A Reunification of the Koreas?

A REUNIFICATION OF THE KOREAS?

A touch of background: in the last 50 years, South Korea has grown its GDP at an average annual rate of 5+%. After the Korean War, its land was ravaged, its population poor and illiterate, and its natural resources minimal.

North Korea was less ravaged but had a protective neighbor that was happy to keep them as a buffer state.

South Korea took its cues from Western, free market democracies and became a giant in the economic world. At the same time, North Korea took its cues from Chinese autocracy and communism, and became one of the weakest and poorest nations on earth save for its nuclear developments.

In addition, North Korea nurtured/fostered a vicious primogeniture monarchy and kept its poor and starving population in line with oppressive force both inside and outside of its borders.

Now, the world is teetering on the brink of a global nuclear conflict that could spread dangerously around the whole globe. And the whole world is riveted with the stupidity and volatility of North Korea’s leader (as well as the US President), which could precipitate nuclear war.

At this same moment, the Winter Olympics has led to a new opportunity for performative diplomacy between the two Koreas. They seem to be rediscovering each other in a new and curious positive light with the help of sports—of all things?

Thus the BIG QUESTION is could they really unite again?

So LET’S HAVE some speculative FUN!

How could the two countries be governed as one?

If democracy was used, the monarchy would quickly disappear unless Kim Jong Un was found a nice big island somewhere! For instance Japan?

If the autocracy was maintained, the powerful business interests in South Korea would never accept the dictates of a dictator (or vice versa).

How would China feel about a reunited Korea that was rich AND powerful?

How would Japan feel about a powerful Korea next door? With or without Kim in residence.

How would S Korea like being a nuclear power?

The sheer impossibility of finding clear, satisfying answers to the above questions strongly suggests to me that reunification is practically IMPOSSIBLE.

Why, therefore, are we being teased with that possibility?

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The Essence of Democracy is a Process

Most of us think we know what democracy is.

Perhaps we should think again.

Democracy is, of course, government of and by the people. However, there is a lot that familiar formulation leaves unsaid. How and when do the people choose? How do the people correct their mistakes? For which people does the government work and not work? By which people is it chosen? All this was much simpler in earlier times, particularly before the internet connected (or perhaps disconnected) so many people. It begins to seem to me that democracy is really a complex process used by people to manage a free society.

We all relearn daily that democracy can be one person’s heaven and another person’s hell depending on who you are and where you are sitting. The nature of majority rule always creates some minority of citizens who likely are unhappy with a direction the country is taking. Fortunately, the Founders tried to put some safeguards against tyranny by any group into our Constitution but those safeguards are today insufficient. And because of money in politics, gerrymandering, and the Electoral College, it is increasingly common that a party elected without even a plurality of votes gains control of one or more branches of our government.

For much of our history, too many Americans were effectively locked out of our democratic process and were forced to struggle (often against violent resistance) to make their voices (votes) heard. Remember the Civil War.

Today, for many, the struggle continues. New assaults on voting rights and the multiplying influence of money in politics have led to a situation in which most Americans feel that their government no longer represents them and that their voices simply do not matter.

At the same time, a new form of tribalism is taking hold in America. Partisanship is on the rise and issues of identity have become increasingly paramount in American politics. The nation is splintering: young versus old, urban versus rural, college graduates versus those with less education. And beyond the above there are the harmful rifts that recent elections have opened with their focus on race and ethnicity.

Increasingly, Americans see the other party, broadly defined, as a foe to be defeated not as fellow citizens to be worked and lived with.

Despite all that, we still have more in common with our fellow Americans than we usually admit, even to ourselves. With the exception of a fairly small vocal minority, Americans would be surprised at the many things they agree on. When people actually sit down and talk outside the echo chamber of social media, they find—often to their surprise—that they want many of the same things from their government.

What we need is more neighborly connections between Right and Left and between haves and have-nots in this country.

It should not require an act of God or rare genius to find a way for some form of social media to bring more people in America closer together rather than further apart. Why can’t more Americans reach out to people they do not know or understand? How about simply reaching out to learn about other people’s lives and how they feel and think—not really to persuade them of anything?

Curiosity can be a great driver to learn and people are generally quite curious. Many harbor a wish to know more about their fellow citizens who see the same world so differently. But it is often difficult to identify those people who both disagree with you and may be open to respectful exchange of ideas. But some of those people might also see the broader social benefit of having private conversations with citizens with whom they may disagree.

Some sort of mobile app might make it easier to engage in exchanges of views without attempting to persuade the other person. Such an app could give us all the opportunity to better understand how so many Americans understand the same world so differently.

If such a thing could be developed—and only an experiment can answer that question—it could organically grow and spread and might over time begin to reverse some of the divisive trends that are so splintering our beloved country today.

All reactions and ideas are more than welcome to help plan such a process!

Another Kennedy

Last night Joe Kennedy III gave a speech which easily rivalled anything his grandfather—Robert—or great-uncle John ever gave.

He looks the part of a President. He is clean-cut, attractive, and immaculately composed. In addition, he had the wit and judgment to get the right help. His State of the Union rebuttal—so often an afterthought—actually woke me up after I had fallen asleep while Trump droned on.

See Jennifer Rubin’s review in The Washington Post and watch/read the speech itself at Politico.

Here’s to a talented young man in his early years of what now may be an illustrious career!

(By the way my last blog about Armageddon, which was intended as parodic humor, elicited from a majority of respondents pleasure. There were unfortunately, however, a few who thought I was genuinely predicting doomsday. To those I apologize. My lesson is that one person’s humor can be another person’s bad dream!)

The Moments Before The Very End

Things are getting so bad on Earth that there appears to be a growing interest in in Armageddon. What should we do?

The answer is NOTHING, which seems effectively the same thing we are already (not?) doing.

Yes, there are risks created by rogue states in Asia and the Middle East. Yes, the United States might be on the brink of some kind of civil war. Yes, bitcoin and other cryptocurrency might disrupt and destabilize the world’s financial system.

And yes, there are extraterrestrial risks flying all over the universe all the time. (I mean asteroids, not aliens, but who really know what is out there?) We know that it is only a matter of time before another big object collides with Earth. In fact, a near miss by a huge asteroid is stirring up a lot of media attention at the moment.

There is nothing we can do except predict approximately when and where a collision might occur. If such an object is actually going to hit us, we might have about a week’s notice—plenty of time for Trump to find a way to blame the Democrats—but exactly where the impact will occur is almost certainly impossible to pinpoint.

The object is moving at a speed of about 72,000 miles PER SECOND. (In contrast, it takes about six hours to fly from New York to London at 500 miles PER HOUR. An asteroid would cover the 400,000 miles between the Earth and the Moon in a matter of seconds.) If any of us ever sees that object incoming, he or she will not have time to blink, let alone worry.

We all learn that the death rate has remained unchanged for all of human history. One death per person. No one gets out alive.

However, we seem to submerge the knowledge of our mortality in order to look ahead with curiosity and without fear.

It is true that a few people end their own lives, doing so for a wide variety of reasons. But most of us hang on, perhaps out of a never-ending curiosity about the future.

In the case of a global cataclysm (whether man-made or natural) the thing most to be feared is likely not death, but survival. The conditions we would have to live in would likely be so radically different that the overwhelming human thought will probably be a desire to join the fortunate dead.

If Armageddon does occur, just about the only thing that could be of some reassurance would be to have one little pill that would painlessly get the job done. Perhaps the makers of opioids could turn their greedy attentions to a new Armageddon market?

Au REVOIR! And bonne chance.

Our Language Traps?

Too frequently (these days in particular) we find ourselves in language traps—situations in which we discover we have said something very different from what we meant— which end up making poor situations worse.

For example, calling oneself ‘a very stable genius ‘may indicate the opposite of what the speaker intended.  The phrase appears to be an oxymoron.  Those two words are rarely in close association for good reason. ‘Genius’ generally suggests brilliance often accompanied by volatility. ‘Stable’ tend to signals steadiness with few surprises. But we should not be too surprised to hear those two words used by an oxymoron who uttered them.

In Macbeth, the Weird Sisters say “Fair is foul, foul is fair”. What can that really mean? It seems that the world has gone topsy-turvy, that right seems wrong and wrong seems right. In today’s polarized environment, it is almost impossible to tell what a word means anymore with any great certainty. One person’s fair is another’s foul. It is relatively rare for people to parse their thoughts and words carefully enough to avoid language traps. It is even rarer that a phrase like ‘a stable genius’ gets onto the evening news several nights in a row.

Hopefully this simple observation can relieve the medical sciences of needing to perform time-consuming mental examinations to make the point clear that the President is unfit for his office.

Any person who cannot think of a better retort than to call himself “a very stable genius” is not fit for any public responsibility!

The Well Hidden Truth About Trump

My last blog has revealed a couple of fascinating things.

First, there IS some interest in trying to spread Dump Trump BUTTONS to unify Americans quietly with a simple, single message. I look forward to feedback which I will share with you.  In the meanwhile, we have a few more buttons still available, if you are interested in being part of testing the waters.

In other Trump news this week: The new Michael Wolff book Fire and Fury looks literally amazing and may produce some new hot sparks. Meanwhile, Yale psychology professor Dr. Brandy X. Lee is adding her professional standing to a 25th Amendment process.

Somewhat surprisingly at the same time, the DOW is at 25,000 and there has been a further drop in the unemployment rate.

With today’s overall uncertainties we would not typically expect to see ever-rising securities values and continued improvement in employment rates, particularly with the entire social and values related reputational damage being done everywhere. How and why is that happening?

It is well known and widely accepted that “markets never lie”—which simply means that facts are facts and markets, which are an amalgam of millions of peoples’ views of their worlds filtered through a financial lens, speak an opaque form of truth, if we are lucky enough to interpret the message correctly. That sometimes is NOT easy or obvious.

When it comes to their money, people vote with their feet. They either run away from risk or they run to it. At the moment it seems they are NOT seeing great risks?

Thus, one view of what the market is telling us today is that a lot of us have the big picture all wrong and Trump is right as rain and will pour endless peace and riches down on us all. This despite the damage he is doing to most other American values—economic and social.

(He, of course, will tweet that long and loud. OMG!)

The other much more likely meaning, in my mind, is that the market is telling us “HE REALLY IS IRRELEVANT” to America’s economic fabric, which is the very last thing he will ever want to hear or believe.

The “non-lying” market may be simply telling us that he is only a passing bad dream. People are, or should be, basically ignoring him—which may be why it has been so hard to mobilize the 70% of the population who oppose him.

People everywhere are doubling down in their own lives, working harder and better AND when Trump finally is gone, we will all see that we have been enjoying, since the beginning of 2017, the real aftermath of Obama’s amazing eight years of economic recovery from the depths of the recession.

That revelation—if it turns out to be accurate—may be that Trump cannot/will not take us into a crazy, unnecessary war and that our democracy can financially and economically run on auto pilot, at least for a time.

The geniuses of the markets’ wisdom—if correctly understood—have long been an amazing and surprising source of important guidance?

The country has been endlessly shown that there is really no reason to take Trump seriously, so it should come as no surprise that that fact itself has led to widespread belief that he is in fact truly irrelevant.

Let’s be sure to keep it that way!

Ba Ba Black Sheep – Have You Any Idea?

 

Very recently I wrote that I was surprised how few Americans who are worried about the overall political situation seem to feel a need to DO SOMETHING, other than worry and hope.

That started me thinking about two things: what could real people do to ACT—apart from mass public gatherings which tend to get out of hand—AND how could any such process be prompted short of some Pearl Harbor-type event.

Last week a 17 year old boy shot and killed his 17 year old girlfriend after she told him that her parents told her she had to stop seeing him because he was a racist anti- Semite. That struck me as about as far off normal as I have ever heard.  I guess we all have to be VERY careful.  But how long can we go along with this abominable state of mind Trump has engendered—whether he realizes and grasps his role or not.

If we do nothing, we are destined to have to wait impatiently for time to take care of events.

If we want to help mobilize a quite widespread public concern, it has to catch on and spread. For example, physical symbols of concern for AIDS, breast cancer, and lost soldiers are quite widely and continuously displayed.

It occurred to me that there are millions of people who think we should DUMP TRUMP but do not want to go around continuously talking about it.

As a test of the idea I had about 500 red and blue two-inch buttons made each with the slogan “DUMP TRUMP” in black.

I will send to anyone who reads this blog a handful of either or both colors on the simple condition that you will send me feedback on what you learned from offering them to friends or acquaintances.  Are people squeamish?  Would they pass along? Would they persist in wearing for a while?

Think of this as participating in an experiment that might even make you feel better?

Or maybe it’s a process that could really end up changing things?