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60 Years after the Korean War, The U.S. Must End Its Cold War Alliance with South Korea

July 15, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Pyongyang urged the U.S. to “positively respond” to the former’s call for negotiations “without preconditions.” Washington refused to “engage in talks merely for the sake of talks” and insisted that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea commit to denuclearization. The diplomatic impasse on the Korean peninsula continues.

The current situation endangers everyone. The so-called Demilitarized Zone remains the most heavily armed border on earth. No one wants war, but mistake or misjudgment is possible. Although the U.S. and Republic of Korea would triumph in any conflict, the price would be extravagant.

The allies continue to focus on the North’s nuclear program. Last month the U.S., Japan, and South Korea released a joint statement announcing that the path “for the DPRK toward improved relations” is for Pyongyang to take “meaningful steps on denuclearization.” No doubt that is the best outcome. However, it remains the least likely.

There’s no reason for the U.S. to be entangled in Korean disputes with minimal impact on America.”

North Korea has made acquisition of nuclear weapons a matter of national policy for two decades. In fact, Pyongyang has grown ever more determined to be accepted as a nuclear power, writing its ambition into the country’s constitution.

Ignoring this reality achieves nothing. The North recently declared: “The legitimate status of the DPRK as a nuclear-weapons state will go on and on without vacillation whether others recognize it or not.”

There’s nothing mysterious about North Korea’s program. The advantages of being a nuclear power are many. Most obviously, nuclear weapons offer an effective deterrent. Serbia and Iraq demonstrate the danger of becoming an American target without nukes. Libya demonstrates the danger of becoming an American target after abandoning nukes.

As Henry Kissinger once reportedly observed, even paranoids have enemies. Pyongyang knows that the U.S. means it ill—President George W. Bush famously termed the DPRK a member of the “axis of evil” and said that he “loathed” Kim Jong-il, the current ruler’s father.

President Barack Obama has said less, but American policy remains largely unchanged. The U.S. maintains a defense guarantee with and nearly 30,000 troops in the ROK, has been tightening its alliance with Seoul, sent B-52s and B-2s to overfly the peninsula earlier this year, and conducts annual exercises with the ROK military.

This policy is not in America’s interest. Washington should disengage from the peninsula. That requires turning security for the South over to Seoul. Normalizing relations with North …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Corrupt FBI Let Mobster Whitey Bulger Keep Killing

July 15, 2013 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

You’d hardly know it from the wall-to-wall coverage of the George Zimmerman case, but there’s another trial going on that’s at least as worthy of national attention. That’s the 32-count federal racketeering indictment against James “Whitey” Bulger, a Boston mob kingpin linked to at least 19 murders, captured in 2011 after 16 years on the lam.

Bulger, a former “Top Echelon Informant” for the FBI, is a monster, but he’s hardly the only villain in a story where “gangster government” leaves the realm of metaphor. As Boston Globe reporters Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy explain in their riveting new biography of Bulger, the Irish mobster ruled South Boston for nearly two decades, “protected by the arrogance and corruption of an FBI and a Justice Department that tolerated murder as an acceptable price of doing effective law enforcement.”

The federal government has gone to great lengths to avoid a proper reckoning for other officials who aided and abetted Bulger’s reign.”

Federal rules ban cameras in most criminal trials, which is one reason the Bulger case hasn’t gotten the national attention it deserves. So Court TV junkies missed last Wednesday’s explosive exchange between the Bulger and his former henchman-turned-federal-witness, Kevin Weeks, when Weeks called Bulger a “rat:”

Whitey: ”You suck!”;

Weeks: ”F—k you!” (So much for the fabled “gift of gab.”)

But the public’s missing something more valuable than mob drama: “This trial is not just about organized crime,” writes the Boston Herald’s Margery Eagan, it involves “the corruption of the federal government — the same government banning you from this trial — in the form of a disgraced FBI. It’s a civics lesson worthy of us all.”

Indeed, from 1975 to 1990, in its quest to bring down the Italian mob, the FBI’s Boston office became partner in crime to Bulger’s “Winter Hill Gang.” A 2004 House Committee on Government Reform report, “Everything Secret Degenerates,” found that “a number of men were murdered because they came to the government with information incriminating informants” and the FBI tipped them off.

“When you give us information on one person and they got killed,” then a second, and a third, Bulger’s partner Steven “The Rifleman” Flemmi testified in 2008: “I mean, he’s an FBI agent, he’s not stupid.”

Innocents died in the crossfire. Last week, the court heard from the widow of one of them, Pat Donahue, who was left to raise three …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Troubled Currencies Project

July 15, 2013 in Economics

For various reasons — ranging from political mismanagement, to civil war, to economic sanctions — some countries are unable to maintain a stable domestic currency. These “troubled” currencies are associated with elevated rates of inflation, and in some extreme cases, hyperinflation. Often, it is difficult to obtain timely, reliable exchange-rate and inflation data for countries with troubled currencies. To address this, the Troubled Currencies Project, a joint Cato Institute-Johns Hopkins venture, collects black-market exchange-rate data for these troubled currencies and estimates the implied inflation rates for each country.

…read more