Shutdown Politics

May the newest Trump badword be filibuster.

Ordinarily, I would believe Democrats wouldn’t be stupid enough to shutdown the government over DACA.

But the Democrats are in a position where no one on their side will warn the party when it is wrong like the party is wrong now to use a funding resolution as the vehicle to get a DACA bill passed.

Yet, I would still be somewhat surprised if they opt for a government shutdown because of the many strategic disadvantages facing them in such a fight.

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The Israeli-Saudi Proxy War Against Iran as Hamiltonian Concentration of Force in Practice

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Considering the location of America’s embassy in Israel is symbolism, and symbolism detached from substance is childishness, it was to be expected the children pretending to be foreign policy analysts obsessed over the embassy.

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Keeping the Collusion Hallucination Alive

Uncle Joe showed us all that a good show trial ought to be entertaining.

Sadly for those few of us looking for interesting stories to talk about, the dreary, gray, meandering, show trial Mueller is putting on to amuse the giggling idiots of the anti-Trump elite is amusing only to them, not non-gigglers and non-idiots.

As I have maintained since May of this year, Russiagate has been all process crimes unrelated to an underlying “collusion” (?) crime

Whatever crimes happened involving Trump advisers are most likely isolated to those advisers and unrelated to the campaign.  Most likely these are tax and regulatory reporting irregularities, many of them occurring years before Trump began his campaign in mid-2015.

Comey’s strategy was a variant taken from the playbook of his mentor and friend, Patrick Fitzgerald.  The Fitzgerald strategy is to spend years kindling a media firestorm with limited, but carefully selected, leaks about a major investigation into the supposed crimes of a Republican White House, but only to end up nailing a few suspects on investigative crimes unrelated to the major felony the media was yearning for.

This was Fitzgerald’s approach to the bogus Valerie Plame “outing”; I believe it was Comey’s strategy in the bogus election investigation.

But with modifications.

Instead of being satisfied with exonerating the White House for the underlying crime but nailing advisers on unrelated charges as Fitzgerald did in “Plamegate“, Comey hoped to bring down Trump on an obstruction of justice charge; charges that could either leave his Presidency sandbagged with a large scandal or actually lead to impeachment.

Comey’s reported actions are consistent with passive-aggressive attempts to anger Trump in order to get him to make statements that could be construed as interfering with the investigation.

The indictment of Michael Flynn in no way deviates from this script of prosecutorial malpractice:  The indictment alleges only that Flynn made false statements to the FBI about diplomatic communications Flynn held with Russia during the Presidential transition.

It does not allege there was anything illegal about contacting the Russians (the Presidential transition teams of both Reagan and Carter made important diplomatic communications before inauguration day) or that Flynn committed crimes during the campaign.

The only hope anti-Trump has for actual collusion being uncovered is if Flynn provides information in the future that is not already in the released documents.

Anti-Trump refuses to believe what Mueller has in his Flynn plea agreement is not what he Mueller end up with.  Their rationale goes that Mueller would not have given Flynn a slap on the wrist unless Flynn was going to promise to reveal collusion evidence at a later date when a new plea agreement will be magically pulled out of a hat.

Unfortunately for anti-Trump, this is just not how plea agreements work.

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A Russia-China Axis is a Hallucination of The Western Confederacy of Dunce Pundits

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In the very, very, rare corners of the internet where informative discussions are taking place, one topic gaining momentum is the supposed risk of Russia and China forming an axis based on the ideological promotion of what might be termed Universal Nationalism.

This supposed ideology might be defined along lines described by this article (although its focus centers around China by itself, not the durability of a Russia-China partnership which is the focus of my article) –

In some respects, China resembles the old, defunct Soviet Union, as both a great power and ideological rival of the West. But China is something the world hasn’t seen since the end of World War II: a dictatorial, anti-democratic power that is, unlike the Soviet Union, an economic powerhouse. And it has used its diplomatic strength to weaken the efforts of the liberal democratic countries to promote human rights while defending and protecting authoritarian practices throughout the globe.

 

Elsewhere, there is discussion of Russia joining China in this effort to promote Universal Nationalism.

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A North Korean Defector Indirectly Confirms a Coup is Possible

In lieu of a North Korean defector’s recent statements and the collapse of the North’s primary nuclear testing site, my assessment of the North Korea crisis deserves additional commentary.

Using game theory I explained the objective of Kim’s quest for ICBMs has always been to deter America from intervening against him (and not for the sake using them in a suicidal nuclear war with the United States) and to domestically reinforce regime credibility –

At this stage the US and Kim are very close war. To understand why we look at each side’s goals and risk & reward incentive structures.

Kim does not want a war. If he wanted one he would have already used his existing arsenal to start it. Kim sees an ICBM as a deterrent that minimizes the risk his hostile actions invite American attacks by increasing the risk of retaliation for America. Shielded by the deterrent power of future ICBMs Kim can then afford to act more aggressively than ever before even if he never intends to commit suicide by launching a preemptive nuclear attack against America: ICBMs open opportunities for nuclear blackmail against the US, Japan and South Korea in exchange for military and economic concessions and agreements to look the other way at the North’s black market criminal activities.

 

I have also argued on game theory grounds the more the crisis escalates, the less likely Kim would be to back down for fear of giving an impression of weakness that would invite a military coup

…a new possibility comes into play:  Kim’s generals are incentivized to mount a coup (even if Kim at this point has backed himself too far into a corner to back down)  the more likely war becomes.

Previously, North Korean generals were hugely dissuaded  from mounting a coup against the ruling dynasty by a prisoner’s dilemma – even if their best collective option was to cooperate and plot an overthrow, the great individual risks and uncertainty to each general of getting caught (How would a sincere plotter know there are no informants within the small circle of coup plotters?  How would a sincere plotter know another sincere plotter wouldn’t be caught or change their mind at a key moment?) greatly discouraged such cooperation.

Now that they face a real chance of a nuclear war that will destroy them the risk of organizing a coup becomes more less risky, though by no means a statistical certainty.

 

My analysis was confirmed by recent statements made by a former North Korean diplomat who defected, Thae Yong Ho.

According to him, the ICBM program is meant primarily to deter America from ever attacking North Korea –

Kim also set forth a policy focused on achieving simultaneous development of the country’s weapons programs and the economy, a way to achieve visible results without engaging in risky economic reforms.

When Kim first took power, he toured the military units along the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). “What he learned was (there was a) lack of preparedness for a possible war and (a lack of) high spirit, corruption, and obsolete conventional weapons,” Thae revealed, explaining that the nuclear and ballistic missile programs served as motivators for an unenthusiastic army. Thae suggested that an idle army is dangerous, exposing Kim to the threat of a military coup.

More importantly, though, Kim watched what happened in Libya, recognizing the risk of humanitarian intervention in the North Korean regime. He observed closely the Arab Spring incidents, as well as the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. “This had a strong influence on Kim Jong Un,” Thae suggested.

If there were an uprising in North Korea, “there is no doubt that Kim Jong Un would stamp it out mercilessly with his forces, with his tanks,” but that could trigger a response from the U.S. and South Korea. “If Kim is equipped with ICBM tipped with nuclear (warheads) then he can prevent that kind of humanitarian intervention,” Thae explained.

 

Thae also confirmed my point that Kim’s policies of instilling great fear into his own commanders in order to ward off a coup is deeply dependent on the success of his ICBM program.  The necessity of completing an ICBM program to Kim’s strategy for regime survival makes it very unlikely Kim will agree to nuclear disarmament since he equates disarmament with the destruction of his regime, either at the hands of his generals or by the American military.

Kim learned quickly that while he held the title of leader, many did not see him as the true head of the North Korean state. This realization, coupled with a budding paranoia and distrust, led to a serious change in the young dictator’s political thinking. He purged officials who were considered a threat, including members of his own family, and those that knew and leaked the details of his family history. Kim also targeted officials who lacked enthusiasm for the country’s future.

“He learned that whenever he convened a meeting … maybe 80 or 90 percent of the audience would sleep. So he learned that there was no enthusiasm – even in the elite group – on policy discussions.” Kim reportedly had a senior official executed last year for dozing off during a meeting.

Thae described the purges, which were brutal, as “unprecedented” in North Korean history.

The North Korean leader solidified his rule through a “reign of terror,” as Thae described it. The weapons program is a sign of strength for the regime.

 

The only item I find surprising is that as recently as 2016 there were still senior North Korean officials willing to nap during Kim’s meetings.  This just proves it is nearly impossible for millenials to be taken seriously, even when the millenial in question is a 32 year old dictator who routinely assassinates his own family members while threatening to plunge Northeast Asia into a nuclear winter.

The last bit of news is no less important.

During the collapse of North Korea’s primary nuclear testing site, 200 North Korean workers were killed.  The site remains a danger because if more of the now-destabilized mountain collapses radiation leaking from the site would spread across Northeast Asia.

It may be the threat of radioactive contamination poisoning Beijing’s already toxic-enough air that prompted China to further tighten its sanctions on North Korea.

The broader implication of this shift is that China may now be reassessing its risk-reward assumptions about the benefits of keeping North Korea as a balance to American power and the risk of further nuclear tests or war causing even greater environmental damage around China’s borders.

If the benefits of supporting North Korea are becoming outweighed by the risks, expect China to shift further against Kim.