Letters from the Street

Philosophy, theology, and whatever else crosses my mind.

Month: June, 2018

Crisis of Capitalism 4: Impending Constitutional Crisis

Donald Trump has been using the presidential power of the pardon in targeted ways. Scooter LIbby, who has been pardoned, and Martha Stewart, who he has indicated a willingness to pardon, were both convicted of lying to the FBI. He has issued a pardon to Dinesh D’Souza, who was convicted of campaign finance violations. There has been mention of a pardon for Rod Blagojevich, who is serving time for public corruption.

All of these crimes have relevance to the investigation Robert Mueller is conducting into the Trump campaign. There is every likelihood that Trump is sending a message to those who are in Mueller’s cross-hairs: don’t worry, lie if you want to, I’ve got your back.

That’s one side of the crisis: Trump using kingly powers to further his various schemes.

The other side of the crisis is this: the oligarchy is not unanimous on its goals or methods. Trump faces strong opposition from within his own class. There are many who have no problem with shady enterprises, when it benefits them, but have other plans than Trump’s. There are even a few who believe in the rule of law and the current structure and don’t want to see it dismantled.

Either way, Trump is already receiving pushback, even from within his own party. Being Trump he will push the limits, and the pushback will intensify. I can’t predict what course it will take. They may even come to an accommodation, although it seems the Big Deal Maker isn’t very good at that sort of thing.

If they can’t rein him in, it could get very messy.


The US is the Destabilizing Factor on the Korean Peninsula

Okay, the summit is back on. (Remember how Howard Cosell came up with names for boxing matches like the Thrilla in Manila? Why aren’t we calling this the Singapore Sling?) This is encouraging, but only so important.

What is more important is that South Korean president Moon Jae-In and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) chairman Kim Jong Un had a meeting two days after Trump cancelled the summit.

These two really want to work towards reconciliation and are willing to take risks to make it happen. This is good news for the whole region.

It’s easy to say, if your only source of news and analysis is the distorted viewpoint of the capitalist press, that North Korea is the destabilizing factor. This is incorrect. While the combat phase of the Korean War began when the DPRK sent tanks over the border, there is a larger context than simply “they invaded us first.” The DPRK was already being subjected to destabilization efforts by the US, as part of its general Cold War policy to oppose communism wherever it might gain strength. This is not because communism is evil and we’re the good guys. This is because the oligarchy, the capitalist ruling class, does not want to lose its power and wealth to any social system that would put justice for everyone ahead of their profits. Of course they lie about this. They couldn’t do all they do, without greatly increased repression at home and abroad, without the willing compliance of the average citizen.

It comes down to this: the US is the principal destabilizing factor on the Korean peninsula and, by extension, in that part of the world. The US has maintained a heavy military presence despite decades of truce. This is threatening, not just to the DPRK, but to China, Russia, and others with interests there. The US has exercised a lot of influence over the South Korean government. It’s not like an actual colony such as Puerto Rico or Guam, and it’s not like a client state such as Afghanistan or Iraq. But the South Korean military is commanded by US generals, and for many years the South Korean government consisted of men willing to be puppets of the US in exchange for US support of their power.

Moon Jae-In appears to be willing to forge his own path. He can’t be reckless, and isn’t. But he is willing to take some risks, and doesn’t toe the US line in every instance as his predecessors have done. I hope at some point he will have the political collateral to be able to send the 20,000 US troops off the peninsula. This would be a major step forward to increased stability.

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