Recent Posts

North Korea

The “R” Word

by Bill Prendergast on April 22, 2017 · 0 comments

IMG_1256

{ 0 comments }

Bad Actors and Big Wars

by Eric Ferguson on April 3, 2017 · 1 comment

coat of arms of Hapsburg empire of AustriaApril 6th marks the 100th anniversary of the United States entering World War I. If there’s one metaphor you’ve read in every history of World War I, it was probably “tinderbox”. That’s how the pre-war world is frequently described: “Europe was a tinderbox”, or “rival alliances were a tinderbox”. If someone had asked me about WWI before recently, I probably would have said “something something tinderbox” too. Not now, in a change Trump has already wrought. I occurred to me that it was in a way something worse: two bad actors started the war. There was nothing unavoidable about it. Two people could have stopped it. Yes, two, and how this relates to Trumpworld will likely be guessed by readers before I spell it out, but let’s spell it out anyway.
 
That’s not to dispute that the European empires weren’t a metaphorical tinderbox, but when weren’t they? Was a balance of power that could crash down in a major war an invention of the early 20th century? We’ve had balances of power between rival states going back to at least the invention of states, and I suspect it goes back to whenever groups of pre-historic humans noticed there were other groups of humans, and found themselves asking how strong everyone was and who were likely enemies or allies. Point being, it’s wrong to think there was something unique in the early 20th century and it had to result in a big war inevitably. Maybe it was inevitable, no way to know, but it didn’t have to happen right then, the way it did. So why did it? What caused such a massive breakdown of global order and the world’s biggest war (pending the next world war, of course)? What went wrong?
 
What went wrong was two bad actors: Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany.
 
…READ MORE

{ 1 comment }

Is North Korea going to start a war?

by Dan Burns on April 4, 2013 · 0 comments

northkoreaI’m linking a couple of items. They present somewhat different viewpoints.
 

North Korea’s threat comes from three factors: the unpredictability of its leader, Kim Jong Un; its ongoing nuclear weapons program; and its large amount of conventional weapons. Despite the difficulty it has seen in testing and its lack of large stockpiles of fissile material, North Korea’s nuclear program remains a major concern. North Korea appears to have jump-started the process of getting its plutonium reactor at Yongbon back online, but it will possibly take years to produce enough material for new weapons. At present, North Korea is estimated to have enough plutonium for 10 nuclear warheads, but Pyongyang’s ability to shrink down a nuclear warhead to the size where it would fit on a missile has advanced significantly and the country theoretically maintains rudimentary delivery methods within the region. There is also concern that North Korea could sell its weapons and/or weapons technology to third parties.
 

Even in light of Pyongyang’s nuclear capacity, North Korea’s large array of missiles and rockets remain a considerable threat to the peace and stability of the region. Of those conventional weapons, North Korea’s short-range Scud and Rodong missiles pose the greatest risk to U.S. assets in the area, given their high number and accuracy. With an estimated 1,800-mile range, the Musudan medium-range missile — which is mostly likely the type moved to the North Korean cost on Thursday — also may pose a significant threat, but its effectiveness has been questioned given the missile’s lack of prominent testing.
 
(Think Progress)

 
…READ MORE

{ 0 comments }

A dangerous national leader has died

by Eric Ferguson on December 20, 2011 · 0 comments

A dangerous national leader died Sunday. He had a profound effect, causing other governments to shake. How unfortunate his death is being overshadowed because North Korea’s dictator died at the same time.

The dangerous leader was Vaclav Havel, who led a peaceful people-power revolution that overthrew the government of Czechoslovakia, which was one of the Soviet satellites. Clearly I’m using a definition of “dangerous” that assumes you’re running a one-party state. If the story sounds like 2011, it is.

1989 was a year something like 2011, with popular protests leading to the overthrow of governments. It doesn’t seem that long ago if you lived during that exciting time, but try to imagine getting hundreds of thousands into the streets to protest their government when there was no internet and the government controlled the broadcast media. Somehow they did it, and some of what happened seems familiar now, like police brutality against small demonstrations resulting in bigger demonstrations.

Havel was a playwright who ran a revolution from a theater. He had been imprisoned by the regime for his activity as a leading dissident, and according to the obituaries, he was seen by Czechs as the obvious leader when an opposition movement organized. The fall of the Berlin Wall in October signaled that there would be no repeat of 1968, when Soviet tanks crushed Czechoslovakia’s “Prague Spring” and replaced Communist Party leaders with leaders who would follow a harder line towards dissent.

The particulars are different from what we’ve seen in 2011, but it was much the same idea. There were no Twitter or Facebook for organizing, no “Occupy” or “99%”, but it was the same people power deployed to create peaceful change in the face of a status quo ready to use force.

Given his own chance to use force as Czechoslovakia’s president to prevent Slovakia from separating, he chose not to, nor did he use his long time in the Czech Republic presidency to establish himself as dictator as so many revolutionary leaders do. Like we remember George Washington for voluntarily giving up power when he was strong enough to hold power easily, that might be how Czechs best remember Havel.

Had Havel died before this year, his legacy might have merely been as one of the leaders who overthrew the governments of the Soviet satellites; purely an East European story. Now, his legacy is the pioneering of methods of peaceful protest used in other parts of the world over the year now ending.

{ 0 comments }

Mr. Garofalo Goes To South Korea

by mndem-dot-com on July 24, 2009 · 2 comments

Farmington Representative Pat Garofalo (36B) spent some time during June in South Korea as part of a tour with the American Council of Young Political Leaders.  In a story in ThisWeek Newspaper, he said, “The amazing thing is when you see South Korea’s success, you see benefits of capitalism, and when you look at the suffering in North Korea, you see the failure of socialism and communism.”

Wait a minute.

Is the socialist system in North Korea really the reason for the suffering, or is it a malicious dictator who thinks the people of North Korea are his pawns?  There are not many truly socialist countries, but Portugal is one.  Do we consider Portugal and North Korea equivalent in failure and suffering?
Perhaps I’m jumping to conclusions with Garofalo, but it seems that so many Republicans blame everything bad in government on government.  All they have to do is whisper the “S” word – socialist – to rile up their base.  Those same politicians don’t look in the mirror to see the real problem.  It’s often not the political/economic theory we use to describe the government system that makes it unworkable.  Rather, it is the people running the government.

Garofalo didn’t mention that the South Korean school system he praised as “a better 21st-century educational system” than we have, is a socialist entity.  Public education in general is socialist, at least by the Republican scare-tactic definition of what socialism is.

He praised a transit system process that uses strips on the road to charge electric cars and buses while they drive.  He didn’t mention that it was developed at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, which is a government-funded institution.  That sounds socialist in every sense of the Republican definition.

The word “socialist” is thrown out by people like Garofalo to scare people.  When did public funding within a democracy become equivalent to socialism?

Here in our own community of Farmington, we have a socialist fire department, a socialist police department, and socialist garbage pick-up.  The clean water comes from a government-run facility, and my son plays hockey at a socialist hockey arena.    If you want to go way out on a limb, you can say our co-op gas company is even communist.

We can define a word based on a political agenda and use it any way we want.  However, we still want all of these “socialist” services, and we don’t want to pay more than we have to.

It is time to get rid of manipulative politicians with their self-serving political agendas and buzz words.  It’s time to elect people who have the interest of the community, state and country in mind.

Crossposted at www.MNDem.com

{ 2 comments }