Cadence of Conflict: Asia, July 17, 2017

South Korea proposed to talk to North Korea this week. Much of the timing relates to anniversaries and upcoming holidays. Pyongyang is still angry about twelve waitresses who moved South and wants them back first. Seoul says the waitresses moved to the South of their own will. The US’ answer is a siege, including efforts to persuade Myanmar to curb their support for the North through arms purchases, as well as planned sanctions against Chinese banks that deal with the North.

Sanctions are a known form of pressure, but an invitation to talk is also a form of pressure because a rejection is bad press and raises public support for action from opposing countries. Pressure is mounting and North Korea will either deescalate quickly or else one wrong move will be the only excuse the US needs to yank the lynch pin.

China faces it’s own pressure, military, optics, and time, which is running out. Taiwan’s Navy is increasing cooperation with the US in a move included in the US military budget for 2018. Southern Taiwan is also beefing-up its naval base to handle both more traffic and more capacity. The upgrade should finish around 2025.

As for optics, Human Rights activists are managing to rally loads of bad international press against China. One activist died of a liver disease he acquired while serving an eleven-year term in China. Another was released after finishing a four-year prison sentence in China. A bookstore from Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay that was shut down will reopen in Taipei. The bookstore closed after its owners were arrested relating to activism about Human Rights and China.

While most international press paints China as the culprit, the more important matter is the surprise this is for the Chinese. In the West, bad press is countered with photo ops. In China, bad press is countered with imprisonment. A bookstore in Hong Kong was a way to spread ideas to Chinese nationals visiting Hong Kong from the mainland. China views itself as trying to help the people; criticism can’t be “constructive” by definition and must therefore be silenced. But, that method only works in one’s own territory.

Protests in Hong Kong gain attention from international press China does not control. By shutting down a bookstore in Hong Kong, that bookstore moved to a location farther from Beijing’s reach and where it can gain more international press, sacrificing its ability to spread propaganda into China. This is backfiring against China internationally, but not at home. Most international news analysis won’t include that China doesn’t expect it to happen that way. The Chinese genuinely believe that Xi Jinping’s “protestless” visit to Hong Kong is good press and the only press that matters.

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Encore of Revival: America, July 17, 2017

Donald Trump, Jr. was asked by the Russians to look at information that could indite the Clintons. He agreed, contacted some peers, met and listened, then decided it was a dead end. The New York Times made the first disclosure about this information, but not their source of the information.

There is no crime here so far, at least not among Trump parties. Listening once is always good. Yet, opposition claims that Trump received “contributions” AKA “money”, that Trump initiated in reaching out to the Russians, that Trump covered-up this meeting, and that “listening once” surmounts to “collusion”.

Many people in America do seem to think that hearing someone out is “collusion”, which is part of why so few Americans listen to each other.

Many political candidates do receive money illegally, questions come up in surplus regarding the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign contributions.

Many politicians have tried to cover up their meetings, memos, and communiqués in the past, even deleting them when those communiqués and memos are under a subpoena.

It’s all normal behavior—for some people’s value system, but not everyone’s.

Many questions arise about how the New York Times obtained information that hadn’t been released concerning a family under FBI surveillance. Perhaps, since the FBI was watching, they might know who told the New York Times, but maybe not if they can’t get their iPhones to work.

More questions come up about the Russian lawyer and why she was allowed in by the DOJ during Obama years after she was flatly turned-down for a visa. Involvement in the bickering between Obama and Putin come up, her lobbying for Russian objectives in Congress. It smells of Obama-style “organizing”—creating chaos that interrupts his goals while he asks for more power to achieve those goals he interrupts, which failed in the end for Obamacare—or did it? Regardless, at the end of the Russianewsgategate scandal remains the question of ties to Russia, but not Trump’s as much as Obama’s.

According to legal opinions, the specific accusations against Trump about the meeting with Russians so far look false. The concerned activities are not illegal. And, both the concerned activities and the thus-far-false accusations have happened with other political figures who were not pursued as Trump is.

Why is there such imbalance of attention?

While the very suffix “-gate” and many other statements have compared this scandal to Nixon’s Watergate cover-up, one fundamental difference remains: Nixon’s wrongdoing happened under his great power as sitting president as he sought dirt to fight political opponents during an election. Though this happened during an election, and it concerned attempts to uncover dirt between political opponents, Trump wasn’t the sitting president with the greater power, someone else was and that someone else’s use of that greater power is also being called into question. Another difference from Nixon’s Watergate is that it is too late for that someone else to resign and thereby receive a full pardon from his successor.

Perhaps that is why such unbalanced attention focuses on Trump instead of the more fitting Nixonian counterpart. But, we don’t know why this is happening. Wagons are circling. And, whenever the wagons circle, it’s not a good sign of the times.

There is no point in pursuing a dead end. The Trump dissent from the far Left, therefore, does not think it’s a dead end. They seem to hold that some sort of information exchanged happened between Trump and the Russians that was not disclosed. That’s the most sense to make of it all. But, that further illustrates how the Right and Left of America think differently. The Left doesn’t understand the Right’s value system: Listen to everyone once, be fair to enemies, don’t do anything dishonest in the process. In the mind of the far Left, dishonesty and power go together by definition and listening before having an opinion isn’t even a consideration. The far Right doesn’t understand how the far Left doesn’t understand that. Each side of America looks down and shakes its head over the actions the other.

There may be no conspiracy against Trump. This may be happening because a few powerful people in mass media and politics normally drop a few words, hit at a few ideas, and a candidate fails as if on cue. Those methods failed on Trump and those powerful few don’t know how to handle their first-time failure. Young Democratic voters latch on to these fruitless efforts because they also don’t know how to deal with their first-time election defeat.

This situation is dangerous for the nation, not because Trump has done anything wrong, but because shining the spotlight on fruitless pursuits is distracting the nation from the long-lasting laws Trump already has progress with.

Obama had the House and Senate, but lost them. His signature health care law was as such that he himself suspended enforcing it, the opposing party won six elections on a campaign to “repeal and replace”, and that “repeal and replace” is under way. He issued many executive orders which were thrown to the wind the day he left office. And, most importantly, he failed on the primary pro-government argument of the American Left: building roads and bridges. Obama didn’t build and maintain the roads and bridges; Trump is building and maintaining them instead. In fact, Trump is doing everything Obama didn’t.

But, the nation isn’t watching what Trump does. Trump has zero accountability from the press or the public on his work as president. Instead, all of Trump’s opposition are chasing imaginary ghosts in the closet, monsters under the bed, and using convincing fake rhetoric to talk about it. God forbid Trump, as president, actually do anything that’s genuinely wrong—no one would notice.

Democratic Senators Feinstein, Franken, and others plan to vote for Trump’s nominee for FBI Director. Their reasons included that he will follow the Constitution, not serve the will of the President, and follow due process. Feinstein did not mention when she changed her position since the last time she voted on nominees. But, that change is finally coming.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, July 10, 2017

The world has been put on notice. That was the message from the US this week to the UN Security Council. North Korea’s situation is unacceptable to many countries. The Kim Dynasty has named the US as a nuclear missile target, more so than their brethren in the South. South Korea, both the people and their new president, want a “diplomatic solution”. But, it’s easy to say that diplomacy is the solution to someone else’s problem. Unfortunately, unjustly, and unfairly, North Korea’s dispute is not with the South, it’s with the US, but the South gets to bear the brunt.

Claiming “diplomacy” and “rhetoric” as the way out of a dead end is the thinking of the ungifted CEO who inherited someone else’s company. It’s the thinking of a “Great Successor”. He doesn’t know how to blaze trails, to make the “necessary disruptions” that propel a business forward, so he starts to think that “getting along” is the only way. North Korea uses “rhetoric” as the solution because their side is the more difficult, and it’s about to backfire. South Korea, being more comfortable than the North, wants the “diplomatic” solution because, sadly, their own fight doesn’t involve them as much as it involves others. With their “get along” answer to the situation, the South is actually agreeing that it’s not their own conflict, thus inviting intervention from the US.

Pyongyang’s threat is increasing against the US, but South Korea’s president doesn’t want to deploy more THADD defense missiles, making the Northern threat even greater. By wanting less military cooperation, the South is asking the US to act unilaterally. Maybe that’s best, so the US and Pyongyang can finish their conflict and Korea can get back to being Korea.

There’s also a “good cop bad cop” factor; if the US takes action while the South wants “diplomacy”, peace between the Koreas seems both desirable and tenable.

But then, there’s Washington’s view of Korea within the greater region. This is an opportunity for the Pentagon to make North Korea a spectacle in front of China. While the Chinese and North Koreans show off their militaries with parades, the US will show its strength by ending the Korean War in a flash—though they’ll make sure it’s a long and delayed flash, just so Beijing doesn’t blink and miss the message. It’s an opportunity the US wouldn’t miss—to end the Kim Dynasty with such power and efficiency that Beijing either has second doubts about pursuing its map-meddling activities or else to turn off the voices of reason and dive into the waters blind and tied.

Korea is reaching D-Day; it’s a simple logistic calculation. The American people are most likely to support action. The US has less and less time to wait, and South Korea is a cooperative dead-end—and rightly so. The forewarning to the powers of East Asia is clear: stay strong at home, stop expanding, diplomacy won’t solve other people’s old problems. Whatever transpires in Korea over the coming weeks will be a foreshadowing of outcomes from any other confrontations that may ensue should that wisdom be ignored.

That’s right. The world has been put on notice.

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Encore of Revival: America, July 10, 2017

Donald Trump Tweeting himself is important. It’s more important that Jame’s Comey writing classified information in his personal memos, more important than cutting the environmental red tape holding back pollution, more important than DeVos re-making 1965 education law, more important than Dodd-Frank regulations being scrapped, even more important than Obamacare about to bite the dust!

In fact, Trump’s Tweet about himself is more important than a young man’s privacy, than his dignity—it’s even more important than CNN’s own credibility with the public.

America’s new president is anything but a fool. He knows exactly where to throw a scrap of meat to the dogs, how big it should be, exactly how long it will take for them to scramble for it. He is the master of the spotlight, whether his own spotlight or shining a spotlight on someone else to blind them from what he is doing.

And, he is doing a lot.

He has made massive rollbacks in Obama-era rules. This is arguably one of Obama’s biggest failings—that Obama left everything he worked for so easy to undo. He made rules with the stroke of a pen, Trump undid them with the stroke of a pen. But under Trump, Betsy DeVos is exploring fundamental legislative changes to education—and that’s just the beginning.

The Trump administration is pushing legislation that rarely gets mentioned in light of top titles—military, tax… Obamacare… While Republicans are fighting amongst each other over the optics of disagreeing with Obamacare, other laws are getting passed without any scrutiny from the media. And, it’s all thanks to pop culture’s obsession with everything that doesn’t matter. Pop culture got Trump elected and pop culture will get his policies passed.

Obama’s legacy is being undone because he didn’t work. He didn’t work with Congress to get laws that would outlast a Republican majority. He spent too much time golfing. He gave too many long-winded speeches and didn’t produce enough hard-earned, well-manufactured product. Compared to Trump, Obama was lazy. That’s why Trump is getting his way: work.

No attack can harm a man who works. No media smear can hurt him. It’s not that all press is good press all the time. Rather, all press is good press for those who work.

Right and wrong, for both better and worse, we are entering an era dominated by people who work.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, July 3, 2017

China views Hong Kong as a doorstep between the world and largely otherwise closed China. This week, investment highways opened, allowing easier offshore investments in China’s bond market. At the same time, the world gets a glimpse into Chinese dealing through Hong Kong. Like the proverbial cat chasing the laser pointer dot—who never figures out what’s going on—Western culture’s action and interpretation will always confound the Chinese.

As the West believes, if you want to change the world map, you must ask the world’s permission first. It’s even the law China is bound to as a member of the UN. But, in Chinese culture, whoever makes an assertive move first will automatically scare everyone else in the room to ignore any other decorum, rules, or even laws, and accept the assertive party as the emperor of the room for the time being. Building artificial islands, installing military airport equipment, and telling everyone else to “GTFO” means the US should either be scared, or at least quickly attack. But, the calm, casual response of the US Navy, such as to have the lone destroyer USS Stethem conduct a “man overboard drill”, confuses and confounds the expected “cultural tidal gravity” of the Chinese.

The move wasn’t just provocative, as Beijing claims; it was an outright declaration of everything inches short of war.

Taiwan had its own waters incident. While the Chinese refurbished aircraft carrier—the Soviet era diesel-powered Ukraine-made carrier purchased by the Chinese to be no more than a “floating museum”—sailed through the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan-owned F-16s scrambled to shadow the voyage. But, parading a diesel aircraft carrier is not any show of strength in the mind of the US, but a show of unaware weakness yet also a show of progress and a “coming of age” psychology not to be ignored.

At least, that’s the perception.

South Korea’s new and moderate president met with Trump. What they met to talk about doesn’t matter as much as the fact that they met to talk. Moon thinks negotiation with Pyongyang is the answer. Reportedly, 77% of his people agree with him. He won’t back down on military, but he won’t expand it either. No one will accept status quo anymore.

So, money opened up this week in Asia and waking waters met more objection. The only reunification on the horizon is on a large peninsula just left of Japan.

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