January 14, 2018

Donald Trump is doing the job he was elected to do

Fox News: What is DACA and why is the Trump administration ending it?
Fox News: Trump on North Korea, from "Rocket Man" to "Fire and Fury"
Bloomberg: Two Koreas Resume Talks Amid New Signs of Strain

Regardless of whether or not Donald Trump is just another racist narcissistic pathological liar, for the first time in almost a decade North Korea and South Korea are sitting across a table from one another holding negotiations about the Winter Olympics, family reunions, and missing persons.

That is a huge success. Maybe the modern world is such a mess it takes a con man to create real change. I don't know. I don't care. As long as the two Koreas are talking the likelihood of global thermonuclear war drops almost to zero.

That is a huge improvement from August 2015 when China and Russia held joint military exercises aimed at improving their ability to regroup in the aftermath of one.

Unemployment is the lowest in a decade. The Dow Jones Industrial average just passed $25,000. Over a hundred American corporations have announced pay raises and new bonuses. Over a hundred international corporations have announced plans to return both their production and their tax base to the United States.

That's the real story. That's world changing. Who cares if he's a con man? He's doing the job he was elected to do and doing it well.

January 11, 2018

Immigration Reform, Bigotry, Politics, and Realism

Fox News: Trump's Profane Remarks on Immigration
Fox News: Nancy Pelosi Mocks "White Guys" Discussing DACA
Fox News: Trump's Immigration Crackdown Hurts America

I have spent my entire life trapped between two national immigration policies: American and Japanese. I know, from firsthand experience, exactly what it takes to emigrate into either country, find a job, and raise a family. Every time this debate flares up in American media, there is nothing abstract or unreal about it to me. For me, it is a very concrete issue that affects my daily life.

The United States of America has one of the most liberal, all-inclusive immigration systems in the world. Canada might be a tiny bit more liberal, as might Australia, but aside from those two countries I do not know of a single place where anyone and everyone can apply for permanent residence visa from overseas, have their name entered in a lottery, and stand a very good chance of winning permission to permanently emigrate. No other country on the planet is willing to allow anyone and everyone through their borders, regardless of their reasons for immigrating, their social status, their skill set, or any other qualifier. You can't apply to Germany or the United Kingdom or France or Spain or Switzerland for permission to become a permanent resident. Don't even try to apply to Japan, South Korea, or China. They will laugh at you at the embassy and not even provide an application form.

There is only one sure way to get accepted in the European Union as a permanent resident and by that acceptance, be free to travel to and work in any European country: be a refugee from a war-torn country or a political asylum seeker. Oh, but not from China or Russia. If you show up at the border of the EU from China or Russia seeking political asylum they will refuse you and send you back. Period. No exceptions. If you show up at the American border seeking political asylum from Russia or China, you will be asked to fill out a form, you will be interviewed, and then your application will be seriously considered. You might be allowed in, you might not, but at least you will be considered. Don't try that in Japan or South Korea. If you do, you will be arrested on the spot, spend six months in jail, and then be deported back to China or Russia. You won't be allowed a trial or a petition or an application. Once you utter the words, "political asylum", no one will even listen to you.

On the surface, assuming the quote is true, President Trump's remark about "shithole countries" is deeply offensive to the economic and political elites of those countries. That is true. However, to be bluntly honest and completely realistic, if you ask a person on the streets of Haiti or El Salvador or Venezuela or Ecuador, you might be surprised to learn that most of the people will agree with President Trump. The people who are born, struggle to live, and eventually die in those countries would happily sacrifice their earthly fortune or a few body parts to secure the freedom to live in the United States. I'm not joking. Transplant donors from those countries have traded organs on the black market in exchange for illegal transportation across the border (Mexican Cartels Harvest Organs from Illegal Immigrant Children).

President Trump should not have said what he said. He should not even have thought it to himself! I agree completely. That idea is both foolish and arrogant; and it reeks of bigotry. However, let's be real, he was not wrong. Many of the people living in those countries agree with him. They are desperate to get free of their homeland and migrate to the United States. That's just a simple reality. You might not like it. It might offend you. It might wound you deeply. Nonetheless, it is real and ignoring reality is a very dangerous habit.

When I was very young, I believed in the American Dream. I believed people should have the freedom to come to the United States, live here, and do their best to improve their standard of living. I was an avid open borders enthusiast.

I am not young anymore. I have seen firsthand the depths of human depravity that are accepted as "common sense" in many places around the world. It is horrifying and disgusting how much damage humans will do to one another with no sense of shame or guilt simply because they assume the person being hurt is less important or somehow deserving of the pain they are inflicting. The problem with any kind of truly open borders is that is paves the way for people to bring this "common sense" into the United States and then insist we adopt their worldview. In March 2014, Social Work Today dedicated an entire issue to this problem. The American Psychological Association took up this problem as recently as April 2017. These families were not being abnormal or aberrant. In their homelands, physical and sexual abuse of children was simply understood to be one of the prerogatives of being an adult. Best if you have your own children to abuse, but if you don't, as an adult you are free to abuse the neighbor's children. Like it or not, that is their reality. This is a common practice in many societies around the world. Pedophilia is not aberrant in Muslim countries. It is perfectly normal. That's simply reality. Harsh physical punishment of disobedient wives and children is a common practice in Mexico and many South American countries. Beating a child to death is frowned upon, but broken bones are perfectly okay. That is simply the reality they live with every single day. Regardless of how it makes you feel, this is their reality. Physical and sexual abuse of children might be illegal in some South American countries, but very few people are ever charged. Even worse, in many of these countries the abuse laws have no prescribed punishments. A conviction in a court of law simply results in a warning not to do it again.

When people who grew up knowing that breaking a child's arm for failing to do their chores is "common sense" then decide to leave their homeland and move to the United States, they bring their "common sense" with them. There are very real reasons people are dying in the desert trying to sneak across the southern border and come to the United States. People are literally dying to emigrate here. It is not hyperbole. It is reality. The reasons they are willing to risk death is because they believe coming to America will free them of social restrictions on their behavior, provide them economic opportunities to improve their lives, and give them a real chance at a better life. I feel great sympathy for the children of illegal immigrants who came to the United States locked up in the back of a truck, hidden away in the trunk of a car, or carried on their parent's back through the desert. It is horrifying what they endured as children. However, it is not bigotry to point out that they are here in violation of our laws. That's reality. They have no legal, moral, or ethical claim on the American Dream. None whatsoever. It is not their fault, but that does not magically change the reality of their illegal presence within our borders.

"So who's going to pick the strawberries?" you ask.

In Tokyo, one strawberry can cost exactly the same as an entire crate of strawberries in America. You're not worried about who will pick the strawberries. You don't have any sympathy for field workers who spent 10 or 12 hours in the hot California summer, six days a week, picking fruit with their bare hands. They are paid pennies per hour to do this work. Most often, they are paid by the bushel or the basket. The faster they can pick, the more money they can make, but even the fastest among them barely manage a dollar an hour. This is why most Americans are unwilling to go out into the fields and pick. It is not that they object to the work. What they object to is being treated like slaves and paid pennies by corporate farms that earn millions every few months. In some cases, especially raisin farming, some corporate farms earn several million dollars in sales every single month. Illegal immigrants pick the grapes, spread them out on tarps or in drying houses, then gather them up in bushel bags and cart them to the packaging houses. Inside the packaging house, in temperatures that cause massive dehydration, kidney failure, and stroke, more illegal immigrants work the machines that package the dried grapes into fancy red boxes for you to buy.

The only thing you're concerned about is the price of lettuce, not the quality of life of the illegal immigrants who pick it and package it. Americans are unwilling to work like slaves for slave wages in any industry, including agriculture. Standing around in your $200 tennis shoes, blasting conservatives by posting to Facebook or Twitter with your $1000 iPhone, crying, "Who will pick the strawberries?" because your favorite YouTube commentator copied it from some "expert" on MSNBC is the absolute height of hypocrisy. The real bigot is not Pres. Trump, with his inexcusable and profane outburst. The real bigot is you because you are agreeing American agriculture must use illegal immigrant slaves to harvest their crops so that you don't have to pay $15 for a head of lettuce.

January 03, 2018

2018, Either a New Beginning or the Final Chapter

Here we are once again, January 3rd (January 4th here in Tokyo). This is the moment where everyone tries to guess what the new year will bring. At the same time, the good and bad waiting for us down the road begins to rear its ugly head. I can promise you two things for 2018: there will be no solution to either the tension on the Korean Peninsula or the delicate detente between Israel and the Palestinians. Unless these two areas erupt into open warfare (which is a very real possibility), things will go on as they have been for the past five or ten years. Nothing is changing.

This is not good.

North Korea has been starving for twenty years. They need the wealth of South Korea both to improve the luxurious lifestyles of their leadership and provide the economic stimulus necessary to lift their people out of poverty. There is a very simple solution: the Kim family needs to relinquish control of the country and create a genuine constitutional republic. Naturally, that will never happen. As a result, the peninsula will never be reunited and China will preserve their buffer between Democracy and Communism. The real reason that North Korea continues has nothing to do with the Kim family and even less to do with the United States. The situation on the Korean Peninsula continues because China feels safer with the chaotic North Korean regime between their people and the freedom of South Korea. North Korea is China's version of the Berlin Wall.

Nothing will change in the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian people until Iran stops sending cash and weapons to Hamas, Hezbollah, and all the other Maliki Jurisprudence compliant gangs of thugs, terrorists, and criminals who hate Judaism as a religion and the Jews as a people. Anti-Semitic passions, fueled and maintained by the largest, most popular school of Islamic scholarship, are the real problem in the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian people. Iran manipulates this hatred with the deft and skill of master diplomats. Some Iranian leaders share this devotion to Maliki Jurisprudence, but for most of them Islamic fundamentalism is nothing more than a tool that generates huge profits. The Hamas and Hezbollah soldiers are mostly true believers, but the Iranian overlords who profit from the chaos are mostly secular elitists solely concerned with their own wealth. I don't mind people getting rich. I encourage it. However, the wealth of these men (and they are all men) is based on their ability to create, maintain, and fuel violent hatred of an entire cultural system and the people who belong to it. I hate seeing Chinese elites profit by supporting the Kim family in North Korea and I hate seeing Iranian elites profit by supporting terrorists in the wild borderlands surrounding Israel.

North Korea is backed by China and Iran is backed by Russia. This creates the very real danger that these two regional conflicts will explode into global thermonuclear war. As I pointed out back in August 2016 ("War is Coming"), this has almost nothing to do with the competence or incompetence of President Trump. It was the inability (or perhaps merely the unwillingness) of President Obama to seriously counter the growing militarism of both Russia and China that brought us to this point. I fear 2018 has become the year of decision. This might be the year that launches us into World War Three or this might be the year when China and Russia surpass the global prestige of the United States. Either way, by the time this year has ended nothing on the global geo-political stage will be the same.

To be completely honest, I do not know why the war did not start a year ago. Last winter, while President Trump was still consolidating his administration and still learning the limits of his new job, would have been the perfect strategic moment for either China to encourage North Korea to invade South Korea or for Russia to encourage Iran to launch missiles at Tel Aviv. Even more devastating would have been for both satellite states to begin military operations at the same time. Russia and China missed a golden window of opportunity that will probably never come again in my lifetime.

Unfortunately, this means that 2018 has become a critical junction point. By the time this year ends President Trump will either be the most powerful president in the history of the United States or a great lame duck impotently flapping around and quacking at the top of his lungs. Much depends on what happens in November. Well, to be more precise, during the active campaign season that begins in earnest in August. If the Republican Party is poised to take full control of the Senate while maintaining or improving their hold on the House of Representatives, then President Trump will become the most powerful president of my lifetime. If the Republican Party suffers substantial losses in either the House or the Senate (or both!), then President Trump will be the most impotent lame duck President of my lifetime.

Make no mistake, China and Russia will both be attempting to influence the outcome. They will both benefit greatly if President Trump can be rendered impotent. A lame duck president would give them the opportunity they need to finish consolidating their geopolitical stranglehold on resources and shipping lanes. If the Republican Party loses control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives then I don't know if it will ever be possible to restore the global supremacy of the United States.