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Trump 'Is Way Out of His Depth': Former CIA Director Explains How Trump Completely Botched the North Korea Summit

June 12, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“It sounds there like he's parroting North Korean talking points,” Wallace noted.


As President Donald Trump portrays his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as a major success, actual experts in foreign policy and diplomacy have a very different perspective.

“I don't think he knows much about, quite frankly, anything when it comes to foreign affairs, national security, even a thing like the war games,” said former CIA Director John Brennan of Trump on MSNBC's “Deadline: White House” on Tuesday.

Trump said after the summit that the United States would no longer conduct its joint war games with the South Korean military, but many experts feel this would be a terrible concession.

“Our military exercises with South Korea are not just designed to send a signal to North Korea, but also to make sure that in the event of some more Chinese adventurism in the area that the interoperability that U.S. forces need with South Korean forces, Japanese and others is going to be there,” Brennan said.

“It sounds there like he's parroting North Korean talking points,” said host Nicolle Wallace, referencing the fact that Trump described the war games as “provocative” — exactly how North Korea had recently described them recently. ”Has he been played?”

Brennan audibly laughed at the question.

“The man is way out of his depth,” he said of Trump. “And he said that Kim Jong-un is a skilled negotiator? Well, obviously, he is, because he's been able to get everything he wanted, I think, in this first meeting with Mr. Trump. So he has initiated a process where he, Kim Jong-un, is going to be seen as this accommodating statesman who is, at least according to Mr. Trump, seriously going to pursue denuclearization.”

He added: “I think what the 'why' for Kim Jong-un is that he wants to draw out this process and see whether or not the Chinese call for the relaxation of sanctions is going to gain traction.”

Watch the clip below:

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Sen. Corker Blows Up at His Fellow Republicans for Their Fear of Angering Trump: 'We Might Poke the Bear!'

June 12, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“I can't believe it!”


Out of frustration and disappointment with his Republican colleagues, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) castigated the other members of his party on Tuesday for blocking an amendment he has proposed to constrain President Donald Trump's tariff powers.

He argued that his fellow Republican senators overwhelmingly support the legislation, dubbed the “Corker Amendment,” but they have decided not to bring it to the floor out of fear of angering the president. Trump has recently used discretionary tariff powers, delegated for the president's use for reasons of national security, to levy taxes on imports of aluminum and steel from even close American allies.

“I heard the senior senator from Texas saying the other day, 'Well gosh, we might upset the president!'” Corker said. “I can't believe it!”

He continued: “'We might poke the bear!' is the language I've been hearing in the hallways… 'The president might get upset with us as United States senators if we vote on the Corker Amendment, so we're going to do whatever we can to block it!'”

His agitation became clear as he continued his speech on the Senate floor, and he raised his voice to the point of yelling at the other lawmakers. But even as he called for the Republicans to simply give his amendment an up-or-down vote, he acknowledged that there's no way it will actually happen.

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Source: ALTERNET

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The Supreme Court Just Dealt Another Big Blow to Our Voting Rights

June 12, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, Independent Media Institute

Ohio voter purge decision will have consequences for years to come.


This week’s Supreme Court ruling upholding Ohio’s Republican-led voter roll purges may end up as one of the decade’s most consequential anti-voter rulings, shadowing its 2013 ruling gutting the National Voting Rights Act’s enforcement provisions.

The Court’s conservative majority, in a

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Source: ALTERNET

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Fox News' Shep Smith Tears into Trump's North Korea Summit: 'Kim Jong-un Got It All for Actually Doing Nothing'

June 12, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“In a private meeting, promises were apparently made.”


Fox News' Shep Smith on Tuesday broke down exactly why President Donald Trump's efforts at the Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un were nothing short of an unjustified capitulation to an autocratic regime, without receiving any meaningful concessions.

“America demanded complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization — there's no guarantee of that, no words to that effect,” Smith said of the statement signed by Kim and Trump. “And we may not know for years whether we're actually now on that road or left in the potholes of paths past.”

He continued: “But Kim Jong-un? He wanted the photos, the seat at the table. He wanted the legitimacy that came with the event, the handshake with America's president. And he wanted those military exercises with the Americans and the South Koreans that happen every year to stop. Kim Jong-un got it all, for actually doing nothing.”

Smith noted that Trump even gave promises of security to the Kim regime, though they were vague.

“A regime that has an estimated 120,000 political prisoners across the nation. A regime that tortures and murders its own citizens, imprisons children for the actions of parents and grandparents, and a leader who has committed crimes against humanity. President Trump insisted that the people of the most entrenched land in all the world, North Korea, love their leader. President Trump says he trusts Chairman Kim, and that he's ready to start a new chapter with North Korea,” Smith said.

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North Korea Has the Upper Hand in Negotiations with Trump

June 12, 2018 in Blogs

By Vijay Prashad, Independent Media Institute

It is significant that Kim and Trump met to “have an equal conversation.”


North Korea’s Kim Jong-un met with Donald Trump of the United States in Singapore. This was the first meeting of the heads of government of these two countries. The United States has been at war with North Korea since 1950. Three years into that war, which destroyed most of the infrastructure in North Korea, the two countries—and South Korea—agreed to a halt in the active fighting. But the war did not end. It remains intact. A massive military deployment by the United States at the edge of North Korea maintains the fear inside the Korean Peninsula of annihilation. This is what makes the summit between Kim and Trump so important. Threats of war are now at a low point.

China

North Korea’s Kim arrived in Singapore on an Air China flight. This is significant. It was China that guaranteed the safety and security of Kim. Heads of government of North Korea had previously only been to fraternal countries—whether China or the USSR. China’s role in this summit guaranteed that Kim would be treated with respect. The government of Singapore—which recognizes both North Korea and the United States—hosted Kim and brokered the outlines of the conversation. It is important to pay attention to the Chinese context for these discussions.

China has long urged North Korea to offer an olive branch to South Korea and to the United States. What China fears more than anything is a precipitous collapse of North Korea, whether through war with the United States and South Korea or through the impact of the cruel sanctions regime forced on North Korea by the United States. Such a collapse would bring the United States to the Chinese border. North Korea has provided a buffer between the thousands of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea and China. The maintenance of North Korea is essential to China’s security concerns.

The United States might have the world’s largest military, but it is certainly not dictating the terms to North Korea in these negotiations. The situation here is …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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What Gina Haspel's Confirmation Really Represents

June 12, 2018 in Economics

By Sahar Khan

Sahar Khan

Gina Haspel was sworn in as the Central Intelligence
Agency’s (CIA) first female director on May 21, 2018
following a controversial nomination period and a contentious
Senate confirmation hearing. While Haspel is qualified for her new
role—she is a career intelligence officer with 33 years of
service in the CIA—her appointment is troublesome because of
her involvement in the United States’ torture program and endorsement of destroying interrogation tapes of key terrorist
suspects.

In the context of U.S. foreign policy, her appointment
represents two troubling developments: an erosion of checks and
balances on the executive, and a potential “torture redux.”

A president’s constitutional powers are complicated, and
law professors are often divided on the issue of the scope and limits of
presidential power. Haspel’s advocates argue that she would
be in a unique position to restrain President Trump, who publicly voiced
support of torture, especially as his inner circle is filled up
with like-minded advisors. And she would be able to
do so for two reasons. First, her main focus is to improve the
CIA’s operational capacity—something former director
John O. Brennan also sought to do during his tenure at the CIA. During her swearing-in ceremony she
discussedboosting the agency’s
foreign-language proficiency, strengthening intelligence sharing
with allies, and deploying more covert officers abroad to better
serve as a foreign intelligence service. Second, she has a good professional relationshipwith Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo, having served as his deputy when he was the
director of the CIA before accepting his current position. Yet,
there was little discussion on how increasing the CIA’s
capacity might impact its tendency to inflate threats. For example,
declassified CIA documents from the 1950s and 1960s revealed that
the United States significantly overestimated the number of Soviet missiles. In January
2018, then CIA Director Pompeo spoke of the growing threats from China and Russia, though
there is a great deal of skepticism surrounding this claims. What is
even unclear is how Haspel will address the problem of threat
inflation.

I am preparing for the
continuation of a poorly informed hawkish foreign policy that will
result in misguided hardline approaches, troop increases, and a
sidelining of diplomacy. I just hope it does not include torture’s
comeback.

The U.S. torture program began under the Bush administration via
an executive order in 2002. President Barack Obama
ended the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques in 2009 but
opted not to pursue accountability for those
involved— one …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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President Trump’s Confused Approach to Trade Is One Giant Contradiction

June 12, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

President Trump’s ideas on trade often seem
paradoxical.

At the weekend G-7 summit, he floated both abolition of all tariffs worldwide and banning trade with certain countries entirely
over the course of just 24 hours. His recent announcement of the
removal of exemptions from steel and aluminum tariffs for the European
Union, Canada and Mexico was justified on “national
security” grounds. Yet reminded that these countries are
military allies of the United States, the president retreated to
suggesting the tariffs were retaliation for current EU and Canadian
trade barriers to U.S. products.

Two theories of the president’s approach are consistent
with these interventions. The optimistic case for free traders says
that Trump is threatening tariffs and using the presidential bully
pulpit to try to open up highly protected foreign sectors, and
ushering a new era of global free trade. The pessimistic case says
the president and his close team are protectionists at heart, and
use the veneer of arguments about reciprocity to cover up their
true intentions.

Rather than seeing free
trade as a means of promoting mutually beneficial exchange between
buyers and sellers, the president thinks of trade as a zero-sum
game that sees nations “winning” if they export more than they
import.

Sadly, most available evidence now points toward the latter.
Over the last three decades there has been a slow but steady
liberalization of markets, with tariff rates among advanced
economies falling, in large part due to painstaking multilateral
negotiations and trade deals. According to World Bank data, the weighted mean
applied tariff rate for the U.S. and EU are near identical at 1.6%,
and even lower in Canada at 0.8%. Mexico is higher at 4.4%, but
given this has tumbled from 15.5% just 15 years ago, and many goods
are traded tariff-free with the U.S. due to Nafta, focusing on
these countries seems an odd place to start if your aim is a freer
global trading environment.

That is not to say that there are not egregiously overprotected
markets in the EU and Canada. All countries seem to have some
well-organized vested interests who resist this pull toward open
competition. President Trump is correct that the Canadian dairy
sector uses a “supply management” system incorporating
tariff rates of up to near 300% on dairy products for imports
beyond quotas
. These do raise prices for Canadian consumers and
discourage importation of American produce. The European Union
likewise imposes much higher tariffs on American car imports than
vice versa (10% vs. 2.5%), though the U.S. imposes higher tariffs
than the EU on trucks. The world as a …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Corbyn's Tipping Tirade Lays Bare His Anti-Business Agenda

June 12, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Jeremy Corbyn has had another brainwave.

The Labour leader wants to make it illegal for businesses to
“pocket” tips and optional service charges.

Some restaurants and hospitality firms currently collectivise
what we add to our bills or give to waiters and waitresses. They
might directly pool tips to redistribute them through a common fund
system or add them to general revenues.

For Corbyn, these actions amount to theft.

“It is not right that workers have their tips stolen by
bosses,” Corbyn said. The next Labour government will ensure
that “workers keep 100 per cent of their hard-earned
tips”.

Imposing strait-jacket
regulation across a variety of businesses is the order of the
day.

Let’s leave aside the fact that workers would keep far
from 100 per cent, given the high taxes likely under a Corbyn
administration.

Unfortunately, the Labour leader is not alone. He is making the
same mistakes as then business secretary Sajid Javid made when
discussing this subject: first, assuming that social expectations
about where tips go can harmlessly be enshrined in legislation;
second, failing to differentiate between the flow of cash and the
overall economic impact.

In fact, imposing a one-size-fits-all “tip must go to
worker” regulation could adversely affect businesses and
workers alike, given the different nature of restaurant models and
how managers use tipping to adjust total compensation.

Restaurant-specific tipping practices can be an important way to
deal with risk, manage staff morale, and ensure that customers get
a good service. Though less important generally in Britain than in
the US, basic tipping can play an important economic function.

Consider the set-up that Corbyn has in mind, in which, say, a
single waiter or waitress serves a set of tables exclusively.

The purpose of tips here is to be a form of risk-sharing for the
restaurant, particularly if it is not easy to observe the behaviour
and competence of wait-staff.

Tips lower the underlying hourly wage a restaurant might need to
offer to attract staff (lowering fixed costs), and total
remuneration for a worker becomes linked to customer satisfaction.
This averts the need for workplace performance assessments and
controversial wage negotiations for each and every staff
member.

However, even this simple example (to say nothing of larger,
more complicated restaurant set-ups) highlights reasons why it
might make sense to deal with tips differently.

In very small restaurants or established chains, where behaviour
is observed or customer expectations simple, it could make more
sense to adjust overall pay rates and put any tips into general
revenue toward that. If the work is relatively homogenous, staff
might resent a tipping “lottery”, where lucky workers
benefit from generous tippers and other wait-staff who work just …read more

Source: OP-EDS