Why I’m not paying much attention to Trump and North Korea

Well, honestly, because, as you know, I’m just not all that interested in foreign affairs compared to domestic issues.  But, in this particular place, paying close attention is clearly a sucker’s bet.  Yglesias is on the case:

Donald Trump is a liar. More than that, he’s a fraud. Not just a person who makes factual misstatements but a person who has gotten ahead in life through extensive use of bullshit, leaving in his wake a trail of broken promises. [emphases mine]

From his unpaid bills to contractors to his scam university to his brief period ripping off the shareholders of his eponymous company, this is what Trump does — he exploits normal human nature to sucker people into trusting him, and then he exploits his own ever-growing fame and power to get away with breaking the rules.

As president, this pattern has only continued…

Everyone knows this, which raises the question of why everyone is pretending to believe that Trump may make a diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea.

Trump’s Korea rhetoric is alarming and dishonest

A good clue that we are being set up for some bullshit is that not only is the Trump administration’s North Korea policy being headed up by Donald Trump, but it has been conducted so far like you would expect a bullshitter to conduct policy.

The key turnabout in the region, after all, has come from the fact that Trump decided to make a large, unilateral concession to the North Koreans. As Josh Smith and David Brunnstrom reported for Reuters in March, “for at least two decades, leaders in North Korea have been seeking a personal meeting with an American president,” and across all that time American presidents have been saying no.

“North Korea has said these things before,” Mark Dubowitz of the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies told them. “Kim Jong Il wanted to meet with President Clinton.”

Trump, perhaps wisely and likely under the influence of South Korea’s new progressive leader Moon Jae-in, has decided to reverse longstanding US policy and make this concession to Pyongyang. ..

When a notorious liar does something dramatic and new and starts immediately lying about what it is that he’s doing, a sensible reaction is to become alarmed and suspicious — not to suddenly become credulous and naive…

Back in the real world, meanwhile, Trump isn’t a master strategist keeping the North Koreans off balance. He’s an erratic guy with poor impulse control and little understanding of issues who does things like blurt out that Americans held captive in North Korea and sentenced to serve in labor camps received “excellent” treatment from the regime that used them as hostages…

Instead of talking about these risks, however, the mainstream press — Timethe New York TimesCNN, etc. — seems obsessed with the possibility that maybe Trump will deliver a historic diplomatic breakthrough with Pyongyang and then not receive the level of credit and adulation he deserves.

I’m happy to admit that it is, at least in theory, possible that a vainglorious, dishonest, ignorant, and corrupt president who is already lying about his own diplomatic initiatives will shock the world by delivering something fantastic. But Trump has been in the public eye for decades, has a well-deserved reputation as a braggart and a liar, and deserves to be met with nothing but skepticism.

It takes money to pay teachers more

As my readers know, I’ve long advocated for significantly higher teacher salaries as a major starting point for improving education (treating teachers like professionals and recruiting more ambitious people into the profession).  And, the American public seems to be largely in agreement that teachers should be paid more.  Vox:

Support for raising teachers’ salaries cuts across party lines. Nearly 90 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents, and 66 percent of Republicans think teachers don’t get paid enough. [emphasis mine]

The survey of 1,140 adults, conducted April 11 through 16, gauged public opinion on the wave of teachers strikes sweeping through the nation. Teachers in West VirginiaOklahoma, and Kentucky all walked out of class in recent months to pressure state lawmakers to spend more money on schools or teachers (or both). Their success has inspired teachers in Arizona and Colorado to prepare their own work stoppage.

The AP/NORC poll shows that these teachers have a lot of support, though not everyone agrees with their strategy. About 78 percent of adults surveyed said schools don’t pay teachers enough, and 52 percent said they support educators who are going on strike to demand higher salaries (25 percent disapprove of strikes). Adults who knew about the recent teacher walkouts were more likely to support the idea of teachers striking — 80 percent of them did.

It’s great that even about 2/3 of Republicans recognize the value of higher teacher salaries.  But, then there’s this:

In the AP/NORC poll, half of respondents said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to improve education funding. The view was shared equally by parents and adults without children. However, Republicans and independents were far less willing than Democrats to pay higher taxes. Only 38 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of independents said they would, compared to 69 percent of Democrats. [emphasis mine]

And there’s the damn rub!  I’m sure Republicans think that states can just magically cut all the “waste, fraud, and abuse” (heck, state’s don’t even have foreign aid to cut) to enable millions in teacher pay.  If you really value something, you should be willing to pay for it.  I remember an editorial a good twenty years ago about Republicans in the Virginia legislature looking to find more money for roads (always a major issue in VA), but not willing to raise taxes for it or cut any government programs.  The proposed solution? Alchemy.  Alas, too often it seems that Republicans are hardly more serious than alchemy when it comes to making the hard choices need to address our problems.

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