American Elephants


The Big Singapore Meeting: Big Breakthrough or Waste of Time? by The Elephant's Child

President Trump has gone to Singapore, had a good meeting with Kim Jong Un of North Korea, and returned home to the utter consternation of the media. They were eager for some kind of catastrophe. Trump is too new, too ill-informed about international affairs not to have made a complete mess of it. Here, from the White House, is the joint statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Singapore Summit. (You might find it fun to look up the Democratic People’s Republics of the world and see just who they are, and how they’re doing.)

The agreement is not all that much. They agree to try to make peace. They agree to try to commit to de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and they will commit to recovering POW/MIA remains. Nancy Pelosi threatened that the Senate would have to confirm it. It’s not a treaty, Nancy, there’s nothing to confirm. They had a meeting and agreed to try to do a little more.

President Trump said that the entire effort was dedicated to Otto Warmbier, the young American who made the mistake of taking a propaganda poster in Korea, whereupon the Koreans threw him into prison, brutally mistreated him and when he was released, he barely got home before he died.

I’m including links to some articles that capture some of the ideas that explain what is going on. The first is “How Twitter Diplomacy Works” by Thomas Farnan. He begins:

President Trump this week will bust 68 years of diplomatic white paper inertia and meet the leader of a nation with which America has been at war since 1950. President Trump this week will bust 68 years of diplomatic white paper inertia and meet the leader of a nation with which America has been at war since 1950. …

Do read the whole thing.

The White House prepared for the meeting carefully. They learned that Kim was a big movie fan with a huge library of movie videos, and they prepared their own—which Trump played for the Chairman on an iPad. Scott Adams (Dilbert) discusses the video brilliantly here:

There has been some angry objection from Conservatives that Mr. Trump buttered up Kim, said he cared about his people, (but he doesn’t and he;s a brutal dictator and murderer. ) Yes, but refer back to the simple statement that we have been at war since 1950.

There are some underlying things that we just don’t know about. North Korea has been a subsidiary of China, and China’s Xi has ambitions. How North Korea fits into that we don’t know. Useful or annoyance? When Kim shot off this last batch of nuclear tests, something happened to his test site, and the mountain collapsed, but we don’t know how bad it was or what it means.

Our media wants to portray the whole thing as a colossal failure of one sort or another. They want Trump embarrassed, disgraced (TDS kicks in here) so you can’t rely on much that they have to say. They’re already going on about the failure of Trump’s G-7 meeting and how he insulted the Canadians etc. ,etc. Here’s some useful commentary on that: American Greatness: “Trump is Right: G7 Needs a Wake-Up Call on Trade.” From Investor’s Business Daily: President Trump Didn’t Sigh G-7’s Leftist Agenda—Smart Move”.

From The Wall Street Journal: Why Trump Clashes With Europe” (subscription barrier), and THE WEEK: “If Europe is serious about challenging Trump, it should actually challenge him” by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry.

This is not all that much reading, you will find it valuable. There are some important insights here. And keep that one phrase in mind: “68 years of white paper diplomatic inertia.”

 

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Jordan Peterson: The Fatal Flaw In Leftist Thought by The Elephant's Child

One can assume that Jordan Peterson became a Clinical Psychologist because he was curious about what makes people tick, and when you get into that there are far more questions than answers. And so he became a professor and keeps studying and analyzing, and the Universities got all weird, and politics got all weird, and the Canadian government began to tell him what language he must use to describe human beings, and that annoyed him most fiercely. And so he has become a public figure with his speeches and videos and the rest of us are able to have the benefit of his thought, for which I am most grateful.  He’s good.



Historian Richard Pipes Has Died at age 94. by The Elephant's Child

Richard Pipes, an invaluable historian of Russia, an aide to President Reagan, has died at age 94. He spent his entire academic career at Harvard, and took his place in the front rank of Russian historians with the publication of Russia Under the Old Regime in 1974.

He had a notable public career, but he regarded himself as first and foremost as a historian of Russian history, politics, and culture. He abandoned chronology and treated his subject by themes, such as the peasantry, the church, the machinery of the state and the intelligentsia. One of his most original contributions was to locate many of Russia’s woes in its failure to evolve beyond its status as a patrimonial state — nullifying the concepts of private property and individual freedom. Everything belonged to the head of the state.

You might want to start with his Modern Library book on Communism as a good introduction. I prize his Property and Freedom. He was a little uncomfortable taking on the subject as a departure from his Russian histories, but it was an important book.



Venezuelan Oil Can No Longer Support a Communist Government by The Elephant's Child

Some of you might remember when Venezuela was a beautiful and prosperous nation. But Americans mostly don’t pay that much attention to South America, I suppose because of the language barrier, which is why we pay more attention to our English-speaking allies, and Europe.

The proven oil reserves in Venezuela are recognized as the largest in the world, totaling 297 billion barrels, as of January 1, 2014. In early 2011 the Venezuelan government under Hugo Chavez announced that the nation’s oil reserves had surpassed those of Saudi Arabia, the long-term leader. OPEC said the Saudi reserves stood at 265 billion in 2009.

Wikipedia says “Venezuela’s development of its oil reserves has been affected by political unrest in recent years. In late 2002, nearly half the workers at the state oil company PDVSA went on strike, after which the company fired 18,000 of them.” I think it has been pretty well proven that “state owned” is not a particularly good idea, nor is business trying to play politics.

Reuters reported that state-owned PDVSA is completely falling apart, with workers walking off the job at a frightening pace. The conditions for oil workers have been deteriorating for years with shortages of food, unsafe working conditions, and hyperinflation destroying the value of paychecks. President Nicolas Maduro has sacked the head of PDVSA and handed control to the military in order to keep the armed forces on his side. Major General Manuel Quevado has only accelerated the decline. Apparently every Venezuelan military officer has a Cuban minder.

Venezuelan oil is a very heavy crude, which needs more in the way of refining than light crude, but Venezuelan refineries are breaking down from neglect and lack of investment.

Reuters reports that about 25,000 workers have quit PDVSA between January 2017 and January 2018, a staggering sum. PDVSA employs roughly 146,000 people. Thousands of workers are walking off of job sites, fed up with going to work hungry, putting their lives at risk at rickety refineries, all for a paycheck that fails to cover even the most basic expenses.

Fires have broken out, and the loss of both top-level engineers and managers as well as experienced workers means the losses will only get worse. Refineries are falling apart, and ports are reducing operations because of a lack of workers.

PDVSA accounts for about half the nation’s oil production — the rest are joint ventures. Last Tuesday, Chevron said that two of its workers were arrested. Chevron has not fled the country as many of its peers have, but the arrests may change matters. This is the first direct hit on an international company operating in Venezuela. At some point the costs of operating will become too high. The amount of oil available on the market will decline, the price of oil will increase. Maduro’s grip on the nation will become even more shaky. There’s not that much more available for him to squeeze.



Raul Castro Has Resigned From the Presidency of Cuba by The Elephant's Child

The General Assembly has voted in a new president, the hand-picked former Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel. The Constitution of Cuba is modeled after the Soviet Union’s and similar to modern-day China’s meaning the legislature has full control over who becomes president and who joins his cabinet. The former vice president has a reputation for following orders very successfully.

Many of our news outlets assumed that this was a big deal, but it is not. Raul Castro remains to run the Communist Party, which runs everything else.

Chapter I, Article 5 of the Cuban constitution makes the Communist Party “the superior directing body of society and the State, which organizes and orients the common efforts towards the end of the construction of socialism and advancement of communist society.” This makes the head of the Communist Party—Castro—the “superior” director of the State, above his future successor.

Who remains as commander in chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) of Cuba is not entirely clear from the constitution, as Fidel and Raúl Castro have typically been both president and comandante.

The head of government’s powers are fairly limited:

  • Represent the State and Government and manage general policy
  • Organizing and lead activities by the Council of Ministers
  • Control and attend to the development of activities at the ministries

Last year, Mary Anastasia O’Grady wrote in the Wall Street Journal about a brief uprising of a” Venezuelan National Guard Captain and some 20 others who had gotten some 120 rifles, ammunition and grenades from an armory at Fort Paramacay in Valencia. There were unconfirmed reports of similar raids at other military installations. ”

“The Cuba-controlled military regime put tanks in the streets and unleashed a hunt for the fleeing soldiers.” She added that “Cuba had embedded about 50 high-ranking Cuban military officers, 4,500 Cuban soldiers in nine battalions, and 34,000 doctors and health professionals in Venezuela,  with orders to defend the tyranny with arms. Cuba provides Maduro’s personal security and thousands of other Cubans hold key positions of the State, Government, military and intelligence and counterintelligence services.” What their part is in the starvation in Cuba is unknown.

Burning Cuban flags, when they can be had, is now practically a national pastime in Venezuela because Venezuelans understand the link between their suffering and Havana. The Castro infiltration began over a decade ago when Fidel sent thousands of Cuban agents, designated as teachers and medical personnel, to spread propaganda and establish communist cells in the barrios.

In an August column, O’Grady pointed out that Cuba is not “simply a dictatorship.” For the regime it is a “historical political project” aiming for the establishment of a Cuban-type regime throughout Latin America. The Cubans have taken Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador and are now going after Columbia. Castro is dependent on Venezuelan oil and the money from the narcotics business. Fidel died at 90, and Raul is getting up there. There are a number of younger Castros in government, but future succession is unknown.

Now Venezuela cannot afford to export oil, and is having to import oil itself. The people are starving, and trying to get out of the country. Lefties are always sure that those other people just didn’t do it right, but Communism has a way of always ending up very, very badly.

ADDENDUM: According to Humberto Fontova, writing at Front Page Magazine, “Much of the vital day-to-day functions of the Stalinist regime will remain in the hands of Raul Castro’s son Alejandro Castro-Espin, a KGB-trained colonel in Cuba’s secret police and a fanatical Stalinist. Alejandro denounces the U.S. as “an Empire of Terror” and shrieks that “Cuba will never return to capitalism.” He was the one secretly in charge of “negotiations with” (demands upon) the Obama administration in 2014. Nothing was more vital to the Castro-Family-Crime Syndicate than securing and growing that multi-billion-dollar lifeline from the U.S.  So naturally fanatical Stalinist and secret policeman Alejandro was put in charge of securing and protecting this flow through the Stalinist regime’s jugular.” Fontova adds:

“The annual cash flow from the U.S. to Cuba for almost the past decade (mostly in remittances and travel expenses after Obama opened the spigot) exceeds what the Soviets used to send Cuba at the height of their sponsorship back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. In brief, thanks to Obama, the U.S. became Cuba’s new Sugar Daddy—and just in the nick of time. President Trump has closed this economic lifeline only slightly. We’ll see what happens now with the clear-eyed on Castroism Pompeo and Bolton in charge.”



Dr. Jordan Peterson Went to Australia by The Elephant's Child

Dr. Jordan Peterson went to Australia in Mid March to give a series of lectures. Here he meets with  John Anderson, who was a Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the rural-based National Party of Australia from July 1999 to July 2005. John Anderson has a marvelous voice. The conversation is passionate, deep, and powerful, and about deep things, essential things, like the meaning and purpose of memory, what is going wrong in the present and what we should do about it, how the Left is going wrong, and what is the wrong. And how do you do right?

Powerful stuff. It’s a long video, and you will want to have the freedom to listen to the whole thing, and then perhaps, listen again. Why is history so important, and why are our children not learning history, and how will they survive in our world if they do not. When is the last time you had a conversation like this? I thought so.



QQQ: Why Does Communism Fail? by The Elephant's Child

“In sum,  communism failed and is bound to fail for at least two reasons: one, that to enforce equality, its principal objective, it is necessary to create a coercive apparatus that demands privileges and thereby negates equality; and two, that ethnic and territorial loyalties, when in conflict with class allegiances everywhere, and at all times overwhelm them, dissolving Communism in nationalism, which is why socialism so easily combines with “Fascism.” In recognition of this reality, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, abandoned the slogan calling on all proletarians to unite.”
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Richard Pipes: Communism: a History




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