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Can Kim trust Trump?

All it would take would be some pretext alleging that Pyongyang is up to no good, and suddenly the deal could be off with the articulation of Trump’s pen

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US President Donald J. Trump actually followed through on his meeting with Korean leader Kim Jong Un, despite the on again off again track record of talks between the two leaders. Not only that, he actually didn’t just get up and walk out, as he had threatened to do, if his gut didn’t signal to him that the discussions were going to bear fruit. But as we know, Trump loves the shock and awe factor, and that’s part of how he operates. He likes to create conditions of suspense so that everyone sits on the edge of their seats wondering what he’s going to do, so that whatever he does is like a bolt from the blue. And that’s sort of what happened here. But the story hasn’t concluded yet. The meetings were surprising in that they occurred, in and of themselves, but the outcome isn’t as much surprising, largely because there wasn’t a whole lot of room for legitimate and meaningful progress towards any actual goals being accomplished on such an initial meeting.

When the French President Emmanuel Macron travelled to DC to butter up Trump in an effort to secure the preservation of the nuclear non proliferation deal with Iran, not much was accomplished, except for the usual ‘maybe, maybe not’ routine, although it’s not as though, even if Trump were indeed willing at some point to take that path, that Trump would have actually committed to sticking with the deal because of the relations between the two leaders, which were apparently improved considerably by their meetings, so that he would sign on to something meaningful in renewing the agreement. Although in the case of North Korea here, we do at least have Trump’s signature on a statement of intent to push forward with negotiations to iron out a peace agreement, an apparent end to America’s provocative activities on the peninsula, and the eventual full denuclearization of the North Korean regime.

Essentially, the joint statement says that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States of America are declaring their intentions to develop diplomatic relations between their two nations, promote peace on the Korean peninsula together, work towards a denuclearization programme, and the recovery of the remains of POW/MIAs. It doesn’t really say or do anything meaningful in the context of achieving any of those things other than declaring that these are the intentions of these two nations going forward. But of course, it doesn’t have to, either.

Trump has additionally declared that the ‘provocative and expensive’ military exercises were going to stop, which encountered a snag over what VP Pence meant by saying that exercises will, in fact, continue. Criticisms from many mainstream analysts and media outlets on the joint statement and the announcement by Trump about the military drills in South Korea range from concerns that the document is not specific enough with its definitions or lack of certain conditions to worries that Trump is giving up war games exercises without getting enough in return to the fact that the meeting didn’t come out with any formal results on the issues of peace or denuclearization.

Personally, I find these criticisms to be quite silly. Nothing has been defined or laid out to even be signed off on in the manner of really getting anything done by this meeting up to date, so that the concept that everything was to be sorted out and dealt with in one initial meeting is really shallow thinking, and very unrealistic. Complaining that a declaration to dismantle a nuclear arsenal is not enough in exchange to cut back on some military war games is simply dumbfounding, as I’m not quite sure how you intend to get more in return for something like that, the very prospect of such an exchange is entirely disproportionate, although granting that the cessation of the war games drills isn’t all there is or may be as this process moves forward, but that’s not really giving very much in exchange for nuclear disarmament. If anyone is giving more than they’re getting, it looks like the DPRK is putting the most skin in the game. After all, America still has 28,000 boots in South Korea and the ROK and Japan are both still in America’s nuclear defense umbrella.

If one wants to look for reasons to criticize what happened in Singapore between Trump and Kim, there is no shortage of ways and reasons to do so, but reason seems to be the last thing that the mainstream media wants to employ. Primarily, one can look to the fact that Trump’s agreement to something is no indication that he intends to stand by it. Just before he hopped on board Air Force One to head to Singapore in order to have this meeting with Kim, he had approved of the communique to be issued by the G7 summit, but reneged on that once he got on his plane. The tariffs regime relative to China is something that can be pointed to, as back and forth tariffs measures were levied by Washington and Beijing before some sort of agreement was brokered to cut back on these measures, before they were renewed on Washington’s part.

What’s more is Trump’s apparent disdain for multilateralism in preference for bilateral agreements, while this Korean situation is a multilateral one of its very nature, and will include the signatories to the original armistice, in order to establish a peace regime, and several regional powers who want to realize a nuclear free Korean peninsula, so that we’re staring down the barrel of a multilateral agreement being hammered out here if the process manages to progress that far. That is, unless all the parties involved are successful enough in stroking his Trump Tower sized ego by making him feel like it was all his accomplishment

Of course, any deal reached between Trump and Kim must be a ‘good’ deal or else Trump won’t sign on to it, or at the least won’t stick with it. The Iran deal was branded as a ‘bad’ deal by Trump, and so he backed out of it. But another concern is that of Trump’s own fickleness. His reversal of position on the G7 communique wasn’t about the contents of the statement itself, but over the fact that the Canadian PM said that Trump’s logic for levying tariffs on Canada over ‘national security’ reasons was ‘insulting’, which criticism was perceived by Trump as a sort of back stab, and, as a reprisal for such mean words, he instructed his delegates not to endorse the statement that the G7 was still to issue, even though he had previously approved of it. .

But Trump’s behaviour regarding the Iran nuclear deal is what really takes the cake, and serves as the closest possible comparison to a denuclearization agreement on the Korean peninsula. Much fuss is being made over the insistence that the nuclear disarmament by the DPRK must be ‘complete’ irreversible, and verifiable’. Who decides whether whatever actions the DPRK takes in that regard meet those standards? The IAEA? Their word isn’t good enough on the Iran deal, as they have been regularly certifying Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA for years, and they’ve got a level of access to Iran’s facilities that is deemed ‘unprecedented’.

But Washington, and Tel Aviv, insist that Iran is actually violating the terms of the deal and operating a clandestine nuclear program, and that’s the main reason why the JCPOA was a ‘bad’ deal. Well, that and the fact that Iran lends some assistance to Assad in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and allegedly sponsors militant muslim radicals the world over. And maybe because they’re just Iran and Iran is definitely the bad guys, no matter what. Similarly, that’s likely why so many of Trump’s apologists who want to defend his backing out of the JCPOA insist that ‘the JCPOA wasn’t perfect’, as though that somehow justifies scrapping it without any sort of replacement at all. But then, Washington’s demands told us what the real issue is, and it’s not about whether they really think that Iran is training and funding a bunch of radicalized Sunnis to go about on murderous rampages all around the world (even though the Iran government and the Sunnis are not best of pals) but that Iran is assisting Assad in Syria.

Washington basically demands that Iran give up its foreign policy and basically any and all armaments, not just the nuclear stuff. That’s not because Iran is a threat to the stability of the Middle East, or is bombing every other country in the Middle East, or funding and training terrorists to do that sort of thing, no, that’s the Americans who openly do that stuff. If training and funding terrorists for the purpose of destabilizing nations in the Middle East is a good reason for a nation to give up its foreign policy and its military capabilities, in addition to its nuclear arsenal, then where are the cries that Washington repurposes the insanely massive military budget and focuses only on its domestic concerns and lets the Middle East finally realize peace and development? But that’s right, the apologists also tell us the JCPOA wasn’t ‘perfect’ because Tehran could still make ballistic missiles, even if they’re not nuclear warheads.

That might be a major concern if one thought that Iran was going to use that somewhere, as if the allegations that come out of Washington and the mainstream media were accurate. You know, like the stuff they tell us about Russia. The election hacking of just about everybody, the skripal poisonings, the hacking of diplomatic offices, to the cold of winter, you name it, the Russians are behind it. It’s Washington and the MSM that keep cranking these allegations out, and they’re the same ones telling us that Iran is this big threat that’s behind all the bad stuff in the Middle East, like the destabilization of Iraq, or Libya, or Syria, or Yemen… scratch those last four, that was somebody else, pay no heed. But everything else, those Iranians are behind it, and they are a force for chaos and destabilization. Well, perhaps in the opinion of the guy who made his little presentation about Iran’s alleged violations of the JCPOA that Trump made reference to in his withdrawal declaration, maybe so.

No, that’s about the interests of Israel and the Gulf States, and painting Iran as the villain is how that goal is accomplished. The rhetoric about Iran is no more true than Saddam’s WMDs or Putin’s hacking the American elections in order to put Trump in the Oval Office. But it served as a good enough of an excuse to scrap a multilateral nuclear non proliferation agreement against the urgings of every other signatory and many other nations the world over. If that’s how Washington makes its decisions, that essentially means that at any point in time, Washington could decide that it thinks that North Korea is actually violating its nuclear disarmament agreement, no matter how stringently its is supervised and overseen and no matter who performs that task. All it would take would be some pretext, some allegation that Pyongyang is up to no good, and suddenly the deal could be off with the articulation of Trump’s pen.

 

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Denmark As A Model For American Socialists?

In Denmark, everyone pays at least the 25% value-added tax (VAT) on all purchases. Income tax rates are high.

The Duran

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Authored by Lars Hedegard via The Gatestone Institute:


Here are some facts to consider before American “democratic socialists” look to Denmark for guidance, as Senator Bernie Sanders did during the 2016 presidential campaign.

First of all, Danes actually pay for their brand of socialism through heavy taxation. In Denmark, everyone pays at least the 25% value-added tax (VAT) on all purchases. Income tax rates are high. If you receive public support and are of working age and healthy enough to work, the state will require that you look for a job or it will force a job on you.

The willingness of all the Danes to pay high taxes is predicated on the country’s high degree of homogeneity and level of citizens’ trust in each other, what sociologists call “social capital.” By and large, Danes do not mind paying into the welfare state because they know that the money will go to other Danes like themselves, who share their values and because they can easily imagine themselves to be in need of help — as most of them, from time to time, will be.

Whenever politicians propose tax cuts, they are met with vehement opposition: So, you want to cut taxes? What part of the welfare state are you willing to amputate? And that ends the debate.

Danes, in contrast to American socialists gaining ground in the Democratic Party, are increasingly aware that the welfare state cannot be sustained in conditions of open immigration. A political party agitating for “no borders” could never win a Danish election. Danes do not suffer from historical guilt: they have not attacked any other country for more than two centuries and have never committed a genocide.

Moreover, there is an even deeper truth to ponder: Denmark is not really socialist but constitutes a sui generis fusion of free-market capitalism and some socialist elements. Denmark has no minimum wage mandated by law. Wages, benefits and working conditions are determined through negotiations between employers and trade unions. 67% of Danish wage-earners are members of a union, compared to 19% in Germany and 8% in France. Strikes and lockouts are common, and the government will usually stay out of labor conflicts unless the parties are unable to agree.

It is uncomplicated for enterprises to fire workers, which gives them great flexibility to adapt to shifting market conditions. To alleviate the pain, the state has in place a number of arrangements such as generous unemployment benefits and programs to retrain and upgrade redundant workers.

Danish companies must make ends meet or perish. They generally will not get handouts from the government.

Denmark is more free-market oriented than the US. According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2018 Index of Economic Freedom, Denmark is number 12, ahead of the United States (number 18). Venezuela is at the bottom, one place ahead of number 180, North Korea.

Mads Lundby Hansen, chief economist of Denmark’s respected pro-free-market think tank CEPOS, comments:

“Very high taxes and the vast public sector clearly detract in the capitalism index and reduce economic freedom. But Denmark compensates by protecting property rights, by low corruption, relatively little regulation of private enterprise, open foreign trade, healthy public finances and more. This high degree of economic freedom is among the reasons for Denmark’s relatively high affluence.”
Trish Regan recently claimed on Fox Business that Danes pay a “federal tax rate” of 56% on their income. This is misleading. The 55.8% is the levied on the marginaltax for the top income bracket, only on the part of their income above DKK 498,900 ($76,500). Any income under DKK 498,900 is taxed at lower rates. And the 55.8% marginal rate does not represent a “federal” or “national” rate. It represents the total of all taxes on income: national tax, regional tax, municipal tax and labor market tax. It does not, however, include Denmark’s 25% value-added tax (VAT), paid on all purchases.

Regan also claimed that Danes pay a 180% tax on cars. While it is true that there was once a maximum tax of 180% on care in Denmark, the vehicle tax rates have been lowered in recent years. Today, the first DKK 185,100 ($28,400) of the price of a gas- or diesel-powered car is taxed at 85%, and if the car’s price is above DKK 185,100, the remaining amount is taxed at 150% — which is of course bad enough.

Denmark’s total tax burden amounts to 45.9% of GDP, the highest of all countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

As pointed out in the Fox Business segment, all education for Danes is tuition-free, all the way through to a Ph.D. Not only that; the state will, within certain time constraints, pay students to study. For students at university level no longer living with their parents, the monthly cash grant comes to almost $1,000 per month. No fewer than 325,000 students out of a total population of 5.6 million benefit from this generous arrangement setting the state back to the tune of DKK 20.9 billion or 1% of GDP (latest 2018 figures just in and supplied by Mads Lundby Hansen). Denmark even pays student support to 20,000 foreign students.

Attempts by fiscal conservatives to cut down on payments to students have been successfully resisted by the vociferous and influential student organizations; at present it would appear impossible to muster anything like a parliamentary majority to limit the student handouts.

Fox Business is right that a great many Danes are on public transfer payments. Government figures from 2017 indicate that 712,300 Danes of working age (16-64) — not including recipients of student benefits — get public financial support. But Regan’s claim that most Danes do not work is ludicrous. According to Statistics Denmark, 69.9% of Danes aged 16-64 are active in the labor market.

How can Denmark pay for its comprehensive welfare state, which includes free medical care regardless of the severity of your condition? Regan claims that Denmark is “heavily in debt.” Not so. As it turns out, Denmark is among the least indebted countries in the world, even when compared to other Western countries. The Danish government’s gross debt stands at 35.9% of GDP. Compare that to, e.g., The United Kingdom (86.3 %), The United States (108%), Belgium (101%), Canada (86.6%), France (96.3%), Germany (59.8%), The Netherlands (53.5%), Italy (129.7%), Spain (96.7%) and even Switzerland (41.9%).

Comparing Denmark to the US, Madsen notes that the latter has a problem with fiscal sustainability that may necessitate tax increases. Denmark enjoys what he labels fiscal “oversustainability” (“overholdbarhed”).

At a time when socialism appears to be popular among certain sections of the American population, its proponents would do well not to cite Denmark as a model. The Danish fusion of free-market capitalism and a comprehensive welfare state has worked because Denmark is a small country with a very homogeneous population. This economic and social model rests on more than 150 years of political, social and economic compromises between peasants and landowners, business-owners and workers, and right- and left-leaning political parties. This has led to a measure of social and political stability that would be hard to emulate in much larger and more diverse counties such as the United States.


Lars Hedegaard, President of the Danish Free Speech Society, is based in Denmark.

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Ron Paul: Protectionism Abroad and Socialism at Home

One of the most insidious ways politicians expand government is by creating new programs to “solve” problems created by politicians.

Ron Paul

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Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity:


One of the most insidious ways politicians expand government is by creating new programs to “solve” problems created by politicians. For example, government interference in health care increased health care costs, making it difficult or even impossible for many to obtain affordable, quality care. The effects of these prior interventions were used to justify Obamacare.

Now, the failures of Obamacare are being used to justify further government intervention in health care. This does not just include the renewed push for socialized medicine. It also includes supporting new laws mandating price transparency. The lack of transparency in health care pricing is a direct result of government policies encouraging overreliance on third-party payers.

This phenomenon is also observed in foreign policy. American military interventions result in blowback that is used to justify more military intervention. The result is an ever-expanding warfare state and curtailments on our liberty in the name of security.

Another example of this is related to the reaction to President Trump’s tariffs. Many of America’s leading trading partners have imposed “retaliatory” tariffs on US goods. Many of these tariffs target agriculture exports. These tariffs could be devastating for American farmers, since exports compose as much as 20 percent of the average farmer’s income.

President Trump has responded to the hardships imposed on farmers by these retaliatory tariffs with a 12 billion dollars farm bailout program. The program has three elements: direct payments to farmers, use of federal funds to buy surplus crops and distribute them to food banks and nutrition programs, and a new federal effort to promote American agriculture overseas.

This program will not fix the problems caused by Tramp’s tariffs. For one thing, the payments are unlikely to equal the money farmers will lose from this trade war. Also, government marketing programs benefit large agribusiness but do nothing to help small farmers. In fact, by giving another advantage to large agribusiness, the program may make it more difficult for small farmers to compete in the global marketplace.

Distributing surplus food to programs serving the needy may seem like a worthwhile use of government funds. However, the federal government has neither constitutional nor moral authority to use money taken by force from taxpayers for charitable purposes. Government-funded welfare programs also crowd out much more effective and compassionate private efforts. Of course, if government regulations such as the minimum wage and occupational licensing did not destroy job opportunities, government farm programs did not increase food prices, and the Federal Reserve’s inflationary policies did not continuously erode purchasing power, the demand for food aid would be much less. By increasing spending and debt, the agriculture bailout will do much more to create poverty than to help the needy.

Agriculture is hardly the only industry suffering from the new trade war. Industries — such as automobile manufacturing — that depend on imports for affordable materials are suffering along with American exporters. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (who supports tariffs) has called for bailouts of industries negatively impacted by tariffs. He is likely to be joined in his advocacy by crony capitalists seeking another government handout.

More bailouts will only add to the trade war’s economic damage by increasing government spending and hastening the welfare–warfare state’s collapse and the rejection of the dollar’s world reserve currency status. Instead of trying to fix tariffs-caused damage through more corporate welfare, President Trump and Congress should pursue a policy of free markets and free trade for all and bailouts for none.

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In Monsters We Trust: US Mainstream Media No Friend of the American People

Over 300 US newspapers ran editorials on the same day denouncing Trump, an event in itself that points to some high degree of collusion and groupthink.

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Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Over the course of his turbulent presidency, Donald Trump has accused various media companies, with special attention reserved for CNN, as being purveyors of ‘fake news.’ In one early-morning Tweet last year, he slammed the “FAKE NEWS media” as the “enemy of the people.”

This week, over 300 US newspapers ran editorials on the same day – an event in itself that points to some high degree of collusion and groupthink – denouncing Trump’s insensitive portrayal of them, as if the notion that journalists were not in the same sleaze league as lawyers, politicians and professional con artists never crossed anyone’s mind before. Even the peace-loving Mahatma Gandhi recommended “equality for everyone except reporters and photographers.”

But is the MSM really an “enemy of the people?”

First, it cannot be denied that the US media, taken in all its wholesomeness, has been overwhelmingly consistent in its ‘style’ of reporting on Donald Trump, the 45th POTUS. And by consistent I mean unprecedentedly critical, misleading and outright aggressive in its guerilla coverage of him. If one is not convinced by the gloom-and-doom Trump stories featured daily in the Yahoo News feed, then a study by the Media Research Center (MRC) should do the job. From January 1 through April 30, evening news coverage of the US leader – courtesy of ABC, CBS and NBC – were 90 percent negative, which is pretty much the same incredible average revealed by MRC one year earlier.

The study looked at every one of the 1,065 network evening news stories about Trump and his administration during the first four months of 2018. Total negative news time devoted to Trump: 1,774 minutes, or about one-third of all evening news airtime. That’s pretty much the definition of a circle jerk.

“Nearly two-fifths (39%) of the TV coverage we examined focused on Trump scandals and controversies, while 45 percent was devoted to various policy issues,” MRC wrote in its report.

Meanwhile, the farcical Russia ‘collusion’ story was consistently the main grabber — clocking in at 321 minutes, or nearly one-fifth of all Trump coverage. Of the 598 statements MRC calculated about Trump’s personal scandals, virtually all of them (579, or 97%) came out of the media wash cycle tarred and feathered.

If this represents an orchestrated attack on the Commander-in-Chief, and in light of those numbers it would be difficult to argue it isn’t, the strategy appears to be falling flat. Despite, or precisely because of, the avalanche of negative media coverage, Trump’s popularity rating smashed the 50 percent ceiling in early August and continues to remain high.

In Monsters We Trust

Although it can be safely stated that the MSM is an entrenched and relentless enemy of Donald Trump, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an “enemy of the American people,” as Trump argues it is. Let’s be a bit more diplomatic and say it isn’t our friend.

One yard stick for proving the claim is to consider the steadily mounting concentration of media holdings. In 1983, 90 percent of US media were controlled by 50 companies; today, 90 percent is controlled by the Big Six (AT&TComcastThe Walt Disney Company21st Century FoxCBS and Viacom control the spoken and printed word from sea to shining sea).Although many people are aware of the monopolistic tendencies of the US mainstream media, it’s important to understand the level of concentration. It means the vast majority of everything you see and hear on any electronic device or printed publication is ‘democratically’ controlled by six average white guys and their shareholders.

However, keeping track of who owns what these days is practically impossible since the dozens of subsidiary companies that fall under each main company are themselves fiefdoms, each with their own separate holdings. In fact, the already short ‘Big Six’ list is already dated, since National Amusements, Inc. has gobbled up both Viacom and CBS, while 21st Century Fox merged with Disney this year. As for the 350 US newspapers that penned tortured editorials decrying Trump’s critical opinion of them, many of those ‘local’ publications get their marching orders from either the Hearst Communications or the Gannett Company on the East Coast.

Now, with this sort of massive power and influence lying around like dynamite, it stands to reason, or unreason, that the corporate and political worlds will succumb to the law of attraction and gravitation, forging powerful and impregnable relationships. It’s no secret that the politicians, our so-called ‘public servants,’ are mostly in the game to make a fast buck, while the corporations, desperate for ‘democratic representation’ to control regulation and market share, have an inexhaustible source of funds to secure it. Naturally, this oligarchical system precludes any sort of democratic participation from the average person on the street, who thinks just because he remembers to yank a lever once every several years he is somehow invested in the multibillion-dollar franchise.

As far as media corporations being ‘private enterprises’ and therefore free to demolish the freedom of speech (even censoring major media players, like Infowars, simply because they whistle to a different political tune), that is quickly becoming revealed as nothing more than corporate cover for state-sponsored machinations.

“In a corporatist system of government, wherein there is no meaningful separation between corporate power and state power, corporate censorship is state censorship,” writes Caitlin Johnstone. “Because legalized bribery in the form of corporate lobbying and campaign donations has given wealthy Americans the ability to control the US government’s policy and behavior while ordinary Americans have no effective influence whatsoever, the US unquestionably has a corporatist system of government.”

Meanwhile, it cannot be denied, from the perspective of an impartial observer, that the mainstream media is nearly always positioned to promote the government narrative on any number of significant issues. From the media’s unanimous and uncritical clamoring that Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11 (even the FBI has admitted it has no “hard evidence” that bin Laden carried out the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon), to its gung-ho enthusiasm for the 2003 Iraq War, to the sycophantic cheerleading for a war in Syria, the examples of media toeing the government line are legion. And if US intel is in bed with Hollywood you can be damn sure they’re spending time in the MSM whorehouse as well.

Is it any surprise, then, that public trust in the US media is reaching all-time lows, while news consumers are increasingly looking to alternative news sites – themselves under relentless attack – to get some semblance of the elusive truth, which is the God-given right of any man? Truth is our due, and we should demand nothing less.

As Thomas Paine reminded the world in the face of a different foe: “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

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