Thursday, February 23, 2017

Michael J. Totten and Claire Berlinski discuss Trump and Foreign Policy

Trump Making a Point

In "The Closing of the Conservative Mind," posted among Michael J. Totten's Dispatches for World Affairs (February 20, 2017), he and Claire Berlinski talk about Trump. Some of the talk is overreaction, but their basic concern about Trump's ignorance of foreign policy is precisely the concern that has also occupied my mind:
Michael J. Totten: I want to start with a quote from retired general and former CIA director David Petraeus:
"Americans should not take the current international order for granted. It did not will itself into existence. We created it. Likewise, it is not naturally self-sustaining. We have sustained it. If we stop doing so, it will fray and, eventually, collapse."
That is an excellent rebuttal to the Obama administration's limp foreign policy of managed American decline overseas, and we heard a version of Petraeus' critique from conservatives for eight years during the previous president's term. But Petraeus said that two weeks ago while chastising the Trump administration. Donald Trump doing worse than doubling-down on Obamaism rather than reversing it as John McCain or Mitt Romney would have done. He seems to be willing to set the entire American-made international order on fire, as if everything from 1945 onward is suddenly on the table, not just NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership but even Japan's demilitarization and NATO. He is consistently friendlier to Vladimir Putin's Russia than he is to Europe. The Republican Party would have a stress-induced heart attack if a Democratic president were doing these things, wouldn't it?

Claire Berlinski: Yeah, on Twitter David Frum wrote:
"It's as if a hostile foreign power has seized the US government and is by remote control steering it toward the maximum possible catastrophe."
Which it really is. I mean, what more would you do?

Did you see that CNN piece about what happened at a Mar-a-Lago dinner party after they got news of the North Korean missile launch? "Trump and [Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe's evening meal quickly morphed into a strategy session, the decision-making on full view to fellow diners, who described it in detail to CNN."

You're there, I'm not — I can't tell if people are slowly beginning to realize just what an insane catastrophe we've got ourselves into, as in, we could all die from this kind of incompetence and from his species of mental illness — or are the people who voted for him still mostly stuck in cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias, minimizing reports like that as, yeah, overwrought, pearl-clutchers' Lügenpresse?
Doesn't sound good . . . but mental illness? Is this a case of Berlinski suffering from 'Trump Derangement Syndrome'? I suppose she's referring to his narcissism, but I don't think he's insane. Anyway, if you can get past the exaggeration about Trump's mental and emotional state, you'll find that Berlinski and Totten make some important points about Trump's limitations. What matters now is whether Trump gets good advice on foreign policy and is willing to listen to it. Read more here.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

En-Uk Sequoya Hwang: Sketch of Admiral Yi

En-Uk Sequoya Hwang

En-Uk offers this sketch of Korean national hero Admiral Yi, famous for using 13 Korean warships to defeat 133 Japanese warships, destroying or impairing 31 of them without losing any of his own in the Battle of Myeongnyang (October 26, 1597).


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

John Wells: The Beer Man of Arkansas

Mr. 'Elton John' Wells

For several years (yes, years!), I had been unable to contact the Arkansas "Beer Man," Mr. John Wells. I received his e-circulars weekly and therefore knew all about the craft beer scene back in Arkansas. But if I tried to write him, a message came right back 'explaining' that my email was considered spam. Not much I could do about that glitch in the system, except keep trying to send an email once in a while. Last week, that finally worked, and from my email, John presented me in a "feature article":
I . . . got an email recently from our long-lost international correspondent, Dr. Jeff of Korea, this past week. First time in a while that I've heard from him . . . great to know he's still out there and kickin'. Jeff was one of the early subscribers, and lives vicariously through our great beer tales from the West. See more in the . . . feature article [below].
. . . .

Dr. Jeff in the Land of the East

What follows is an email from our good friend Dr. Jeff, a longtime subscriber and contributing author to the newsletter. Hadn't heard from him in a while, turns out there was a glitch that, thank goodness, isn't there any more. How great to know we'll be hearing from the doctor again. Here's the latest on the craft beer scene in South Korea.
Yes, I'm still in Korea. I've tried to contact you previously to report on the changing beer situation here in Seoul, but my emails were rejected as spam. I'm glad finally to have gotten through.

The good news is that good beer has finally come to Korea. Many imports and a growing local craft beer scene.

The bad news is that I have to watch my alcohol consumption. Why? Same reason. Many imports and a growing local craft beer scene.

The doctor advises me to drink moderately, and I can, but I also discovered on my own that a moderate beer or two daily isn't a good idea in my case (I must be aging!), so I've cut back on drinking and let the doctor's advice do what it's supposed to do, namely, prevent me from having a good time.

I do get together with other folk who like good beer - a group of us, including the Canadian ambassador, get together once a month or so to drink beer and talk politics. We have noticed that the Korean peninsula produces more tension than can be consumed locally. The man up north seems to like things that way . . .

I read your beer circular every week, so you needn't tell me how good the Arkansas craft beer scene is.

By the way, I don't know if you ever saw the finished literary product, but if not, here's the link to my Bottomless Bottle of Beer tall tale:

Amazon Books

I've included you in my acknowledgements - due to the "no nick" [Nonic, a beer glass style] pint glasses and the Belgian tulip [likewise] - so let all your beer friends know that you've been acknowledged in a book that will save Western Civilization.
Great to hear from you Dr. Jeff . . . keep them cards and letters coming.
I will do so, and thanks, John, for featuring me so prominently!

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Glen David Gold: Carter Beats The Devil

I recently read the above book, first published in 2001 but unnoticed by me as my attention was on a different diabolical scheme. The story is loosely based on the career of the magician Charles Joseph Carter (1874–1936) and is a "historical mystery thriller," as Wikipedia too helpfully points out (since I could have figured that out myself).

I'd give it five stars, for the twists in the tale repeatedly surprised me through the literary equivalent of a magician's misdirection. Wondering if any other readers had noticed this (and hoping none had so that I could write an article on it), I Google-searched and found that hundreds had preceded me . . .

So much for me thinking I'm peculiarly insightful. But I won't give away any plot spoilers since I wouldn't want any, either . . . so you'll likely be utterly astonished when hordes of extraterrestrial aliens invade the earth through an intergalactic wormhole and the Devil steps forth as champion of all mankind! I'd certainly be astonished at such a twist in the plot unless somebody were to let the cat out of the bag as a plot spoiler!

Oops . . . sorry about that.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Proverbial Warning: Be Not a Greater Fool


A fool and his money are soon parted;
so make sure you get the better parted.
- Anonymous


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Daniel Pinkston Puts On His Thinking Cap

Kent, Mark, Eric, and I went out out drinking yesterday evening and were joined by Daniel A. Pinkston, a Northeast Asian regional expert who once worked with the International Crisis Group but now teaches international relations at Troy University. Here he is below, a tough hombre, pre-beer:

Next comes his beer and his transformation:

At the sight of the tiger smoking, Daniel found himself caught felinely up in the colorful, imaginative new world of the cat:

That is, the new world of the 'Pussyhat' Cat, bringing you a kinder, gentler hombre:

Now, if that don't trump all! More another time, perhaps . . .

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Another En-Uk Artwork: Portrait of My Brother-In-Law

Artwork by En-Uk Sequaya Hwang

En-Uk is feeling rather aesthetic these days - and so am I! See how aesthetically I've spelled "aesthetic"? Yes, none of that ugly "esthetic" for me! I'm an aesthete, not an esthete!

Well . . . anyway.

I don't know what En-Uk wants to do with his life. He has more talents than I do - all I can do is write - but his very multi-talented self makes the choice of choosing harder.

I quickly learned at university that I was outstanding only in writing - essays, stories, even poems - but I also had a strong sense of curiosity about everything and tried to follow that up by pursuing graduate degrees in history, in which I could (in principle) learn about everything, but I've finally come around to doing what I do best.

As for my advice to En-Uk, I want to say, take your time, enjoy your youth, see the world - a bit like I did - but the world is now a less forgiving place than when I was young, and I'm often reminded that one has to choose early if one wants to find success.

So, I guess that is what I have to tell him.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bad Proverb No. 86

Drying Fish

Ignorant about corruption control? Get smart!
A fish always rots from the head down, so hang 'em tail high!
Otherwise, corruption leads to chaos . . .


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Son's Eye View

My younger son, En-Uk, forced me to sit as his model for 10 or 15 minutes so that he could sketch my head and neck, which is somewhat impressive, I guess, but also makes me look a little bit decapitated.

He didn't intend that, of course. I think. Believe. Hope . . .

He also didn't intend for me to have a 'double' chin, to which he called my attention, apologizing for the mistake, so I told him not to worry since he drew me better-looking than I actually am, though that's not setting the bar very high.

I learned something, too. I don't like sitting still as an artist's model for even as little as 5 minutes.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

On what's wrong with the world


Just so you know:
A place for everything and everything out of place.
Well, maybe not everything out of place. . . some things do work.