Korea – Unwanted Unification

밝게 웃는 한미일 정상

Hi everyone,

in reaction to the speech made by Antony J. Blinken (U.S. Deputy Secretary of State) just yesterday, I thought I should take a look at the elephant in the room that is the unification of Korea.

As you all surely know, Korea has been divided in two states ever since the Korean war (1950-1953). The two states, one stalinist-communist and the other deep right-wing democracy/dictatorships (depending on who you’re talking to), are very much at war. Year after year, due to North Korean propaganda picked up by popular media, it seems like the peninsula is going to self-destruct and yet nothing ever happens. Majority of Koreans, presumably from the South, feels like the unification is just around the corner and even if they don’t they at least keep the hope that it is going to happen during their lifetime. To me that sounds awfully positive, so why is that that nothing ever happens ?

I believe that the answer is very simple despite also being very complex. Nobody wants it to happen and especially not Koreans themselves. North Korea is one of the most oppressive and underdeveloped countries in the world. It has a population of over 20 million people that has only experienced hardships, propaganda and Communism. The country lacks proper infrastructure, functional industry or even functioning agriculture. On the other side, there is South Korea where 90% of its inhabitants have access to broadband internet and which is home to tech giants like Samsung (which is by the way manufacturing all the fancy chips and screens for our beloved Apple in addition to flooding markets with their own devices). According to some estimates the unification would cost South Korea around US$2.7 trillion. Honestly, I can’t even say how many Samsung S6 Edge+ they’d have to sell to pay for that. It would essentially send South Korea from being among top 20 largest GDP nations to medieval times for decades. No wonder the South Korean leadership is no hurry. Surely one must admit that once this little hiccup is out of the way unified Korea could swing back up using natural resources of the North combined with business experience and tech savvy to counter giants like China, but that is like saying  you could win the marathon, but you need to shoot yourself in a leg first and wait till it heals. Who would want to be the leader that does that.

That brings me to why literally nobody else wants the unification to happen despite fancy speeches and declarations. The United States consider their position in Asia as very important as proven by the official pivot of Obama administration towards Asia. Australia and central Asia produce great deal of resources that are then pumped into US and Chinese economies and Asia in general is where lots of US trading happens. Therefore the US needs a strong foothold in Asia. It has its troops in Japan, treaties with Taiwan and up to 60% of its navy in the region, but most importantly it also has up to 30’000 soldiers sitting in South Korea, presumably safeguarding the country against North Korean aggression. China does not like that at all. China is like your egocentric younger sibling who constantly eats your chocolate and blames it on the dog. China fears that after the unification the US is going to move its troops towards the new border and ,frankly, it is not all that far from Yalu river to Beijing. Basically a missile launch away. In public, China and North Korea are great buddies while actually China thinks of it as the lesser evil.

Surely the US would be forced to withdraw its forces out of Korea once the country is stable, thus loosing a very important reason to be there. After all, what motivation would Japan have to keep the US base on Okinawa if North Korea is out of the picture ?

From the economic point of view neither Japan, China, Taiwan or Philippines would benefit from the unification since who needs a nation that could, given enough time, turn from a tiger to a lion (sorry, can’t think of an unbiased animal stronger than tiger) and drag in all the business that everyone wanted to get their hands on.

In my opinion, the only way towards unification of Korea leads through collapse of regime in China and subsequent collapse of North Korea once the scales of power are tipped towards everyone there having no other choice than to support it. Until then, maintaining the current status quo is more than comfortable state of affairs for all parties concerned.

Michael

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Putin-Kerry (B)romance

 

Kerry

Hi everyone,

Just making sure we don’t miss some positive and fun things that happen in the world. I am sure I am not the only one to pick up on it, but there were few funny phrases said during Secretary Kerry’s last trip to Moscow.

As you can see above Secretary Kerry was carrying a briefcase upon his arrival and it got our dear Putin all fired up. Putin said he was “frustrated and upset” upon seeing him carrying something. He admired Kerry’s emancipation and hinted that US economy must not be doing so well if Kerry must carry around his own luggage and only came short of accusing Kerry of trying to bribe Russia. The Secretary said that he’ll show him once they are alone and that Putin would be pleasantly surprised. Just get a room boys, ok ? We have all heard it. If he’s teasing you it’s probably because he likes you.

Secretary Kerry is quite a wild boy though. The president of Russia probably wasn’t enough. Obviously he is on first name basis with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and judging by the amount of nervous laughs and telling each other how terrific they both look I’d say an actual first base could be a possibility….

Michael

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(obviously they have been getting along for some time)

P.S. Just Kidding !

 

 

 

 

 

The new nature of terror -1970s and today

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Hi everyone,

on a more painful topic today. I have seen several articles from major outlets, just like the one from The Telegraph, trying to put the attacks of recent days and weeks into some kind of a perspective. I am sure they mean well. By showing us how horrible our past is we should feel better about ourselves. That’s surely what they were telling themselves in the 70s, you know, compared to the WWII.

To me, however, the comparison to 1970s doesn’t make any sense. Yes, Europe has gone through so many terrorist attacks from 1970s to early 1990s that at some point it amounted to as many as 3 attacks per day. Compared to that the few attack in the recent time feel minuscule, but I would say that the current threat is even greater than it was then, because the nature of terror has changed.

In the past it was usually Europeans fighting other Europeans. There were exceptions like Lockerbie or Munich, but generally it was always some kind of European minority fighting for its alleged rights against other Europeans. In Spain it was the Basques who used violence in order to gain independence from Spain. In UK it was Northern Ireland with all of its religious complexity and even the 1980 Bologna massacre was a result of European political feud. The truth is that Europeans have massacred themselves for many centuries because of any convenient goals and by any available means. It is of no importance whether we used war or terror.

The Telegraph is right in saying that terrorism is often misinterpreted as a tool used only by religious fanatics and it is also right in saying that state-sponsored terrorism is one of the worst forms, but it is certainly a mistake to call the current situation “a return to the norm”. The nature of terrorism in Europe has changed. It is no longer a family feud. When London was attacked in 2007 or Paris in 2015 these attacks were attacks against the sovereignty of the UK or France. It was time for other Europeans to unite behind victims and lend a helping hand. The explosions in Brussels were attacks on the sovereignty of Europe itself. As much as Belgians would not like to hear it, Brussels would be a fairly unimportant city in Europe was it not for the EU and other international institutions that have their centres there. In this case the whole of Europe has been attacked and ridiculed. It is no longer a fight between minorities and majorities. It is no longer a fight of one country against radicals. Whether we want it or not, we are in it now and more then ever before. That is why the brutality of the past should not be any consolation to us.

The only question that we should ask ourselves after Brussels should be what will be our response. Will Europe stand together, move to ever-closer union or crumble and fade away ?

Michael

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The Telegraph article -> http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/12203697/West-Europe-is-safer-now-than-in-the-1970s.-And-safer-than-almost-any-other-region-in-the-world.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

Redefining Socialism

 

marxism

Hi everyone,

based on the latest article from Politico named “How did America forget what ‘Socialist’ means ?” I thought socialism deserves a discussion, because it seems to me that very few people, especially in the North America, have any idea what it is.

I am not blaming America for mixing up the terms and meanings since it is an entirely foreign concept to the local political landscape and one the US has been biased against for decades and one that Europe has been mixing up for decades too. Also it would probably be good to say that I do not consider myself a socialist or communist, but I still think we should define the notion for what it really is.

Firstly, contrary to what Politico believes Marx was no friend to socialists. If you look through the Communist Manifesto he saw it more like a tool created by the evil rich class to shut up the workers. Something like saying “Your conditions will improve so you really have nothing to complain about”. Marx saw it as a lesser evil though, as a transition stage, since according to him this improvement would lead to greater contact between workers, greater organisation and eventually a revolution, world peace … blah blah..

Marx wanted to abolish private ownership which would unleash the wonder of communism on the world. Socialism in its original form doesn’t really have much to do with that. It gets very confusing when you see USSR that even has “socialist” in its name or Cuba that defines itself as socialist. My guess is that just like paradise on Earth does not exist, because not everyone is a saint also communism never really took off and naming itself “socialist” these states would give itself the wiggle room they needed in case things just didn’t work out. Do not be mistaken though, USSR and Cuba were and are Communist states since the government is owner of all businesses and has tight grip on all aspects of their citizen’s lives.

So now with Communism out of the way what is there left for Socialism. What could it mean for our modern and democratic society either in the States or Europe ? The way I see it Socialism is a top down redistribution of wealth. For Socialism to work you need to have a democratic albeit large government to use its regulatory power to take from the rich and corporate sectors and redistribute it to the poor and invest it into the society without infringing on the rights of the people. When looking back to the Politico’s article we find that “Sweden … is not a socialist system at all”. Sure, if you are using the Communism-Socialism kind of lens then Sweden is not socialist at all, but if you look at it from the above stated perspective, Sweden is socialist without a doubt. Sweden, just like its nordic neighbours, has very high income tax and essentially all kind of taxes. In return Sweden invests huge amounts of its income back to the society and services provided by the state. To simplify it, if you live in Sweden you give most of your pay to the government and in return the government makes sure you have everything you need from the day you are born to the day you die without infringing on your freedoms. The system works, but I am not claiming it would be so everywhere. For the system to work all citizens need to pay their taxes in full and correctly and there must be no corruption to make it all happen. For decades Sweden, Norway and Denmark have showed us it can be done, but let me ask you : do you think your country is able to exert such discipline on such a scale ?

Socialism is not evil and never was, only its big brother Communism made it look bad by constantly pulling its pants down from behind. Just like every younger brother let us hope it will outgrow the older one and humiliate him by making more money and having sexier wife. To that point I must say that I don’t personally share that belief despite seeing that some places made it work, but I could be wrong,of course.

Michael

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Who is protecting Europe ?

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Hi everyone,

in the light of the events in Brussels today a thought comes to mind. Who is in charge of protecting Europe ? There is the EU that is supposed to be representing interests of its members and also the Schengen system that relies on common defence and border security. In the United States the picture is quite clear. There is the NSA,CIA and FBI and maybe few others, but when something goes wrong it is usually not so hard to find out who is sleeping on the job.

What about Europe then ? If you want a short answer you’ll have to skip a continent. Not many of those in Europe. It all seems to come down to the Lisbon treaty from 2009. Based on this treaty 2 key policies were designed : Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). To make it easier let’s call CSDP the “army people policy” and CFSP the “big mouths policy”.

To understand this we also have to look at the EU governing institutions. Fair warning, soon it’s going to look like that family gathering where you find out about your weird uncles whom you’ve never met, but they seem to know all about you. There is the EU parliament and the Council of the EU. Pretty straight forward. Just EU lawmakers and council of ministers of member states jumping in on the fun. Then the European Commission that executes the law and finally EU Council that is basically a council of heads of states or governments of member states. All they do is to sit around every once in a while and decide on “political strategy” of the Union.

Now back to the army people policy. According to this, all member states must participate in training, preparations and engage if the EU Council says we need to go to war. In such case there is the European Defence Agency that would be used to organise everything. It must provide information for approval to the Council of the EU. So at this point we have 3 autonomous institutions that are supposed to act perfectly together if we want to exert any military power. That’s quite crazy considering the defence is put together from units coming from multiple states and commands. It gets even more insane when you think that European security is also cemented by NATO with which all EU efforts have to be coordinated and of which the member states are members too as well as the US. So just like Brussels today, if attacked, our military command will probably burn down in flames.

Now back to the big mouths policy. It is very similar. The main goals of the foreign policy is decided by the lazy heads in EU Council and then the specific tasks and positions are divided by the Council of the EU. The job of the top diplomat is given to High Representative to Foreign and Security Policy who is assisted by diplomats employed by European External Action Service. Now while that looks pretty straightforward, here is something that will make you either angry (if you are European) or laugh at our stupidity. Each of the three main institutions have their own foreign affairs committee or subcommittee or foreign affairs policy or office. I mean that is just stupid. The degree of stupidity can only be compared to the number of doubled letters in the word committee.

Now, diplomacy and military actions are not the only responses to terrorism. What about the secret services. You know.. the cool guys in polished cars saving our lives by wrestling villains in dark alleys. Turns out when it comes to common secret services the good old Europe prefers to shove carrots in its ears and scream loudly. In fact, a pan-EU secret service does not exist. Sure there is this thing called EUROPOL (ha ha cute play on Interpol, we got it, you guys are so funny..) that was created in 1998, but essentially all it can do is to cry alone in the corner since nobody is talking to it. We also have the EU Satellite Centre, whatever that is (probably just exists to prove that we have space toys too), and of course the EU Institute for Security Studies that helps us out with thinking things through -> terrorism = bad. Got’ya !

If you think all that is just way over the top and makes little sense then what comes now will be as pleasant to hear as when you find out that weird uncle you met before is sleeping in your room tonight. EU member states are all sovereign all have their own governments and foreign policy departments and officials and most also have their own intelligence and security agencies. In theory they should all play nicely together and keep us safe. In reality Joan of Arc and Britain were “besties” compared them. So the EU becomes this morally biased teacher that is desperately screaming in a room full of kids that don’t talk to each other.

To sum up, I think our fight against IS will be probably as effective as if we’d all just played angry birds instead.

Michael

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(I feel your pain Angela)

Are the U.S. Elections really rigged ? – Democrats

Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders debates former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the first official Democratic candidates debate of the 2016 presidential campaign in Las Vegas

Hi everyone

many people are “feeling the bern” and so I’ve been thinking about one of his catch phrases that the U.S. has a corrupt and ,more specifically, “rigged” system. By that he probably means that it is difficult for establishment outsiders to win. I decided to take a closer look at it.

Unlike in some European countries voters cannot directly pick their candidate although it can sometimes seems so. The polling stations are reporting how many percent voted for whom, but in fact this percentage only translates into the number of delegates that are available in the specific state. Among Democrats it usually works proportionately. Got a third of the vote ? Gonna get a third of available delegates. But again, it is the land of the free so each state can have slightly different rules.

The percentage is determined either through caucuses that are basically like your neighbourhood get-togethers where people publicly express support for one candidate and get to bad-mouth the other group or primaries that are simply secret ballots. Delegates themselves are usually local political leaders, activists or early supporters of a certain candidate and they are bound to vote for whoever they are awarded to.

So while this is mind-numbingly complicated, no real rigging here…wait .. what are superdelegates ? Superman, Batman, Catwoman… Sadly no (It would be so much more fun though). Superdelegates are for example members of Congress, governors, former vice-presidents and many (many) former or current officials. Among Democrats this year they constitute about 15% of the vote. In 2008 elections it was nearly 20%. So their number can change year-on-year and their minds change minute-on-minute. That basically translates to our favourite proverb : Those who have many friends become president as many times as many friends they have. Ok, maybe that doesn’t really make sense, but you know what I mean.

So is the process rigged ? If you are Bernie Sanders : Hell yeah ! If you are Hillary Clinton : *many intelligent word + smirk* I personally think the process is not rigged. Certainly overcomplicated, but not rigged. As a president you rule to all classes and people whether they are poor or rich, from Wall Street or Walmart, part of the establishment or the hippie family living next door. Maybe this superdelegate thing is just a way how to protect and maintain a stable system from crazy revolutionaries and ideologists. After all it is probably the most powerful job in the world. But again, maybe I am the crazy one here.

Michael

P.S. Far be it from me to try to influence you, but if you are feeling the bern maybe you left your oven on. Just sayin’…

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Brexit and The London Stock Exchange

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Hi everyone,

so there has been a tiny tiny mention about this in the latest issue of The Economist. Now if you are not such a news-crazy freak like me you may have missed it, because other big media outlets did not seem to pay much attention to it.

Correct me if I am wrong, but The London Stock Exchange sounds like a place where lots of stock is traded away, right ? So I assume great deal of the British economy is invested in this institution. The Deutsche Börse and the LSE have announced a merge also saying that the German CEO is going to head the whole thing and the new HQ will be in London. Sounds like a hell of a deal for our dear Britons. After all London is the financial capital of Europe and Germany is its greatest trading partner in Europe.

As we have the EU, comfortable international trade and no political tension…(just kidding) both countries are bound to make piles and piles of money. But wait, what ? What do you mean by Brexit ? The UK wants to leave EU ? Why on earth would they merge if the UK is about to break all ties ? Two options. If Britain remains in the EU then bringing in more of the German trade is certainly a golden mine. Well done Britain. But what if it doesn’t ? In my humble opinion since the whole institution will be headed by a German CEO it probably wouldn’t be all that difficult to move the HQ from London to Germany.

Knowing that, who is likely to profit from this merge more ? The most painful wounds from Brexit would be mainly upon Germany and the UK itself. If the UK stays we are all likely to dance away hand in hand towards the rainbow with cash and bellies full of German beer and whateverthebritscallfoodthere (exactly how I picture it by the way).  If it doesn’t, it looks like Germany could pull their trade in and take great deal of the British one with it. That could potentially soothe the wounded German bank accounts and administer a hefty dose of “We told you so” to our dear Britons.

But hey, not judging here… That’s just what I think.

Michael

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