George Sarant

A raw feed of material that may be updated or appear elsewhere.

HOW TO SOLVE THE KOREA PROBLEM

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North Korea represents an imminent threat to world peace. The problem remains what to do about it. Diplomacy has failed and war would be disastrous. It has been said there are no good options for resolving this situation, but this is not necessarily true. There is in fact a deal we can make to eliminate this problem, outlined below.

The administration is correct in assuming that China is the key to eliminating the menace from North Korea, for as its main supplier, it continues to prop up the regime. However,  the approach is wrong. We are not offering China any incentive to stop supporting the Kim regime. Additional pressure will not work as long as vital Chinese interests are not taken into consideration. We can hardly expect the Chinese to assist in undermining a regime that would bring a US ally, which has  American troops stationed on its territory, to China’s border in a united Korea. They may even find the north to be a useful foil in irritating the Americans. The only way to resolve this situation is to take these concerns into account.

At the same time the US has had troops interminably stationed in South Korea for generations since the end of the Korean War, with no end in sight. This has come at enormous cost, defending a country that at this point is wealthy and prosperous, with i.e. better infrastructure Internet service than the US has. It would be highly beneficial to America’s interests to bring these troops home, if conditions were right. 

The North Korean regime is unquestionably evil, oppressing, starving, and brainwashing its people, who as a result of living in this socialist paradise are actually several inches shorter than the South Koreans. It is a society without any redeeming characteristics, which now presents an imminent nuclear threat to the US, Japan, and South Korea. The world would be a much better place without it. The problem then is how to bring this about short of war, which soon may become inevitable if no palatable alternative is found, as the north continues to develop missiles and threaten the US in no uncertain terms. 

The answer is to make it worth it to the Chinese to completely cut off North Korea, by offering them a deal they can hardly refuse. This would consist of agreeing to withdraw American forces from South Korea if the north is allowed to collapse and preferably become peacefully reunified with the south. This would assuage the Chinese concern about American forces on their border while at the same time providing blessed relief to American taxpayers. This is an arrangement that would be in everyone’s interests, and given President Trump’s enthusiasm for deal making it is a win-win outcome the administration ought to embrace. If present circumstances continue there will simply be no alternative to war, insofar as the US and its allies cannot tolerate this continuing existential threat. This is a way out for both the US and China, and it is time to make a concerted effort. Let’s make the deal. 

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Written by georgesarant

August 1, 2017 at 7:59 PM

REFLECTIONS ON HEALTH CARE

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What is the proper role of government with regard to the health care of its citizens? How should costs be allocated?  These are questions that are still up in the air in the USA, but how these questions are addressed still applies everywhere.  The Republicans appear to have painted themselves into a corner on this subject, while the Democrat-imposed Obamacare is collapsing from its own defects. This legislation was deeply flawed and fundamentally unjust insofar as it expanded coverage for some uninsured people, largely by expanding Medicaid, while otherwise imposing steep additional costs on other individuals in a haphazard fashion. But the Republicans are the governing party now and are stuck with having to come up with solutions they have not adequately provided. They should know by now that it is virtually impossible to get rid of a benefit once it has been established, and the plan passed by the House is going nowhere in the Senate and fails to provide the fundamental overhaul they promised. 

There is a desperate need to rationalize the American health care system by going back to the drawing board and starting from scratch. Republicans first need to concede that everyone ought to have adequate health care, giving that to the Democrats, who might then be brought on board. But this does not necessarily mean that health care should be provided by the government. Nor should it be provided because it is a “right;” it is rather a benefit. Why then should the state in some fashion underwrite such a benefit? 

The short answer is that a developed society can afford to, and we must increasingly come to grips with the consequences of technological change, which is far more salient than “globalization” in causing economic disruption. Given that inequality is an inevitable consequence of a truly free society, those who lack higher skills and who are left behind by the consequences of automation, AI, and other developments- something that can happen to  anyone, need to provide a basic level of support. If growth and economic dislocation eventually benefit everyone, then those who have disproportionately suffered the consequences ought to be provided with some level of adjustment. This is a different population than the poor, who already get everything for free. It is a population we want to prevent from falling into the ranks of the poor. As society develops and grows richer overall, it is reasonable to provide basics for everyone through some mechanism that does not overly burden everyone else. 

The way to do this is to resolve to get the government completely out of the health care business and let market forces do what they do best- rationalize the distribution of goods and services. The state would instead provide a graduated insurance stipend to those who cannot afford it, who would then be able to purchase whatever health care they want or need. For this to work the government would no longer provide any other services directly or indirectly; no more mandates, no more policies, just a cash benefit and there would no longer are any pre-existing conditions. Since everyone is obligated to pay taxes, insurance and medical costs would be deductible, and medical savings exempt from taxation, but anyone who fails to purchase coverage would be charged with the cost of providing a policy for them, which would at least cover catastrophic circumstances, which otherwise would be passed on to everyone else. This does sound like the Obamacare tax but you cannot have universal health care without universal participation and no one is here being compelled to do anything. 

This is not socialism, which is unworkable. Socialism would be government control of all health care, and hence ownership of the system. This is the opposite of that. Government is completely removed from any operational role and only would  only maintain the principle that everyone be covered, by providing direct cash transfers where needed. This would dismantle the administrative state, save billions, and allow a rational system of costs and services to develop, leading to a reduction in overall expenses. There are many details to be worked out and this is preferred only as a roadmap. There are only two fundamental principles that must be adhered to: that everyone be covered and that the government gets out of the health care business. 

NEW APPLE MacBook Pro REVIEW

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I recently got a top-of-the-line MacBookPro and I’m not completely happy. My previous MacBookPro was more powerful in many respects, but it died, necessitating this purchase. It had a 17’ screen (the last of its kind) versus a 15” in screen on this one, and had 1TB and 2 TB SSD disks inside (which I added) versus 1 TB total on the new one, with no possibility of expansion since the SSD is soldered to the motherboard. I already had 16 gig of memory, which this one comes with and an  I7 processor, although this one is faster.  Still I resent having to spend over three grand for a new machine that isn’t all that more advanced than the old one, despite the passage of years. But when you fly with Apple you have to pay the price.

Then there is connectivity, or lack of it. There are only four Thunderbolt 3 ports (I was just getting used to Thunderbolt 2, which is incompatible) and nothing else;  there’s no USB, no Firewire, or Ethernet. so all your peripherals are obsolete. Thus, to physically connect to anything you have to go out and buy adapters or converter cables, some of which are costly, since Apple doesn’t provide any, Otherwise you have to connect wirelessly, which seems to be the prevailing assumption here. The ports do double as USB 3, if you buy an adapter, but I was appalled to find that it was impossible to migrate easily from the old SSD, which I salvaged,  since migration only works with Time Machine, which I don’t use since it doesn’t work well wirelessly over a network. As a result I had to configure everything manually and reinstall all my applications. It does, however, pick up everything from iCloud seamlessly, so that all of your  preferences, favorites, email, contacts, calendar and passwords show up as expected. Worst of all is the power supply, which is enormous and heavy, and connects to the computer via the Thunderbolt ports, so your old power supply is useless as as backup.

On the plus side it also comes with a new touch bar with contextual menus, changing according to what program you’re using- something basically ported over from the iPad, which has word choices to shortcut when using Pages. I don’t find it very convenient due to the break you make when you remove your hands from the keyboard. It’s also hard to see if you’re using the computer on your lap. The keyboard itself is located in the top half of the machine, while the touchpad now takes up the entire bottom half, meaning your wrists are constantly above it when typing, although it doesn’t seem to have an effect. Once you get used to the new configuration the keyboard isn’t bad, and the huge touchpad presumably has some additional features I haven’t discovered yet.

There is a security feature on the touch bar that reads your fingerprint, finally with accuracy, as opposed to the nonfunctioning touch feature on the iPad and iPhone. It is situated for right-handers, located on the extreme right, and I had to adjust to it being left-handed. An annoyance is the Siri button that is right next to the security portion of the touch bar, which is easily inadvertently triggered either by that or every other time you reach for the delete key. I find Siri to be useless for most things on the iPad and the same applies here as I often have to stop what I’m doing to get rid of its unwanted help, although it can be disabled.

Speed-wise the computer is fast, really fast, so that you can work quickly, and even with a limited 16 GB memory it seems able to run multiple tasks without a hiccup. It runs quiet and cool and won’t burn your knees off. This is also the first Apple laptop I’ve had that actually lives up to its official specs in terms of battery life, which does last near 7 hours without a charge. For these reasons, and generally silky-smooth handling, I am warming up to it. For the price I would like to have seen even more power and versatility, as well as easier connectivity, as I wait for more adapters to come online. If you don’t have another working laptop and you need the level of power this provides, I can recommend it, albeit as an expensive purchase.

Written by georgesarant

April 20, 2017 at 6:54 PM

LETTER FROM GERMANY

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The thing that impresses me most every time I’m in Europe (outside of the mostly Orthodox countries that suffered Ottoman occupation), is how cathedrals and churches dominate every city and town. This is a continent that was once steeped in religion, and now is virtually devoid of it. In this region in particular, bloody wars were fought over generations between Christian sects as well as between nations, particularly France and Germany, which have traded possession of these provinces through endless wars. Perhaps war in general has so exhausted the population that beliefs of any kind that once led to war are no longer widely held. Thus there is a palpable feeling of loss of faith, not just in religion but in nationhood itself, as if to say we are no longer the people we were.

This sense is especially pronounced in Germany, which is most heavily invested in the European project and institutions. On the river boat, (or ship, as they prefer to call it), we are sailing along the Rhine, there is a crew is composed of young Europeans of many nationalities, representative of this European idea. No part of the world is anywhere near as culturally rich, distinct and varied in such a relatively small geographic area, but this is the product of distinct, brilliant nationalities. That is the dilemma of Europe today- everything they are and always have been, all that makes them attractive, is a product of those nationalities, not of some overall nebulous continental identity. As a result, outside of Germany, and perhaps eventually here, there is a growing sense of national identity, for a variety of reasons.

The great cathedrals are today visited mostly by tourists and the occasional class of students, for whom they maybe little more than a historical curiosity. Meanwhile the mosques of immigrants are robustly attended, but their capacity for assimilation appears to be extremely limited to the point where their beliefs and way of life are incompatible with western values. A small number of any group can always be absorbed, but once they become a distinct minority discord and trouble are the likely results. Thus it is well that, if only in the interests of self-preservation, the people’s of Europe are awakening to this. If this leads to a rediscovery of national identity and perhaps even faith, it is all to the good, because to preserve a culture there must be a belief in it; a living faith. Only then is there a faith in the future and a reason to form families and have children. This does not require extreme nationalism or hostility to others, especially neighbors, and this new revival of identity is not of that nature. It is not territorial, and no one is seeking to redraw borders. It is rather a matter of identity and spirit. Americans can learn from this as well, for these are the very things that leftists seek to destroy, by trashing the culture and it’s history and miseducating the young.

Written by georgesarant

March 30, 2017 at 1:47 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Who Are the Fascists?

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“Fascism” is second only to “racism” in the canon of political epithets that get tossed around these days. It has become a kind of catch-all phrase for describing behavior or even just an attitude someone doesn’t like. But who actually are the fascists? At this stage of history one would be hard pressed to find a genuine Fascist anywhere, at least since Il Duce got strung up during World War II. Fascism actually was an Italian social-political movement based on extreme nationalism, corporate statism, improvised claptrap, and black-shirt bully tactics against opposition and in the pursuit of power. It is really only this last tactic that still resonates, and the main reason the term is still in popular use. Thus, when someone says so and so is a “fascist,” the most they can mean is that they are behaving like a fascist. 

Fascism was considered to be of the “right” primarily because of its nationalistic component, but the collectivism, top down organization never was. The Nazis added genuine racism to the equation, but always called themselves national socialists, which tells you something. Strip away the nationalism and these actual movements have more in common with communism, due to things such as dictatorship, party monopoly on power, the use of violence, repression, political and state control of everything, that is characteristic of leftism.  

Nevertheless those on the left still like to perceive themselves as being involved in the struggle against “fascism,” which can include just about anything they don’t like. People they disagree with are categorized as “fascists” in order to dehumanize them beyond the bounds of civilized discourse. But most other people understand it to primarily mean the use or threat of violence, mob actions directed towards intimidation and silencing of political opponents. Now since there is not a shred of evidence that the people so targeted are engaged in any of these tactics, it ought to be crystal clear that these soldiers of the cause are themselves behaving like fascists. 

They are the fascists when they frequently prevent people from speaking on American university campuses. The intimidation, blocking of passage, and physical threats they use are directed against not some fringe right political movement, but mainstream conservatives, and even public officials. They can get away with this because college administrations and faculty are either sympathetic or too intimidated to resist them, and their targets are generally soft intellectuals. They can get away with this because there is currently no countervailing group on hand to deal with them. There has not been a single instance of a left-wing speaker being attacked by a right-wing band of “fascists.” That is a fantasy. 

Thus it is easy to be brave in the struggle against “fascism” when there are no Fascists around. The longer term danger for them is that there is a vast reservoir of people, currently peaceful, who can easily physically overpower them, lean right, and are well-armed. If these people, or even a sliver of them, were ever to become mobilized it would be over for the Left. 

But for now the fascist tactics are being employed by one side with impunity in a playground environment of soft targets. They are having their way in an artificial environment that is out of touch with reality. The time is overdue for the government to begin enforcing standards on pain of eliminating funding from institutions that have destroyed any semblance of a civic culture. 

The obfuscation of terminology should not delude as to who the real fascists are. For as Churchill once predicted, the fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists.

THE RUSSIANS, THE DEMOCRATS AND THE MEDIA

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There was a time when Russia was the enemy, back when the Russian people suffered under the communist yoke. Then opposition to the Soviet Union was the right position, while many on the Left were outright communist sympathizers or treasonous pawns of that evil empire. The Russian people were never the enemy.  The enemy was the odious regime that murdered millions of its own people. But the Soviet Union is long gone and communism belongs in the dustbin of history.

Russia has come a long way, and today under Putin is anti-Bolshevik.  Is it democratic in the way of the west? No, but it is an infinite improvement over the communist regime. When the Russians were behind the expansion of communism there was reason to consider them the enemy. But the Left instead was reliably anti-anti-communist, ever promoting “peaceful coexistence” and understanding where none could be had. But today the new theme of the Left, and the Democratic party in the US, is anti-Russian. Perhaps they mourn the old Soviet regime and resent its replacement, no longer of the “left,” but one that has restored Russian tradition, culture, and religion. This is not meant as an apology for the Russian regime, which in many respects is mismanaging the country to the detriment of its long-term interests, and with its low tolerance of opposition, but these are self-inflicted wounds.

Today the Democratic party in the United States has gone totally off the rails in its delusions about Russian involvement in our elections and government. At this point it is pure hysteria, not even so much because of anything the Russians might have done but that it might be used to undermine the Trump administration. This is unadulterated hatred seeking a target aided by a compliant and partisan media.

If you were skeptical of the criticism of the media in the past, the current kerfuffle over Attorney General Sessions supposed contacts with the Russians proves the point. From Democratic operatives the word was passed to the media that Sessions met with the Russians twice and didn’t mention it in his Senate testimony. But what were these meetings? The supposed contact with the Russian ambassador consisted of questioning him with other senators in a hearing, and an otherwise casual and trivial passing conversation at a reception. To any objective observer this is nonsense, and a truly honest media would have passed it over or concluded that there was nothing there. Instead we have a bogus “scandal” without substance that most people can parse out on their own. The only real offense of Sessions is being a southern white man; talk about prejudice and hatred!

Now they are finding, or rather looking for Russians everywhere under the bed without a shred of evidence. A responsible media would stick to the facts, but they have degenerated into a partisan opposition, relying on embittered holdovers from the Obama administration.

This Russomania is going nowhere. It is the last gasp of scoundrels who have nothing left in their arsenal.Their only objective is to undermine the Trump administration. It isn’t just the Democrats, but the Bush-league Republicans who failed miserably when in power. These old cold warriors have now made common cause with the new cold warriors of the Left. In the complete absence of factual evidence and endless innuendo, the net effect of this behavior is to drive more and more people into the Trump camp.

Written by georgesarant

March 3, 2017 at 2:44 PM

THE DEATH OF HOLLYWOOD

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Once there was a time when Hollywood provided millions of people with an escape from the travails of daily life in America and around the world. The objective was nothing more than to provide mass entertainment to a wide audience without any further pretense. In the days of the great studios patriots like Louis B. Mayer ran a tight ship. But eventually due to ill-advised government anti-trust proceedings and the rise of television the studio system broke down, and in that vacuum power was grabbed by sleazy agents. The glamour days persisted through the 1950s, but eventually the great stars passed on and were never really replaced.

Hollywood stood for entertainment, and as long as that was the case it was appreciated by everyone. it was something we had in common. No matter what political divisions there might have been in the outside world they seldom were manifest in entertainment, which was there for everyone, despite their differences. In the 60s things started to change due to sharp political divisions, and stars, untethered by studio common sense, became overtly more political. But then there was still some balance, and for every Jane Fonda there was a John  Wayne, but all still behaved professionally. Jane Fonda won her Oscar at the pinnacle of her political radicalism, but even she, when accepting her award, did not go off on a political speech, but instead, to her credit, said that there is a lot the say but this isn’t the time or place to say it.

How things have changed. Now too many feel the self-indulgent necessity to make political statements, taking advantage of a public moment in the spotlight they were provided only because of their entertainment work, not for their political insight.  It isn’t just the “talent” that feels compelled to behave like this; it permeates the whole industry from the very top, as the industry leadership is of one mind politically. Anyone taking not just an opposing viewpoint, but simply wanting to remain apolitical is subject to pressure and hostility.

But the end result is that they have killed the Hollywood that once pleased everyone. They have alienated half the audience and have gone a long way towards turning “Hollywood” into something of an epithet by abusing a platform that exists only because of the achievements of old Hollywood, not this pale echo, this decrepit residue, of what once was. The more this goes on the less audience there will be for various award shows, and this will likely be the case with this year’s Oscar ceremony. The decline will continue thanks to these unbridled egos. The Grammy’s at least provide a great deal of straight entertainment. The Oscars are worse than a bore, they are an irritant and I, and millions of others wont’ be watching.

Written by georgesarant

February 26, 2017 at 1:22 AM