FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 19 through 22, 2017

New Sanctions for North Korea

I’ve stated before here in FOD, I don’t believe sanctions against North Korea will have the desired effect of divesting their efforts to develop nuclear weapons.  Kim Jong Un has consistently pursued a path of acquiring nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them in spite of the world’s desires for diminish his resolve to the point of allowing millions of his own people to die of starvation.  Lack of cash however, might have the effect of at least slowing North Korea’s efforts. China’s banks in particular have been willing to launder Kim Jong Un’s money for years.  Only recently, the Department of  the Treasury took actions against the Bank of Dandong over concerns that it was participating in illicit financial activities with North Korea — an early signal to Chinese financial institutions of U.S. willingness to increase pressure on entities that do business with Pyongyang.  On 21 September 2017, President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he had signed an executive order authorizing additional sanctions against North Korea by targeting individuals, companies and financial institutions that do business with what he called “this criminal rogue regime.”  Speaking before a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump said his goal is the “complete denuclearization” of North Korea and added that the nation led by Kim Jong Un posed a “grave threat to peace and security in our world.”  Trump noted that he’d signed the executive order just as China’s central bank “has told their other banks … to immediately stop doing business with North Korea.” The president praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for the “very bold move.”  Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (photo right) confirmed that he did call the People’s Bank of China early Thursday morning to alert them to this coming action, but skirted the question when asked if these sanctions were specifically aimed at China.  “This action is directed at everyone,” Mnuchin said, calling the executive order a significant expansion of Treasury’s power to target the Kim regime and those financial entities and individuals who seek to do business with it. The executive order is “forward looking,” meaning Treasury will consider new designations on a “rolling basis” from Thursday on.  So far, the administration has sought to pressure Pyonyang largely through forceful economic steps, including Thursday’s latest action and U.N. Security Council sanctions earlier this month. The President has this right.

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day August 28 through 31, 2017

 

Marines and Navy Heading to Gulf Coast For Possible Disaster Relief

In the wake of the ever increasing destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey, the Marine Times is reporting, nearly 700 Marines will head toward the Gulf Coast Thursday aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge in case they are tasked with helping rescue Texas residents who have been slammed by historic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.  The Kearsarge and the dock landing ship Oak Hill are both scheduled to get underway from ports in Virginia, Fleet Forces Command announced on Wednesday.  “These ships are capable of providing medical support, maritime civil affairs, maritime security, expeditionary logistic support, medium and heavy lift air support, and bring a diverse capability including assessment and security,” a news release from the command says. The Marines will also be able to purify water, distribute relief supplies, conduct aerial reconnaissance and provide engineering capabilities, a II MEF news release says.  “Marines conduct regular training and have gained real-world experience with Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief from relief efforts across the globe,” the news release says.

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day 15 through 18 August 2017

Strategic & Policy Forum and Manufacturing Council Disbanded

“You CEOs on my Strategic & Policy Forum and my Manufacturing Council who think you can quit; you can’t quit; you’re fired.” “And you’re all a bunch of grandstanders.”  CEOs began announcing their resignations after Trump’s first comments about the violence last Saturday in Charlottesville between white supremacists and counter-protesters. The resignations accelerated after he re-emphasized his earlier remarks and on Tuesday blamed “both sides” for the series of events that led to the death of a 32-year-old Charlottesville woman.   These CEOs are not grandstanding, they simply no longer want to be associated with this President who has now revealed what his true values are.  Traditionally corporate leaders have been willing to join these apolitical forums so as to ensure their corporations at least have a seat at the table where policy decisions are formulated that effect corporate taxes, employment and trade policies.  There were comments that the President went rogue on Wednesday – How can we believe in a President of United States who goes rogue? Your comments appreciated.  Someone must have an opinion they’d be willing to express out there in FOD-land.

 

Steve Bannon – You’re Fired Too

What’s the half life of a White House advisor these days?  White House Chief of Staff John Kelly announced today 18 August 2017, Steve Bannon has agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a brief statement to reporters. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”  Bannon’s departure caps a rocky tenure in the West Wing in which he was a central figure in a power struggle to influence the often unpredictable president. He clashed with many of Trump’s other top aides including the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, and rumors of his waning influence and imminent departure had been circulating Washington for months.  He will walk away from the White House as a key force behind Trump’s impulses to make racially divisive remarks and fan nationalist and ethnic tensions, most recently Trump’s comments on the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. As recently as this week, Bannon gave interviews seeming to embrace the racial turmoil Trump encouraged by comparing white nationalists and the protesters opposing them in Charlottesville.  Don’t worry about how Bannon will make his next two dimes.  Just hours after his exit became official, the newsroom where he first rose to prominence in far-right political circles, Breitbart News, announced he’d be returning as its executive chairman.

 

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day 11 through 15 August 2017

What Our President Did and Didn’t Say

While many in President Trump’s administration have since spoken out against the hatred and violence of groups like white supremacists, the KKK and neo-Nazis, during the events in Chancellorsville, Virginia this past weekend, it is what President Trump did not say that is concerning.  These extremist hate groups have no place in the American debate and by not condemning them, you allow them a voice.  The President needed to condemn those groups.  As Dante Alighieri said in his Divine Comedy, “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”  I am encouraged by President Trump’s statement on the morning of 14 August 2017 where he did call racism evil and where he did explicitly denounce KKK and neo-Nazis organizations and stated they would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Woulda, coulda, shoulda is the operative line here.   As a consequence of the President’s comments, the African-American CEO of pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co Kenneth

Frazier (below right) resigned from President Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council Monday after Mr. Trump failed to condemn white nationalists for deadly violence at a weekend rally in Charlottesville, Va.  “Our country’s strength stems from its diversity and the contributions made by men and women of different faiths, faces, sexual orientations and political beliefs. America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal,” Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier said in a statement announcing his departure from the council.  “As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism,” Frazier added.  Less than an hour after Merck released Frazier’s statement, Trump slammed the exec in a tweet.  I don’t see where alienating this individual adds positive value to the discourse.  In a similar manner I don’t see how lashing out at his own party’s Majority Leader of the United States Senate Mitch McConnell (left) benefits the President’s agenda on issues such as increasing the debt ceiling, tax reform, infrastructure improvements, and of course health care reform and gets worse with every tweet. Hey, there are daunting budget related deadlines coming with the end of the fiscal year, September 30th.  Comments appreciated!

 

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day 08 through 10 August 2017

North Korea Ready to Give US a “Severe Lesson”

Just two days after the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved sanctions against the isolated regime for its escalating nuclear and missile programs, North Korea has responded.  In a statement from Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, distributed to media in Manila at the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit, North Korea reiterated its position that it would not put its nuclear program or its missiles on the negotiating table.  The Pyongyang government also said, North Korea is ready to give the United States a “severe lesson” with nuclear force if Washington takes military action against it, Pyongyang said in a statement to a regional meeting on Monday.  Pyongyang also called the new U.N. sanctions “fabricated” and warned there would be “strong follow-up measures” and acts of justice. It said the resolution showed the United Nations had abused its authority.  And the stakes are increasing as of 09 August 2017, when North Korea says it is “seriously reviewing” a plan to strike the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam with missiles — just hours after President Donald Trump told the regime that any threat to the United States would be met with “fire and fury.”  United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson   reasserted the US will be monitoring implementation of the sanctions to ensure they are enforced by all countries.  The US, could for instance, bring pressure to bear on China by imposing fines on banks that do business with North Korea in areas prohibited by the past the present sanctions, essentially money laundering for Kim Jong Un.  Only recently have we imposed a fine on only one Chinese bank.  That sends a message to both China and North Korea.  As I’ve said here before, there is likely no dealing with Kim Jong Un in a direct manner so as to distract him from his goal of developing and deploying nuclear weapons that could reach the United States.  He has admitted one of his personal heroes is Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who he saw removed from power and eventually killed once he gave into foreign government pressures and economic sanctions (including the US) to give up his aspirations for the development of nuclear weapons.  Kim Jong Un will not give up this position.  See my comments in the 25 -27 Jul edition of FOD.  It’s either the long way or move toward a military option.  And the second path has many drawbacks.  Your comments and thoughts appreciated.

 

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