South Korea: Under Constant Threat

I don’t often consider South Korea and the position they’re in. This is a country that lives under what is, for them, a threat that borders on apocalyptic.

This is a fully modern country, one that has superfast internet, an incredibly advanced computer industry, a fully exportable music culture, a television culture that pretty much dominates, and a car industry so good that it’s edged into the already cluttered US market.

South Korea is for real. South Korea is a country that ranks 13th in GDP (both kinds). My point being, these guys are like anybody else living in the Western world. In a lot of ways, they might as well be in the US, or the UK or Germany or whatever. Except for that crazy hermit kingdom above them.

Here’s a quote with some perspective:

While North Korea’s massive forces are largely primitively equipped, Pyongyang possesses the capacity to launch a catastrophic artillery strike on the city of Seoul.

Most of the artillery pieces—numbering in the thousands—are already in place, camouflaged and dug in. Neither the U.S. military nor South Korean forces can hope to eliminate those weapons before they obliterate the city—which by some estimates would take less than two hours. By some estimates, the city could be hit by over half-a-million shells in under an hour.

Holy shit.

And this threat is from a country with a leadership that makes threat and random attacks for political cohesion. North Korea had nuclear bombs! They have a whole bunch, hundreds, of ballistic missiles, not to mention an insane amount of chemical weapons.

And this is a country that’s entirely unstable, with a leader that kills his people on a whim. Maybe he’s not going to start any wars. I mean, they’ve managed to keep everything chill for a long time. There’s at least some kind of reason not to freak out.

But then I think about South Korea. I try to imagine living under that kind of threat. If you live in Seoul, the North Koreans can, on a whim, just decide to murder the fuck out of you. It’ll only take a few hours. Again, it hasn’t happened yet. Logically, it probably won’t happen without warning.

Still. That has got to be stressful.

 

Tactical Trump

As you may have heard, Trump isn’t going to the debate. My immediate reaction was to laugh and remember how Cruz (whom I despise) absolutely crushed him last time. With the kind of lead Trump is running, it’s easy to see the tactics here.

Not only does Trump get to pick a fight with a woman, he gets extra anti-establishment points by eschewing even the far-right establishment. That is probably especially necessary considering all the pro-choice quotes going around. Let’s face it, Trump didn’t used to be all that socially conservative.

Trump has nothing to gain by going to the debate. He isn’t good at debating. His particular brand relies on spewing bullshit without being questioned. Ted Cruz is way too savvy for him. So instead of potentially looking like a total failure, Trump opted for a tactical evasion. He gets to avoid a fight he doesn’t want to have and instead gets to pick a battle that’s much more in line with his talents. You’ve got to give it to him, he’s not as dumb as he seems.

All politics are national

Earmarks are a thing of the past. One of my local representatives, Emanuel Cleaver, is pushing to bring earmarks back. That’s at odds with one of my favorite senators, Claire McCaskill, who is stridently opposed to earmarks. Both are Kansas City establishment and both are Democrats.

The funny thing is, Emanuel Cleaver’s reasoning is this: bipartisanship works so much better with earmarks. It makes politicians care about passing legislation. Is is wasteful? Absolutely, without a doubt. Is it financially sound? It can be, as long as we continue to pay for everything. However, if you hate big government, it’s terrible. Pork. Disgusting pork.

But you know what? Ever since we got rid of earmarks, congress has been completely gridlocked and seized up. Politics isn’t local anymore. Now everything is decided on a national level. Republicans no longer care about their districts. Instead, they just bash Obama (endlessly, mindlessly, eternally).

Ever since earmarks were given the boot, there’s no been compelling reason for politics to work. Nobody has a vested interest in getting a bill passed beyond their voting record. The old game of trading favors and amendments and earmarks has died. And what replaced it? Nothing.

Ever since our old system of horse trading favors ended, it inclines each and every politician to play to one, single audience: the hardcore base. And that’s not the only reason this happened. For one thing, gerrymandering crafted districts to contain supermajorities of their given party. That means, every district has a radical partisan in control. And to get re-elected, whoever runs in these radical districts have to have radical ideologies or they’ll get crushed in the primaries. Even worse, because of national media, there’s less reliance on local sources and less emphasis on the local benefits. Instead, it’s all ideological hardliners on all sides with no reason to work together.

With these three factors, it’s no wonder bipartisan politics are dead. Local politics transcend parties. Local politics involve communities of all different sorts. If all we do is focus on the broad picture, on the national scene, we’ll never band together to help out the localities where we actually live.

 

Banks, Regulations, and Cruz

I certainly won’t be the first person to point this out, however…

Ted Cruz is married to Heidi Cruz. She was an investment manager at Goldman Sachs. Now Ted got a million dollars in loans from big banks, yet he ran under the pretense of being in opposition to Wall Street and big bank bailouts and so on.

Well here’s the thing. He’s pro-business and against Dodd-Frank (of course, it’s regulation to prevent economic collapse; we can’t have that). The only thing he doesn’t like is the bailout. I get the idea, though, that if all the big banks had failed and our country was thrown into chaos by widespread economic collapse, he probably would’ve blamed Obama for that.

Now, I want to address the issue of banks for a moment. The obvious answer to “too big to fail” is that banks should be allowed to fail. Bailing out big banks is utter bullshit. If they engage in stupid and risky practices, they ought to suck it up and accept the price. Unfortunately, letting a big bank fail has consequences for everyone in the entire world.

Realistically, the only way to safely contain that failure is to make them smaller and therefore spread the risk around. That said, we all know that Republicans (and especially Ted Cruz) would never do the sensible thing. Instead they’ll whine about regulation while they proudly proclaim that they’d totally let our financial system implode in the face of a crisis.

Coming around to my actual point, the fact is that Ted Cruz and the Republicans in general absolutely need the banking system. As much as they might act independent, they aren’t. The most glaring instance of this is Ted Cruz with his investment banker wife and million dollar loans. He’s just as much part of New York as Trump. They’re all in the game together, no matter how much they pretend otherwise.

Update: corrected to reflect that Heidi no longer works at Goldman Sachs. She hadn’t for over a year.

Kansas: defund everything because business

Kansas has been dealing with some serious budget problems ever since they massively cut taxes. Unfortunately, magical thinking doesn’t actually mean magical revenue. Without any real source of income, and without the huge explosion of growth that they somehow expected, Kansas had an incredible budget shortfall. Still has it, in fact, because the numbers just aren’t adding up.

Kansas doesn’t have the job numbers they should. There’s a variety of factors for that. Commodity prices are down and so on. It isn’t cool to move to the suburbs. Oh no, it’s the time to shine for the inner city. Downtown Kansas City is booming, absolutely booming. I will now note that downtown KC is, as a matter of fact, in Missouri. Sure, there’s also Kansas City, Kansas, but they aren’t seeing the same kind of growth.

All of that is to say, Kansas is not looking good right now. So they slashed and slashed their budget, yet AGAIN they’ve got a shortfall.

Yesterday, Gov. Brownback released his plan. Said plan consisted of shifting funds around and to nearly defund the entire highway system (I admit this is hyperbole, though not as much as it should be). In other words, the plan is fuck Kansas. To fuck it hard and hope the economy recovers in time.

What would Brownback care? He was already elected to a second term. He ran on this. This is his and all he can do now is PRAY that it works. And all his opponents nervously watch, hoping it doesn’t work for the sake of the future, yet while simultaneously hoping that the state doesn’t collapse under the weight of his hubris.

But I have to stop and just say, holy crap. This guy is supposed to be fiscally responsible! This guy is supposedly conservative. Yet here we are with a budget that’s downright irresponsible and harmful to the state. On the Missouri side of the Kansas/Missouri border, Kansas is known for two things: good schools and good roads. What happens when both are defunded to support this awful plan?

Even as Brownback tries to make the state attractive to business, Kansas is becoming increasing unattractive to PEOPLE.