China Must Tame Kim Jong-Un & Save Face – Intricate but Not Impossible

Forgive, is the message of Christmas.  But do not forget.  The person who betrayed trust is still in that body.  Trust is a gift best reserved for those who deserve it. We reserve the word “disgrace” for a serious reason – it is the permanent loss of credibility and assumed morality; it is a revocation of the gift of grace.

In 2005 Doug Bandow resigned from the Cato Institute because he accepted bribes from Jack Abramoff.  He published articles in the Copley News Service, favoring Abramoff’s clients.  He served almost four years of a six-year, plea-agreement sentence.

My question:  why does anyone listen to him or publish his opinions?  Well, the Huffington Post raised their hand.

His recent HuffPost opinion article is about Korea.  After visiting Pyongyang in June, he says, “Washington sees North Korea as a security challenge. Yet the North threatens America only because the U.S. intervened in the conflict between the two Koreas. The case for defending now populous and prosperous South Korea expired long ago.”

What did they do to him while he was there?  Did they bribe him too?  Does he know Dennis Rodman?  Is he still an American?

He proposes more-of-the-same diplomacy.  From 1953 until today,  North Korean’s persistent, winning tactic has been to extract financial aid and other concessions from the West by making promises to be good or do better.  Once they have what they need, they break all the promises, ratchet up the oppression of their people, and take food out of the mouths of their children for money to develop rockets and nuclear weapons.  (I wonder if they would be willing to sell such things to terrorists?)

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The whole mindset of engaging North Korea in diplomacy is ludicrous.  How many times will we settle for the same false promises to liberalize their iron-fisted culture, or scale back their military?  After six decades of this soft-headed, “gentle” approach, what do we have to show?  Rocket Man.  Doing more of what has not worked is insanity.

What do we have now?  Change.  China knows North Korea intimately.  They buy most of their exports.  They have people living and working there.  They are North Korea’s lifeblood.  As long the N. Koreans stay “in bounds” and do not unsettle the region, China sees them as proxy insulation between themselves & Western encroachment.  But the “buffer” has begun to attract rather than distract Western attention, and not in a good way.

China has finally broken ranks with the North Korean government.  They have more to lose than gain from world condemnation or another Korean War.  China knows that the U.S. cannot, and will not allow any kind of attack on itself or its allies.

Our current stance is likely to spur the Chinese to neutralize Kim Jong-un and achieve their ultimate goal: stability.  Appearances are key.  No one wants their fingerprints on this effort.  Deniability is the standard by which all will be judged.

I am confident that China, South Korea, the U.S., and Japan are engaged in every type of discussions and plans they can imagine.  The main obstacle to resolution is “face.”  All parties need to preserve and improve their “face” at home and in the world.  How to tame or replace Kim Jong-un is a top priority for some of the world’s most powerful governments.  I have faith that Chinese ingenuity and American courage will combine to defuse threats to peace in the region.

(Discussion of Face: https://wp.me/p1qZOe-C7)

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One Global Democracy? – Imagine That

Tucker Carlson, of Fox News, either has trouble filling his air time, or he has a serious sadistic streak.  Or, maybe he wants to add humor, and not-too-thinly-veiled ridicule to his, usually serious repartee.  I did not know whether to laugh or cry when he interviewed Peter Schurman, involved with MoveOn.org, a San Francisco-based, non-profit, political activist group, founded by two entertainment-software entrepreneurs.

MoveOn was organized in 1998, to oppose the impeachment of Bill Clinton over his handling of Monica Lewinsky.  They support liberal causes (anti-war, anti-SUV, anti-Bush, Pro-Michael Moore, Pro-Obama, Pro-Obama, Pro-Bernie Sanders) with fund-raising and virtual petitioning.

Mr Schurman joined MoveOn in 2001 as its first salaried employee.  His MBA from Yale is an academic achievement, but this new thesis would make any dean groan, and any John Lennon fan cheer.

One Global Democracy is an idea whose time is never.  Their website starts off, “SAN FRANCISCO, CA, November 29, 2017 — A small group of highly credentialed progressive leaders have announced in a video a new movement for One Global Democracy ..”

The tenet:  eliminate all national borders (“Imagine there’s no countries,”) and give each person one vote (“Imagine all the people sharing all the world”).  Allow anyone in the world to go to any other place in the world to live (“A brotherhood of man”).

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I would like to see him make this concept work on one block where he lives in San Francisco.  A few hundred homeless people would add appropriately to the mix of people living and working there. (Imagine all the people living life in peace”)

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They offer a video that is supposed to explain the idea and how it can work.  They ask for donations to fund the effort.

I watched it.  Circular logic, logical gaps, vague references, and not one working model of getting everyone to work together to solve problems. (“Imagine all the people living for today”) What would be a quorum?  How long would the voting stay open?

This group of “highly credentialed progressives” are clueless.  They propose to give everyone an anonymous voting account and have everyone vote on every issue.  (“And the world will be as one”) Sounds like “Animal Farm,” to me.  Let’s look at this idea from eight perspectives:

  1. Knowledge, skills, and understanding – Where do we have citizens of the world who know enough and understand the mechanisms to solve problems and set rules?  How many problems does the world have?  Who can know all that?
  2. Agreement – Couples disagree; juries of 12 people cannot always agree on one issue. How would this system find agreement among 7.5 billion people who do not share culture or language?  How can someone in Africa know answers on any local or global need or solution?
  3. Majority rules – Africans may become the majority population of the world by 2100. Who could end the tyranny of the majority?  How would we keep minorities from resisting egregious, burdensome discrimination?  What if the majority is wrong and makes bad choices based on superstition, rumor, and gossip?  What would be the common language?  Chinese?  Who would do the translations?  How would we handle issues such as gay marriage?  Abortion?  Euthanasia?  Civil rights?  Energy?
  4. Resources – how would resources be acquired, and allocated among areas and people?  Who would pay taxes?  What jobs would survive?
  5. Infrastructure – Would the whole world have to agree to build a bridge or highway in Bangladesh? How could it get done if approved?  What if the majority changed their minds half way through the project?  How would public safety work?  Health care? Finance?  Agriculture?  Education?  Justice?
  6. Economics – If resources were evenly distributed, where would communities get the money for local schools? If skilled and unskilled, educated and uneducated people were paid equally, is that not communism?  (a failed concept) Would Americans be willing to give up 85% of their belongings and money to equalize Africans in poverty.  (read Do Americans Really Want Economic Equality? – Not Beyond Our Borders)
  7. Ideology – Could the dominate religion force their beliefs on everyone else? Could women subjugate men?  Could children rule adults?  Could tribes require everyone join one or the other tribes?  What about sworn enemies and long-standing disputes?
  8. Leadership – How would we choose leaders? – “friends” or “likes?” How would we manage and coordinate in natural and man-made crises?  Who would set the agenda and propositions?

I could go on, but why should I?  This naïve notion that democracy answers all questions and needs is useless and worthless.  How many countries, and how many people do not live in democracies?  Why should they change? How have they managed all these eons without an 18th century innovation?

Most of the world has no idea of plurality.  Why should they prefer democracy to the structure they have now?  Civilization evolved to meet the conditions of life.  Witness the mayhem in the Middle East where we have imposed democracy.  Ethnic and religious strongmen immediately launched deadly, exhausting conflicts to take control.  Consider Africa, the Balkans, and Venezuela.  Civilization is not uniform or universal.

MoveOn’s self-styled, credentialed Olympians have not thought beyond selfie fund raising, as the TV interview revealed.  Please, progressives, do not let these people seduce or represent you.

Their fantasies do make a pretty song though (John Lennon, Imagine).

American Graffiti – The Old Model of Sex

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The rules of sex are both formal and informal for men and women, in America.

Boys and girls learn about love and sex in the climate of their youth.  They learn and practice the rules and taboos of their “tribe.”  When I was a boy, men were macho.  My dad was strong, facile, and strict.  Movies were John Wayne, Micky Spillane, and Gone with the Wind.  Just after World War II, society’s standards for men were macho, and aggressive; standards for women were demure, cosmetic, social accessories, fiercely-devout housewives, ardent lovers, and stalwart, protectors of children.

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Men pursued sexual contact, despite protests from a woman (e.g. Gone with the Wind).  “Wolf Whistles” were some crude men’s idea of how to get women’s attention.  Boys had a mandate to “get girls” (e.g. American Graffiti).  We had no idea how, but we could not let it be known we were kiss-less virgins.  Dates were events with timorous, sexual fumbles.  Men “scored” with women.  They used baseball as a metaphor.  First base was kissing; second base was touching breasts; you can guess third base and home run – and strike out.  Virginity was for boys to lose, and girls to keep; that was the battle of the sexes.

Boys’ bathrooms or gym locker rooms were the venues for lame boasts of conquest, and face-saving lies.  Every boy had a story to tell that would lift his score on the invisible scoreboard of manliness.  The desperate would name local, popular boy-legends; girls with “reputations.”

Anyone who watches the series “Mad Men,” sees the power structure, and vulnerability men and women accepted and took for granted.  Everyone tacitly agreed that powerful men can press themselves on women.  Today, we call them “predators.”

Women did not want these advances then, either.  They just learned to ignore or deal with it, and moved on.  It was job survival for a woman in the workplace to tactfully divert the advances of the men she worked with.

Then came the late 60’s,70’s, and 80’s; confusing and defining times for both sexes.  Young, unmarried women were “liberated.”  We had a mix of traditional and uninhibited values.  It was a second “suffrage.”  Some men and women connected in “adulterous” liaisons.  Others lived dual lives, with a traditional family, and a sexual second.  Some had “open” marriages that allowed sex with non-spouses.

This historic, buffet of choices causes conflict today.  The recent pillory and massacre of powerful men based on accusations of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances is a cultural sea change.  The information age is giving women a platform, permission, and encouragement to revolt against the subjugating, sexual power men have held over subordinate women forever.

This is a confusing time for men who like women.  Men are on notice to be “appropriate” with all women.  Are platonic friendships between men and women possible now?  What is “appropriate?”

Men want women to like them, but many are clumsy and clueless; women are different, subjective, fickle, ephemeral “mysteries” men cannot figure out; therefore, attractive curiosities.  Who will teach men how to be around women?  Where is the manual?  What parts of the way they grew up do they discard?  Straight men are in peril if they describe, notice, appreciate, comment, or have facial expressions in response to a woman’s appearance or attractiveness.  That surely limits the range of single men’s overtures to a potential mate. (e.g. “Hi, I noticed you from across the library, in the non- fiction section, I do not know anything about non-fiction, could you help me?  Could I bribe you with a coffee?”  Or, “Aren’t you the lady from my bank?  I always wondered what being a teller is like.  Would you have time to help me understand?   I’ll buy the coffee. What do you like?”)  Still pretty lame, but completely appropriate.

Women spend hours each day to prepare and present themselves to “others.”  Cosmetics, hair style, nail polish, clothes, whitened teeth, shoes, and body-shape are endemic elements of fashion and style in our culture.  Women often compliment or disparage other women for their presentation; that is not harassment, but it can be “shaming.”  Women take compliments from gay men as, well, compliments, because they figure sex is not their motivation.

When straight men compliment women, without sexual intentions, women might still accuse them of sexual aggression.  Absent comments, some women might feel ignored, or unattractive, but what are men to do?  Confused and threatened men can retreat into a “man’s world,” which is a safe, sane, and familiar cave.

 

Winter Solstice 2017 – Tis the Season to Figure Things Out

For Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my blessings; I love to list my favorite things, what makes them thank-worthy, and what little disappointments that come with them.

For example, I love Amazon.  I have bought all sorts of things I needed and some that I just wanted.  One disappointment:  assembly instructions.  My frugal self loves the savings for things that are twice the price in the brick-and-mortar stores; my honest self sees the hidden price I pay.  I rationalize the wonderful nuances of foreign cultures as I try to figure out which real-life nut and bolt matches the vaguely portrayed nuts and bolts in the faintly-printed instructions.

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Sometimes there is not even unintelligible English-as-a-language-no-one-here-really-knows text to confuse me.  The diagrams are diabolical, psychological warfare.  A few companies tease us by attaching stickers to pieces with the letter or number shown in the pamphlet.  Even then, one company mislabeled the parts in the instructions.

Most throw us graphics that are tests, like Mensa/SAT/Psychological/IQ tests.  The questions on the test?

  1. Match this table of drawings to the items you are staring at, that came in the box.
  2. Can you see the pattern or sequence between step 1 and step 2?
  3. Can you identify the actions required to explain the difference between figure 1 and figure 2?
  4. Can you fill in the missing part or parts of the sequences?
  5. Can you get the parts you glued together by mistake apart again?
  6. Is the FedEx guy too far up the street to flag down?

I can see the Mensa buyers sitting on the garage floor with dressers that look more like Picasso bookcases, or Escher stairways.

The instruction writers of foreign manufacturers must have never been to America.  They have never spoken to any native speaker in English, in person, just the less-than-fluent instructors who taught them, and the non-English-speaking bosses who were impressed with what sounded like English to him.

And here is where frustration brings out sadism:  We who have fallen, do not enlighten the seller, nor warn other buyers.  Why shouldn’t they suffer like we did?

Even if the instructions are adequate, they often include fewer of the metric nuts, bolts, and washers than needed, or some that are defective.  Where will you find 10 more of those little slider-holder thing-a-ma-jigs you need when you are bent over, holding up the critical strut of your almost-completed gazebo with one hand, the instructions in the other, as the sun sets?

If “some assembly required,” does not ruin your day, how about things that do not fit together like you saw on-line?  I mean a coffee maker that dribbles when you follow the instructions exactly, or the lid of the pressure cooker that will not lock, or the replacement for the roller brush for your vacuum cleaner that spins out from under the vacuum and sticks in the wall?

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Oh, I forgot, batteries; you buy an electronic device that does what you want, for an incredibly low price.  Once you have it, you find that the “batteries-are-not-included,” or run out after 10 minutes, are not rechargeable, and cost more than the device.

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I love the whole concept of Amazon; I use it regularly; it appeals to my money-saving, couch-potato side. I love it when I find something better, at a lower price on-line, than my wife can find with woman-days of store shopping.  It makes me feel vindicated for never wanting to go to the mall.

 I just have to learn to temper my greed, contain my optimism, and curb my enthusiasm.  Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and every other winter-solstice-scheduled celebration of the return of the sun, that you may enjoy.

Teens + Screens = 30+% Suicide Increase

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12/1/17  A ten-year-old Colorado girl hanged herself after a video of her was posted online.  https://tinyurl.com/ycrflygb

A group of researchers, in Clinical Psychological Science showed the drastic impact of smartphones on teen mental health.

 Between 2010 – 2015 among 13 – 18-year-olds

  • Depression increased 33%
  • Teen suicide attempts increased 23%
  • Suicide jumped 31%.

 What changed?  The social structure of American children now revolves around virtual “friends” and “selfies;” self-importance, notoriety, acceptance, and electronic “gear.” These needs are the same as ever, but the structures, and ways of connecting changed drastically. 

Now, teens stay alert to every text, email, Facebook posting, and Instagram message; they play computer games maniacally; sleep less at a critical stage of development; they barely notice the real world around them.  Even when they are together physically, they play vicious, amoral, computer games, mentally isolating them and pitting one against another (e.g. World of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto).

Teenagers develop identities, feel lonely, realize they are separate from others,  feel unworthy, measured on an impossible scale of unending perfection, want independence, but see they are not self-sufficient, are completely dependent on the adults in their lives.  But, what is different about that?   

We all suffered these growing pains, but mostly in private; now teens have zero privacy, addicted to the idea that worthiness equals public notice, acceptance, and approval.  They live for attention, “Look at me and what I did.” is the mantra of teens in 2017.   This transparency exposes them to what their peers post about them on social media, especially “shaming.”  Teenagers have always been vicious to each other in the struggle to be on top, or at least survive.  Teens’ private lives, become public, like embarrassing intimate photos; the cruelty stays imbedded online for anyone to see, forever.

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Sexting, is insanity; trying to impress someone, can lead to immortal images.

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That is much more damaging than the teasing and taunting kids have always done.  Remember, “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you?”  Not true for today’s teens. They have paper-thin egos that bruise and tear from any loss of face. Girls have increased anxiety, depression, eating, sleep, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Screen time per day is closely related to suicide risk; the study showed that teens who spend less than 2 hours per day on-screen, have normal levels of risk.  As average on-screen time increases, including texting, so does the suicide risk level:

Risk of at least one suicide risk factor from 2009 to 2015:

Screen Hours/ day = Suicide Risk Factors

2  = 27%

3  = 34%

5+= 48%

What to do?  If you want to support someone screen-addicted, work with them to increase in-person social interactions, not involving screens.  Manage on-screen personal time to 2 hours or less.  Schedule screen-free days or weekends.

Here is a link to the research:  http://bit.ly/2zianG5

 

People “of Politics” Underestimate Trump

The underdog populist, Donald Trump enlists seasoned veterans of the establishment for his insurgency.  Do not underestimate the “swamp-power” behind his crusade.

The British underestimated George Washington, who was a veteran officer of the British forces that fought the French and Indian War.  He attracted a cadre of experienced men, and the support of Lafayette.

The Union Generals underestimated Robert E. Lee who was a top graduate of the United States Military Academy and an exceptional officer and military engineer in the United States Army for 32 years. He used his abilities to outmaneuver his enemies despite their immense superiority in men and weapons.

Both knew the other side from the inside; that is how they won.

There are some neophytes, but many “inside-the-beltway” professionals, in Trump’s camp.  Yes, there is entropy, as the elite scramble to understand the America they assumed they knew.  But there is also transformation.  Many entrenched politicians are pushing buttons that always worked before, (rather more like the Regency Bell Pull), to no avail.  The old ways can work against the establishment, when used by masters of “the system.”

Information is the ammunition for both side’s cannons.  As the prestige leaders of government take sides, the balance of power swings back and forth between extremes.  The media is the battleground of taking sides.  The Left singles out Fox News as the Devil of the Right, ignoring the giant counterbalance of media favoring the Left.

Recent reports on the inside shenanigans of the DNC to assure Hillary Clinton would defeat Bernie Sanders are a fitting example of the underhanded fighting within one party.  The rancor among Senate Republican leaders and the President is suicidal.  The Tea Party and the populist movement battle against the “safe-district” Republican incumbents.

The point is, the blandishments of both sides favoring themselves and the apoplectic, demeaning, political ridicule of both sides is dehumanizing and embarrassing.  We would be wise to put down our clubs and sharp-pointed sticks, and resume civilization.  Who believes that damaging another member of our community, somehow enhances our community?  Who knows other individuals who exemplify the crude deprecations flooding the Internet?  I do not have any of the menacing characteristics attributed to either party.  Anyone who knows me knows that.

Go get to know some people outside of your clannish prejudices; you might be surprised how few monsters live here.

 

 

 

Hate & Fear & Populists  

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October 27, 1775 – King George addresses parliament calling for action to quell the beginnings of rebellion in America.

“many of these unhappy people may still retain their loyalty, and may be too wise not to see the fatal consequence of this usurpation, and wish to resist it, yet the torrent of violence has been strong enough to compel their acquiescence, till a sufficient force shall appear to support them.”

This is the same attitude we witness among today’s politicians who have us under “royal ” control, BAU, (business as usual), believing in & relying on “those who know best.”

Our founders designed a democratic republic to systemically thwart the chains of aristocracy they came here to escape.

Look at the entrenched power structure that rides the cumulative power and wealth of America.  Has the plight of the poor, the minorities, the weak, and the sick dramatically  improved in our lifetimes?  Have politicians convinced constituents of perpetual problems only government can overcome?

The pain of the financial recession has bared the truth.  The elite are just playing the rest of us.  They cannot fix anything.  They talk like saviors, then point fingers at bogeymen (special interests, lobbyists, extraterrestrials) .  They hate exposure; like vampires, they shun the light of transparency; they cannot stand the clear failure of government to solve the problems of individuals; they loathe the idea that citizens might discover that they must solve their own problems without government help.

I hear the ghost of George III reverberating through the words of living ex-presidents and other ivory-tower pundits damning those who do not subscribe to their tried but not true ways.

Can populism go wrong?  Of course it can, just as the elite back-room cabal can go wrong by doing nothing, or doing what favors the establishment.  We are missing the ideas our founding fathers cast into our governing framework:  knowledgeable citizens should decide who makes choices for them, when they cannot.

Julius Caesar was killed by senators  for planning to take power from the people, instead of doing what the Roman people wanted.