said:

But as I watched him, a flustered Gump in the headlights, I saw a broader story, a dark parable of bets misplaced and souls under siege. This is what happens when you draw too close to Trump.

You’re diminished at best, mortified at worst. You’ve either done work dirtier than you meant to or told fibs bigger than you ought to or been sullied by contact or been thrown to the wolves.

One day, you’re riding high on the myth of Trump as a transformative figure and reasoning that some tweaking of norms and maybe even breaking of rules are an inevitable part of the unconventional equation.

The next, you’re ensnared in his recklessness, at the mercy of his tempestuousness and quite possibly the butt of his rage…

And we as a nation, thanks to those who did not vote, voted third party, or were stupid enough to believe his lies, are also diminished at best.  When will this nightmare ever end?

Festering

When we ignore our issues, they always come back to bite up. In fantasy television (Arrow, Flash, Blacklist, Blindspot) they are always keeping secrets which is most of the plot and you just want to scream, “JUST TELL THEM or JUST DEAL WITH IT!”  I can think of many shows that don’t need this nonsense to give us good drama, like Madam Secretary, Elementary, or for that matter Victoria on PBS.  Oh, and Dr. Who (yes it’s back) doesn’t either.  It gets rather tiresome as a plot device and in real life it can be disastrous.  There is also the tendency at least of Flash and Arrow to jump into the fray without a plan, and it never works out well. There is a lesson here too.

Enter North Korea:

State media in North Korea on Thursday warned the U.S. of a “super-mighty pre-emptive strike” following remarks from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in which he said the U.S. was looking for ways to increase pressure on Pyongyang over its nuclear program. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has repeatedly threatened the U.S.—and hit back at admonitions from China and the UN Security Council over its missile tests. “In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes,” said the Rodong Sinmun, a newspaper run by the North Korean Workers’ Party. Tillerson said Wednesday, “We’re reviewing all the status of North Korea, both in terms of state sponsorship of terrorism as well as the other ways in which we can bring pressure on the regime in Pyongyang to re-engage with us, but re-engage with us on a different footing than past talks have been held.”

I have noted before that the Trump administration is truly scary in dealing with this situation*, but in truth, there is no easy answer and the problem is because we have let it fester without resolving it for over 50 years.  Now it may in intractable.  Nicholas Kristof tells us this morning:

Concern about the North Korean response is what prevented Richard Nixon from a military strike in 1969 when the North shot down a U.S. plane, killing all 31 Americans on board. And it’s what has prevented presidents since from striking North Korea as it has crossed one red line after another, from counterfeiting U.S. hundred-dollar bills to expanding its nuclear program.

And every year we wait, the damage gets more and more extensive if we move.  We kept hoping he/they would collapse on their own, and with China’s help they won’t.  Make no mistake.  Korea is a living hell of mind control and propaganda.  Their people are starving and routinely die or get sent to labor camps.  Adam Johnson wrote a defining novel (mostly fantasy), The Orphan Master’s Son, but the backdrop is real) that would wake you up to what they have created.  He has been criticized for being too dark and exaggerating and I don’t think so.  I used to fly reconnaissance on the DMZ and immersed myself in North Korea.  I think he nailed it.

So the point here is really fairly simple.  There are good reasons we did not win the Korean War, the main one is that we did not want to fight a full-blown war with China.  And China has been central to us not taken military action since then.  China is terrified of the rush across the borders if North Korea ever collapsed.  They all want out and if there is an opening, they will take it.  Now we face catastrophic blow back for a military strike on North Korea, and it will only get worse.

We keep hoping he will fail and we fail to recognize that his fear of failing is what keeps North Korea going.  We, the world should have taken action a long time ago on a country as immoral and inhuman as North Korea.  We did not and now we face an uncertain future with even fewer choices and those could be much more costly.  Hard decisions are hard.  Not making them may turn out to be far more damaging than facing the blow back when you could have.  Isn’t that something all our mothers used to tell us.  Own up to your problem now because it will only get worse?  Well here we are at worse.

*Oh, and if you are wondering what our Dear Leader is worrying about this morning, it is the attack on dairy farmers by Canada.  No, I am not kidding.  “Canada, what they’ve done to our dairy farm workers, it’s a disgrace,” Trump said. “Farmers in Wisconsin and New York state are being put out of business.” How is it the most powerful and wealthy nations on earth is always a victim? Really Candada? Eh?

Compromise, Eqivocating, and All That Jazz

What Me Worry?

Trump took two major national security decisions in the past few weeks. One was to strike Syria for using poison gas. Trump summoned his national security team, asked for options on Syria, chose the cruise-missile strike — which was right — and won praise for acting “presidential.”

The other decision you didn’t see. It was Trump dismantling budgets and regulations undergirding U.S. climate and environmental protection policies — in his nutty effort to revive U.S. coal-fired energy — while quietly announcing plans to withhold a promised $32.5 million U.S. contribution for the U.N. Population Fund, which supports family planning and maternal health.

Unlike the Syria decision, Trump made the second move without seeking a comprehensive briefing from experts — he controls the world’s greatest collection of climate scientists at NASA, NOAA, the E.P.A., the Pentagon and the C.I.A. — and without ever asking for an intelligence briefing on how the combination of climate change, environmental degradation, drought and population explosions helped trigger the civil war in Syria, spawn terrorist groups like Boko Haram around Africa’s central Lake Chad (which has lost 90 percent of its water mass since 1963) and become the main force pushing tens of thousands of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa into Europe each year, and from Central America up to the U.S.


I promise you that Trump will spend the rest of his presidency dealing with the disruptions caused by this cocktail of population explosion and climate/environmental degradation — and his generals know it. But in today’s politics, bombing is considered presidential and ignoring science and defunding family planning, when populations are exploding and droughts expanding, are ho-hum back-page news.  Thomas Friedman

So lobbing bombs with no real strategic policy is presidential and being an idiot on science and not making the hard choices about our future is just ignored? Yep that is it.  People, even media types don’t like complexity.  It is why the North Korean problem is being played as the bully in the school yard. You just have to stand up to him.  Right?

It is an amazing world we live in today where rational thought just seems to have drifted away. I watched the Senator from Iowa, Joni Ernst give a town hall meeting where she was challenged head on with questions like how she can support a man who treats women so poorly and watched her equivocate away. While she finds some of his behavior “wrong”, she supports his conservative ideas, except of course the Wall and his stand on NAFTA because Iowa needs to export corn to Mexico.  What is it in her little conservative brain that says it’s okay to legitimize Cheeto-Head with her support even though many of his policies will hurt Iowans?

Meanwhile in the White House the President calls Turkey’s President to congratulate him on…?  He had just passed a referendum to turn the democracy into a dictatorship.  Did the Trump White House even know this?  Speaking of did they know anything, where oh where is the “armada” sailing to North Korea?  Involved in a training exercise in Australia.  We either got a lie or total obliviousness from the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the National Security advisor.  Oh and let’s not forget their puppet, Sean Spicer.  Is it incompetence or is it,,,?

In media land I listened to Kate Snow, who wants to be everybody’s friend, not respond to an outrageous claim by a Republican spinner about how Republican Congressmen where being challenge about Cheeto-Head’s taxes in town hall meetings and it was just stupid because there was nothing they could do.  Really Kate?  You believe that garbage?  There was a bill in the House to make all Presidents show their tax returns and it got nowhere because Republicans were not going to have it.  Do you even know what is going on in the world?  Maybe there will be a place for you at the White House after Spicer self-destructs.

Then there is always those appeals for compromise.  Why can’t the two sides just work together?  Well take global warming.  If one side doesn’t believe it exists, there is no problem, ergo, no need for a fix.  Take health care.  One side doesn’t believe government has any place in providing health care and the other thinks universal health care is a right.  Obamacare was the great compromise.  Now what?  How do you compromise with dismantling it?  Take tax cuts.  There was the perfect mindless op-ed in the NYT about how Republicans just need to keep it simple* and reduce the corporate rate down to 15%.  Anybody know what the Fortune 500 actually pay in taxes?  No where near as high as 15%.  But they go on and on based on the belief that if the rich had more money, we would all benefit.  Corporate profits are greater now than they have ever been and do you see jobs? So where would you compromise on that one?

Does anybody have their brain engaged anymore?  We have an incompetent and ignorant White House.  We have a President who has the vocabulary of a 4th grader (probably because he does not read). We have a Republican controlled Congress that is pushing policies that further enable the rich and fail miserably for the rest of us.  We have a media that ignores facts and pretends this is all just partisan differences.  And the Holy Grail is compromise?  WTF?  We are with Alice when she fell down the rabbit hole and we are pretending up is down and down is up.  I simply can’t watch it anymore.

*You really ought to read the op-ed and the comments.  You know who you are dealing with when they make this statement:

One sure lesson from the health care setback is the old admonition “Keep it simple, stupid.” The Republicans tried to fix the trillion-dollar health insurance market instead of keeping the focus on repealing Obamacare.

Okay, you get it.  The people who wrote this don’t give a damn about all the people who would die once they lost Obamacare.  They also don’t care about jobs because if they did they would know that corporations are not creating them.

 

An Disquieting Quiet

North Korea is ominously quiet after their rocket failure while we rub their nose in it.  I don’t think this is good diplomacy.  I am really quite surprised Kim Jong-un did not attack South Korea while Vice President Pence was there baiting him.  I just don’t think the damaged and crazy Kim Jung-un takes gloating well.  Our press is full of “pre-emptive attack” language and maybe we destroyed their missile by hacking their rocket system.  Not good.  Really not good.

No, I do not think we should pander to the North Korean leader, but nor should we blatantly bait him.  At this point there is no good solution to this problem.  He will not negotiate.  So far he has been impervious to sanctions, although China has been a sieve in this regard.  He has enough “other” weapons and a militarized state (2 million standing army) that he could do massive damage, not to mention some nuclear weapons.  So a first strike or a “lesson” would turn ugly very quickly and put millions of lives at risk.  The only real option at this point is to find a way to keep him in check and hope finally for his removal and a moderation in North Korea.  Considering that it is a country like a prison where everyone is brainwashed, this may be pie in the sky thinking.

Once in a while the pundits actually have someone on who really knows North Korea and then it is time to listen.  One young Korean lady I listened to felt we were in very dangerous times.  Kim Jong-un is very, very paranoid.  He wants mutually assured distruction (MAD) to ensure the security of the country he and his father have turned into a living hell.  So when you put forces in the area and then tell him, as Mike Pence did, “that recent American military strikes in Syria and Afghanistan showed President Donald Trump’s resolve should not be questioned, but Pyongyang vowed to continue missile and nuclear tests,” you are simply raising the the threat something will happen.  One crazy man to another is not a way to lower the tension.

“I don’t want to telegraph what I’m doing or what I’m thinking … we’ll see what happens,” Trump told “Fox & Friends” Tuesday. “I hope things work out well. I hope there’s going to be peace. But you know, they’ve been talking with this gentleman for a long time … everybody’s been outplayed. They’ve all been outplayed by this gentleman and we’ll see what happens.”

Tough love is the approach the Cheeto-Heads are going to use.  Within rational parameters this might work well.  But with no understanding of the madness of a country like North Korea, and a history of bullying and bluster to get your way, I do not think this is going to turn out well.  It is one thing to send a quiet tough message and it is another to shout it to the world.  I keep looking to the West from my house to see if I see a mushroom cloud.

*I strongly recommend the novel The Orphan Master’s Son: A Novel  by Adam Johnson.  It is a portrait of a country that is truer than you want to believe in this work of fiction.

Wednesday

So many things out there this morning.  I think we have about beat the Syria attack to death.  At this point we have no idea what comes next, what our policy is, and did this make any sense at all.  It certainly felt good lashing out, but did it really do anything other than provide missile firing footage for the 10 o’clock news?  Of course Chetto-Heads son, Eric, claim that it proved his Dad did not collude with the Russians.  I think after looking at the evidence of who knew what when and how little real damage we did, you could argue just the oppositie with the same lack of evidence, that Cheeto-Head plan this with the Russians to help his numbers and distract back home.  I hope Eric isn’t put in charge of anything important with those critical thinking skills.

I guess I could comment on the Sean Spicer Hitler thing, but he is who he is, has to explain the unexplainable, so misrepresenting history and reality is his job.  To his credit and rare in Cheeto-head circles, he actually admitted he was wrong and apologized.  I think that should end it.  Nancy Pelosi’s call for his firing is rather stupid.  It makes Democrats look shrill and stupid.  The stupid part is do you really want a more effective propaganda minister to replace Sean?  Time for Nancy to move along.

There is the over sold United Airlines flight and dragging the poor guy off the plan.  What is there to say.  Flying except for Southwest, has become an exercise in frustration and discomfort.  There is a good article in the NYT about how we might use rating customer care to improve service in what is mostly a monopolistic industry, but get real, most of us are looking for the cheapest seats because we want a little left over to spend on the destination.  If we got some real competition like high speed rail, the world would really change.

There is Kansas voting Republican, but with much less a margin that before giving Democrats a hope.  I think the real story is that only 30% of Kansas voters voted.  Okay, special election and only one candidate, but really?  And maybe voting is getting like flying and we need to make it a whole lot simpler.  I still think it ought to be mandatory and invent an internet system that is secure and safe.  I pay my taxes on line, why can’t we vote on-line?

North Korea should give you pause.  Once again one has to ask, what’s the plan? We have our navy moving into the area, and what could be a push and shove match could get out of hand very quickly.  Certainly we have to decide what to do with Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but the blow back here could be catastrophic.  I worry we are acting reflexively again, instead of playing the long game.  She who must never be mentioned here thinks that is how Cheeto-Head got through his business life, with bluster and bluffing.  Well with a nut case like Kim, bluffing could turn nasty really quick. Note China just sent North Korean ships back to North Korea, not accepting their coal.  The stakes are rising.

Tillerson is in Russia today and we are waiting to see if Putin will snub him.  Putin is not going to change so I have no idea what we hope to gain unless we give up a lot.  He is partner to Assad; he is trying to retake Ukraine; he is all about disrupting European elections, not to mention our own, and like the Republicans in their eight years of obstructing government, it is working.  I can’t help wondering if this is all a kabuki dance.  Putin wants the sanctions lifted and some real theater here with no real changes could get Cheeto-Head to lift the sanctions and help their failing economy.

And that gets us back to the Russia in America.  The plot, while we are all being distracted with shiny missile blasts and ships heading to North Korea, thickens as we find out there was a FISA warrant on one of Cheeto-Head’s foreign policy advisors during the campaign.  The thing to note here is there has to either be a whole lot of smoke, or flames detected for a FISA warrant issued on an American citizen.  So there was a whole bunch of listening and so we have not seen anything yet.  Meanwhile Spain, at the request of the American Government, picked up one of the Russian hackers.  Will he spill his guts for a deal.  My guess is with all this going on, the Cheeto-Head administration is looking for a lot of shiny objects to distract us.  Letting Sean Spicer blab on is just the tip of the iceberg, and war is the big head turner.  How many days now has he been president?  Seen any jobs?

Clueless in Washington

President Trump warned on Wednesday that he would not tolerate the “heinous” chemical weapons attack in Syria, opening the door to a greater American role in protecting the population in a vicious civil war that he has always said the United States should avoid. The president declined to offer any details about potential action. But he said his horror at the images of “innocent children, innocent babies” choked by poison gas in a rebel-held area of Syria had caused him to reassess his approach. Only days after the White House declared it would be “silly” to persist in trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Mr. Trump said, “My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.” NYT

So what exactly has changed?  Have there not been chemical attacks before?  Are there not people dying by the thousands? Oh wait.  He saw it on TV, maybe Fox News, so now it is real.  This, like trade and healthcare reform, may be a whole lot more complicated than he thought.  That is what happens when you haven’t thought very much about anything.  Some of the more savvy pundits were pointing out that Cheeto-Head does not have a foreign policy, similar to not having any real plans for healthcare* or trade.  Rex Tillerson looks like a ship without a rudder when it comes to North Korea or Syria.  We are just not going to say anything more about North Korea and I guess they will go away.  Isn’t it great to have businessmen in charge of the country?

I don’t know what Americans were thinking (or not thinking) when they elected someone who had no way forward, no plan, no underpinning ideology or vision other than it is really going to be great, really really big, and we will hire the best people.  On that last one, most are inexperienced, incompetent, and fools.  What we are witnessing is the ignorance of the man and his voters.  You know the type, they have an easy answer for everything and everyone else is incompetent or lazy or corrupt.  It means they haven’t looked at the details.  Just cancel all trade deals?  Not if you don’t want to savage the American economy and start trade wars.  Just repeal and replace healthcare, simple right?  Just build a wall, except there is no money if we want to rebuild our infrastructure and it does not address the real problem, our dysfunctional immigration system. Now we are faced with Syria and North Korea and guess what?  All the choices are bad.

And he had no clue.  He is the poster boy for Republicans with all the easy answers that will not cost anybody anything.  When you look at his whole family, they are people carefully shielded from the real world most of the rest of us live in.  But for Cheeto-Head himself, everyday he shows his lack of knowledge about basic things that make this country work.  Don’t get me wrong.  Healthcare is really really impossible if you want to maintain a free market system.  I will get to North Korea and Syria in a moment.  Trade is tough because they are winners and losers and changing how we make sure those left behind don’t get left behind is not easy (there are no Republican solutions unless you think for example that making coal king again is even doable).

Syria is a mess.  Sure we can jump in and be against Assad, but who are we with.  We certainly don’t want to be empowering another radical islamic faction like we did in Afghanistan when we armed the Taliban to get rid of the Russians (I wonder if Cheeto-Head even is aware of this). And of course we would be going up against the Russians who support Assad, which is why I don’t really think Cheeto-Head will do anything.  I think Hillary and others had the the right solution, and oh darest I say it, we will need another coalition with NATO to form a neutral zone.  Will it be costly, deadly, and difficult?  Absolutely.  But if we are a civilized people who understands we are all in this together, then we have to walk our values.  But Cheeto-Head doesn’t have any and he is like a 12-year old waking up to the complexities of life.  It should scare you to death.

North Korea is a problem that has festered too long.  Kim Jung-un is nuts and indications are he may be losing his grip on power. Remember Henry V.  He had all this squabbling Dukes and Lords so he attack France and united them.  Kim Jung-un may need us to attack him.  Suppose Cheeto-Head has read Shakespeare?  Add to that China’s absolute terror that if North Korea fails they will be overrun with refugees.  So we have choices to make.  Can we wait them out and maybe get China to play a stronger hand?  Will we get anything better.  Should we preemptively strike to take out his nuclear capability and will that cause a total war on the Korean peninsula with the death of millions?  Does that threaten Japan?  If we do nothing, will he stay in power and become a real threat to the continental U.S.  Who knew it was so complicated (Obama, Hillary, maybe even Romney and Bush).

We have elected an ignorant and intellectually challenged man to the most powerful office in the world and he has no sense of history, science, or critical thinking, just gut feelings and fake news.  And like almost half this nation he has no understanding of our way forward or the complexities that challenge us.  We should be very afraid.

*Congress (Republicans) are making noise about another attempt at healthcare reform. It is all smoke and mirrors.  Katy Tur, MSNBC talking head, tells us that the two sides just need to come together and fix healthcare.  Was she talking about Democrats and Republicans, or just the Republicans themselves.  And they have no fix if we define fix as keeping the good stuff and getting rid of the bad.  Their only fix is to dump the problem on the individual and walk away.

Willful Ignorance

I think that about describes where we are.  I was watching Vice News (HBO) yesterday while trying to lift weights (Vice is about the only place where news is actually news, not political reporting and they report on what is happening in the world).  Vice was reporting on rising sea levels and how many of Cheeto-Heads properties will be affected and may be he ought to get on board.  Then they interviewed some old lady walking along the water front near one of his properties that thought it was all nonsense.  I literally shouted at her willful ignorance.  The anger I felt toward her was not healthy.  I think it is a reaction to watching willful ignorance being acted out today by Cheeto-Head and his cronies as they gut a government they have no clue how it works or what they are doing.  Willful ignorance is what got us here and my tolerance for it is now nonexistent.

Paul Krugman gave us this this morning to maybe understand how willful ignorance has been cultivated and grown to support Republican ideology, and now it is bearing fruit, sour fruit:

Think for a minute about the vision of government and its role that the right has been peddling for decades.

In this vision, much if not most government spending is a complete waste, doing nobody any good. The same is true of government regulations. And to the extent to which spending does help anyone, it’s Those People — lazy, undeserving types who just so happen to be a bit, well, darker than Real Americans.

I have heard a version of this where I live (conservative country) for years. Now they are trying to “fix” Obamacare and cut all that “waste” in government, except they don’t have a clue how to fix anything and their concept of waste is way out of proportion to reality.  Once you start believing your own lies, then there is no way to understand what does need fixing.

Thanks to these misperceptions, carefully nurtured by right-wing media, politicians can often get away with running on promises of drastic spending cuts: Many, perhaps most voters don’t see how such cuts would affect their lives.

But what will happen if anti-big-government politicians find themselves in a position to put their agenda into practice? Voters will quickly get a lesson in what slashing spending really means — and they won’t be happy.

I guess the real question is how many people will be killed, lose everything, and how much damage can the country sustain before willful ignorance gives way to enlightenment?  Willful ignorance is how ideology gets firmly rooted in place.  Willful ignorance has a long history in human civilization in our belief in religion.  So I guess you can see we have maybe an innate gene that tells us to selectively pick out the facts supporting what we want to believe instead of looking at the whole body of knowledge and asking uncomfortable questions.  The former is comfortable and quite frankly lazy.  The later can be disturbing and require mental work.  It is called critical thinking and what really makes us human.

I guess that is why cults survive.  They give everyone something very simple to believe in that answers all the questions and you can just go mindlessly through life assuming you have found the path.  That is embodied in the Republican worship of the market place, all government is bad, and if we just got our freedom from government (the libertarian branch) all things would be peachy.  But Global Warming does exist, caused by man, and you are soon going to be up to your ass in water.  Government is clunky, but mostly does good and things we need.  Now Trump and his willfully ignorant followers are trying to dismantle government based upon ignorance and false assumptions.  This is not going to turn out well.

Oh, and if you did not have enough to fret about with Cheeto-Head running amok, his Secretary of Defense, Rex Tillerson has just threatened Korea with military action, and we are not willing to negotiate.  I have to tell of my understanding of the North Koreans (spent a couple of years flying in and out of South Korea and doing reconnaissance missions along the DMZ), that is music to their ears.  It is not posturing for a better negotiation deal.  It is providing fuel to allow Kim Jong-un to rally the troops and maintain his control. He is North Korea’s version of Cheeto-Head.  It is exactly what he wants.  I hope I am wrong, but I don’t think this is going to turn out well.

This is not entirely Cheeto-Heads fault as North Korea has not been dealt with effectively in the past and now things are really dangerous.  In many ways we have ourselves been willfully ignorant about the horror of that country and not doing the hard thing way back when it would have been less hard. But talk of repealing Obamacare and budgets that hurt most Americans may become small potatoes if Cheeto-Head is left to his own devices.  Happy Friday.  I think this is why wine and beer were invented at the dawn of civilization.  At least we can go out in an inebriated haze.