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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Monday, August 14, 2017

North Korean Solution, the Vatican and Politics, PEFAP plus What's in a Name (Perception of Illusions)

The North Korean Solution

For some excellent insight into the problem we have with North Korea, take a look at an informative article from the American Security Project,  a nonpartisan organization created to educate the American public and the world about the changing nature of national security in the 21st century. CLICK HERE TO READ IT.  

But that article doesn’t go far enough. Clearly, a military solution is out of the question at this time because of the horrendous amount of death and destruction it would wreak upon adjacent South Korea, the vacuum it would leave once the present North Korean regime is destroyed and finally, the danger of a last-resort turning to nuclear weapons by North Korea once they see that their defeat is imminent.  

(The only way a military solution would work is if we have, and I don't think we do, the technical capability to render the North Korean traditional military forces on the border with South Korea harmless, at no cost to us or to South Korea.  It would have to be some sort of 'cyber' action comparable to the Israeli 'Stuxnet' assault on Iran's nuclear program.  If we had such a capability today, we probably would be using it on the North Korean nuclear and missile program.  And I have no reason to believe we can do that.)

So despite our Commander in Chief's ill-thought-out and intemperate remarks about what we can do regarding North Korea's bellicosity, we can forget about a military solution. The only value it has for us is that it can be used as a threat to counterbalance North Korea’s threat to use nuclear-armed ICBMs against the United States.  They don’t want to do that, regardless of what they say, since it would result in their country’s immediate destruction any more than the United States wants to send in troops or attempt to destroy North Korea’s missiles and nuclear weapons resulting in the a great number of deaths and wide-spread destruction in South Korea.  Seoul is but thirty miles from the North Korean border.

These two threats balance one another Having already achieved that may be considered a victory for North Korea.  That we let them get to this point is a tragedy. Previous administrations, Democratic and Republican, have let it happen, not wishing to "make waves" affecting our more significant economic relationship with China.

It is clear that China, without whose support North Korea's economy would crumble, is only going to do things which are in their interest, and not in the interest of the United States nor of world peace. Sanctions are not really an effective weapon to use against North Korea either because China, their major trading partner, really cannot be counted on to fully cooperate, despite their support of such sanctions against North Korea in the United Nations. China fears that a government which might succeed Kim's regime would constitute a threat to them and this bolsters their reluctance to do anything to really weaken him.

The only solution, then, is a diplomatic one.  We must negotiate with North Korea.   Once that process is outlined, it is likely that China will not remain seated idly at the sideline.  They would want to be at the table, or at least in an adjacent room, to see that their interests were protected.  

It is pretty clear what we would want to get out of such negotiations.  We would want a limit, or freeze, on North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapon program so that they would stop threatening the United States and its allies on the eastern Pacific rim (Japan, South Korea, Philippines, etc.)  North Korea would want the threat of interference by the United States or South Korea in their regime to disappear.  That threat doesn’t really exist but North Korea maintains that it does to justify their weapons buildup and to maintain tight control over their population.

Ultimately, we will end up recognizing this delicate balance between the threats made between North Korea and the United States.  It’s a poker game, and they do have nuclear weapons and ICBMs in their hand.  We have much more, but their hand is strong enough for them to keep raising the stakes. 

The goal of negotiations between the United States and North Korea would be a mutual non-aggression pact with strong UN guarantees.  We should be happy with that.  North Korea, however, might not be and prefer the delicate, but very dangerous, balance which exists today between the two countries.  They would want something more to sweeten their end of the deal.  That might consist of economic aid of some sort with the very long term goal of reducing their dependence upon China. This is why negotiations, once commenced, without some involvement by China seems very unlikely. They will not permit any "deal" to ultimately be to their disadvantage. 

Cutting a deal with so repulsive and oppressive regime as there is in Pyongyang, provided the Chinese go along with it, would be disagreeable to many Americans but that might be the direction in which negotiations will have to go. Some may say that such a solution smacks of what happened in Munich in 1938. Appeasing Adolf Hitler did not stop him.  But there were no international guarantees to that agreement, which any detente with North Korea must include.  And I don’t think Kim Jong-un’s goals are as geographically encompassing as were Hitler’s. Neither do I think he is suicidal.
Jack Lippman

Wait a Minute

A word I’d like to see the English language get rid of is “momentarily.”  Dictionary definitions of the word include “for a very short time” and “at any moment; very soon.”  “Moment,” the noun from which the word is derived is defined as “a very brief period of time.” 

Usually the word is encountered when a delay is anticipated and to give the appearance that it will be a very short one, implying just a few minutes. That is usually a lie, but is used to make the delay more acceptable. “Flight 333 will be boarding momentarily” can mean anywhere from one minute to several hours, or maybe never.  “Your feature presentation will begin momentarily” usually means you will be exposed to about twenty minutes of previews before the film you paid to see begins.”
People should say what they mean and not use words like “momentarily” to sugarcoat what is not the case.  If the length of a delay is known, it should be stated. If one cannot be precise about something, it is better to tell the truth rather than mislead the victims, even momentarily.



The PEFAP sitting in the White House has served as an enabler for the white supremacist gangsters who created the tragedy which has just taken place in Charlottesville.

Our PEFAP is at his best when he is in an attack mode, and that is demonstrable by those whom he has attacked for no reason other than that is the way he does things.  He attacks the press.  He still is attacking his Democratic opponent for the presidency.  He attacks his predecessor in office.  He attacks the Affordable Care Act.  He attacks immigrants, especially Muslims. He attacks Comey, Mueller, Sessions and McConnell in the same manner in which he attacked those against whom he was competing for the Republican presidential nomination.  Head-on, sidewise, by innuendo … whatever seems the best attack mode at the moment.  He frames his response to North Korean threats with ill-considered attacks, implying actions he has given little thought to.  The kind of tactics two-bit real estate dealers use are his stock in trade.

But he holds off on attacking those for whom he may have some use.  The bigots of America supported him for President.  Ask them. They think that down deep, he is their friend.  And because he does not go out of the way to specifically and directly attack and denounce them, they are encouraged.  They pay attention to what he "doesn't say" and read between the line of what he does say, or tweets.  And after all, didn't he bring one whom they revere, Steve Bannon, into the While House?  They appreciate that he limits his criticism to generalities and doesn’t call them out for what they are, white supremacist racists.  He doesn’t speak those words, and by not doing so, he enables them!  And that makes them believe they can get away with breaking the law.  (There may be a future use for Guantanamo yet.)

Add this to the great dissatisfaction which many Republicans in the House and in the Senate, whose party name he has permanently sullied, already have for our PEFAP.  They refuse to follow his wishes in regard to health care, the Russia investigation and increased sanctions on that country.  It is only a matter of time before they completely disassociate themselves from him, denounce him, bounce him and get on with Making America Great again after the harm our PEFAP will have done to the country.

*PEFAP  is an acronym for “Poor Excuse for a President.”

Religion and Politics - The Vatican is a Player

Religion and politics are difficult to separate.  In some Muslim dominated countries, such as Iran, they are synonymous.  When a country calls itself an Islamic Republic, it makes no bones about its government’s relationship to God.  The connection is far more tenuous elsewhere and is in fact close to illegal in some Western democracies (even though the British monarch is still a “defender of the faith”) where many faiths exist and where none have locked-in political status.  

Nevertheless, in the United States we find that evangelical Protestant Christians, conservative Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews generally tend to vote Republican and favored Donald Trump in the 2016 election.  Recently, the President signed an executive order removing the financial threat from the IRS faced by tax-exempt churches when clergy speak out on behalf of political candidates. Supposedly that would violate their First Amendment rights.  (I disagree.) 
Right now this issue is coming to a head in the Roman Catholic Church where conservative American bishops are often at variance with a much more liberal stance taken by the Church outside of the United States and particularly enunciated by Pope Francis.  An extremely interesting article on this issue appeared in the New York Times last week WHICH YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING RIGHT HERE.  Read it, please.

It’s All in a Name - Two is Better Than One

Croft & Barrow and Rountree & Yorke sound very British, don’t they?  Can’t you see the two founders of these firms in their old shops on Savile Row in London stitching away on a garment for somebody with a royal title?  Well, not exactly.  Croft & Barrow is the name Kohls Department Store assigns to its own brand of men’s apparel and Rountree & Yorke serves the same purpose for Dillards.  Chances are that all the garments with these labels are made by underpaid workers somewhere in Asia.  But the marketing thrust is totally British.  

Having  a person’s name attached to a product gives it a personal touch.  And two people responsible for what’s going on sounds more stable than one name or just a plain old corporate name. Particularly if the names are conspicuously Anglo-Saxon !                                                                                                                                                   


Which company would you rather buy your detergent from: Proctor & Gamble (one of their original wrappers shown above) or the Cincinnati Soap Company? (Actually, P&G was started by two guys with those last names, brothers-in-law, back in 1837 in Cincinnati.) 

Sears & Roebuck, Barnes & Noble, Crosse & Blackwell all instill the same sense of solidity and permanence. Two names are stronger than one.  But BJ’s discount warehouse recently changed its own house brand from Berkley & Jensen to Berkley-Jensen.  Yet you still get the feel of dual ownership in that hyphenated version.  Competitor Costco manages to get by with just one name on its own products, Kirkland.  

And which do you prefer, the duality of the Mercedes-Benz name or just plain "Daimler" which is actually the name of the well known automobile manufacturer? Herr Benz and Herr Daimler started the operation and Mercedes was actually the name of the daughter of the man who became their top marketing guy, Emil Jellinek, who paired it with Benz' name.  Jellinek's biography is a story of its own. 

Years ago, Merrill Lynch was called Merrill, Lynch, Pearce, Fenner and Beane (with Beane being replaced with a guy named Smith in 1957).  The image was one of five financial wizards overseeing your investments.  Today, of course, Merrill Lynch is part of Bank of America which probably has more than five people looking after your money.  People don’t like to leave their money in one person’s hands. It’s better to know that Goldman and Sachs are keeping an eye on each other.  Same thing goes for Morgan and Stanley whom one can imagine come to work each morning with their brown bag lunches.  But having more than one money manager nomnally around to watch the store didn't work out very well with either the Lehman or the Salomon brothers.  

I wonder if an ice cream cone from just plain Ben’s or from just plain Jerry’s would taste as good as one from Ben & Jerry’s?  Got the picture?  

Their strength is their reliance on one another. When one of them goes in back to wash his hands, the other one can keep scooping out Cherry Garcia for customers.  Same thing might hold true for Horn & Hardart or Dean & DeLuca.  There's an illusion of strength in numbers. It's all a matter of perception.  But we must never forget that's all that it is, and that goes for everything mentioned above, perception of an illusion!


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