South Korea helps look for lost North Korean Ship and Crew despite North Korea’s Belligerence

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 5th, 2014

Week in Review

North Korea is a pain in the ass.  The ruling regime, that is.  Not the people.  Who are always suffering at the hands of the ruling regime.  Which is always looking to cause trouble.  So they can get some international relief for their horrible economy.  As they cannot feed their people or produce enough electricity to light up the night.  So they are always doing something belligerent.  To frighten everyone that they might do something nuclear.  The world gets frightened.  And offers some relief.  It’s the same thing over and over again.  Like I said, they’re a pain in the ass.  Yet despite this when a North Korean ship goes missing South Korea doesn’t hesitate to come to the aid of the belligerent North Korea (see South Korea says 2 NKorean ship crew members dead by AP posted 4/3/2014 on Yahoo! News).

The bodies of two North Korean sailors were recovered Friday after their cargo ship went missing off the southern coast of South Korea but 11 others are still missing, South Korea’s coast guard said…

The statement said the 4,300-ton-class ship carrying iron ore was sailing to China from the North Korean port city of Chongjin.

The coast guard said it had mobilized 13 vessels and six aircraft to search for the ship and its crew members. High waves and a strong wind are still hampering rescue operations, according to coast guard officers.

It was not immediately known how South Korea will handle the rescued North Korean sailors, though Seoul usually repatriates North Korean sailors found drifting in South Korean waters if they want to return home.

The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. On Monday, the rival Koreas fired hundreds of artillery shells into each other’s waters in a flare-up of animosities.

You see, South Korea is not an ass like North Korea.  Despite their history.  North Korea invaded South Korea. When the UN forces pushed them back to the Yalu River (the border between North Korea and China) Chinese troops poured over the border and extended the Korean War for years.  To this day China is the only friend North Korea has.  Yet here is South Korea helping to find missing North Korean sailors.  Even though that ship was carrying iron ore to China.  If a South Korean ship disappeared off the coast of North Korea would North Korea even lift a finger to help find the ship?  Probably not.  They would likely just patrol their coastline and arrest anyone that comes ashore as a spy.  And use them as bargaining chips for more relief.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , ,

North Korea may not be able to Light up the Night or Feed her People but they now have their own Smartphone

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 17th, 2013

Week in Review

You know the machines are taking over the world when everyone must have a smartphone these days.  Even the North Koreans (see Skepticism as NKorea shows home-grown smartphone by Youkyung Lee, AP Technology Writer, posted 8/16/2013 on Yahoo! Finance).

North Korea’s announcement that it is mass producing a home-grown smartphone has been met with skepticism in the tech industry in South Korea and abroad.

The North’s state media last week showed leader Kim Jong Un inspecting “Arirang” phones at a Pyongyang factory. The Korean Central News Agency’s Aug. 10 report said the factory began manufacturing smartphones “a few days ago” and they were already in high demand.

No.  They’re not.

…access to the global Internet is severely restricted and mobile phones used on the state-authorized network cannot make overseas calls. The North’s Intranet gives access to government sanctioned sites and works with its own browsers, search engine and email programs, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

So, in other words, people can use these smartphones to only access the state propaganda that they are already being bombarded with.  Not the rich entertainment environment available just south of the border in South Korea.  Where people actually want smartphones.  Well, not smartphones per se.  But the cyberworld the smartphones bring to them.  A cyberworld strictly FORBIDDEN for the average North Korean.  So, yeah, there is a high demand for smartphones in North Korea.  Just as there is a high demand for famine and state-oppression.  Which, sadly, are the only things North Korea has an abundance of.

The 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce and the Korean Peninsula remains technically at war. Since then, the South has prospered and produced giant corporations such as Samsung Electronics Co., which is the world’s biggest maker of smartphones, computer memory chips and displays. The North’s economy has languished under socialist central planning though the capital Pyongyang is an oasis of relative affluence.

And there’s the problem.  Socialist central planning.  If that would ever go away the people could use smartphone like their neighbors to the south.  As well as losing their constant fear of famine.  And state-oppression.  Of course for that to happen will require the reunification of the Korean Peninsula.  With the North becoming like the South, of course.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Profit Incentive has made Air Travel Safe and Crashes Rare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 7th, 2013

Week in Review

During the height of the Cold War people feared the might of the Soviet Union.  And nuclear war.  As those were scary days.  For the Soviet Union had some awesome military power.  And was the only nation that could threaten the United States.  But you know what was even scarier?  Flying on a Soviet jetliner.

The Soviet Union lost the Cold War because communism is a terrible economic system.  The Soviets couldn’t feed their people.  Or keep enough toilet paper and soap on store shelves.  As their command economy did such a horrible job in allocating scarce resources that have alternative uses.  So you never had the best of anything in the Soviet Union.  Which is why people from the West dreaded flying into the Soviet Union on Soviet jetliners.  For they had a tendency to crash.  The Soviets stole as much technology from the West to improve their technology as they could.  And many of their aircraft designs looked similar to those in the West.  But they were Soviet made.  And Soviet maintained.  In the same economic system that couldn’t keep toilet paper or soap on store shelves.

The problem with the Soviet Union was that there was no profit incentive.  When money is at stake everything is better.  Like in the West.  But when you don’t have profits you don’t have to please customers.  And you don’t.  Everything is like standing in line waiting to renew your driver’s license.  And if a plane crashes it doesn’t change anything.  Planes will keep flying as they were before.  And everyone’s pay will be the same as before.  So everyone will do the minimum.  Just enough to avoid punishment.  This is why Soviet air travel was among the most dangerous air travel in the world.

This past Saturday there was an Asiana Air 777 that crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport.  Of the approximate 300 on board 2 people died.  Some were injured.  While many were able to walk away from the crash.  Cable television has been covering this nearly 24/7 since the crash.  Even though only two people died (a terrible tragedy but a tragedy that could have been far worse).  And one of them may have been accidentally driven over by the first responders arriving on scene.  Why the intense media coverage?  Because accidents like this are so rare these days.  Especially when they involve big airplanes.  And the 777 is about as big as they come.

In the aftermath of this crash we can see why flying has become so safe under a profit incentive.  Unlike in the former Soviet Union (see Asiana Air Crash May Bring New Safety Regulations in Korea by Kyunghee Park posted 7/7/2013 on Bloomberg).

“Asiana’s accident is going to damage the image of not just Asiana, but all Korean airlines,” said Um Kyung A, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities Co. in Seoul. “It only takes one incident to undermine years of work Korean airlines have made to get a solid, accident-free record. This will prompt the government to call for stricter safety measures…”

Shares of Asiana, South Korea’s second-largest airline, slumped to the lowest level in more than three years in Seoul trading today. The stock plunged as much as 9.6 percent to 4,630 won, the lowest price since April 2010…

All South Korean airlines, including budget carriers, were ordered to ensure safety, the transport ministry said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. The country had no fatal air crashes between December 1999 and July 2011, when an Asiana freighter crashed, the ministry said…

A Korean Air 747-200 cargo plane crashed in December 1999 shortly after taking off from London’s Stansted Airport, killing three of its four crew members on board. That was eight months after the airline’s MD-11 freighter crashed in Shanghai in April and killed eight people, including those on the ground.

The accidents prompted the government to tighten safety standards at Korean airlines, as well as foreign ones flying into the country. It also strengthened regulations on pilot and maintenance licenses.

Pilots were required to be trained and evaluated at an international center, and airlines were required to fly more hours on domestic routes before obtaining a license to fly overseas. The government also strengthened safety regulations at domestic airports.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration downgraded South Korea to Category 2 safety rating in August 2001 following the accidents. The rating was restored to Category 1, which allowed Korean carriers to open new routes in the U.S. and resume marketing alliances with American carriers, in December that year.

In the Soviet Union there was no profit incentive as they put people before profits.  Which made Soviet air travel among the most dangerous in the world.  But look at what happens when there is a connection between safety and profits.  After a series of crashes and a downgrade by the U.S. to Category 2 South Korea tightened safety standards.  To improve their safety record.  For the fewer accidents you have the more profitable you will be.  A very strong incentive to be safe.  Which is why South Korea enjoys a better safety record than the Soviet Union ever had.

When people say that we need government to keep us safe from the greed of corporations all we need to do is look at the former Soviet Union.  And how their government failed to keep their flying public as safe as in countries that use a profit incentive.  For no corporation wants to see their stock price fall 9.6 percent.  Have a nation block them from opening new routes into their country.  Or have people perceive that their planes are not safe.  Things the former Soviet Union did not have to worry about.  As the Soviet people had no other alternative but to fly on those dangerous planes.  But there are many airlines flying between Asia and the United States.  And if one has a poor safety record people will book their flight with another airline.  This is what the profit system gives people.  Choice.  Where people can choose not to fly on an unsafe airline.  Something the Soviets couldn’t do.  Because there were no profits in the Soviet Union.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kim Jong Un turns to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf for Advice for North Korea’s Economic Ills

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 22nd, 2013

Week in Review

President Bill Clinton entered into an agreement to help them build two nuclear reactors to produce electric power if the North Koreans agreed to give up their nuclear weapons program.   But they went ahead and built nuclear weapons anywhere.  President Clinton also gave them some satellite knowledge.  Navigational black boxes.  Allowing them to launch a satellite into space.  Which upon launching crashed in the ocean.   Which the North Koreans salvaged.  And got the navigational black box.  Giving them not only nuclear weapons but the knowledge to create an ICBM to deliver that nuclear weapon.  And ever since they’ve threatened us with nuclear belligerency to get what they want.  They agree to stand down on their nuclear weapon program in exchange for food or energy aid.  And when that aid runs out they threaten us with nuclear belligerency again.

President George W. Bush included North Korea in the Axis of Evil.  And was not as friendly to Kim Jong Il as his predecessor was.  But Kim Jong Il is dead now.  And his son Kim Jong Un has taken over.  So how much better did things get with the new Kim?  Not much.  In fact, they may have gotten worse (see Report: Kim Jong Un handing out copies of ‘Mein Kampf’ to senior North Korean officials by Max Fisher posted 6/17/2013 on The Washington Post).

Senior North Korean officials received copies of “Mein Kampf,” Adolf Hitler’s rambling prison memoir, as gifts for Kim Jong Un’s birthday this January, according to a report by New Focus International, a North Korean news organization that sources from defectors and volunteer citizens within the country…

The book was apparently not distributed to endorse Nazism so much as to draw attention to Germany’s economic and military reconstruction after World War One…

“Kim Jong Un gave a lecture to high-ranking officials, stressing that we must pursue the policy of Byungjin in terms of nuclear and economic development,” New Focus’s North Korean source told them by phone. “Byungjin” translates literally to “in tandem” and refers to official policy of developing the nuclear program and economy simultaneously.

The nuclear program is still front and center in national policy.  Some things never change.

So they’re going to take some economic lessons from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf?  To recreate the economic miracle Hitler had following World War I?  It’s a little too late for that.  For a lot of the things Hitler did North Korea already has done.  Seize private property.  Limit imports.  Abolish trade unions.  Cut wages.  Force people to work longer hours.  Default on debt.  Print money to pay for public works projects.  And military rearmament.  Then plan on using the proceeds from world conquest to fix their balance sheet.

A lot of these are non-options for Kim Jong Un.  For there is no private property to seize.  They don’t have any trade unions demanding higher wages or better working conditions to abolish.  Public work projects?  If they haven’t been able to light up the night after all of these years with a grand public works project chances are they never will.  They already have a military-first national policy like the Nazis did.  They have one of the largest land armies in the world.  And already have nuclear weapons.  Yet they still have a horrible economy.  Proving again Keynesian economics doesn’t work.  For that was basically what Hitler had.  An economic system somewhere between the Soviet Union and the United States.  State capitalism.  Heavy on the state.

But for state capitalism to work you need a large private sector economy to interfere in.  And North Korea just doesn’t have that.  What they have is nothing but state spending.  And state spending just doesn’t work.  If it did North Korea’s economy would be greater and stronger than South Korea’s economy.  But it’s not.  For South Korea has lit up their night.  And they are doing quite well.  So well that they are one of the four Asian Tigers.  Because they embraced free market capitalism.  And when they do stray into state capitalism theirs is a kind that is very heavy on the capitalism.  Not the state.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

China, Taiwan, Four Asian Tigers and 1997 Asian Financial Crisis

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 18th, 2013

History 101

Both Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek were rather Brutal to any Political Opposition

Today many of the things we buy are stamped ‘Made in China’.  Because the Chinese can manufacture things cheaply.  For they have a booming export economy.  Which the Chinese built by introducing a little capitalism to the communist state.  And some things that were as un-capitalistic as you can get.  Like artificially low interest rates.  Currency manipulation.  Cheap labor.  And the strong arm of the communist ruling party to keep that labor cheap.  All of this to make their exports about the most inexpensive in the world.  Giving them a huge trade advantage.  Filling stores around the world with products stamped ‘Made in China’.

But before there was ‘Made in China’ there was ‘Made in Taiwan’.  Taiwan.  Officially the Republic of China (ROC).  Not to be confused with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).  AKA mainland China.  Taiwan (or the ROC) is an island in the Pacific Ocean off the China coast with Japan to the northeast and the Philippines to the south.  And is where Chiang Kai-shek and his Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang or KMT) fled to during the Chinese Civil War when Mao Zedong and his communists conquered mainland China.

Both Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek were rather brutal to any political opposition.  But while the PRC suffered some of the world’s worst famines and abject poverty Taiwan at least modernized into an advanced industrial economy.  Helped in large part by the KMT taking China’s gold reserves.  Their foreign currency reserves.  As well as the intellectual and business elites.  Who typically flee ahead of advancing communists.  As those are the people the communists usually kill or send off to reeducation camps.

International Investment poured into Southeast Asia and Spread the Asian Miracle beyond the Four Asian Tigers

Taiwan is one of the Four Asian Tigers.  Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong developed advanced economies beginning in the early Sixties.  Thanks in part to laissez-faire economic policies of free trade, open markets, privatization and deregulation.  They also shrunk the size of their public sector.  And had a high savings rate.  Providing the capital for their industrialization.  While keeping personal and public debt levels low.  Because debt matters.  And the more of it you have the more difficult it is to get through a crisis.

But some of these countries also implemented non-laissez-faire economic policies.  Such as keeping domestic interest rates artificially low.  Even having special low rates for select export industries.  And there was some crony capitalism.  Government loaning to their crony capitalist friends.  Some of which disappeared thanks to a certain amount of corruption.  While a lot of it was used to make bad investments.  What those in the Austrian school of economics call malinvestments.  Investments not driven by the laws of supply and demand.  But for non-business reasons.  Growing big for the sake of being big.  Expanding just because of cheap interest rates.  Or the government choosing which businesses to expand.  And often choosing wrong.  Because those decisions were based on political reasons.  Or just a poor understanding of business in general.

The Asian Tigers served as a model for other nations.  Who followed their lead.  And got onto the export bandwagon.  Some even attracted foreign capital to build an export economy with high interest rates.  And pegged their currencies to the U.S. dollar.  To further encourage foreign investors to invest in their countries.  And it worked.  International investment capital poured into Southeast Asia.  Spreading the Asian Miracle beyond the Asian Tigers.

The Asian Tigers recovered the quickest thanks to their Laissez-Faire Economic Policies and their High Savings Rate

Then came the 1997 Asian financial crisis.  Starting in Thailand.  A nation that had a lot of foreign investment.  And a currency pegged to the U.S. dollar.  Then came a massive speculative attack on the currency.  Speculators were trying to force a devaluation of the Thai currency (the baht) by selling mass holdings of the baht.  In hopes of profiting by entering into agreements to repay a debt in baht at a later date.  If the baht devalued they could repay that debt with a cheaper baht.  Thus making a profit.  Thailand fought this devaluation, though.  By selling their foreign reserves to buy baht to maintain the peg to the U.S. dollar.  But they eventually ran out of foreign reserves to sell.  And had to let the baht float.  Causing a massive devaluation.  Making all that foreign debt much more expensive to repay.  Leading to defaults.  And bankruptcies.

Worried foreign investors started pulling their money out of Southeast Asia.  As they sold their holdings they flooded the foreign exchange market with these devalued currencies.  Putting additional pressure on exchange rates.  At the same time the United States was raising their interest rates to head off inflation there.  Those nations that pegged their currency to the U.S. dollar had to strengthen their currencies, too.  Raising the price of their exports.  Making them less competitive.  So exports fell.  Those higher U.S. interest rates made investment there more attractive.  Increasing the capital flight from these countries.  To try and stop this capital flight countries raised their interest rates.  Which further hurt their economies.  As it was more difficult and more costly to borrow money.

Before it was all said and done currencies, stock markets and other assets lost a lot of value in countries hit by the crisis.  Including the Asian Tigers.  But thanks to their laissez-faire economic policies and their high savings rate (except for South Korea) they recovered faster from the crisis than the other Southeast Asian countries.  Of the Four Asian Tigers South Korea suffered the most.  Thanks to a high level of foreign investment.  And numerous corporate bankruptcies.  Because of those malinvestments.  The causes of the 1997 Asian financial crisis are still debated today.  However what can’t be disputed is that those who suffered the least were those nations that embraced laissez-faire economic policies the most.  And those who interfered with market forces to stimulate an export economy tended to suffer more.  Something China (PRC) is doing.  Interfering with market forces to stimulate an export economy.  And making a lot of malinvestments.  As they try to bring their economy up to the standard of Taiwan (ROC).  Only without the laissez-faire economic policies the ROC used.  All but guaranteeing another financial crisis in the region.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

South Koreans caught Cheating on SATs may lead to more Worthless Liberal Arts Degrees in U.S.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 12th, 2013

Week in Review

U.S. high-tech companies have trouble finding qualified applicants to hire.  So a lot of them turn to the H-1B visa.  To bring in highly skilled foreign workers.  Those with science and engineering degrees.  And good GPAs.  So the H-1B visa is a valuable commodity.  As they only allow so many H-1B visas a year.  The current limit is 65,000.  Making high-tech companies jockey for the limited number of highly-skilled foreign workers allowed into the country.

So despite a high unemployment rate there is a high demand for college graduates with degrees in science and engineering.  Which causes a lot of foreign high school graduates to take the SAT exam in hopes of going to an American university.  So they can get one of those high-paying tech jobs.  And some appear to want that a little more than others (see For the First Time, SAT Test Gets Canceled in an Entire Country by Kayla Webley posted 5/10/2013 on Yahoo! News).

Some 1,500 South Korean students who dream of attending elite American colleges are scrambling after the U.S.-based administrator of the SAT cancelled the scheduled May 4 session of the exam due to allegations of widespread cheating. It’s the first time the SAT test has been called off in an entire country…

Test center managers told the WSJ that the problem is widespread and that official test booklets can be purchased from brokers for about $4,575—a relatively small price to pay for families fighting to gain admittance to Harvard, Stanford and other prestigious American schools no matter the cost…

But South Korea is hardly alone—the high stakes nature of the exam has fueled cheating elsewhere, although on a smaller scale. Of the nearly three million SAT exams taken worldwide each year, at least a few thousand are canceled because of suspected cheating. Several hundred other potential test takers are turned away at the door each year because of questionable identification. In 2011, 20 students in Long Island, New York were charged with cheating on the SAT—five were accused of taking the test for others and 15 were accused of paying them $500 to $3,600 to take the exams.

The College Board and ETS say they expects to be able to offer the SAT in South Korea in June, but in the meantime, and out of fear of additional problems, there have been reports of students flying to Japan and Hong Kong to take the test there in order to get their scores in time to apply for college in the U.S. this summer.

This no doubt greatly disappoints those American high-tech companies.  To have such widespread cheating caught like that.  “Why?” they probably cried, “did these kids have to get caught?”  You see, they want these kids to get into the American universities.  For they will take the hard classes and study.  Not only to get good grades but to become intimate with the material.  Unlike too many American kids entering American Universities (see Only 150 of 3500 U.S. Colleges Are Worth the Investment: Former Secretary of Education by Lauren Lyster posted 5/7/2013 on Yahoo! Finance).

The U.S. is home to some of the greatest colleges and universities in the world. But with the student debt load at more than $1 trillion and youth unemployment elevated, when assessing the value of a college education, that’s only one part of the story.

Former Secretary of Education William Bennett, author of Is College Worth It, sat down with The Daily Ticker on the sidelines of the Milken Institute’s 2013 Global Conference to talk about whether college is worth it.

“We have about 21 million people in higher education, and about half the people who start four year colleges don’t finish,” Bennett tells The Daily Ticker. “Those who do finish, who graduated in 2011 – half were either unemployed or radically underemployed and in debt…”

The problem, Bennett says, is people going to second-tier schools, majoring in less-marketable liberal arts fields, and taking on debt to do so.

And now you see why high-tech companies are so desperate for those H-1B visas.  Too many American kids go to college to party.  Even choosing their school by where they rank as a party school.  All play and no work leads to, of course, about half of those enrolling in a 4-year program failing to graduate.  And too many of those who do graduate majored in the liberal arts.  Which is of no use to a high-tech company.  Leaving them to rely more on the H-1B visa.  And kids who can cheat better on their SATs.  Because these kids will not only enter and finish a 4-year program.  But they will graduate with a degree in science or engineering.  For no parents in a foreign country are going to spend that kind of money to get their kid into a 4-year college just so they can have a good time and come back home to live in their basement.

In America some are questioning if college is worth it.  While in South Korea they will do just about anything to get into an American University.  Because unlike many of their American counterparts they will make going to college well worth it.  As they land one of those high-paying jobs high-tech companies are so desperate to fill.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

North Korea uploads YouTube Video showing Missiles Raining Down on New York despite President Obama not being George W. Bush

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 9th, 2013

Week in Review

George W. Bush included North Korea in his Axis of Evil.  Because they were a Stalinist regime with nuclear ambitions.  Who oppressed her people.  Even starving them to death in the occasional famine.  But that was the cowboy days of George W. Bush.  Who made the world hate us with his swaggering and bullying ways.  President Obama was going to make the world love us once again.  Especially our enemies.  By simply talking to them.  So here we are.  Just finishing our fourth year under President Obama.  Who changed the way our enemies think about us (see North Korea ‘dream’ video shows U.S. city under missile attack by Dylan Stableford posted 2/5/2013 on Yahoo! News).

In what appears to be a provocative PR stunt, a bizarre video uploaded to YouTube by North Korea over the weekend shows a dream sequence that includes a U.S. city resembling New York under an apparent missile attack.

The video, produced by North Korea’s official website, Uriminzokkiri, begins with a young man imagining himself aboard a North Korean space shuttle that circles the earth, pausing to zoom in on a unified Korea…

Near the end of the dream sequence, the imagined U.S. city—including what appears to be the Empire State Building—is shown in flames. (The attack footage appears to have been taken from the video game “Modern Warfare 3.”)

“Somewhere in the United States, black clouds of smoke are billowing,” reads a caption, translated by The Guardian. “It seems that the nest of wickedness is ablaze…”

The video arrives just days after North Korea threatened to retaliate against the U.S. for what it called a double standard stemming from a recent rocket launch by South Korea, which the U.S. said had no military intent…

On Saturday, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman did not elaborate on the threatened retaliation. But according to the Associated Press, Pyongyang recently threatened to conduct its third nuclear test in response to what it calls U.S. hostility.

Did North Korea not get the memo about President Obama becoming president in 2008?  And getting reelected in 2012?  They’re supposed to love us now.  Not threaten us with nuclear tests.  And missiles attacks.  I’m just not feeling the love here.

Perhaps George W. Bush was correct in his foreign policy after all.  And governed like he was wearing big-boy pants.  Like an adult who understands the world.  Not as a child-like liberal with the idealism of a Sixties’ hippy.  For it turns out ‘make love not war’ is not an effective foreign policy.  For there are states out there that just hate us.  And want to rain nuclear missiles down on our cities.  Unless we tremble at their military prowess.  And give them food aid so their people won’t die from yet another famine.

One thing, though, most people probably like in that video was a unified Korea.  Though not in quite the way the North Korean rulers imagine a unified Korea.  One in which the people of South Korea are brought down to the level of those in the North.  But one in which the people in North Korea are brought up to the level of those in the South.  A unified Korea free of oppression.  And free of famine.  This is the dream we have of a unified Korea.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

North Korea threatens the United States with Nuclear War

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 26th, 2013

Week in Review

For awhile there we had hope that Kim Jong Un might not be like his dad.  Kim Jong Il.   That maybe North Korea would change.  Maybe loosen up a bit.  And not be all about famine and nuclear weapons.  But it appears that the new Kim Jong is as bad as the old Kim Jong.  Perhaps even worse (see China calls for talks after North Korean threat by Barbara Demick posted 1/24/2013 on the Los Angeles Times).

With North Korea openly threatening the United States with nuclear weapons, China called Thursday for a new round of diplomacy and appears to be growing increasingly frustrated with its longtime ally.

Beijing’s calls for intervention come amid a torrent of belligerent language from Pyongyang, angered by a United Nations resolution earlier in the week expanding sanctions over its missile and nuclear program.

The latest escalation came Thursday when Pyongyang lashed out at the United States, which it called the “archenemy of the Korean people.’’

“We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are targeted at the United States,” North Korea’s National Defense Commission said in a statement released by the official news service.

“Settling accounts with the U.S. needs to be done with force, not with words,” it said.

Not true.  The United States likes the people in Korea.  North and South.  It’s the government in the North that the United States has a problem with.  As do the good people suffering in North Korea.  Who would like to escape the oppression of Kim Jong Un.  And to know life without hunger.  To have a home.  Filled with the modern conveniences of life.

The Americans aren’t a threat to the people in North Korea.  They are a threat to the regime that oppresses these people.  We oppose the oppressive regime.  As we oppose regimes everywhere that oppress their people.  We are their friend.  And they know that.  Which is why the United States is the archenemy of North Korea’s ruling regime.  Because we give their people hope.  The last thing Kim Jong Un wants his people to have.

It is the inevitable destiny that the Korean peninsula reunites.  But as the Germans learned at the end of the Cold War this is not easy.  And is costly.  Once the regime falls, and it will fall, South Korea will have a humanitarian crisis on their hands.  China, too.  Millions of people who need jobs.  And food.  Which is probably why China is in no hurry to see Kim Jong Un go.  Even though they’re losing their patience with their longtime ally.  What we need now is a plan to deal with post-Communist North Korea.

North Korea needs massive infrastructure investments.  If you look at the Korean peninsula coastline at night you can tell where South Korea ends and North Korea begins.  For there will be light and life in South Korea after dark.  And only darkness in North Korea.  Someone has to build up that infrastructure.  Someone has to build housing.  Someone has to build the goods to go in those homes.  And someone has to build the factories to build those goods.  North Korea has a lot of people.  And a lot of things that need to be done.  All they need is a plan.  So they can hit the ground running.  To speed up the unification process.  While minimizing the pain of unification.  And the cost South Korea will have to bear.

Or we can continue this dance forever.  Sanctions.  Nuclear threats.  And aid.  We try to punish them for advancing their nuclear program.  They threaten something nuclear.  We negotiate away the nuclear threat in exchange for more aid.  The same old song and dance we’ve been doing for decades.  It’s gotten so old that even the Chinese are tiring of it.  Perhaps suggesting they may be open to a little regime change.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Aging Populations have Cooled Economies in Japan and South Korea and may do the same in China

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 12th, 2013

Week in Review

The dependency ratio is a measure of the burden of the unproductive population on the productive population.  We calculate it by dividing the number of people not of working age (typical those under 15 and over 64 years of age) by the number of people of working age (typically those between the ages of 15 and 64).  The higher this percentage the fewer people in the workforce paying taxes to pay for state-provided pensions and health care.  Two things can increase this percentage.  A baby boom.  Which isn’t a problem.  Or an aging population as the younger generation is having fewer babies that those leaving the workforce had.  This is a BIG problem.  As you have fewer and fewer people paying taxes to support more and more people in retirement.

This is why Social Security and Medicare are going bankrupt.  It’s not because the rich aren’t paying their fair share of taxes.  It’s because there just aren’t enough people working anymore to collect enough tax revenue to pay for the exploding pension and health care costs of an aging population.  This is why the Eurozone is suffering a sovereign debt crisis.  It’s why the UK is trying to find billions of savings in their National Health Service.  It’s why France wants to tax millionaires at 75%.  They have shrinking tax bases because their populations are aging.  So they raise tax rates on the fewer people working.

As governments use their monetary policy tools to help them spend money they don’t have their economies suffer.  In fact, there is a direct correlation between a rising dependency ratio and falling GDP.  As Japan’s and South Korea’s populations aged their GDPs fell.  Which should be sounding a lot of warning bells in China.  For their dependency ratio is now rising (see China Hits A Demographic Turning Point by Joe Weisenthal posted 1/11/2013 on Business Insider).

So the great economic miracle that was China may be coming to an end.  Unless they find some other way to address the costs of an aging population.  Something the other, older economic powerhouses have yet to figure out.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

In Exchange for Keeping Ruthless Dictators in Power Loyal Military Officials live Very Good Lives

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 3rd, 2012

Week in Review

The world has had some horrible dictators.  And still does.  Who have committed horrible acts of cruelty against their own people.  Even though dictators are only one person.  And couldn’t do these things alone.  So they get a little help (see Was a North Korean General Really Executed by Mortar Fire? by MICHAEL MADDEN posted 10/31/2012 on Foreign Policy).

Kim Jong Il had learned the importance of keeping his friends close and his generals closer. Until he assumed the role of supreme leader in 1997 (after a three-year morning period for his beloved father), almost all of his reported public appearances were field inspections of military units. This broadcast the military’s prominence as Kim Jong Il’s most valued political constituency. Under his “military first” policy, the military received priority in the allocation of increasingly scarce food and energy resources, as well as the rights to a number of lucrative foreign-currency generating economic activities. Having given his generals the butter churn, Kim Jong Il handed out the guns. Research and development into nuclear weapons continued, and the development and production of ballistic missiles thrived.

The number of military officials treated to the largesse of Kim Jong Il’s party economy steadily increased. They were permitted fine homes and vacation at exclusive retreats. On state holidays he gifted expensive automobiles, household appliances, and various luxury goods. As with Kim’s close aides in the party, military officials were allowed wide administrative latitude in how they managed the daily affairs of their respective agencies and units. This eventually incited fierce bureaucratic turf warfare among senior security officials. It suited Kim Jong Il’s interests as leader to have his generals squabbling among themselves instead of challenging him.

The key to being a dictator is taking care of the military.  You make sure they have the best food.  And the best stuff.  You make sure their lives are good lives.  In a country where most people quake with fear.  Fearing their government.  And famine.  This is life in North Korea.  Where it goes dark after the sun sets.  And looks like something out of medieval times.  While just across the border in South Korea life is good for all Koreans.  And there is no famine.  Where it is so good for some that Park Jae Sang (PSY) mocks their conspicuous displays of wealth in his Gangnam Style.  A world unknown to the people north of the border.  Unless you’re in the inner circle of power.  Or the military.

Of course you don’t have to live in a dictatorship connected to the inner circles of power to enjoy the very good life.  As governments grow in rich countries they have mountains of tax money to play with.  And those in the inner circles of power have a lot of privilege.  Who get generous portions of that vast tax revenue.  And live a far better life than most others could even imagine.  Even in the United States.  Where some of the richest communities with the highest real estate values are where?  Adjacent to our nation’s capital.  The suburbs of Washington DC.

In the US the ruling elite do not rely on the military to maintain their positions of power and privilege.  They rely on a loyal media.  The universities.  And public education.  Who help the people understand that they should vote for them.  And their very good lives.  Making it a lot easier for them to enjoy the very good life than someone like Kim Jong Un.  Who has to bribe the crap out of the military to prevent them from killing him.  And to put the fear of God into the people to prevent them from killing him.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

« Previous Entries