Saturday, April 29, 2017

Trump Tax Plan Beneficiaries: Top Crust Pals, Wall Street Gurus, Off-Shore Giants

White House Strategy: Dodge, Duck, Deceive, Deny
(Blame DEMS for failures along the way)

The Trump Tax Reform Plan analysis from the Chicago Tribune: In essence he says his tax plan helps middle class, not the wealthy.

(Starting Point: Most tax experts say that is not true).

First lesson for Mr. Trump and this very secretive GOP who now won’t even allow DEMS or healthcare providers at their second round of “repeal and replace” sessions is this piece of advice from long-time member of congress and the longest serving speaker in American history, Rep. Sam Rayburn (D-TX) who once quipped: “There’s no education in the second kick of the mule.”

KEY POINTS FOLLOWING THIS SHORT INTRO:
The only Americans who are very clear winners under the new system are the wealthiest,” said Edward D. Kleinbard, a law professor at the University of Southern California and former chief of staff of Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, which estimates the revenue effects of tax proposals.
Examples:
1.  Repealing the estate tax would affect just 5,300 or so fortunes a year. FYI: For 2017, couples can shield up to $11 million of their estates from any taxation, thus leaving only the largest inheritances subject to taxation. Repealing the estate tax alone would cost an estimated $174.2 billion over a decade, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center said.

2. Reducing the rate on capital gains, non-corporate business taxes, and those in the highest bracket, as well as repealing the AMT (see more below) would also ease the burden on wealthier Americans. Read here to see the impact of that from CNBC… which is past GOP policy and now about to be “new” GOP policy to rectify the past as some sort of favor, um? Yeah, right … read and weep…!!!

3.  Repeal of the ACA (Obama-care) 3.8 percent surtax on the investment income of high earners, put in place to subsidize health coverage for low-income Americans.

“All those are afflictions of the affluent,” Kleinbard added. Plus, there is no way to know how the mathematics of the Trump proposal would work, since he has not offered any cost estimates, no details about which incomes would be taxed and at what levels, and not provided information about tax deductions or other breaks that might be eliminated to make up for the lost revenue.
Main points of Trump “Plan” as basically only talking points and not a plan:
BIG PROPOSAL THAT BENEFITS TRUMP HIMSELD: He calls for totally eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax (the AMT) (enacted in 1969 to prevent high-income people from paying no income tax).  Sadly, it has evolved over the years and now impacts about 5 million households, most of them making between $200,000 and $1 million a year.
My Note: I say don’t eliminate it – simply restructure it by reverting back to its original purpose and intent (e.g., have it apply to the super rich to prevent them from paying lower taxes than say a family of 4 making $60,000 a year).
NOTEWORTHY:  In 2005, Trump paid $36.5 million in taxes, mostly due to the AMT. Without it, he would have paid just $5.5 million (according to that 2-page 2005 leaked copy of his tax return on the Maddow show which now we can see was indeed beneficial and not laughable as many made fun of). His new policy would greatly benefit him and other big money bags like him – thus, we clearly see his aim: “Take care of your rich pals first.”

Trump’s chief economic advisor, Gary Cohn said the standard deduction for a married couple would be doubled to $24,000. But that's not double. The standard deduction now for a married couple is $12,700 – double would be $25,400 and he’s the smart banker in the room?
Cohn also said the deduction would create “a zero tax-rate for the first $24,000.”
NOTE: Very few families making $24,000 a year pay federal income tax. (FACT: About 44% of all U.S. households pay no federal income tax, though most pay other taxes due to being low-income (some working more than one job too).

Trump is also silent on whether the tax code would still include the personal tax exemption, which allows most families to exempt $4,050 in income for each spouse and dependent child. (NOTE: During the campaign Trump said he would eliminate the personal exemption – devastating to say the least).
Trump proposed getting rid of the “head of household filing status, which is mainly used by single parents.” (NOTE: That status provides a lower tax rate and a higher standard deduction than filing as a single person). His plan is silent on that now. Trump's new plan is silent on this issue as well.
What is the “middle class” anyway? The median household income in the U.S. is about $55,000, though people living in high-cost areas can make much more than that and still feel like they are in the middle class.
Doubling the standard deduction — or at least raising it to $24,000 — could provide significant tax relief to middle-income families. But whether they pay more or less depends largely on details that have yet to be released.
One of those pesky details is how Trump will structure the tax rates on individual income. Trump has proposed reducing the number of tax rates from seven to three — 10 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent. (NOTE: The administration has yet to determine the income levels for people who would be put in each bracket as pointed out above too).
HIGH-INCOME FAMILIES:
Trump's plan has the potential to provide big tax cuts to high-income families — unless you live in a state with high state and local taxes (i.e. NYS is #1 @12.7%); #2 is CT @12.6%;  NJ is #3 at 12.2%); #4 tied are WI and IL both @ 11%; all others here from Market Watch).
On the flip side, Trump wants to eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes, a big tax break that benefits millions (NOTE: Especially people living in Democratic-controlled states with high local taxes such as New York, New Jersey and California). Last year, more than 43 million families claimed the deduction, saving them nearly $70 billion.
THE SUPER-RICH: These are the 1 percenters, people like Trump who make millions a year and are worth even more. Trump is proposing big tax cuts for the superrich, including repealing the estate tax.

The federal estate tax is widely misunderstood. The fact is it affects very few estates. If your parents' estate is worth less than $10.9 million, you don't have to worry about this tax. This year, about 5,200 estates will pay the tax, according to the Tax Policy Center. Trump also wants to reduce the top income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. But perhaps the biggest windfall for rich people could come from Trump's plan to lower the top tax rate for small business owners from 39.6 percent to 15 percent.
Rich people, including Trump, tend to report a lot of business income. But the true effect of this tax cut will depend on how the Trump administration defines a small business owner. If the tax cut applies to all business income reported on individual tax returns, it would be a huge windfall for many rich families.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Trump will propose safeguards that would prevent rich people from taking advantage of the tax cut, but he provided no details on how that would work.
Related and still most-critical: Mnuchin: Trump has “no intention” of releasing tax returnswhy not?

Presidents since Nixon have released their taxes and with no problem and even while a few were under audit (that is not excuse – can be done).

It is obvious that Trump does not want the public to know who is he is indebted to (e.g., borrowed tons of money from banks and private individuals in China and Russia and from other powerful people and places).

We need to know – we have a compelling need to know.

A long row to hoe as they say – so, say tuned. Besides, it ought to be a Hoot-n-holler

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

MAJOR UPDATE of GOP Obama-care Repeal-Replacement Plan: New Trick and Stunt

AHCA to Replace ACA (Obama-care) Phase I: Never Got a Vote
(Ryan Failure #1)

“You Guys Got My Back This Time, Right?”
(Ryan Possible Failure #2)


MAJOR UPDATE: Original Post Follows Below. This update refers to the GOP's so-called MacArthur amendment” explained and introduced below. I said it was weak and a parody of sorts. Further research now shows it is harsh, plays favors for member of Congress, and bashing millions of needy Americans in the end, if it passes into their new law. This great overall analysis comes from Vox.com here and this updated impact of what they want to sneak around is here from the Hill.com with this headline: 

House GOP health bill changes exempt members of Congress

The highlights are these and boy do they stink to high heaven:

[That MacArthur amendment] to the House Republicans Obama-care replacement plan (Note: Which I call the “GOP-don’t-care” plan) exempts members of Congress and their staff from its effects. (Neat trick, um)? 

The new changes to the bill would allow states to apply for waivers for certain Obama-care provisions, (1) such as a ban on insurers charging premiums based on a customer's health, and (2) the requirement that insurers' basic health plans cover certain services: like prescription drugs and mental health. But, then GOP amendment exempts members of Congress and their staffs to ensure that they will still be protected by those Obama-care provisions especially if they are in states what ban those things – 

(I note: In other words: protect your own while screwing most Americans – welcome the GOP). 
The exemption provision was flagged by health law professor Tim Jost who has an exceptional eye for these things big kudos to Professor Jost. 

Democrats quickly jumped on the development, arguing that Republicans are willing to take away protections for the general public, but not themselves. 
Continue the story at the link and then take action. Tell your member of congress don’t vote for this… if you do, your days are numbered. Stop screwing Americans and protecting yourself and your staff at the expense of millions.
That kind of citizen action probably will work if enough citizens rise up and we should … this a sick and harsh and just plain low-down trick.

Amazing how this GOP thinks and works, isn’t it?

ORIGINAL POST BEGINS HERE: Absolutely and excellent piece written by Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post (April 20, 2017): Key points follow this short reminder of how we got here from various sources and links – a really super story – Eugene Robinson is an excellent writer for sure.
The repeal bill was pulled from a House vote by Speaker Paul Ryan due to lack of GOP votes that many GOP Freedom Caucus members said they could not support because it did not do or go far enough to dismantle Obamacare. After that loss, Trump targeted the Freedom Caucus on Twitter with this “nasty gram:”
“The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!”
@therealDonaldTrump

House Republicans are apparently ready for yet another attempt to snatch health insurance away from constituents who need it. Someone should remind Ryan of a saying often attributed to his legendary predecessor former speaker Sam Rayburn from Texas who died in 1961 (at age 79) and had been the 43rd House Speaker from 1940 to 1947, and then again from 1949 to 1953, and still again from 1955 to 1961. He remains the longest-serving speaker ever (17 years).  He also represented the TX 4th District from 1913 to 1961 (until his death: total of 48 years). His famous quote applies here: “There’s no education in the second kick of the mule.”
Having failed miserably to win passage of an abomination of a bill — the American Health Care Act — Current Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his minions are back with something even worse. A draft framework being circulated this week would pretend to keep the parts of Obamacare that people like, but allow states to take these benefits away. There is great pressure to follow through on the GOP promise to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, and Trump is nearing the 100-day mark, thus he sorely needs a legislative victory to tweet about.
Republicans don’t talk much about the practical reason for moving urgently on health care, which is to set the stage for tax reform: They want to take money now used to subsidize health care for low-income Americans and give it to the wealthy in the form of big tax cuts.

Likely the crowds at GOP Town Halls will be totally understanding, um? Just be sure to check attendees at the door for tar and feathers.
This new proposal — brokered by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), from the moderate “Tuesday Group,” and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), of the far-right “Freedom Caucus” — itself is like a sick parody.
Nominally, it is now called the “MacArthur amendment” — it would retain the “Essential Health Benefits” standard imposed by Obama-care which requires insurance policies to cover eventualities such as hospitalization, maternity, and emergency care — basically, the things many people need you know, to live.
It appears to maintain Obama-care’s guarantees that anyone could buy health insurance, including those with preexisting conditions, and that parents could keep adult children on their policies until age 26.
But that is where the parody ends and the GOP illusion kicks in.

After specifying that these popular provisions will stay, the amendment then gives states the right to snatch them away.
States would be able to obtain waivers exempting them from the Essential Health Benefits standards and the other stuff mentioned above – those life-saving in some cases – good decent care and waivers from the “preexisting conditions requirement by creating what is called: “high-risk pools” to provide coverage for those who are unwell. What does that mean?
It means there would no longer be a prohibition against charging “high-risk” individuals more — so much more in fact, that they would potentially be priced out of the market entirely. We would go then back to the pre-ACA (Obama-care) days and situations wherein serious illness would mean losing a home or filing for bankruptcy just to get decent life-saving healthcare – neat stunt isn’t it: That is to appear to be helping while literally watching people in need die – the illusion part.
All this probably will satisfy GOP ideological imperatives — and Ryan’s hero, Ayn Rand would be so proud of him – but it is atrocious policy, even if you put aside considerations such as compassion and community. Thus, we live at a time of enormous economic dislocation:
1.  Manufacturing sectors have shrunk dramatically,
2.  Retail may be starting down the same path,
3.  Long-lost jobs in industries such as coal mining are not coming back, no matter what Trump says.
4.  Workers need to be able to move to where jobs are being created — which means that health insurance should ideally be portable.

But Republicans are heading in the other direction by trying to set up a system with radically different health-insurance rules in different states. In today’s world, how does that make sense? Unchanged from last month’s failed bill are provisions that would strip massive amounts of money out of Medicaid, by far the nation’s biggest source of payment for nursing-home care. So Republicans might not want to show their faces anywhere near a retirement community.

The Affordable Care Act changed the way most people in this country think about health care. It did not, however, change the thinking of many House Republicans, who continue to believe individuals should be held financially liable for and to blame for: (1) Having a genetic predisposition toward diabetes, or (2) a random cellular mutation that leads to cancer.
Stay tuned. It outta be a hot time in the old town – to coin an old cliché.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Hey, America — I Want a Beautiful Wall — Fork Over the $20 Billion So I Can Start

 TO CONGRESS: Get money from taxpayers for my down payment
(Blame the DEMS along the way for their stonewalling)

President Trump says he may not approve a government funding bill this week if it does not include funding for a “badly needed border wall” that he claims Mexico, “in some form will eventually” pay for it.

But, even GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) when he was asked last month if Mexico would in fact pay for it simply said: “Uh, no.”

Plus, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed their doubts and especially as the WSJ reports not a single member of the House or Senate 
representing territory on the southwest border where the wall would be built supports Trump’s funding request.

Government will shut down on Friday if funding is not passed or the CR is not extended all the while Trump threatens to veto any bill w/o wall funding in it – some say total cost will exceed $20 billion … thank you taxpaying Trump supporters – dig deep in you wallets and purses and savings accounts .

In a pair of tweets Sunday, the president accused Democrats of withholding money from the federal budget to start building the wall he wants constructed along the U.S. southern border with Mexico. FYI: The majority HAS the purse strings, Mr. President not the very minority DEMS – stop blaming and start leading…!!! SAD (how’s that tweet sound, um?).

First Tweet: “The Democrats don’t want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members.”

Then a Second Tweet: “Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall.”

Remember that throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump vowed that Mexico would pay for his planned wall, despite public refusals by Mexican officials.
And, then in January shortly after assuming office, Trump announced a proposal to impose a 20% tax on all imported goods from Mexico to pay for the border wall (of course that would hurt consumers who buy goods made there and American companies who produce there under NAFTA deals). We taxpayers are now expected to pick up the tab “for the sake of speed.” Then we will be reimbursed by Mexico at a later date – how would that happen do you suppose w/o a tax hike and NOT big tax or programs and agencies cut as Trump also wants?
Then add this from AG Jeff “Wall Weasel” Sessions (R-AL) to the mix:
On ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” Sessions suggested Democrats would be to blame if the government is shut down over the wall saying: “I can’t imagine the Democrats would shut down the government over an objection to building a down payment on a wall that can end the lawlessness.”

Stephanopoulos then asked: “So the president won’t sign the bill if it doesn’t include funding for the wall?”

Sessions said: “Well, he’ll make those decisions. I’m not engaged in the budget negotiations. But I know one thing: We need that wall. It will help us complete the promise that the president has made to the American people.”

Okay Mr. Sessions now STFU…

My final comment: This all government-run GOP simply cannot govern, at least not effectively – obvious fact.

Whoa - wait a frigging minute... with an expected massive defense budget increase, why not use part of that $54 billion for the wall and simply call it: “National Security Defense Measure” um, Mr. President???


Okay, say Trump can't get money, what then? He and GOP go boom...!!!


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Trump Name Money Marketing Scheme Put Over on America: Yuge Really Yuge



Here’s one major achievement President Donald J. Trump is about to pack into his first 100 days:
Twelve consecutive weekend trips to his own properties
Trump dined at his new Washington DC hotel in this the last weekend before hitting his 100th day in office which BTW he now calls a silly milestone before it was critical as to what he said he would achieve.
That means that in his short Oval Office tenure, he has kept a three-month streak of escaping to his own businesses — often at the expense of taxpayers.

A tally by the Washington Post found that Trump has trekked to his properties twelve weekends in a row, and 33 times altogether in his first 94 days as President. Since February, he has also never made it through one full week without ending up at part of his business empire.
Each of his trips has cost up to an estimated $3 million in taxpayer dollars for travel and protection.
As he nears his 100th day, Trump’s travels have run up a taxpayer tab of at least $20 million, according to a CNN analysis. That is more than one-fifth of the $97 million in travel expenses Obama ran up in his entire eight years as President. 
The regular retreats signify one (of many other) broken promise from Trump’s first 100 days: That he would anchor himself in the White House and forget about his other abodes.
On the campaign trail, Trump told supporters that if elected he would “stay in the White House and work my ass off,” leaving no time for him to see his homes elsewhere.
Plus, he also constantly criticized President Barack Obama for his golf games and for traveling on taxpayer money.
Since his inauguration, Trump has played golf at least 14 times, usually at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, and he also has spent a weekend at the Trump National Doral hotel in Miami and two stops to his new hotel across the street from the White House. 

So, he has no conflicts of interest, um? Oh, yeah we forgot, the president is “exempt from any conflicts of interest,” right? How about a Rick Perry oops moment followed by this favorite Trump one-word summary for himself: Yugeas in huge hypocrite?

Summary of Trump-speak from this interesting video analysis keep the word finding deficit disorder definition below in mind as you watch this video speech.

People with word finding deficit disorder rely on words with little meaning. They use phrases like “by the way,” or “believe me.” They depend heavily on empty words like “really” and “very” and use a restricted list of adjectives. Trump uses the words “tremendous,” ”amazing,” and “nice” – none of which tells us anything. People with that disorder repeat themselves a lot.
Classic Trump examples:
After the RNC convention he said: “Thank you very much. We had an amazing convention. It was one of the best. Ivanka was incredible last night. It has been just an incredible four days. Tiffany was amazing.”
During the campaign and run up to November 2016: “So, I will tell you, I think we’re gonna get a lot of his voters. Because of the trade issue. Because they understand. Because of the trade issue, I think we’re gonna get a lot of his voters.” 

A humorous keeper and his own words: 

Trump's worst enemy? Himself.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Better a Police Lineup Not a Photo Op for Charlatans, Con Artists, and Crooks

Trump Money Marketing Machine Model

Focus of this post: “Blind Trust Circumventors” 
(Trust missing from their vocab)


BLIND TRUST: A financial arrangement in which a person in public office gives the administration of their private business interests to an Independent Trust manager in order to prevent any real or perceived conflict of interest. Under that kind of Trust, the owner does not know how the assets are managed.”
Ivanka Trump-Kushner and her husband, Jared Kushner have supposedly set up “blind trusts” for their extensive and lucrative businesses and such.
Noteworthy: What follows is from Ivanka Trump’s interview with reporter Gayle King (“CBS This Morning”) link to that from Democracy now is here (starts at 36:00 mark of the video).
GAYLE KING: What have you done with your business?
IVANKA TRUMP: I have no involvement with any of it. And I felt like proximity to my father and to the White House and with my husband taking such an influential role in the administration, I didn’t want to also be running a business. So, I put it into trust. I have independent trustees. I have no involvement in its management, in its oversight, in its strategic decision-making.

GAYLE KING: “But the trustees are family members, right? Your brother-in-law and your sister-in-law?”

IVANKA TRUMP: “They are.”
GAYLE KING: So, from a —
IVANKA TRUMP (interrupting King): But they’re completely independent, and I’m transparent about that.
GAYLE KING: Can you see, from the public point of view—yes, you put it in trust, but it’s family members—they’re thinking, “Well, is she really not involved?” So, so do you really not get on the phone and say, “What’s going on?” Do you have no involvement whatsoever?
IVANKA TRUMP: I take — I take a legal document very seriously, and I wouldn’t go through the pains of setting this up, if I intended to violate it. 

The video goes on to discuss Jared and his business and his “Blind Trust” as discussed by Vicky WardNew York Times best-selling author, investigative journalist, contributor to Esquire and the Huffington Post Highline magazine with this major point:

VICKY WARD:  “Jared Kushner’s business is in a blind trust run by his brother, Josh. So, just to show you how closely everything is entwined, not only is Jared an investor in Josh, but Josh is an investor in Jared. Josh’s healthcare business, Oscar, is in Jared’s building, the Puck Building.” 

My summary: It appears that the Trump DNA pool is both wide and deep. They are all in essence clever, slick liars, crooks, and nothing more than deep-pocketed con artists above everything else who work constantly to market and keep the Trump name in the limelight all the time.
At the same time, they all use government resources as their operating base – and let’s face it, nothing is bigger than their businesses expanding raking in billions as American taxpayers pick up the tab for their travel, security and everything connected to that.
All the while every one of them get richer and richer while pleading they practice strong ethical standards and follow the rules – I say clearly (insert):
Ladies and gentlemen of America: We have been had.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Chemical Attack in Syria Final Chapter: Who done it Still Unresolved

Horrible Scene the Whole World Saw: We Need the Whole Truth

Headlines from the UN (April 12, 2017)

“Security Council Fails to Adopt Resolution Condemning Chemical Weapons Use in Syria, Following Veto by Russian Federation”

[Russian] Representative Rejects “Sly Political Language” Against Damascus Government
The UN Security Council rejected a draft resolution that would have condemned the chemical weapons attack on the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun (The Boston globe coverage with graphic photos) and expressed its determination to hold the perpetrators accountable.

That attack was on April 4, 2017 and reported on here (NY TIMES).

Defeated by 10 votes in favor, to 2 against (Bolivia, Russian Federation), with 3 abstentions (China, Ethiopia,Kazakhstan), the draft would have emphasized Syria’s obligation to comply with the recommendations of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon’s (OPCW) Fact Finding Mission and the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism by providing immediate and unfettered access to and the right to inspect any and all sites. 

Tabled by France, the UK, and the United States, it would have requested the Secretary-General to report on the issue every 30 days pursuant to resolution 2118  (passed in 2013), in which the Council had decided that, among other things, Syria would not use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons.

Before the action, the Russian Federation’s delegate, saying the draft failed to serve a useful purpose, and requested that an independent investigation be launched immediately on the incident in Khan Shaykhun.
Syria’s representative rejected any use of chemical weapons and all WMD 
emphasizing that his country wanted to learn the truth more than anyone else.  In its cooperation with the OPCW, Syria had requested that investigations be launched in Khan Shaykhun and the Shayrat air base. 

He rejected a draft resolution because it contained political language that had wanted the investigation to accuse in advance the Government of Syria.  Whoever read the text would understand that truth was not its true goal.  Facts had been doctored and evidence fabricated against the Syrian Government, which, for its part, had sent 90 letters to OPCW about terrorist groups’ involvement with chemical weapons and other arms.  He called on Council members to be rational and to obtain clear responses with regard to the Khan Shaykhun incident.

I totally agree (with one proviso - see below) that an independent investigation with cooperation from all parties (e.g.,  Syrian, Russian, and entire UN) should have been done, or now done and under one umbrella and that is from an outside independent agency that is non-UN, non-Syrian, non-Russian, or non-any other member state be affiliated officially – that body should be totally in charge and then report directly to the entire UN General Assembly to be televised when they read their final report…

My one proviso: Right now both Syria and Russian are pushing for an independent investigation, while they plead innocence. But, consider this: The time factor

Not to sound distrustful, but I am somewhat, they could have removed or destroyed any or all evidence about Syrian or Russian (or both) involvement in the attack. So, it could be too late now to see the whole picture and maybe that is what they are counting on?

Nevertheless, the world public has right and compelling need to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth no matter where or to whom the trail leads and ends, or even if that's now possible.
We shall see. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Brinkmanship, or Blinkmanship, or Two Arrogant Inexperienced Crazy Men

High Stakes Nuclear Poker: Who Will Blink First, or Fold, or Go All In  

Story mostly drawn from here — a great rundown:

Nearly every president is tested early in their tenure, but the speed with which Donald J. Trump and his administration have climbed the escalation ladder toward a showdown with North Korea over nuclear weapons has been dizzying and slightly crazy. A military confrontation with the heavily armed North Korean regime in Pyongyang would be frightening under any circumstances, but the dangers are multiplied by the personalities involved.

Take a look at the two players that the world sees who are untested and mercurial leaders: Donald J. Trump v. Kim, Jung-Un. The world not only sees those two, but now waits to see which one of them is likely to blink first or push the buttons for war first. These two, both of them, are quite frankly unstable and trigger-happy.

1. We have Donald J. Trump a man who prides himself on not showing his hand in negotiating “business” deals which he brags about all the time, but it is a style that now creates tensions and huge uncertainties when applied to geopolitics involving nuclear weapons and war.

2. We also have Kim, Jong-Un a man who greatly adds to the risk since he too is inexperienced in world affairs and any rational thinking. He is a young dictator just like is father and grandfather before him whose paranoia has already led him to murder a number of close aides, including his own uncle, and a half-brother.

Set the Scene: It was just two months ago that Trump met with and was dining with the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, at Trump's Mar-a-Lago golf resort when news came of a new North Korean missile test. That caused the Trump young national security team to scramble for a response before curious diners at the exclusive club. A series of other events started thereafter: 

1.  A mere two weeks later, U.S. and South Korean forces began an annual military exercise that Pyongyang called provocative.
2.  Then five days after that, North Korea launched four ballistic missiles simultaneously into the Sea of Japan.
3.  Then shortly after that the U.S. military announced the deployment of an advanced missile defense system to South Korea that irritated both North Korea and China.
4.  Then right after that U.S. intelligence reports suggested that North Korea was preparing for its sixth nuclear weapons test on April 15 to celebrate the 105th birthday anniversary of Kim, Il-Sung, the current leader’s grandfather.

That news triggered Trump to order the Pentagon to dispatch the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike force to the Korean peninsula at the same time Trump announced via multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials and they to NBC News that the administration was prepared to launch a preemptive military strike against North Korea if it followed through with that nuclear test.

To underscore that stern “preemptive message” on April 14th our military for the first time ever dropped the largest conventional bomb in its inventory on an Islamic State cave complex in eastern Afghanistan – that was the 20,000-pound GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB); nicknamed “The Mother Of All Bombs.”

That event followed a short week from when our 59 cruise missiles (Tomahawks) struck a Syrian airbase in response to Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held city that killed some 80 civilians and apparently drove Trump to authorize the attack.

That operation coincided with Trump’s dinner with Chinese President Xi Jin-Ping at Mar-a-Lago just like the other events while Trump was at that same FL golf resort.

If there was any inference that the use of the MOAB was meant to send a signal to North Korea and Kim, Jong-Un, then it was completely justified.

The tactical goal of the MOAB was to kill ISIS fighters (now reported to have killed over 90 ISIS members in the targeted cave and tunnel complex) who had gained a foothold in eastern Afghanistan. 

And, it was also meant as a strategic shot across the bow of the North Korean regime. That message also was apparently received loud and clear in Beijing, who in turn dispatched their top nuclear negotiator to North Korea. China also suspended regular Air China flights to Pyongyang and cancelled tons of coal scheduled for shipment to North Korea.

Background on preemptive warfare that Trump threatened to use against North Korea:  

In the summer of 1994, then Secretary of Defense William Perry was poised to implement “Op plan 5027,” which called for a preemptive strike using cruise missiles on the North Korean nuclear reactor at Yong-byon. The plan also called for American reinforcements to Korea and the evacuation of thousands of American civilians from South Korea.

What most worried Perry at the time, and still concerns him more so today, is that a preemptive U.S. strike could quickly escalate to an all-out war on the peninsula that the Pentagon has estimated would claim one million lives or more in Seoul, a mere 30 miles from North Korea with cities in between well within range of artillery dug into the mountains just across the DMZ trained on those places south to Seoul as well as several U.S./ROK bases.

Perry also said in his interview: “The difference is back then this evil regime didn’t yet have a nuclear arsenal and today it does, and that poses a much greater danger. Pyongyang would almost certainly avoid using nuclear weapons preemptively because that would be suicidal, but it’s likely to respond with conventional artillery buried in caves in the mountains along the demilitarized zone overlooking the South Korean capital of Seoul. A U.S. preemptive strike would likely involve cruise missiles such as the Trump administration launched in Syria, which was a relatively low-cost and successful operation. But unlike in Syria, North Korea is likely to respond militarily in a way that does terrible damage to South Korea, and might rapidly escalate to an all-out war that the North Koreans are bound to lose. A doomed North Korean regime about to be overthrown might then unleash nuclear Armageddon.”

Perry, however, also believes the Trump administration has actually accomplished two important objectives: (1) convinced North Korea that the U.S. is serious about possible military action, and (2) convinced China that it is in their best interest to help find a way to defuse the crisis, and Perry added: “Those two preconditions present a rare opportunity for successful diplomacy with North Korea, if that is the Trump administration’s strategy. But I don’t know if they even have a strategy.”

From Bill Richardson, the former NM governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who has negotiated with North Korea on a number of occasions to win the release of Western hostages who said: “I worry that Kim, Jong-Un is different from his father and grandfather, because he’s very inward looking and unpredictable, and apparently bent on constantly sending messages of his own invincibility. Whether it’s murdering family members or ratcheting up the pace of nuclear weapons tests and missile launches, the young inexperienced North Korean leader exhibits an unrestrained streak of aggression. I really believe this is the most dangerous time I’ve ever witnessed on the Korean Peninsula.”

And, here we are now: Two major powerful leaders untested on this grand of a scale – who are by all accounts unpredictable and trigger-happy who always strive to stay in the limelight no matter the cost. 

So, who will blink first is the $64,000 question. However, that cost will exceed $64,000 or even 64,000 lives – more like millions of lives are on the line, and billions of dollars.

Stay close to this one ... I too am greatly concerned. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Time to Review North Korea and Get Informed Don't Ya' Think

North and South Korea Divided by the DMZ Est. in 1945
(WWII also ended Japanese occupation since 1910)

North Korea’s One-Family Rule Officially Since 1948


With the most-latest news about North Korea and their nuclear testing and threats and such, I thought it was a good time to see who we are dealing with, and just how evil North Korea has been and threat they still pose.   

By way of information background, I originally served in Seoul at ROKMC HQ with the Marine Corps component of the Navy Advisory Group (1961-63), then again off and on while on active duty in between two Vietnam tours, and while on temporary duty between 1973-1979. After I retired from the Marine Corps, I took a job in Seoul as a civilian intelligence officer in 1989 until I left in 1991. I studied Korean at DLI in Monterey, CA for one year, and then I specialized in both Korea and Russia (I also studied Russian at DLI for one year). I really like Korea – the people, the culture, and especially Korean food (smile). Hope you enjoy this post, and thanks for stopping by.   

So, let’s take a look at history:

The DMZ dividing North and South Korea has had numerous cases of incidents and incursions by the North, however the North’s government never acknowledges direct responsibility for any of these incidents. These have included these major events since the Korean War ended on July 27, 1953 (with a cease fire and never a truce … the longest cease fire in history BTW):

Quick Timeline of North Korea acts of violence:

(1)  Digging massive number of tunnels under the DMZ,
(2)  Attacking the Blue House in Seoul to assassinate President Park (January 1968),
(3)  Capturing the USS Pueblo (also in January1968),
(4)  Killed the First Lady (Yuk, Young-soo) while trying to assassinate President Park, Chung-hee (August 15, 1974).
(5) Murder in the DMZ tree cutting incident of two U.S. Army officers (August 1976),
(6)  Bombing in Rangoon in attempt to assassinate President Chun, Doo-whan (October 1983),
(7)  Blowing up KAL flight 858 from Baghdad to Seoul killing 115 (November 1987) (bomber Miss Kim).
(8)  Sinking of a ROK Navy ship and artillery fire across the DMZ in civilian homes up around the Inchon area on Y-P-do and P-Y-do.
(9)  Numerous other kinds of foul play on-going.

Specifics:

October 1966 – October 1969: Korean DMZ Conflict, skirmishes along the DMZ: 43 American, 299 South Korean, and 397 North Korean soldiers killed.

January 17, 1968: 31 North Korean commandos crossed the border disguised as South Korean soldiers in the Blue House (Presidential Palace) raid, an attempt to assassinate President Park Chung-Hee at the Blue House. The failed mission resulted in 29 commandos killed (one committed suicide) and the other two captured. Two South Korean policemen and five civilians were killed by the commandos. Other reports indicated as many as 68 South Koreans were killed and 66 wounded, including about 24 civilians. Three Americans were killed and another three wounded in an attempt to prevent the commandos from escaping back via the DMZ.

1.     October 1968: 130 North Korean commandos entered the Ul-chin and Sam-cheok areas in Gangwon-do. Eventually 110 of them were killed, 7 captured, and 13 escaped.
2.     March 1969: Six North Korean infiltrators crossed the border near Chumun-jin, Gangwon-do and killed a South Korean policeman on guard duty.
3.     April 1970: Three North Korean infiltrators were killed and five South Korean soldiers wounded at an encounter in Kum-chonGyeonggi-do.
4.     November 20, 1974: The first of what would be a series of North Korean infiltration tunnels under the DMZ was discovered. The joint ROK-U.S. investigation team tripped a North Korean booby-trap, killing one American and wounding 6 others.
5.     March 1975: The second North Korean infiltration tunnel was discovered.
6.     June 1976: Three North Korean infiltrators and six South Korean soldiers were killed in the eastern sector south of the DMZ. Another six South Korean soldiers were injured.
7.     August 18, 1976: The tree cutting Axe Murder Incident in the DMZ resulted in the death of two U.S. soldiers and injuries to another four U.S. soldiers and five South Korean soldiers. (Note: I was serving as UN observer at the time).
8.     July 14, 1977: An American CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down after straying into the north over the DMZ. Three airmen were killed and one was briefly held prisoner. That was the sixth such flight incident since the armistice was signed.
9.     October 1978: The third North Korean infiltration tunnel was discovered.
10.    October 1979: Three North Korean agents attempting to infiltrate the eastern sector of the DMZ were intercepted, killing one of the agents.
11.   December 6, 1979: A U.S. Army patrol in the DMZ accidentally crossed the line into a North Korean minefield. One soldier was killed and four were injured.
12.  March 1980: Three North Korean infiltrators were killed attempting to enter the south across the estuary of the Han River.
13.  March 1981: Three North Korean infiltrators spotted at Kum-hwa, Gangwon-do, with one being killed.
14.  July 1981: Three North Korean infiltrators were killed in the upper stream of Imjin River.
15.  May 1982: Two North Korean infiltrators were spotted on the east coast, with one being killed.
16.  March 1990: The fourth North Korean infiltration tunnel was discovered, in what may be a total of 17 tunnels in all.
17.   May 1992: Three North Korean infiltrators dressed in South Korean uniforms were killed at Cheor-won, Gangwon-do. Three South Koreans were also wounded.
18.   December 17, 1994: An American OH-58A Kiowa helicopter crossed some 10 km inside North Korean territory and was shot down.
19.   October 1995: Two North Korean infiltrators were intercepted at Im-jin River. One was killed, while the other escaped.
20.   April 1996: Several hundred North Korean armed troops enter the Joint Security Area and elsewhere on three occasions, in violation of the Korean armistice agreement.
21.   May 1996: Seven North Korean soldiers crossed the DMZ, but withdrew when fired upon by South Korean troops.
22.   April 1997: Five North Korean soldiers crossed the DMZ in the Cheor-won sector and fired at South Korean positions.
23.   July 16, 1997: Fourteen North Korean soldiers crossed the DMZ causing a half-hour exchange of heavy gunfire.
24.   October 26, 2000: Two US aircraft observing a ROK army military exercise accidentally cross over the DMZ.
25.   May 26, 2006: Two North Korean soldiers entered the DMZ and crossed into South Korea. They returned after South Korean soldiers fired warning shots.
26.   October 7, 2006: South Korean soldiers fired warning shots after five North Korean soldiers crossed briefly into their side of the border.
27.   October 27, 2009: A South Korean pig farmer, who was wanted for assault, cut a hole in the DMZ fence and defected to North Korea.
28.   October 29, 2010: Two shots were fired from North Korea toward a South Korean post near Hwa-cheon and South Korean troops fired three shots in return.
29.    October 6, 2012: An 18 year old North Korean Army private defected to South Korea. He was apparently not detected as he crossed the DMZ and had to knock on an ROK barracks door to draw attention to himself. The soldier later told investigators that he had defected after killing two of his superiors.
30.   September 16, 2013: a 47-year old man was shot dead by South Korean soldiers while trying to swim across the Tanpo-cheon stream near Paju to North Korea.
31.   1976, in now declassified meeting minutes: Deputy Secretary of Defense William Clements told Henry Kissinger that there had been 200 raids or incursions into North Korea from the south, though not by the U.S. military. Details of only a few of these incursions have become public, including raids by South Korea (in 1967) that sabotaged some 50 North Korean facilities.

Not DMZ related, but significant:

August 15, 1974: At 10:23 am (South Korean Independence Day) First Lady Yuk, Young-soo (Mrs. Park, Chung-hee) was shot and killed by Mun, Se-gwang, a North Korean sympathizer who had lived in Japan as part of the Zai-nichi Korean party during an attempt to assassinate President Park Chung-hee at the at the Seoul National Theater during his speech. President Park was uninjured after four shots were fired at him on stage. The third bullet hit the First Lady in the head. She died later at Seoul National hospital after emergency surgery failed to save her.

October 9, 1983: The so-called “Rangoon bombing” was a North Korean assassination attempt against South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan. Two of the bombers were captured, one confessed to being a North Korean military officer on that North Korean ordered plan.

November 29, 1987: KAL flight 858 was on a scheduled international passenger flight between Baghdad, Iraq to Seoul. The plane exploded in mid-air upon the detonation of a bomb planted inside an overhead storage bin in the airplane's passenger cabin by North Korean agents.

The two agents, acting upon orders from the North Korean government, planted the device in an overhead storage bin before disembarking from the aircraft during the first stop-over in Abu Dhabi, UAE. While the aircraft was flying over the Andaman Sea to its second stop-over in Bangkok, the bomb detonated and destroyed the Boeing 707. Everyone on board, 104 passengers and 11 crew members, most of whom were South Koreans, were killed. The attack occurred 34 years after the Korean Armistice Agreement that ended the hostilities of the Korean War on 27 July 1953.

The two bombers were traced to Bahrain, where they both took ampules of cyanide hidden in cigarettes when they realized they were about to be taken into custody. The male of the two died, but the female, Kim Hyon-hui survived and later confessed to the bombing. She was sentenced to death but later pardoned by then President Roh Tae-woo, because it was deemed that she had been brainwashed in North Korea and her testimony implicated Kim Jong-il, who at that time was the future leader of North Korea (after death of Kim, Il-sung his father) (Note: Who were the grandfather and father of current “Leader” Kim, Jung-un who now faces Donald J. Trump).

That Kim, Jong-il was named as the person ultimately responsible for the incident. The State Department specifically refers to the bombing of KAL 858 as a “terrorist act” and, until 2008, listed North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The bomber, Kim, Hyon-hui now still lives in Seoul. She married her former body guard – they have two children. At the time of her trial she was called “Bomber Kim.”

As a matter of fact thousands of defectors from North Korea now live in the south. But, North Korea, even on that point, never admits that fully. They simply will say that they were captured by the south and now used for propaganda, or in some cases they label them as “traitors.”

My assessment and summary of this:  Each phase of the Kim's ruling family in North Korea is marked by a new and worse event ranging as listed above. However, their move into the “Nuclear Age” is by far the worse and it underscores their main purpose:

To sell their goods for cash to the highest bidder. All the while they claim it’s for their own self-defense against perceived American attacks in the planning (which they say all the time), and will use those weapons if they are attacked. North Korea always plays the victim card while attacking others.

North Korea is perhaps the poorest country on earth and yet poses a dangerous military threat. They still practice hardcore communist tactics.

China, their #1 trading source and “big brother” always looks the other way and more recently told us to “solve the problem we created.” What utter nonsense. North Korea is basically the same as school yard bully or spoiled child who constantly seeks attention, but in their case with massive violence and crudeness.

One trait stands out above all others: They are totally unpredictable and very, very dangerous as well as cruel and crude as well as very violent worldwide and to their very own people who basically are starving to death. They thrive on protecting the regime with the Kim name no matter what or how.

Hope this helps to understand North Korea especially now since they have moved into the nuclear age and pose a greater threat than ever.