Fear Not the Generals in the White House

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsWe’re lucky to have them.

In fact, with few exceptions throughout our history, we’ve always been lucky to have them. There has been considerable commentary regarding the wisdom of so many former generals and other military leaders holding high office in this Administration. With few exceptions, however, former generals and other high-ranking military careerists have served in the White House with distinction. America has been well served by former military leaders who have ascended to the Presidency. No less than twelve former Generals have occupied the oval office. Well, actually it wasn’t oval until 1909, but you know what we mean.

Generals Washington and Eisenhower were the highest-ranking generals to become Commanders-in-Chief and neither proved to be militaristic presidents. Indeed, President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned of the danger of an overly influential military-industrial complex. Washington counseled that a strong defense was the best way to avoid war as long as our enemies knew we were prepared to use it. Colonel James Monroe, our fifth President, crossed the Delaware with General Washington. In fact, that’s Colonel Monroe holding the American flag next to General Washington in the iconic painting of Washington crossing the Delaware.

General Andrew Jackson, our seventh president, was best known for his famous victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans effectively ending the war of 1812. Actually, the war had officially ended six weeks earlier with the treaty signed in Ghent Belgium, but news traveled slowly in those days—too slowly to head off the rout of the British at New Orleans. Jackson, by the way, volunteered as a militia messenger at age thirteen during the revolutionary war and was captured by the British, making him the only former prisoner of war to become President. While he ignominiously signed the infamous Indian Removal Act into law (genocide by any other name) he was the founder of the modern Democratic Party and is considered by many to be among our most effective presidents.

William Henry Harrison (Tippecanoe) and Zachary Taylor were both war heroes too.  Harrison stopped a coalition of native American armies at the confluence of the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers in what was the Indiana Territory and later defeated the famous native American fighter Tecumseh at the Battle of Thames. It was the standoff at Tippecanoe that propelled Harrison to the presidency and which gave birth to what was probably the first presidential campaign song, “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” Americans voted for Tippecanoe, but, sure enough, they got Tyler too. Harrison died of pneumonia a month after his inauguration.

Our point is that many who distinguished themselves in military service ascended to the oval office, yet none were militaristic leaders. What they had in common was a love of country, loyalty to the nation, discipline, a sense of order and, invariably, an uncommon gift of leadership. They knew how to lead and how to get things done.  All qualities desperately needed in this particular White House. Given that so many former career military officers have served with distinction as presidents we see little reason to be concerned that several former generals are now serving as advisors to a president—especially these advisors, and especially this president.

Frankly, having former U.S. Marine Corps General John Kelly serving as Trump’s Chief of Staff is cause for cautious optimism that order has replaced the disarray that has characterized this White House. Secretary of Defense James (Mad Dog) Mattis has a well-earned reputation for speaking truth to power, and he may prove to be the best-placed leader at the Pentagon in recent memory. “He’s a humble man with very little to be humble about,” was the way William Cohen, who served as President Clinton’s Pentagon secretary, described Mattis.  Finally, we can’t think of a less militaristic National Security Advisor than former General H.R. McMaster.  Everyone seems to have enormous respect for him. He was once described as a blunt-spoken bulldog of a man. No right-wing ideologue, he even worked for a left-wing think tank funded by none other than George Soros.

We don’t know where our ship of state is headed. We’re in pretty rough seas and we’ll be tested far beyond this president’s ability to steer without superb help. We’ve been sailing through rough waters for quite a while. The seas have been rough and getting rougher for years. While there is plenty of reason to be concerned about Commander Trump, we think he, at last, has superb men on the bridge with him.  Time will tell if he’s wise enough to start listening.

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Charlottesville: Trump’s Waterloo?

 Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsTime will tell, but we think it very well could be, and, perhaps, should be.

The President’s tone deafness, his grasping for moral equivalence (or immoral equivalence) between the torch-carrying Nazis marching and shouting anti-Semitic slogans, and anti-white supremacists, some of whom were determined to be just as muscular and some, just as unruly, was a demonstration of cluelessness and ignorance unbecoming of any American leader from President of the United States to elementary school student council member.

The neo-Nazi white supremacists marching through the University of Virginia with their well-rehearsed chant, “The Jews will not replace us,” and “Blood and Soil” belong to another time and another place. The Jews certainly will not replace them, nor will decent people anywhere. But we should all abhor them. “Blood and soil” or Blut und Boden (in the late nineteenth-century German original) was embraced by Nazi sympathizer Richard Walther Darré as a theme in his writing espousing eugenics to breed a new master race. The march was a disgrace, period—the Nazi flags a national obscenity.

That the white supremacists had a right and a permit to March is of no consequence.  Of course, they had a right to March, just as the President had a right and a moral obligation to condemn what the neo-Nazis stand for without equivocating by emphasizing that the counter demonstrators included some bad actors too. The fact that there may have been bad actors on both sides of the Charlottesville tragedy is of little relevance. Yes, if there were bad actors on either side local law enforcement should have dealt with that. But the President of the United States has no business equivocating about neo-Nazis and other racists.

These neo-Nazis, with all their Nazi paraphernalia, burning torches, and obscene utterances are a throwback to one of the darkest periods in human history. More than 400,000 Americans died fighting what the Nazi’s in Germany stood for and what the neo-Nazis in America stand for. Over sixty million people died worldwide because of Nazi ideology, about 3% of the entire population of the world.  Doesn’t President Trump get that? Is anyone fit to be President of the United States if he or she doesn’t get that? We suppose he would justify real third-Reich Nazi excesses by rationalizing that the Nazis sometimes were on the receiving end of muscular, physical push-back during their rise to power.

President Trump justified his two-day bewildering delay in calling out the alt-right Misfits by telling us he likes to get his facts straight before commenting, then commented with his facts as convoluted as ever. Protesting the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee was not the purpose of the alt-right demonstration. It was simply the excuse. We found President Trump’s new-found interest in getting his facts straight all but amusing. President Trump has demonstrated, time and time again, that getting his facts straight has rarely been among his higher priorities.

The Confederate statues that are being taken down from town squares throughout the country are not, for the most part, being removed and destroyed or melted down for scrap. They are generally being relocated, often to museums and cemeteries. They are being removed from places of reverence to places of remembrance. That is appropriate and as it should be.

President Trump’s rhetorical inanities—“should we take down statues of George Washington, or Thomas Jefferson, they were slave owners too, where does it end?” are a national embarrassment. Four of our first five Presidents were Virginians. They were born into a slave culture as were their parents before them. But they were the patriots who gave us America. The men whose statues are being removed from town squares throughout America betrayed America. They were from states that seceded from America, many before President Abraham Lincoln was even sworn into office. We can remember them, as they are part of the history of America, but we shouldn’t revere them.

Mitch Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans summed up the issue beautifully in a recent speech. We have excerpted portions of his bold and powerful remarks below. We commend them to all Americans, especially to President Trump.

… New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling caldron of many cultures. There is no other place quite like it in the world that so eloquently exemplifies the uniquely American motto: e Pluribus Unum — out of many we are one. But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were bought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture. America was the place where nearly 4000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp. So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.

“…For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth. As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.” So today I want to speak about why we chose to remove these four monuments to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, but also how and why this process can move us towards healing and understanding of each other. So, let’s start with the facts.

“…The historic record is clear, the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity… It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots. These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.

“…Should you have further doubt about the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy. He said in his now famous ‘cornerstone speech’ that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

“…This is, however, about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong. Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division and yes with violence…”

President Trump revels in telling us how smart he is.  Mayor Mitch Landrieu demonstrates how wise he is.

President Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville tragedy suggests he is neither smart nor wise.

Available at Amazon, Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble and Audible.

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Trump’s “Fire and Fury” threats Off the Cuff? We Doubt It.

 

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsIt’s more like carefully planned “Good Cop, Bad Cop” diplomacy.

We think Trump’s “Fire and Fury” threat was probably well considered, fully vetted and very deliberate. That’s not to say we think it wise. We really don’t know, Neither, we would guess, do many of the talking heads who are weighing in on television every night.  We certainly don’t pretend to know the psyche of Kim Jong Un.

We suspect President Trump’s “fire and fury” comments were discussed at great length by the people we pay to discuss these things. We also suspect the comment was intended for China as much as it was intended for the hermit nation north of the 38th parallel.  Trump’s threat was surely one from which he can’t very easily back away. His remarks warned Kim Jong Un to stop threatening the United States. The only thing nebulous about Trump’s statement was whether the word “threat”  referred to Kim Jong Un’s verbal threats or physical threats. Kim Jong Un talks in threats all the time.  He also takes action from time to time that is threatening, such as placing cruise missiles on patrol boats as he did last week or sending missiles toward the United States or Japan or Guam.

No sooner did President Trump (Bad Cop) issue his Fire and Fury warning then Defense Secretary Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis (Good Cop) explained that President Trump’s warning was an expression of the global concern surrounding the regime’s pursuit of nuclear missiles. Mattis stressed that the U.S. is working diplomatic channels with allies in an effort to denuclearize North Korea.

“I was not elected. The American people elected the president and I think he’s just showing the concern he has, that is shared, obviously, globally, when you see that kind of unanimous [U.N.] Security Council result.”  The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed new sanctions last week that target North Korea’s exports and finances following the regime’s recent tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Trump said, Tuesday,  North Korea should not hurl any more threats at the U.S. or “they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” and in a brief press appearance Thursday afternoon indicated tougher rhetoric may be coming in the future.

Mattis declined to say whether he was surprised or given a heads up before Trump made the warning on Tuesday.  We suspect, however, he and probably Tillerson gave the Trump comments thumbs up.

The rhetoric is up to the president,” Mad Dog Mattis said. “This is my rhetoric, War would be catastrophic. The regime should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.” The Mattis statement while just as tough in tone was carefully calibrated, indicating that mere threats from Pyongyang, which are an everyday occurrence by North Korea, would not lead to military action.

“The United States and our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from an attack,” he said.  “While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth. The DPRK regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and (North Korea) would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.”

In China, a state-owned newspaper known for its usually harsh rhetoric warned North Korea that China would stay neutral if the North attacked first.

A chorus of talking heads here in the United States and abroad have weighed in extolling the virtues of diplomacy over tough talk.  Well, we’ve been taken to the cleaners time and time again trying diplomacy in the absence of tough talk with North Korea. We’re presenting below (hold on to your hat) a pretty complete chronology of our diplomatic history with North Korea which we’ve drawn from a report prepared by the Arms Control Association.

In 1994, faced with North Korea’s announced intent to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires non-nuclear weapon states to forswear the development and acquisition of nuclear weapons, the United States and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework. Under this agreement, Pyongyang committed to freezing its illicit plutonium weapons program in exchange for aid.

Following the collapse of this agreement in 2002, North Korea claimed that it had withdrawn from the NPT in January 2003 and once again began operating its nuclear facilities.

The second major diplomatic effort was the Six-Party Talks initiated in August of 2003 which involved China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. In between periods of stalemate and crisis, those talks arrived at critical breakthroughs in 2005, when North Korea pledged to abandon “all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs” and return to the NPT, and in 2007, when the parties agreed on a series of steps to implement that 2005 agreement.

Those talks, however, broke down in 2009 following disagreements over verification and an internationally condemned North Korea rocket launch. Pyongyang has since stated that it would never return to the talks and is no longer bound by their agreements.

The following chronology summarizes in greater detail developments in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, and the efforts to end them, since 1985. Feel free to skim.

1985

December 12, 1985: North Korea accedes to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) but does not complete a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Under Article III of the NPT, North Korea has 18 months to conclude such an arrangement. In coming years, North Korea links adherence to this provision of the treaty to the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from South Korea.

1991

September 27, 1991: President George Bush announces the unilateral withdrawal of all naval and land-based tactical nuclear weapons deployed abroad. Approximately 100 U.S. nuclear weapons had been based in South Korea. Eight days later, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev reciprocates.

November 8, 1991: In response to President Bush’s unilateral move, President Roh Tae Woo of South Korea announces the Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, under which South Korea promises not to produce, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons. In addition, the declaration unilaterally prohibits South Korea from possessing nuclear reprocessing or uranium enrichment facilities. These promises, if enacted, would satisfy all of North Korea’s conditions for allowing International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of its nuclear facilities.

1992

March 6, 1992: The United States imposes sanctions on North Korea’s Lyongaksan Machineries and Equipment Export Corporation and Changgwang Sinyong Corporation for missile proliferation activities.

April 9, 1992: North Korea ratifies the safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

May 4, 1992: North Korea submits its nuclear material declarations to the IAEA, declaring seven sites and some 90 grams of plutonium that could be subject to IAEA inspection. Pyongyang claims that the nuclear material was the result of reprocessing 89 defective fuel rods in 1989. The IAEA conducted inspections to verify the completeness of this declaration from mid-1992 to early 1993.

June 23, 1992: The United States imposes “missile sanctions” on the North Korean entities sanctioned in March.*

September 1992: IAEA inspectors discover discrepancies in North Korea’s “initial report” on its nuclear program and ask for clarification on several issues, including the amount of reprocessed plutonium in North Korea.

1993

February 9, 1993: The IAEA demands special inspections of two sites that are believed to store nuclear waste. The request is based on strong evidence that North Korea has been cheating on its commitments under the NPT. North Korea refuses the IAEA’s request.

March 12, 1993: Amid demands for special inspections, North Korea announces its intention to withdraw from the NPT in three months, citing Article X provisions that allow withdrawal for supreme national security considerations.

June 11, 1993: Following talks with the United States in New York, North Korea suspends its decision to pull out of the NPT just before the withdrawal would have become legally effective. North Korea also agrees to the full and impartial application of IAEA safeguards.

July 19, 1993: After the second round of talks with the United States, North Korea announces in a joint statement that it is “prepared to begin consultations with the IAEA on outstanding safeguards and other issues” and that it is ready to negotiate IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities. The joint statement also indicates that Pyongyang might consider a deal with the United States to replace its graphite nuclear reactors with light-water reactors (LWRs), which are proliferation resistant.

Late 1993: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency estimated that North Korea had separated about 12 kilograms of plutonium. This amount is enough for at least one or two nuclear weapons.

1994

January 1994: The director of the CIA estimates that North Korea may have produced one or two nuclear weapons.

February 15, 1994: North Korea finalizes an agreement with the IAEA to allow inspections of all seven of its declared nuclear facilities, averting sanctions by the United Nations Security Council.

May 19, 1994: The IAEA confirms that North Korea has begun removing spent fuel from its 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor even though international monitors were not present. The United States and the IAEA had insisted that inspectors be present for any such action because spent fuel can potentially be reprocessed for use in nuclear weapons.

June 13, 1994: North Korea announces its withdrawal from the IAEA. This is distinct from pulling out of the NPT—North Korea is still required to undergo IAEA inspections as part of its NPT obligations. The IAEA contends that North Korea’s safeguards agreement remains in force. However, North Korea no longer participates in IAEA functions as a member state.

June 15, 1994: Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter negotiates a deal with North Korea in which Pyongyang confirms its willingness to “freeze” its nuclear weapons program and resume high-level talks with the United States. Bilateral talks are expected to begin, provided that North Korea allows the IAEA safeguards to remain in place, does not refuel its 5-megawatt nuclear reactor, and does not reprocess any spent nuclear fuel.

August 12, 1994: An “agreed statement” is signed that establishes a three-stage process for the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. In return, the United States promises to move toward normalized economic and diplomatic relations and assures North Korea that it will provide assistance with the construction of proliferation-resistant LWRs to replace North Korea’s graphite-moderated reactors.

October 21, 1994: The United States and North Korea conclude four months of negotiations by adopting the “Agreed Framework” in Geneva. To resolve U.S. concerns about Pyongyang’s plutonium-producing reactors and the Yongbyon reprocessing facility, the agreement calls for North Korea to freeze and eventually eliminate its nuclear facilities, a process that will require dismantling three nuclear reactors, two of which are still under construction. North Korea also allows the IAEA to verify compliance through “special inspections,” and it agrees to allow 8,000 spent nuclear reactor fuel elements to be removed to a third country.

In exchange, Pyongyang will receive two Light Water Reactors (LWRs) and annual shipments of heavy fuel oil during construction of the reactors. The LWRs will be financed and constructed through the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), a multinational consortium.

November 28, 1994: The IAEA announces that it had confirmed that construction has been halted at North Korea’s Nyongbyon and Taochon nuclear facilities and that these facilities are not operational.

January 1996: North Korea agrees in principle to a meeting on missile proliferation issues, which had been requested in a letter by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Thomas Hubbard. However, Pyongyang contends that the United States would have to ease economic sanctions before it could agree on a date and venue for the talks.

In testimony before a House International Relations subcommittee on March 19, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Winston Lord says that Washington is willing to ease economic sanctions if progress is made on the missile export issue.

April 21-22, 1996: The United States and North Korea meet in Berlin for their first round of bilateral missile talks. The United States reportedly suggests that North Korea should adhere to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a voluntary international agreement aimed at controlling sales of ballistic missile systems, components, and technology. North Korea allegedly demands that the United States provide compensation for lost missile-related revenue.

May 24, 1996: The United States imposes sanctions on North Korea and Iran for missile technology-related transfers. The sanctions prohibit any imports or exports to sanctioned firms and to those sectors of the North Korean economy that are considered missile-related. The pre-existing general ban on trade with both countries makes the sanctions largely symbolic.

October 16, 1996: After detecting North Korean preparations for a test of its medium-range Nodong missile, the United States deploys a reconnaissance ship and aircraft to Japan. Following several meetings in New York between U.S. and North Korean diplomats, the State Department confirms on November 8 that the missile test has been canceled.

August 6, 1997: The United States imposes new sanctions on two additional North Korean entities for unspecified missile-proliferation activities.

April 17, 1998: The United States imposes sanctions on North Korea and Pakistan in response to Pyongyang’s transfer of missile technology and components to Pakistan’s Khan Research Laboratory.*

June 16, 1998: The official Korean Central News Agency reports that Pyongyang will only end its missile technology exports if it is suitably compensated for financial losses.

August 31, 1998: North Korea launches a three-stage Taepo Dong-1 rocket with a range of 1,500-2,000 kilometers that flies over Japan. Pyongyang announces that the rocket successfully placed a small satellite into orbit, a claim contested by U.S. Space Command. Japan suspends signature of a cost-sharing agreement for the Agreed Framework’s LWR project until November 1998. The U.S. intelligence community admits to being surprised by North Korea’s advances in missile-staging technology and its use of a solid-rocket motor for the missile’s third stage.

October 1, 1998: The third round of U.S.-North Korean missile talks begins in New York but makes little progress. The United States repeats its request for Pyongyang to terminate its missile programs in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. North Korea rejects the U.S. proposal on the grounds that the lifting of sanctions is implicit in the 1994 Agreed Framework.

December 4-11, 1998: The United States and North Korea hold talks to address U.S. concerns about a suspected underground nuclear facility at Kumchang-ni. Pyongyang reportedly accepts in principle the idea of a U.S. inspection of the site but is unable to agree with U.S. proposals for “appropriate compensation.”

February 2, 1999: CIA Director George Tenet testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee that, with some technical improvements, North Korea would be able to use the Taepo Dong-1 to deliver small payloads to parts of Alaska and Hawaii. Tenet also says that Pyongyang’s Taepo Dong-2, if it had a third stage like the Taepo Dong-1, would be able to deliver large payloads to the continental United States, albeit with poor accuracy.

September 7-12, 1999: During talks in Berlin, North Korea agrees to a moratorium on testing any long-range missiles for the duration of talks with the United States. The United States agrees to a partial lifting of economic sanctions on North Korea. The two parties agree to continue high-level discussions. (Sanctions are not actually lifted until June 2000.)

September 9, 1999: A U.S. National Intelligence Estimate reports that North Korea will “most likely” develop an ICBM capable of delivering a 200-kilogram warhead to the U.S. mainland by 2015.

November 19, 1999: The United States and North Korea meet in Berlin for talks on bilateral relations and preparations for a North Korean high-level visit to the United States.

May 25-27, 2000: The United States conducts its second inspection of the Kumchang-ni site. The inspection team found that conditions had not changed since the first inspection in May 1999.

June 19, 2000: Apparently encouraged by the North-South summit, the United States relaxes sanctions on North Korea, allowing a “wide range” of trade in commercial and consumer goods, easing restrictions on investment, and eliminating prohibitions on direct personal and commercial financial transactions. Sanctions related to terrorism and missile proliferation remain in place. The next day, North Korea reaffirms its moratorium on missile tests.

July 12, 2000: The fifth round of U.S.-North Korean missile talks in Kuala Lumpur end without resolution. During the meeting, North Korea repeats its demand for compensation, stated as $1 billion per year, in return for halting missile exports. The United States rejects this proposal but says that it is willing to move toward “economic normalization” in return for addressing U.S. concerns.

July 19, 2000: During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Il reportedly promises to end his country’s missile program in exchange for assistance with satellite launches from countries that have expressed concern about North Korea’s missile program.

AugSeptember 27, 2000: U.S.-North Korean talks resume in New York on nuclear issues, missiles, and terrorism. The two countries issue a joint statement on terrorism, a move that indicates progress toward removing North Korea from the State

.October 24, 2000: Secretary Albright concludes a two-day visit to Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jong Il. During the visit, Kim says that North Korea would not further test the Taepo Dong-1 missile. In addition to discussing Pyongyang’s indigenous missile program, the talks cover North Korean missile technology exports, nuclear transparency, the normalization of relations, and a possible trip by President Clinton to Pyongyang.

January 2, 2001: The United States imposes sanctions on North Korea’s Changgwang Sinyong Corporation for violation of the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000.*

March 7, 2001: In a New York Times op-ed, Wendy Sherman, former special adviser to the president and secretary of state for North Korea policy, writes that a deal with North Korea to eliminate its medium- and long-range missiles and end its missile exports had been “tantalizingly close” at the end of the Clinton administration.

After a working meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung at the White House, President George W. Bush tells reporters that he “look[s] forward to, at some point in the future, having a dialogue with the North Koreans, but that any negotiation would require complete verification of the terms of a potential agreement.” According to Clinton administration officials, the issue of how to verify a missile deal remained one of the final stumbling blocks to a successful arrangement. Bush also questions whether Pyongyang is “keeping all terms of all agreements.”

March 15, 2001: Pyongyang threatens to “take thousand-fold revenge” on the United States “and its black-hearted intention to torpedo the dialogue between north and south [Korea].” The statement, issued by the Korean Central News Agency, called Washington’s new policies “hostile” and noted that Pyongyang remains “fully prepared for both dialogue and war.”

May 3, 2001: At a press conference in Pyongyang, a European Union delegation headed by Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson reports that Kim Jong Il pledged that he will extend Pyongyang’s moratorium on missile testing until 2003 and that Kim was “committed” to a second inter-Korean summit.

June 6, 2001: In a press release, President Bush announces the completion of his administration’s North Korea policy review and its determination that “serious discussions” on a “broad agenda” should be resumed with Pyongyang. Bush states his desire to conduct “comprehensive” negotiations, including “improved implementation of the Agreed Framework,” “verifiable constraints” on North Korea’s missile programs, a ban on North Korea’s missile exports, and “a less threatening conventional military posture.”

June 26, 2001: The State Department announces sanctions under the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 on North Korea’s Changgwang Sinyong Corporation, for unspecified missile-related transfers to Iran. The announcement represents the second time that sanctions had been imposed under the act, the first also being on Changgwang Sinyong on January 2.

January 29, 2002: In his State of the Union address, President Bush criticized North Korea for “arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.” Bush characterized North Korea, along with Iraq and Iran, as constituting an “axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”

April 1, 2002: President Bush issues a memorandum stating that he will not certify North Korea’s compliance with the Agreed Framework. However, for national security considerations, Bush waives applicable U.S. law prohibiting Washington from funding KEDO, allowing the United States to continue financially supporting the Agreed Framework.

July 2, 2002: The United States cancels a planned delegation visit to North Korea, citing Pyongyang’s failure to respond to a proposed July 10 meeting date, as well as a June 29 naval skirmish between North and South Korea.

August 7, 2002: KEDO holds a ceremony to mark the pouring of the concrete foundation for the first LWR that the United States agreed to provide North Korea under the Agreed Framework. Jack Pritchard, the U.S. representative to KEDO and State Department special envoy for negotiations with North Korea, attends the ceremony. Pritchard is the most senior U.S. official to visit North Korea since former Secretary of State Albright in October 2000.

The United States urges North Korea to comply with IAEA safeguarding procedures for all its nuclear facilities as soon as possible, but Pyongyang states that it will not do so for at least three years, the Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun reports August 8. A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman also states that delays in completing the reactor project might motivate Pyongyang to pull out of the agreement.

August 16, 2002: The United States imposes sanctions on Changgwang Sinyong Corporation of North Korea and on the North Korean government itself for transferring missile technology to Yemen. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer states August 23 that the sanctions were a “pro forma requirement under the law for the State Department” and that Washington remains willing to “talk with North Korea any time, any place.”

August 31, 2002: Responding to an August 29 speech by Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, North Korea says that “if the U.S. has a will to drop its hostile policy toward the DPRK it will have dialogue…the ball is in the court of the U.S. side.” Bolton had criticized Pyongyang’s missile, nuclear, and biological weapons programs.

September 17, 2002: North Korea announces that it will indefinitely extend its moratorium on missile testing as part of the North Korea-Japan Pyongyang Declaration signed during a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

A portion of the North Korea-Japan declaration references nuclear weapons, saying that the two countries “affirmed the pledge to observe all the international agreements for a comprehensive solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.” It is unclear whether this statement simply affirms a commitment to existing agreements or signals support for additional arms control measures.

October 16, 2002: The United States announces that North Korea admitted to having a clandestine program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons after James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, confronted representatives from Pyongyang during an October 3-5 visit. Kelly later explained that the North Korean admission came the day after he informed them that the United States was aware of the program. North Korea has denied several times that it admitted to having this program.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher states that “North Korea’s secret nuclear weapons program is a serious violation of North Korea’s commitments under the Agreed Framework as well as under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, its International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards agreement, and the Joint North-South Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Boucher also says that the United States wants North Korea to comply with its nonproliferation commitments and seeks “a peaceful resolution of this situation.”

November 5, 2002: North Korea threatens to end its moratorium on ballistic missile tests if North Korea-Japan normalization talks do not achieve progress.

November 14, 2002: KEDO announces that it is suspending heavy-fuel oil deliveries to North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s October 4 acknowledgment that it has a uranium-enrichment program. The last shipment reached North Korea November 18.

November 29, 2002: The IAEA adopts a resolution calling upon North Korea to “clarify” its “reported uranium-enrichment program.” North Korea rejects the resolution, saying the IAEA’s position is biased in favor of the United States.

December 9, 2002: Spanish and U.S. forces intercept and search a ship carrying a shipment of North Korean Scud missiles and related cargo to Yemen. The United States allows the shipment to be delivered because it lacks the necessary legal authority to seize the cargo. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says that Washington had intelligence that the ship was carrying missiles to the Middle East and was concerned that its ultimate destination might have been Iraq.

December 12, 2002: North Korea sends a letter to the IAEA announcing that it is restarting its one functional reactor and is reopening the other nuclear facilities frozen under the Agreed Framework. The letter requests that the IAEA remove the seals and monitoring equipment from its nuclear facilities. A North Korean spokesman blames the United States for violating the Agreed Framework and says that the purpose of restarting the reactor is to generate electricity-an assertion disputed by U.S. officials.

A November 27 Congressional Research Service report states that the reactor could annually produce enough plutonium for one bomb. The CIA states in a 2002 report to Congress that the spent-fuel rods “contain enough plutonium for several more [nuclear] weapons.”

U.S. estimates of North Korea’s current nuclear status differ. A State Department official said January 3, 2003 that the U.S. intelligence community believes North Korea already possesses one or two nuclear weapons made from plutonium produced before the negotiation of the Agreed Framework. The CIA publicly estimates that Pyongyang “has produced enough plutonium” for one or two weapons.

December 14, 2002: North Korea states in a letter to the IAEA that the status of its nuclear facilities is a matter between the United States and North Korea and “not pursuant to any agreement” with the IAEA. The letter further declares that North Korea will take unilateral action to remove seals and monitoring cameras if the IAEA does not act.

December 22-24, 2002: North Korea cuts all seals and disrupts IAEA surveillance equipment on its nuclear facilities and materials. An IAEA spokesman says December 26 that North Korea started moving fresh fuel rods into the reactor, suggesting that it might be restarted soon.

December 27, 2002: North Korea orders IAEA inspectors out of the country. They leave on December 31.

2003

January 6, 2003: The IAEA Board of Governors adopts a resolution condemning North Korea’s decision to restart its nuclear reactor and resume operation of its related facilities. The resolution “deplores” North Korea’s action “in the strongest terms” and calls on Pyongyang to meet “immediately, as a first step” with IAEA officials. It also calls on North Korea to re-establish the seals and monitoring equipment it dismantled, comply fully with agency safeguards, clarify details about its reported uranium-enrichment program, and allow the agency to verify that all North Korea’s nuclear material is “declared and…subject to safeguards.”

January 10, 2003: North Korea announces its withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), effective January 11. Although Article X of the NPT requires that a country give three months’ notice in advance of withdrawing, North Korea argues that it has satisfied that requirement because it originally announced its decision to withdraw March 12, 1993, and suspended the decision one day before it was to become legally binding.

January 12, 2003: Choe Jin Su, North Korea’s ambassador to China, signals that Pyongyang might not adhere to its moratorium on testing long-range missiles, saying that Pyongyang believes it “cannot go along with the self-imposed missile moratorium any longer,” according to a January 12 Los Angeles Times article.

February 12, 2003: Responding to North Korea’s rejection of the November 2002 and January 2003 IAEA resolutions, the IAEA Board of Governors adopts a resolution declaring Pyongyang in “further non-compliance” with its obligations under the NPT. The board decides to report the matter to the UN Security Council, in accordance with agency mandates.

February 27, 2003: U.S. officials confirm North Korea has restarted the five-megawatt nuclear reactor that had been frozen by the Agreed Framework.

March 19, 2003: North Korea again signals that it might not adhere to its moratorium on testing long-range missiles, asserting in a March 19 KCNA statement that it has the “sovereign right” to have a “peaceful” missile program. North Korea conducted missile tests February 24 and March 10, but both tests involved short-range missiles that did not violate the moratorium.

March 24, 2003: The United States imposes sanctions on the Changgwang Sinyong Corporation of North Korea for transferring missile technology to Khan Research Laboratories in Pakistan. The laboratory was sanctioned for receiving the items. Philip Reeker, deputy State Department spokesman, said April 1 that the sanctions were imposed only for a “missile-related transfer” and not the transfer of nuclear technology from Pakistan to North Korea.

April 23-25, 2003: The United States, North Korea, and China hold trilateral talks in Beijing. North Korea tells the U.S. delegation that it possesses nuclear weapons, according to Boucher on April 28. This constitutes the first time that Pyongyang has made such an admission.

North Korea also tells the U.S. delegation that it has completed reprocessing the spent nuclear fuel from the five-megawatt reactor frozen under the Agreed Framework, according to Secretary of State Colin Powell during an April 30 hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Boucher adds that the North Korean delegation told the U.S. officials that Pyongyang “might get rid of all their nuclear programs…[and] stop their missile exports.” Powell states April 28 that North Korea expects “something considerable in return” for this effort.

July 15, 2003
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher tells reporters that North Korean officials at their UN mission in New York have told U.S. officials that North Korea has completed reprocessing the 8,000 spent fuel rods from its Yongbyon reactor.

North Korea proposes a step-by-step solution, calling for the United States to conclude a “non-aggression treaty,” normalize bilateral diplomatic relations, refrain from hindering North Korea’s “economic cooperation” with other countries, complete the reactors promised under the Agreed Framework, resume suspended fuel oil shipments, and increase food aid. Pyongyang states that, in return, it will dismantle its “nuclear facility,” as well as end missile testing and export of missiles and related components. North Korea issues an explicit denial for the first time that it has a uranium-enrichment program.

The North Korean delegation, however, also threatens to test nuclear weapons or “demonstrate the means that they would have to deliver” them, according to a senior State Department official.

October 2, 2003
KCNA reports a statement from a North Korean Foreign Ministry official indicating that North Korea completed reprocessing its 8,000 spent fuel rods and “made a switchover in the use” of the spent fuel “in the direction increasing [sic] its nuclear deterrent force.” The official also states that Pyongyang will continue to produce and reprocess additional spent fuel when deemed necessary.

October 16, 2003
A statement from a North Korean Foreign Ministry official reported by KCNA suggests that Pyongyang may test nuclear weapons, stating that it will “take a measure to open its nuclear deterrent to the public as a physical force” if the United States refuses to change its negotiating stance.

October 19, 2003
President George W. Bush states during a trip to Asia that the United States is willing to provide a written, multilateral guarantee that the United States will not attack North Korea, but makes it clear that a formal nonaggression pact is “off the table.” Powell made a similar statement August 1.

November 6, 2003: North Korean ambassador to the United Kingdom, Ri Yong Ho, tells Reuters that North Korea possesses a workable nuclear device.
South Korea’s deputy foreign minister, Lee Soo-hyuck, issues a proposal—which China and Russia both support—to provide energy assistance to the North in return for a freeze of its nuclear program, along with a promise to dismantle it.

June 23-26, 2004: The third round of six-party talks is held in Beijing. The United States presents a detailed proposal for resolving the crisis.

The proposal calls for a two-phase process in which North Korea would receive fuel oil from China, South Korea, and Russia after agreeing to first freeze, then dismantle its nuclear programs. The United States and the other parties to the talks would also draft a multilateral security agreement and begin surveying North Korea’s energy needs. Additionally, Washington would begin bilateral discussions with Pyongyang on the removal of U.S. sanctions. The benefits spelled out in the proposal could be withdrawn if North Korea did not comply.

According to a June 28 North Korean Foreign Ministry statement, North Korea counters by proposing to “refrain from” producing, testing, or transferring nuclear weapons and to freeze “all the facilities related to nuclear weapons and products churned out by their operation.” According to the Foreign Ministry, the length of the freeze depends on “whether the reward is made or not.”

November 26, 2004: The KEDO Executive Board announces that it will extend its suspension of the light-water reactor project for another year, beginning December 1.

2005

February 2, 2005: The New York Times and The Washington Post report that Libya received uranium hexafluoride suspected to be of North Korean origin in 2004. Several knowledgeable U.S. and other diplomatic sources later tell Arms Control Today that the evidence indicates, but does not prove, that the material originated in North Korea.

February 10, 2005: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry announces that Pyongyang has “produced nuclear weapons.” This was Pyongyang’s most definitive public claim to date at the time on the status of its nuclear arsenal.

March 2, 2005: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry states that Pyongyang is no longer bound by its more than five-year-old moratorium on flight-testing longer-range missiles. Pyongyang, however, does not say it will resume such testing.

Early April 2005: The United States sends an urgent diplomatic message to allies notifying them of U.S. concerns that North Korea might conduct a nuclear test.

April 9, 2005: North Korea expert Selig Harrison tells reporters that, during a recent meeting, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan said Pyongyang might give nuclear weapons to terrorists if “the United States drives us into a corner.”

May 11, 2005: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry announces that it has “successfully finished the unloading of 8,000 spent fuel rods” from its Yongbyon reactor. South Korea has verified the reactor shut down “through various channels,” Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry official Kim Sook tells the Korean Broadcasting System the same day.

June 2005: Pyongyang refuels its reactor at Yongbyon and begins reprocessing the 8,000 spent fuel rods removed in March, North Korean officials later tell Hecker.

June 29, 2005: The U.S. Treasury Department announces that the United States has frozen the U.S. assets of three North Korean entities “responsible for WMD and missile programs,” as well as barred U.S. citizens and companies from doing business with those entities. Those measures are taken pursuant to Executive Order 13382 issued that day by President George W. Bush.

July 9, 2005: After a meeting between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan, North Korea announces its return to the six-party talks. According to a KCNA statement, the “U.S. side clarified its official stand to recognize [North Korea] as a sovereign state, not to invade it and hold bilateral talks within the framework of the six-party talks.”

According to the statement, North Korea commits “to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards.” It also calls for the 1992 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which forbids the two Koreas from possessing uranium-enrichment and plutonium-separation facilities, to be “observed and implemented.” Washington affirms in the statement that it has no intention to attack or invade North Korea.

The statement commits the participants to achieving “the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner” and says that the parties agree “to take coordinated steps to implement” the agreed-upon obligations and rewards “in a phased manner in line with the principle of ‘commitment for commitment, action for action.’”

The statement says that North Korea “stated that it has the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy” and that the other parties “expressed their respect and agreed to discuss, at an appropriate time, the subject of the provision” of a light-water nuclear power reactor to Pyongyang. This issue had been controversial during the negotiations and the final agreement was the result of a compromise between Washington and Pyongyang. North Korea insisted that the statement recognize its right to a peaceful nuclear energy program and commit the other participants to provide it with light-water reactors while the United States argued that North Korea should not receive any nuclear reactors.

September 20, 2005: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry states that it is “essential” for the United States to provide light-water reactors to Pyongyang “as early as possible,” adding that Washington “should not even dream” that North Korea will dismantle its “nuclear deterrent” before receiving the reactors. However, a speech from North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon two days later appears to back away from this formulation.

October 20, 2005: Democratic New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who visited North Korea earlier in the month, says North Korean officials told him they had reprocessed the 8,000 spent fuel rods from the Yongbyon reactor, the Associated Press reports.

March 30, 2006: The Treasury Department announces that it has imposed penalties on a Swiss company, along with one of its owners, for procuring “goods with weapons-related applications” for North Korea.

April 13, 2006: North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan tells reporters that Pyongyang would return to the talks if the United States lifted the freeze of Banco Delta Asia’s funds, which total approximately $25 million.

June 1, 2006: The KEDO Executive Board announces that it has formally terminated its project to build two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea.

The board says its decision was based on the “continued and extended failure” of North Korea to comply with its relevant obligations under the 1994 Agreed Framework.

July 4-5, 2006: North Korea test fires seven ballistic missiles, including its longest-range missile, the Taepo Dong-2. The other six tests include a combination of short- and medium-range Scud-C and Nodong ballistic missiles, launched from the Kittaraeyong test site. Although the tests of the six short-range missiles appear to be successful, the Taepo Dong-2 fails less than a minute after launch.

A July 4 State Department press statement describes the launches as a “provocative act” that violated North Korea’s voluntary moratorium on flight-testing longer-range missiles, which Pyongyang had observed since September 1999.

Japan and South Korea punish North Korea for conducting the tests, with Tokyo imposing sanctions on Pyongyang and Seoul halting food and fertilizer assistance.

July 15, 2006: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 1695 condemning North Korea’s missile launches. The resolution calls on Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks and “demands” that the country suspends its ballistic-missile activities and re-establish its flight-testing moratorium.

The resolution also requires states to prevent missiles and related “items, materials, goods and technology” from being transferred to North Korea’s missile or weapons of mass destruction programs. In addition, it requires countries to prevent the procurement of such items from Pyongyang and the transfer of any “financial resources in relation to” North Korea’s weapons programs.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry states the next day that Pyongyang will “not be bound” by the resolution.

September 19, 2006: Japan and Australia announce that they have adopted sanctions targeting multiple foreign entities tied to North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs in response to resolution 1695.

The two countries each punish the same 12 organizations, as well as a Swiss citizen. All entities are already subject to similar U.S. sanctions. Japan also sanctions three additional institutions.

October 3, 2006: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issues a statement asserting that Pyongyang “will in the future conduct a nuclear test under the condition where safety is firmly guaranteed.” Apparently signaling a degree of restraint, the statement also says that North Korea will refrain from the first-use of nuclear weapons, “strictly prohibit any …nuclear transfer,” and “do its utmost to realize the denuclearization of the [Korean] peninsula.”

October 9, 2006: North Korea conducts an underground nuclear test near the village of P’unggye. Most early analyses of the test based on seismic data collected by South Korean, Japanese, and U.S. institutes estimates the yield to be below one kiloton. Russian estimates differed significantly, and Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov said Oct. 10 that the estimated yield was between 5 and 15 kilotons.

October 11, 2006: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry states that its “nuclear test was entirely attributable to the US nuclear threat, sanctions and pressure,” adding that North Korea “was compelled to substantially prove its possession of nukes to protect its sovereignty.” The statement also indicates that North Korea might conduct further nuclear tests if the United States “increases pressure” on the country.

However, the Foreign Ministry also says that North Korea remains committed to implementing the September 2005 joint statement, arguing that the test “constitutes a positive measure for its implementation.” Additionally, Pyongyang “still remains unchanged in its will to denuclearize the peninsula through dialogue and negotiations,” the Foreign Ministry statement says, adding that the “denuclearization of the entire peninsula was President Kim Il Sung’s last instruction and an ultimate goal” of North Korea.

October 14, 2006: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 1718. The measure demands that North Korea refrain from further nuclear tests and calls on Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks and abandon its nuclear weapons. It also imposes additional sanctions on commerce with Pyongyang, widening the range of prohibited transactions beyond those banned under Resolution 1695.

November 28-December 1, 2006: The Chinese, North Korean, South Korean, and U.S. envoys to the six-party talks hold consultations in Beijing to discuss resuming the fifth round of talks. During the consultations, North Korean envoy Kim Gye Gwan states that North Korea is ready to implement the September 19, 2005 joint statement and abandon its nuclear program, but would not do so “unilaterally.”

December 18-22, 2006: The fifth round of six-party talks resumes in Beijing. The United States presents a multistage denuclearization plan, but the talks make no progress towards implementing the September 19, 2005, joint statement—in part due to continued disagreements regarding the North Korean funds frozen by the United States in Banco Delta Asia. The parties agree to meet again “at the earliest opportunity.”

2007

February 8-13, 2007: The six-party talks concludes its fifth round with an agreed “action plan” of initial steps to implement the September 19, 2005 joint statement on North Korea’s denuclearization.

According to the action plan, North Korea is to halt the operation of its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon during a 60-day initial phase in return for an initial shipment of 50,000 tons of heavy-fuel oil.

The statement indicates that, following the shutdown of North Korea’s nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, Pyongyang is to provide a complete declaration of all of its nuclear programs and disable all of its existing nuclear facilities in return for an additional 950,000 tons of heavy-fuel oil or its equivalent.

In addition to helping to provide energy aid to North Korea, the United States agrees to begin the process of removing Pyongyang from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and to stop the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act toward North Korea.

March 19-22, 2007: The sixth round of six-party talks begins in Beijing. The discussions are suspended when North Korean negotiators fly home after four days, explaining that they will not participate until the United States transfers $25 million in frozen North Korean funds held in Banco Delta Asia.

On March 19, Treasury Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes Daniel Glaser announces that the two countries had “reached an understanding” regarding the frozen funds, with Washington accepting a North Korean proposal that the funds would be transferred to a North Korean account in the Bank of China in Beijing. North Korea also pledges that the funds “will be used solely for the betterment of the North Korean people, including for humanitarian and educational purposes.”

April 10, 2007: The United States agrees to unfreeze the $25 million in North Korean funds frozen in its Banco Delta Asia account. U.S. officials insist, meanwhile, that North Korea, “live up to the assurances that these funds will be used for the betterment of the North Korean people and for humanitarian purposes.”

June 25, 2007: A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman confirms that the Banco Delta Asia funds were transferred to Pyongyang and that North Korea would begin shutting down its Yongbyon nuclear facilities. An IAEA delegation led by Deputy Director-General for safeguards Ollie Heinonen arrives in Pyongyang the following day to discuss the verification procedures for the shutdown.

July 16, 2007: The IAEA confirms the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities.

July 18-20, 2007: The six-party talks reconvenes its sixth round in Beijing. The meeting concludes with a joint communiqué indicating that the five working groups will all meet by the end of August in preparation for another round of plenary talks in September.

September 6, 2007: Israel carries out an air-strike destroying a Syrian facility of an undetermined purpose. Early press reports quoting unnamed U.S. officials suggest that the target of the airstrike was a nuclear facility under construction with North Korean assistance. Days after the strike, Syrian officials deny that the facility was nuclear related, while Israeli and U.S. officials only confirm that an airstrike was carried out. In the following months, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill states on several occasions that he has raised the issue of the Syrian facility with North Korea. U.S. officials later indicate that the facility was believed to have been a nearly completed nuclear reactor modeled on the North Korean nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.

September 27-October 3, 2007: The sixth round of six-party talks meets to discuss how to proceed with the second phase of the February 13 agreement. On October 3, the participants issue a joint statement in which North Korea agrees that, by December 31, it would provide a “complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear programs – including clarification regarding the uranium issue,” and disable its Yongbyon nuclear facilities. Pyongyang also agrees to disable all other nuclear facilities subject to the September 2005 joint statement and not to transfer nuclear material or technology abroad.

In return, the six-parties agree that North Korea would receive the remaining 900,000 tons of heavy-fuel oil or its equivalent pledged in the February 13 agreement.

The United States also agrees that it will fulfill its commitments to begin removing North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and “advance the process of terminating the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act” toward North Korea “in parallel with” North Korea’s denuclearization actions.

November 5, 2007: A team of U.S. experts arrives in North Korea to begin leading the disablement of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities. The disablement process consists of 11 agreed steps to be completed by the December 31 deadline stipulated in the October 3 agreement. Funding for the disablement process is provided by the State Department’s Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund (NDF), which is ordinarily reserved for short-term emergency nonproliferation needs.

December 21, 2007: The Washington Post reports that U.S. technical teams discovered traces of enriched uranium on aluminum tubes North Korea shared with U.S. officials in November. According to the report, it is unclear whether the contamination originated in North Korea as a result of uranium enrichment carried out by Pyongyang, or if North Korea imported materials which were contaminated abroad and placed these materials in close proximity to the aluminum tubes.

April 8, 2008: Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and North Korea Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan meet in Singapore for additional discussions on the North Korean declaration. The two envoys reportedly reached a compromise agreement on the North Korean nuclear declaration which would entail North Korea’s accounting of its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program and its acknowledgment of U.S. allegations regarding its proliferation and uranium enrichment activities.

April 24, 2008: U.S. administration and intelligence officials brief Congress and the public regarding their assessment that the Syrian facility destroyed by Israel in September 2007 was a nuclear reactor under construction with North Korean assistance. The briefings featured a CIA-produced video that includes photographs taken from inside and around the facility at various times during its construction, as well as satellite images and digital renderings of certain elements of the reactor’s operations.

June 26, 2008: Pyongyang delivers a declaration of its nuclear programs to China, the six-party talks chair. The declaration reportedly indicates that North Korea separated a total of about 30 kilograms of plutonium, and used about 2 kilograms for its 2006 nuclear test.

In return for North Korea’s declaration, President George W. Bush rescinds the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act toward Pyongyang, and notifies Congress of his intention to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism after 45 days, in accordance with U.S. law.

August 2008: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il reportedly suffers a stroke, raising questions outside the country as to the status of the leadership in Pyongyang.

August 11, 2008: The 45-day period after which the president may remove North Korea from the State Department’s terrorism list expires. The president does not carry out the delisting at this time. State Department spokesman Robert Wood tells reporters the next day that the 45-day period is a “minimum” rather than a deadline.

August 26, 2008: KCNA carries a statement by a North Korean Foreign Ministry official stating that the United States has not carried out its commitment to remove Pyongyang from the State Department’s terrorism list and that agreement on a verification protocol was not a condition of that commitment. In response, the statement indicates that Pyongyang will suspend the disablement of its key nuclear facilities at Yongbyon and consider taking steps to restore them “to their original state.”

September 17, 2008: Jane’s Defense Weekly reports that North Korea has nearly completed a new missile test site on its western coast near the village of Pongdong-ni. The site is believed to be more sophisticated than North Korea’s eastern missile launch site at Musudan-ri, with a capacity to carry out flights tests of larger missiles on a more frequent basis.

September 24, 2008: The IAEA issues a press statement indicating that, at Pyongyang’s request, the agency completed removing seals from North Korea’s reprocessing facility. The statement also said that North Korea informed the agency that it would begin introducing nuclear material at that facility “in one week’s time” and that inspectors would no longer have access to the plant.

October 1-3, 2008: Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill visits Pyongyang to discuss verification.

October 11, 2008: U.S. officials hold a State Department press briefing to announce a preliminary agreement with Pyongyang on measures to verify North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. The agreement consists of a written joint document and verbal understandings which they say must be approved by the other four six-party talks participants. According to a State Department summary, the new agreement gives inspectors access to all 15 declared sites related to North Korea’s plutonium production program as well as undeclared sites “by mutual consent.” It also allows inspectors to carry out “scientific procedures” such as sampling.

In response to the verification agreement, the United States removes North Korea from the State Department’s terrorism list.

October 13, 2008: KCNA issues a North Korean Foreign Ministry statement indicating that, following its removal from the State Department’s terrorism list, Pyongyang will resume disabling its key nuclear facilities at the Yongbyon nuclear complex.

November 13, 2008: The North Korean Foreign Ministry issues a statement which denies that Pyongyang agreed to allow inspectors to carry out sampling at its nuclear facilities. The statement says that inspection activities are limited to “field visits, confirmation of documents, and interviews with technicians.” Pyongyang also says it is slowing, by half, the rate at which it removed spent fuel rods from its five-megawatt reactor in response to delays in receiving pledged energy aid.

Early December 2008: The United States completes the final shipment of its 200,000 tons of heavy fuel oil pledged to North Korea, bringing the total energy assistance to about 550,000 of 1 million tons.

December 8-11, 2008: Six-party discussions on verification, disablement, and energy assistance in Beijing end in a stalemate due to a failure to reach agreement on verification. U.S. officials later claim that North Korea refused to agree in writing what it agreed verbally in October. The six parties issue a chairman’s statement in which they agree “to implement in parallel the disablement of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities and the provision of economic and energy assistance.”

December 12, 2008: State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack says that heavy fuel oil shipments to North Korea will not continue without a verification agreement, stating that “there is an understanding among the parties…that fuel oil shipments will not go forward absent progress.” China and Russia deny such an understanding and indicate that they intend to complete their share of the energy assistance.

2009

January 13, 2009: The North Korean Foreign Ministry issues a statement insisting that verification activities for nuclear disarmament should be carried out reciprocally between North and South Korea. It states that “free field access should be ensured to verify the introduction and deployment of U.S. nukes in South Korea and details about their withdrawal,” including verification procedures “on a regular basis” to prevent their reintroduction.

January 13-17, 2009: During a visit to Pyongyang, North Korean officials tell scholar Selig Harrison that the country’s declared stock of plutonium has “already been weaponized” and could not be inspected. Harrison relays North Korea’s claims in congressional testimony on February 12.

January 15-19, 2009: Hwang Joon-kook, South Korean deputy six-party talks negotiator, travels to North Korea to discuss Seoul’s potential purchase of about 14,000 fresh nuclear fuel rods previously produced at the Yongbyon complex. South Korean officials later indicate that Pyongyang demanded an exorbitant amount for the fuel and no deal was made.

February 3, 2009: Quoting unnamed South Korean officials, South Korea’s Yonhap newspaper reports that North Korea is preparing to test-launch its Taepo Dong 2 missile. Speculation about such a launch increases in the following days.

February 24, 2009: KCNA states that “preparations for launching [an] experimental communications satellite…are now making brisk headway.” The United States, Japan, and South Korea later warn North Korea that its planned satellite launch would be in violation of a UN Security Council resolution 1718 and indicate that the council would consider the issue for further action, should North Korea go through with the launch.

March 11, 2009: North Korean authorities inform the International Maritime Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization that they will launch a satellite launch vehicle between April 4-8. North Korea provides these agencies with information regarding expected “dangerous area coordinates” where two of the rocket’s three stages are expected to fall.

April 5, 2009: North Korea launches the three-stage Unha-2 rocket, widely believed to be a modified version of its long range Taepo Dong-2 ballistic missile. Although North Korea claims the rocket placed a satellite into orbit, U.S. Northern Command reports that the first stage landed in the Sea of Japan and that the remaining stages, along with the payload fell into the Pacific Ocean.

April 13, 2009: The UN Security Council issues a presidential statement condemning North Korea’s April 5 rocket launch, and declaring it “in contravention of Security Council resolution 1718.” The statement also calls for strengthening the punitive measures under that resolution.

April 14, 2009: In response to UN Security Council statement, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry indicates that Pyongyang is withdrawing from the six-party talks and “will no longer be bound” by any of its agreements. North Korea also says that it will reverse steps taken to disable its nuclear facilities under six-party agreements in 2007 and will “fully reprocess” the 8,000 spent fuel rods from its Yongbyon reactor in order to extract plutonium for nuclear weapons.

April 16, 2009: North Korea ejects IAEA and U.S. monitors from the Yongbyon nuclear complex.

May 25, 2009: North Korea conducts its second underground nuclear test a few kilometers from its 2006 test site near the village of P’unggye. Following the test, North Korea announces that “the results of the test helped satisfactorily settle the scientific and technological problems arising in furthering increasing the power of nuclear weapons and steadily developing nuclear technology.” Early yield estimates range from 2-8 kilotons, although the Russian Defense Ministry initially suggests a yield of 15-20 kilotons.

The UN Security Council convenes an emergency meeting and releases a presidential statement condemning the test as a violation of UN Security Council resolution 1718. The council also announces that it will meet to pass a new resolution dealing with the test.

May 27, 2009: KCNA carries a statement indicating that Pyongyang considers Seoul’s participation in PSI to be an act of war and that North Korea’s Korean People’s Army will no longer be bound by the 1953 Armistice Agreement which brought an end to hostilities during the Korean War.

June 12, 2009: In response to North Korea’s May 25 nuclear test, the UN Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 1874, which expands sanctions against Pyongyang. The resolution intensified inspection regime to prevent proliferation to and from North Korea, calls for enhanced financial restrictions against North Korea and North Korean firms, a nearly comprehensive arms embargo on the country, and strengthened Council oversight over the implementation of the resolution. It also bars North Korea from carrying out any further missile tests.

June 13, 2009: The North Korean Foreign ministry issues a statement outlining “countermeasures” Pyongyang would take in response to UNSC Resolution 1874.  The measures included weaponizing all newly separated plutonium from the spent fuel from its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, continuing to develop a uranium enrichment capability, and responding militarily to any blockade.

.August 4, 2009: Former President Bill Clinton visits North Korea in order to secure the release of two U.S. journalists who were accused of spying, meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

September 11, 2009: State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley tells reporters that the United States is “prepared to enter into a bilateral discussion with North Korea” as a precursor to resuming the six-party talks.

November 19, 2009: At a joint press conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, President Obama says that the United States and South Korea are committed to pursuing “concrete” action on Pyongyang’s part to roll back its nuclear program.

December 8-10, 2009: Officials for the Obama administration hold their first senior-level meetings with the North Korean government in Pyongyang. U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth leads to delegation to Pyongyang, where he delivers a letter from President Obama to Kim Jong-Il.

December 12, 2009: Authorities in Thailand, acting on a tip from the United States, seize 35 tons of weapons from a North Korean plane that made an unscheduled landing in Bangkok. According to the Thai government, the plane was heading to the Middle East.

2010

January 11, 2010: The North Korean Foreign Ministry issues a statement suggesting talks begin on replacing the 1953 ceasefire with a peace treaty.

January 24, 2010: Pyongyang threatens war with South Korea in response to Seoul’s statement that it would invade North Korea if there was the threat of a nuclear strike.

March 26, 2010: The South Korean patrol ship Cheonan is sunk near the South Korean-North Korean maritime border.

April 14, 2010: Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, tells reporters that the United States supports South Korea’s decision to stop engagement with North Korea until after the Cheonan sinking incident is resolved.

April 19, 2010: Yu Myung-hwan, South Korea’s Foreign Minister, says that talks with North Korea will not occur “for some time” if his government uncovers evidence that North Korea was involved in the Cheonan’s sinking.

April 21, 2010: North Korean state media reports that Pyongyang issued a memorandum stating that the country will be party to nonproliferation and disarmament agreements “on an equal footing with other nuclear weapons states.”

April 25, 2010: During a press conference, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young says that one of the most likely causes of the Cheonan’s sinking is a torpedo. North Korea denies any involvement in the incident.

May 20, 2010: The multinational Joint Civilian-Military Investigation Group (JIG) releases its findings regarding the March 26 sinking of the ROKS Cheonan. The JIG concludes that North Korea was responsible for firing the torpedo that sank the South Korean ship.

May 20, 2010: South Korea makes a formal accusation against North Korea for sinking the South Korean ship the Cheonan with a torpedo attack.

May 20, 2010: North Korea denies involvement in the Cheonan sinking, and issues a statement saying that any punishment will be met with “various forms of tough measures.”

May 24, 2010: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak says that South Korea will sever almost all trade with Pyongyang in response to North Korea’s sinking of the ROKS Cheonan.

May 25, 2010: North Korea says that it will cut all links to South Korea in response to Seoul’s accusation that Pyongyang was responsible for sinking the ship Cheonan.

July 21, 2010: The United States imposes new sanctions against Pyongyang for its involvement in the sinking of the South Korean ship the Cheonan.

July 25, 2010: The United States and South Korea begin a four-day joint military exercise in the Sea of Japan as a show of force in response to the Cheonan incident.

August 25, 2010: Former President Jimmy Carter arrives in Pyongyang on a goodwill mission to bring home U.S. citizen Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who was arrested after entering North Korea from China.

August 30, 2010: President Obama signs an executive order that increases financial restrictions against North Korea. The Department of Treasury also announces that it has sanctioned eight North Korean entities for involvement in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

November 12, 2010: North Korea reveals that it has constructed a 2,000-centrifuge uranium enrichment facility to a visiting team of North Korea specialists, including former Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Siegfried Hecker. North Korean officials claim that the facility will produce LEU for an LWR which North Korea also reveals is under construction. Pyongyang also admits for the first time that it can produce uranium hexafluoride (UF6), the feedstock for uranium enrichment, confirming long-held suspicions about the presence of such a capability. The construction of the LWR is slated for 2012, the 100-year anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, but in a Nov. 20 trip report, Hecker expresses doubts about that timeline. The enrichment plant is housed in the former fuel fabrication building for the graphite-moderated reactors at Yongbyon, and the LWR is being constructed at the former site of the 5-megawatt reactor’s cooling tower.

November 23, 2010: North Korea fires artillery rounds at the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, 200 of which hit the island killing two soldiers and injuring seventeen others. Three civilians were also hurt in the attack. South Korea returned fire and scrambled combat aircraft in the area.

November 29, 2010: In response to the Yeonpyeong shelling, China calls for an emergency session of the six-party talks to “exchange views on major issues of concern”.

December 6, 2010: The United States, Japan, and South Korea rejected China’s call for an emergency session of six-party talks, maintaining that North-South relations must improve before multi-lateral discussions can continue.

2011

February 16, 2011: In Senate testimony, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says that North Korea likely has additional undeclared uranium enrichment facilities beyond the facility first revealed in November of 2010.

February 28, 2011: U.S. and South Korean forces conduct large-scale joint military exercises. North Korea threatens to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire” in response to the exercises, which U.S. officials claim was planned long in advance of the recent peak in tensions.

March 15, 2011: North Korea tells a visiting Russian official that it is willing to return to six-party talks and to talk about its

April 18, 2011: U.S. President Barack Obama issues an executive order reaffirming a ban on the import of goods, services, and technologies from North Korea.

April 26, 2011: Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visits Pyongyang, accompanied by three other former heads of state, in a bid to revitalize negotiations.

May 9, 2011: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak introduces the possibility of inviting North Korea to the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, on the condition that the North commits to giving up nuclear weapons. A North Korean spokesperson rejected the precondition, stating that denuclearization was an attempt by the South to open the way for an invasion.

June 13, 2011: U.S. warship forces a North Korean freight vessel to turn back off the coast of China. The vessel was believed to be carrying a shipment of missile components to Burma. The North Korean ship refused to be inspected but voluntarily reversed course after being shadowed by the U.S. destroyer.

July 28-29, 2011: U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth and North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan meet in New York, as part of efforts to revive multilateral talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. This marked the first high-level meeting between the United States and North Korea in nearly two years, and the United States reportedly reiterated its willingness to restart negotiations if North Korea displayed committed itself to being a constructive partner in the negotiation process.

August 1, 2011: A North Korean Foreign Ministry statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency expresses Pyongyang’s interest in resuming multilateral talks with the United States “at an early date.”

August 24, 2011: After a meeting between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Pyongyang says that it would be willing to observe a moratorium on the production and testing of nuclear weapons and missiles in the context of resumed talks.

September 24, 2011: During a diplomatic trip to China, North Korea Prime Minister Choe Yong Rim reiterates the position Kim Jong Il expressed to Russia a month earlier, telling China’s top officials that Pyongyang remained willing to consider a moratorium on nuclear testing in the context of the 6 party talks.

October 24-25, 2011: The United States and North Korea hold a round of talks in Geneva on steps to resume the six-party process. Ambassador Glyn Davies takes over for Ambassador Stephen Bosworth as the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy.

December 17, 2011: After holding power for 17 years, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il dies.  He is succeeded by his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, who is believed to be about 28 years old.

December 29, 2011: Kim Jong Un is formally declared North Korea’s new leader.

2012

February 29, 2012: Following a Feb. 23-24 meeting between the United States and North Korea in Beijing, the two countries announced in separate statements an agreement by North Korea to suspend operations at its Yongbyon uranium enrichment plant, invite IAEA inspectors to monitor the suspension, and implement moratoriums on nuclear and long-range missile tests.  The United States says that it would provide North Korea 240,000 metric tons of food aid under strict monitoring.

March 16, 2012: North Korea announces it will launch a satellite in mid-April to celebrate the centennial birth date of the country’s founder Kim Il Sung. The United States says that the launch would violate a Feb. 29 agreement in which North Korea pledged not to launch any long-range missiles and would undermine Pyongyang’s credibility regarding the monitoring of food aid and other commitments.

March 29, 2012: Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs Peter Lavoy tells the House Armed Services Committee that the United States has suspended arrangements to deliver food aid to North Korea under a Feb. 29 agreement due to the North’s announced satellite launch.

April 13, 2012: North Korea attempts to launch a weather satellite using the Unha-3, a three-stage liquid-fueled rocket, from its Sohae Satellite Launching Station in the southwest corner of the country. During the first stage, after approximately 90 seconds, the rocket falls apart after veering slightly east from its intended course.  The first stage appeared to be comprised of a cluster of four Nodong medium-range ballistic missiles engines. The second stage, which appeared to be based on a BM-25 Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile did not ignite. It is unclear what caused the rocket launch to fail. Analysts speculate that there may have been a structural failure in the second stage, or that not all four of the engines in the first stage fired correctly. North Korea admits that the launch is a failure, which it did not do after the April 2009 launch, when the North Korean public was told that the satellite successfully entered orbit. The US officially halts its plans to send food aid to North Korea.

April 16, 2012: The United Nations Security Council condemns North Korea’s satellite launch because of applicability to ballistic missile development, declaring that it acted in violation of Security Council Resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009), and calls upon North Korea to comply with the provisions of the resolutions or face a tightening of sanctions.

April 19, 2012: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta tells the House Armed Services Committee that North Korea is getting “some help” from China on its missile development, but says that he does not know the extent of the assistance provided.

December 1, 2012: North Korea announces it will attempt another satellite launch using a long-range rocket between the dates of December 10-22. The rocket, also called the Unha-3, will be launched from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station and follow the same trajectory as the April 13, 2012, launch. In response, the United States Department of State issues a statement saying that it would view a satellite launch as a “highly provocative act” that would threaten the peace and security of the region.

December 9, 2012: North Korea detects a deficiency in the first stage of the rocket, after it has been assembled at Sohae, and announces an extension of the launch window through December 29.

December 12, 2012: North Korea launches the Unha-3. Shortly after the launch, the North Korean Central News Agency reports that the launch was a success and the satellite entered orbit. Japanese and South Korean officials confirm the launch and report that debris splashed down in the areas that North Korea indicated for the first and second stages. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) also confirms the launch and says that an object appears to have achieved orbit.

2013

January 24, 2013: The North Korean National Defense Commission announces its intentions to conduct another nuclear test and continue rocket launches.

February 12, 2013: The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) detects seismic activity near North Korea’s nuclear test site. CTBTO Executive Secretary Tibor Toth says that the activity has “explosion-like characteristics” and confirms that the activity comes from the area of the 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests. The South Korean Defense Ministry estimated the yield at 6-7 kilotons in the immediate aftermath and called for a UN Security Council Meeting.

April 23, 2013: The CTBTO announces that its international monitoring system detected radioactive gases at stations in Japan and Russia. The CTBTO concludes that the gases were likely released during an event approximately 50 days prior to the April 9 detection, which coincides with North Korea’s February 13 nuclear test.

April 2013: North Korea announces it plans to restart its heavy water reactor at Yongbyon.

July 15, 2013: A North Korean ship stopped in Panama is found to be carrying weapons from Cuba. The shipment included small arms, light weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, artillery ammunition, and MiG aircraft in violation of UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit North Korea from importing and exporting weaponry.

August 2013: Satellite imagery indicates that North Korea likely restarted a nuclear reactor at its Yongbyon site. The heavy water reactor in question produced the spent fuel from which North Korea separated weapons-usable plutonium for its nuclear arsenal. The reactor was shut down in 2007.

September 20, 2013: The IAEA General Conference adopts a resolution calling on North Korea to come into full compliance with the NPT and cooperate in the full implementation of the IAEA safeguards.

2014

March 8, 2014: China declares a “red line” on North Korea, saying it will not permit war or chaos on the Korean peninsula and that the only path to peace can only come through denuclearization.

March 21, 2014: North Korea test-fires 30 short-range rockets off its east coast, the latest in series of military actions condemned by South Korea.

March 26, 2014: North Korea test-fires two medium-range Rodang  (also known as No Dong) missiles into the Sea of Japan, violating UN sanctions. This is the first time in five years that North Korea has tested medium-range projectiles.

March 27, 2014: UN Security Council unanimously condemns North Korea for launching the mid-range missiles, saying the launch violates council resolutions; China joins the council in criticizing the launch.

March 30, 2014: North Korea threatens to carry out a ‘new form’ of a nuclear test, one year after its third nuclear test raised military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and prompted the UN to tighten sanctions. Pyongyang does not specify what it means by a ‘new form,’ but some speculate that it plans to make nuclear devices small enough to fit on ballistic missiles.

April 4, 2014: South Korea conducts its own missile test amid rising military threats from North Korea, successfully launching a newly developed ballistic missile capable of striking most of the North.

May 2, 2014: New commercial satellite imagery shows that North Korea is expanding its main rocket-launching site and testing engines of what is believed to be its first road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, according to the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

August 22, 2014: Satellite images indicate that North Korea is likely to have the ability to launch a longer-range rocket that can carry a heavier payload by the end of this year.

October 2014: Analysis from the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins indicates that North Korea has a submarine at the Sinpo South Shipyard that may be a test bed for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. A test-stand, likely for exploring the possibilities of launching ballistic missiles from submarines or ships is also identified at the shipyard.

October 25, 2014: General Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of US forces in South Korea, says he believes that North Korea can fit a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile, a process known as miniaturization.

November 20 2014: North Korea threatens to conduct a fourth nuclear test after the UN Human Rights Committee refers North Korea to the International Criminal Court for human rights abuses on November 19.

November 20, 2014: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announces that a North Korean special envoy told Russian President Vladimir Putin that North Korea is ready to resume the Six-Party Talks.

January 10, 2015: North Korea announces it offered to suspend nuclear testing in exchange for the United States and South Korea calling off annual joint-military exercises slated for spring 2015. The United States rejects the offer.

February 7, 2015: North Korea claims to test a new anti-ship missile. Kim Jong Un reportedly oversees the test.

February 8, 2015: North Korea tests five short-range ballistic missiles from Wonsan. The missiles fly approximately 125 miles northeast into the ocean.

April 7, 2015: Adm William Gortney, head of U.S. North Command, tells reporters that North Korea’s ICBM, the KN-08 is operational, despite never having been tested. Experts dispute the assessment.

May 9, 2015: North Korea successfully launches a ballistic missile, which it claims came from a submarine, that traveled about 150 meters. Experts believe the missile was launched from a submerged barge.

November 28, 2015: North Korea tests a ballistic missile from a submarine. The missile test fails.

December 21, 2015: North Korea tests another ballistic missile from a submarine. This test is reported as a success.

2016

January 6, 2016: North Korea announces it conducted a fourth nuclear weapons test, claiming to have detonated a hydrogen bomb for the first time. Monitoring stations from the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization detect the seismic activity from the test. The type of device tested remains unclear, although experts doubt it was of a hydrogen bomb based on seismic evidence.
February 7, 2016: North Korea launches a long-range ballistic missile carrying what it has said is an earth observation satellite in defiance of United Nations sanctions barring it from using ballistic missile technology, drawing strong international condemnation from other governments which believe it will advance North Korea’s military ballistic missile capabilities.

March 2, 2016: The UN Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 2270 condemning the nuclear test and launch of early 2016, and demanding that North Korea not conduct further tests and immediately suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program. Resolution 2270 expands existing sanctions on North Korea by adding to the list of sanctioned individuals and entities, introducing new financial sanctions, and banning states from supplying aviation fuel and other specified minerals to North Korea. Resolution 2270 also introduces a requirement that UN member states inspect all cargo in transit to or from North Korea for illicit goods and arms.

April 15, 2016: North Korea test launches an intermediate-range ballistic missile, the Mususdan, which was not known to have been flight-tested prior to the April 15 launch. The missile test is a failure. The UN Security Council issues as a statement condemning the launch as a “clear violation” of existing Security Council resolutions.

April 23, 2016: North Korea tests a KN-11 submarine launch ballistic missile. The missile flew approximately 30 kilometers before exploding, according to South Korean officials.

April 24, 2016: The UN Security Council condemns North Korea’s submarine-launched ballistic missile test.

April 28, 2016: North Korea tests two intermediate-range Musudan missiles. The tests are reported as a failure.

May 6-9, 2016: North Korea holds its seventh Congress for its ruling Korean Workers’ Party. During the Congress, Kim Jong Un describes North Korea’s nuclear policy, saying North Korea “will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes, as it had already declared.”
May 30, 2016: North Korea tests another intermediate-range Musudan missile.

May 31, 2016: Satellite imagery analysis from 38 North assess that North Korea is “preparing to commence or has already begun” reprocessing nuclear material to separate additional plutonium for weapons use.

June 21, 2016: North Korea conducts two additional intermediate-range Musudan ballistic missile tests, bringing the total number of Musudan tests to six since April. One of the tests is a partial success, as the missile flew an estimated 400 kilometers. The other explodes in mid-flight after approximately 150 kilometers.

June 22, 2016: The UN Security Council holds an emergency session to consider North Korea’s missile tests.

June 23, 2016: The Security Council releases a statement strongly condemning North Korea’s recent ballistic missile launches and calls on member states to fully implement UN Security Council measures imposed by Council resolutions.

July 6, 2016: North Korea signals a willingness to resume negotiations on denuclearization and defines denuclearization in a statement by a government spokesperson.

July 8, 2016: South Korea and the United States announce a decision to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery (THAAD), to South Korea. The missile defense system is “a defensive measure to ensure the security” of South Korea. THAAD is designed to intercept short and medium-range ballistic missiles.

August 3, 2016: North Korea fires a medium-range ballistic missile, the Nodong. The missile splashes down in Japan’s economic exclusion zone, about 200 kilometers off of Japan’s coast.

August 24, 2016: North Korea tests an SLBM, the KN-11. The missile ejects from a submarine and flies approximately 500 kilometers on a lofted trajectory before splashing down in the ocean. The test appears to be a success.

September 5, 2016: North Korea tests three medium-range ballistic missiles simultaneously. The missiles travel about 1,000 kilometers.

September 9, 2016: North Korea conducts a fifth nuclear test. The seismic activity registers a magnitude of 5.0.

October 14, 2016: North Korea conducts a failed test of what is believed to be the intermediate-range Musudan ballistic missile. The missile explodes soon after lift-off.

October 19, 2016: North Korea conducts a failed test of what is believed to be the intermediate-range Musudan ballistic missile. The missile explodes shortly after lift-off. This is the eighth test of the Musudan in 2016. Only the June launch was a success.

October 25, 2016: U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says that “the notion of getting the North Koreans to denuclearize is probably a lost cause” and that nuclear weapons are North Korea’s “ticket to survival.”

2017

February 12, 2017: North Korea tests a new ballistic missile, the Pukguksong-2. North Korean media calls the test a success. The missile flew about 500 kilometers at a lofted trajectory. The imagery suggests that the Pukguksong-2 is a solid-fueled, medium-range system based on a submarine launched a ballistic missile that North Korea has been testing for several years. The test utilized ‘cold-launch’ technology, meaning that the missile was ejected from its canister using compressed gas. The transport erector launcher used for the missile test was also domestically manufactured in North Korea.

February 13, 2017: Kim Jong Nam, the older half-brother of Kim Jong Un, is killed in an airport in Malaysia. Tests reveal that he died from exposure to VX, a nerve agent. VX is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, but North Korea has not signed or ratified that treaty. North Korea denies responsibility for the assassination.

March 6, 2017: North Korea launches four ballistic missiles from a region near North Korea’s border with China. The missiles fly about 1,000 kilometers and land in Japanese economic exclusion zone, about 300 kilometers off the coast Japan.

April 5, 2017: North Korea tests a ballistic missile. The missile explodes shortly after the launch.

April 6, 2017: U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet and agree to cooperate more closely on achieving denuclearization of North Korea.

April 15, 2017: North Korea celebrates the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung, with a parade that displays several new ballistic missiles, including a new variant of the KN-08 and two canister systems. It is unclear if the canisters hold new ICBMs.

April 16, 2017: North Korea tests a ballistic missile. The missile explodes shortly after the launch.

April 17, 2017: Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Susan Thornton, tells reporters about the U.S. policy toward North Korea, which officials describe as “maximum pressure and engagement.” Thornton said that Washington is looking for a “tangible signal” from North Korea about its seriousness in engaging in talks and there is not a “specific precondition.”

April 26, 2017: The Trump Administration briefs Congress on its North Korea policy and releases a statement that calls for increasing sanctions pressure on North Korea and working with allies and regional partners on diplomacy.

April 27, 2017: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says in an interview with NPR that the United States is open to direct talks with North Korea on the “right agenda.” He says that denuclearization is still the goal for any agreement.

April 28, 2017: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chairs a special meeting of the UN Security Council. In opening remarks he says that North Korea must take “concrete steps to reduce the threat that its illegal weapons programs pose” before talks can begin.

May 2, 2017: The THAAD missile defense system becomes operational in South Korea.

May 9, 2017: Moon jae-in is elected president of South Korea. Moon supports engagement with North Korea but says talks cannot occur while Pyongyang continues to conduct nuclear and missile tests.

May 14, 2017: North Korea tests a ballistic missile it displayed in its April parade. The missile test is successful and experts assess that it is capable of a range of 4.800 kilometers, making it an intermediate-range ballistic missile.

June 1, 2017: The United States imposes sanctions on individuals and entities linked to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

July 3, 3017: North Korea tests its Hwasong-14 ballistic missile. Initial analysis of the test indicates that the range would have been about 6,700 kilometers at a standard trajectory, making it an ICBM.

July 28, 2017: Japan, South Korea, and the United States report that North Korea tested an ICBM. Initial analysis of the test indicates a range of about 10,400km, not taking into account the rotation of the Earth, putting Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago within range. Russia claimed the missile was a medium-range ballistic missile.

August 5, 2017: The UN Security Council unanimously passes Resolution 2371, which imposes additional sanctions, including a complete ban on the export of coal, iron, seafood, and lead, on North Korea in response to the July ICBM tests. See UN Security Council Resolutions on North Korea for more information.

August 8, 2017: A leaked Defense Intelligence Agency report found that North Korea has produced miniaturized nuclear warheads for ballistic missile delivery, including for ICBMs.

On the same day, in response to North Korean criticism of the United States, President Trump told reporters that “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

August 9, 2017: In response to Trump’s remarks, North Korean made a statement detailing a plan to test four Hwasong-12 intermediate range ballistic missiles, which would fly over Japan and land in the waters 30-40km from the coast of Guam.

August 10, 2017: Trump told reporters that his previous threat of “fire and fury” should North Korea continue to threaten the United States may not have been “tough enough”.

August 11, 2017: Trump tweeted: “military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully, Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

President George Washington advised that the best way to avoid war is to be prepared for war, and for your adversaries to understand that you are willing to go to war.  Diplomacy is nothing more than a tool of foreign policy. Thus far, diplomacy, in the absence of military resolve seems to have yielded very little. A President’s tough talk, especially if North Korea understands it is serious, may be an essential requisite to successful diplomacy.

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Machine-Gun Kelly – Trump’s Recoilless Defensive Weapon

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsShe never recoil’s.

Or, to put it in the context of Merriam-Webster, Kellyanne Conway never backs away from something shocking, frightening or disgusting, nor does she ever react to anything with shock or fear.

Undaunted, no matter the incoming, Kellyanne Conway is probably the most talented, unflappable and, perhaps, the most valuable apologist any President has ever had in his corner. We don’t mean “I’m sorry” apologist.  We mean apologist in the classic sense, i.e. a defender or supporter of a cause or person being attacked by detractors.

Unlike George Kelly Barnes of FBI lore who actually never fired his machine gun at anything other than tin cans, Machine-Gun Kelly (Conway) is firing defensive verbal salvos at Trump’s media antagonists all the time, and she often mows them down with well-honed accuracy–well, maybe not accuracy, but she mows them down nonetheless.  Unrelenting in defending the President, more often than not, she wears down her inquisitor.  She is invariably going strong as her interviewer runs out of steam, and, as often as not, she either wins every dust-off or it ends in a draw with many viewers or listeners left scratching their heads wondering why everyone is picking on the President.

We never see Machine-Gun Kelly at a loss for words, not even when an experienced showman tries to corner her. Remember this encounter with NBC’s late-night talk show host Seth Meyers.  Meyers: “I bet in the next four years we are not going to see the president-elect’s tax returns.” Conway, firing a return round without blinking: “I bet that most Americans really care what their tax returns are going to look like after he’s been president for four years.”
And this from columnist Frank Bruni of the New York Times, “She’s no mere mouthpiece, no measly surrogate. She’s more like the David Blaine (the magician, illusionist and escape artist) of political spin, intent on working feats of magic that few others would attempt and surviving situations that would cripple any ordinary mortal. He catches a bullet in his mouth; she makes Donald Trump sound like a humble servant of the common man. He lasts 44 days in a plexiglass case over the Thames; she lasts 40 minutes with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC.”
Love her or hate her, Kellyanne is an impressively accomplished professional.  She graduated magna cum laude from Trinity College in Washington, D.C.   She went on to study at Oxford University and later earned a law degree with honors from George Washington University Law School.  She also picked up a Phi Beta Kappa key along the way.
Kellyanne Conway’s career as a pollster has served her well.  Successful pollsters, like marketing research professionals,  invariably become agile generalists who become quite adept at quickly relating to a wide variety of issues, causes, strategies, and trends.  She honed her skills, built a successful business, and became the first woman to serve as general manager of an American presidential campaign.
Today,  she occupies the same second floor, west-wing office formerly occupied by Valarie Jarrett, Karl Rove, and two-and-a-half decades ago, Hillary Clinton, and is a senior advisor to the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.
She has been an incredibly valuable asset to the Trump White House. She has become the translator of the Newspeak tweeted and spoken from the oval office on an almost daily basis. When necessary (which is often) she twists and turns, and pivots, when confronted with Trump’s own words and, more often than not, the viewer or listener, is left with a more benign, digestible and acceptable rendition of what they thought they heard from the President. Yesterday, George Stephanopoulos confronted Machine-Gun Kelly on ABC’s “This Week.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: So I just talked about the economy right there. You’ve seen another good jobs report on Friday. Solid growth through this year. The stock market, as the president has pointed out, at record highs. Yet the poll this week showed 61 percent disapproval for the president.

So why are people so unhappy with the president when the economy is doing so well?

Ignoring Stephanopoulos’s carefully aimed shot, Machine-Gun Kelly fires away. CONWAY: “But the numbers that you talked about are the most important indicators. You also see consumer confidence numbers, manufacturer, home builder, small business formation confidence. You see record close of the Dow — over 22,000 points.

“These are the measurements that matter to everyday Americans. And even this president when he came in, George, he made a promise that for every new regulation in, he would have two that went out. We’re closer to 16 out for every new one in, and that regulatory framework has been so critically important to taxpayers, to property owners, to folks who are working hard and trying to get ahead.

“I would note too in some of the polling, which of course I scour daily on behalf of the president, his approval rating among Republicans and conservatives and Trump voters is down slightly. It needs to go up. They are telling him just enact your program. Don’t worry about a Congress that isn’t supporting legislation to get big ticket items done. And don’t worry about all the distractions and diversions and discouragement that others, who are trying to throw logs in your path, are throwing your way.

“Focus on the agenda. And he’s doing that. Look, nobody can deny these economic numbers. I mean, the idea that it’s not getting huge coverage — it’s been a great weekend for this president. You see 2.6 percent growth. It doubled the first quarter growth. And you see the — the job creation, 209,000, exceeded expectations, his one millionth job created.

“And then you also just yesterday saw a unanimous rebuke of North Korea. The greatest economic sanctions package ever leveled against them, it’ll cost about $1 billion. Even allies in the region like China, Japan, South Korea, all agreeing with the United States that North Korea and its nuclear capabilities must be stopped.”

At this point, most viewers have been more conditioned by Machine-Gun Kelly’s return fire,  and the gotcha question that started the exchange is mostly forgotten or relegated to nit picking

The ABC commentator fires again. STEPHANOPOULOS: “We still are seeing tweets from the president. He insists he’s going to keep up that tradition, including this one on Thursday where he said our relationship with Russia is at an all time and very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us health care.

“How is Congress responsible for relations with Russia being at an all-time low? And who is he talking about?

Conway fires back:” That tweet was likely in reference to the sanctions package that the president signed because it’s a good step forward, but that he’s also been critical. And also, look, if you’re Russia, you can’t be happy with President Trump. We’re now exporting coal to Eastern Europe–

STEPHANOPOULOS: “But Kellyanne, wait a second.”

CONWAY: “He’s beefing up the military.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me just stop you right there. Because the president signed that legislation. There’s been widespread pushback from members of Congress, including Republicans like Senator John McCain and others who say Russia is responsible, Russia with its actions in Ukraine, Russia its actions with interfering in our election, Russia is the one responsible for relations being at an all time low, but the president blames Congress.”

CONWAY: “No, he doesn’t blame congress.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: “That’s what the tweet did.”

CONWAY: I’m talking about the sanctions package. But Russia overall this president has been very tough on Russia when it comes to, again, dipping into their energy capabilities in the region. We’re now exporting coal to Eastern Europe. Beefing up the military, putting that money and that manpower and presidential imprimatur power behind an emboldened and a better-financed military.

And also look at what the decisive, swift and I would say internationally acclaimed action President Trump took in April when Assad was gassing his own people, including those babies we all saw, gasping and taking their last breaths of air.

The president very swiftly, I think against what Russia wanted done frankly, took action in Syria.  So you know he met with President Putin for over two hours face to face. We know that if we can work on the big issues with Russia like defeating ISIS and not calling them our determined enemies, like Hillary Clinton did a year ago, and not putting them in full retreat or defeat calling them the JV team that was losing power, as President Obama did, then we’ll work on the issues.  We’re very happy that Russia was one of the 15 members unanimously voted for sanctions yesterday on North Korea, five permanent members, and 10 rotating members.”

Then there were the contradictory statements regarding Donald Trump Jr’s meeting with the Russians. STEPHANOPOULOS: “Two very different answers in the space of two weeks there, Kellyanne.”

CONWAY: The most important thing that Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said there, which is completely true, is that there’s no consequence to any of these meetings. The president weighed in as a father. He did not dictate the statement.

STEPHANOPOULOS: “But first the White House and the president’s lawyer said he wasn’t involved at all. They didn’t tell the truth.”

CONWAY: “George, you know, I know there’s this whole thing about …

STEPHANOPOULOS: “About telling the truth.”

CONWAY: “Well, let’s talk about telling the truth. Let’s talk about a president looking Americans in the eye, who are still suffering eight years later, who were lied to. If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Benghazi happened because of a video. Go tell the families of those four innocent Americans…”

STEPHANOPOULOS: “Kellyanne, you’re simply changing the subject.”

CONWAY (undaunted): –” who were slaughtered in Benghazi that that lie mattered.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: “Hold on a second. You’re changing the subject.”

CONWAY: “No. No. That is a subject. Let’s talk about credibility that impacts people.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: “Going back to President Obama and Hillary Clinton.”

CONWAY: “Those were big lies!”

STEPHANOPOULOS: — “directly different responses within two weeks. How do you explain that?”

CONWAY: George —

STEPHANOPOULOS: “Can the president and his team get control of that and be open and truthful about the Russia investigation?”

CONWAY: “George, the president has said the entire investigation is fabricated. That this is a conclusion in search of evidence. They’ve come up with nothing. We’ve been doing this for almost — about a year now, and what is there to show for it? What has actually metastasized in a way that we can say, wow, there’s a smoking gun? There’s a silver bullet? I spent a lot of time with you during the campaign as a campaign manager, on your two programs, and others with ABC as well. What one thing did we ever say, do, or conspire that had anything to do with Russia? When I needed negative information about Hillary Clinton, I took a moment and I listened to Hillary Clinton. I mean, we went to Michigan, not Moscow.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: “Kellyanne, but wait a second. We know right now” —

CONWAY: “We went to Mecklenburg” —

STEPHANOPOULOS: “We know now what has come up in just the last few weeks is that Don Junior. responded to an e-mail saying that he was going to get Russian government information on Hillary Clinton. That was not out during the campaign. That was revealed just in the last several weeks.”

CONWAY: “Right. But what came of that meeting? Nothing. Jared Kushner shared with the House and Senate committees and then with all of us in a public statement at the White House about 10 days ago, George, that he had texted an aide and said please get me out of this meeting, it’s a waste of time.

If you’re getting dirt on your political opponent, if you’re getting the silver bullet and the secret sauce on how to win the election, you don’t ask your aide to pull you out of the meeting. You say please order lunch. Let’s just stay. There’s nothing. There’s nonsense. It was a ridiculous meeting. It was nothing. People want to — people want to offer their services and have meetings all of the time, believe me. I know — YOU know this. But let’s look at the consequence — no follow-up. No results.”

And so it went.

Kellyanne Conway may have the toughest job in the Trump White House.  Trump tweets salvo after salvo and leaves Kellyanne Conway to take the return fire.  Machine-Gun Kelly handles the incoming flack like no one we’ve ever seen. George Kelly Barnes would blush.

Available at Amazon, Kindle, Nook, Apple Itunes Books, Barnes and Noble and Audible

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Trump: Vainglorious Provocateur, Vacuous Leader.

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsYep. That’s our President.

Vainglorious: Having or showing too much pride in one’s abilities or achievements.

Vacuous: Having or showing a lack of serious thought or substance.

While our readers know we didn’t support Donald Trump’s candidacy for President, we, nonetheless, accepted (and accept) the reality of his ascendancy to the highest office in the land. While we may oppose many, perhaps most, of his policies we do not “resist” his Presidency. Barring an impeachment, he is President of the United States of America until we elect his successor.  It has, however, become all but impossible for us to even try to rationalize (although we have tried) that the Trump presidency might turn out well.  It now appears that James Buchanan, our fifteenth president, has an auspicious rival for the low place he occupies in history.

Great praise has been heaped on Donald Trump; almost all of it by Trump himself, along with a sprinkling of family members, political wannabes and an unimpressive cast of sycophants. Fortunately, there are good people—real patriots who have agreed to serve and who, hopefully, will help steer a very wobbly ship of state.  Millions of hard working Americans supported and continue to support Trump hoping he will, ultimately, transform the presidency into an office responsive to the concerns of a middle class that has largely been ignored by the Washington elite and left behind by globalization and technology that is evolving at warp speed.

Donald Trump had the luxury of running against a surprisingly easy-to-beat opponent in a year in which a largely ignored middle-working-class was primed to revolt.  And revolt they did. And as has happened before in world history, voters who saw themselves as disenfranchised and ignored embraced an anti-establishment, anti-intellectual, uncredentialed and sadly unqualified candidate. As a leader, he is a pretender. To date, he has shown a surprising lack of basic leadership skills. To Donald Trump, it seems, leadership is synonymous with scaring people—pulling the rug out from under underlings.  Goodbye James Comey, goodbye Jeff Sessions, goodbye Sean Spicer, goodbye Reince Priebus.

Or insulting them. On John McCain: “I like people who didn’t get captured.” On Jeff Sessions: “He’s very weak.” On Ruth Bader Ginsberg: “an incompetent judge.” On Bill Clinton: “doesn’t know much.” On Robert Gates: “dopey…knows nothing.” On Nikki Haley: “The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley.” On Hamilton (the show): “highly overrated.” On Charles Krauthammer: “highly overrated. ”On Frank Luntz: “a low-class slob.” On Mitt Romney: “a total joke and everyone knows it.” On Meryl Streep: “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood.” On George Will: “one of the most over-rated political pundits.”

Bullies are never leaders. They are the antitheses of leadership. True leaders inspire followers. People who serve great leaders are inspired to please them far more than they are frightened of displeasing them. That’s why the so-called “skinny health care bill” failed in the Senate (as it deserved to fail). The White House had no ideas nor any capital with which to hold the Republican senators together. The so-called “skinny bill” remained the sow’s ear it had always been.  Once again, John McCain showed that he was the hero, President Trump thought he wasn’t.

And speaking of the Health Care bill, seldom has the nation seen a greater lack of leadership. The Republican Party, with no lack of time to plan and prepare, planned nothing and prepared nothing.  The President, for months, pontificated about the health care bill he would present to the Congress, or that the congress would present to the people. It was going to be something beautiful, something terrific.  All blather from the campaign and, later from the White House.  There was nothing.

The Republican Party was saved from disgrace, by the very man candidate Trump, himself, tried to disgrace, Senator John McCain.  McCain, who a few days earlier, was being pilloried by liberal know nothings when he returned to Washington following brain surgery and simply voted to allow debate on the Republican health care bill. He then delivered the coup de grâce to this legislative masquerade by voting against this product of Republican ineptitude. John McCain, who Trump ridiculed for being shot down and captured in North Vietnam, is an American treasure, not because he is perfect, but because he is imperfect, yet extraordinarily honorable, uncommonly brave and remarkably selfless—qualities President Trump would be well advised to study. McCain suffered years of harsh imprisonment and torture and refused an offer of freedom until every American prisoner of war was free to return home.

The Trump White House, the very nucleolus of American decision-making, is in a state of extremis with in-fighting and name calling and raw animosities spilling out into public view, and on display for all the world to see and hear.  This would never be happening in a White House where a decisive and respected leader showed up for work every day.  Not only would a real leader not tolerate it, but neither the managers nor their staffs would tolerate it. They would know that such blatant turf fighting would ultimately hurt the President they were there to serve, and If they respected him, their first instinct would be to protect him from the certain ridicule to which such chronic dissension would subject him.

The lack of leadership, the very public and profane in-fighting within the inner circle, the ineptitude on daily display, and the remarkable disconnect between the Oval Office and the Congress is all eerily reminiscent of the depressing Nixon era.

And the world is watching. Russia is watching. China is watching. North Korea is watching. Iran is watching. The entire Middle East is watching. What an incredibly opportune time for mischief.

Available wherever popular books are sold: Amazon Kindle, Nook, Apple Itunes, Barnes and Noble and Audible.

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Health Care: Is it a Basic Human Right?

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsWell, no it isn’t. But it is a basic human need.

We certainly agree that as a matter of national policy making sure all Americans have access to good health care should be among our highest national priorities. But given the GOP’s failed attempt at sausage making this week, President Obama’s Affordable Care Act will define American health care for the foreseeable future.  Senators on both sides of the aisle agree that the Affordable Care Act needs fixing.  They just can’t agree on the definition of “fixing.”  That’s because neither Democrats nor Republicans dare take issue with the popular narrative that health care is a basic human right.

But is it really a basic human right, or is it even a basic right of American citizenship? Defining health care as a basic right as though it were, or should have been, the 11th amendment of the Bill of Rights has become the narrative de jour today. It is a narrative that corrupts rational discussion and could propel us to irrational national policy. At the risk of sounding indifferent, which we are not, we do not believe health care is a basic human right, nor is it a basic right of citizenship in America.  While health care has never been a basic right in America,  the vast majority of working Americans, about 85%, were protected by health insurance before the Affordable  Care Act was enacted. We certainly agree that the remaining 15% required coverage as well.

Basic rights in America have always protected us from those things our government might do to us or require of us. Our basic rights define, to a great extent, our relationship with our government. Our government cannot muzzle us, even if we want to criticize or condemn it. Nor can the government infringe upon a sane or law-abiding citizen’s right to own a firearm, nor can it require anyone to incriminate himself or herself. No American can be made to prostrate himself or herself before the government and confess to a crime. It is his or her basic right to be presumed innocent and neither he nor she has any obligation to even assist a government prosecutor in making or trying a case. In other words, in America, a citizen’s rights are, essentially, specific restrictions on government’s ability to act against us or require certain things of any of us.  In America, citizen’s rights have never required one citizen to give up something of value so that another citizen could exercise his or her basic rights. Until today’s health care debate, rights have always involved personal freedoms the government cannot infringe upon, not material goods or services that the government must provide.

We often hear that America is the only nation in the developed world that doesn’t provide free health care for all of its citizens. And that is true.  We don’t consider that an indictment of America or of its values.  It is simply a reflexion of how we have chosen to allocate our resources. We’re also the only country that took responsibility for rebuilding Europe after World War Two, and for the defense of what we called the “free world” ever since. President John F. Kennedy articulated what was America’s commitment to the free world in his inaugural address when he proclaimed, “that we will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival of the success of liberty.”  Our post-war commitments largely defined how we would allocate our resources.

Nonetheless, America does, today, provide Universal Healthcare for everyone over age sixty-five, or for millions of lower income families through the federal Medicaid and SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program). Prior to 2009 eighty-five percent of all working Americans were covered either by employer-sponsored health insurance programs or individually secured health insurance.

America may, someday, very well decide to reallocate its resources and provide healthcare to all its citizens. That’s a course some future Congress and some future Administration might very well choose to follow. At first blush, the Administrative cost of running our Medicare reimbursement program is actually considerably lower than the administrative cost of providing reimbursements through the health insurance industry.  Most physicians and other service providers, however, consider the administrative burden to be excessive that has been transferred to them by the government so an apples-to-apples comparison is difficult to make. Of course, the insurance industry also transfers considerable administrative burden to health care providers.

So how much of the nation’s health care is to be provided by government is, ultimately, a matter of allocating resources. Let’s take a look at how we allocate our resources (tax revenue plus debt) today.

There are two very broad budget categories— discretionary spending and mandatory or non-discretionary spending. Discretionary spending is simply that part of the federal budget that Congress appropriates each year. Congress has the constitutional authority (and obligation) to raise and spend money for the federal government. The discretionary budget ($1.244 trillion) includes just about everything except Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid ($3.850 trillion). The discretionary budget for fiscal year 2018 has two components, department operating budgets (including defense) and emergencies. The Trump Administration has asked for $85 billion for emergencies—think wars, disaster relief and acts of nature like controlling wildfires.

If the government were to pay for all health care, as though it were a basic right, the cost is estimated to be $3.35 trillion or about $10,345 for every man woman and child in the country, with costs estimated to increase by at least five percent annually for the foreseeable future. About five percent of the population (mostly the elderly) account for nearly half of the entire health care bill. Today, about 90% of pre-retirement-age Americans do have health insurance to cover or ameliorate these costs as compared to about 85% who were covered by either employer or individually provided insurance prior to the Affordable Care Act.

Obviously, there is an important role for government in dealing with America’s health care needs. There is also an important role or responsibility for most every family and individual.

When we, as a nation, recognized hunger as a serious problem, we didn’t nationalize the food industry. We provided vouchers (food stamps) to alleviate hunger for our neediest citizens. Perhaps, there is a lesson there for how we should have attacked health care in America by focusing our efforts on the 10% to 15% of Americans who had fallen through the cracks and were uncovered by public or private insurance programs.

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Healthcare Conundrum: Turning a Sows Ear into The Sow’s Other Ear

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsThe US Congress has, and is, really making a mess of healthcare.

Instead of focusing our efforts on the 15% of Americans who were uninsured prior to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA)—an oxymoron if ever there was one, President Obama embarked on a quest to require all Americans (85% of whom were happy with the insurance they had), to have or to obtain health insurance that the Obama Administration considered acceptable.

“Acceptable” plans were those that— (1) took in, at no additional risk-related cost, all comers regardless of pre-existing health condition, (2) redefined children who could be covered under their parents’ plans as kids through age 26, and (3) provided a wide range of “essential coverages” that many people simply didn’t need and, therefore, hadn’t purchased in their previous policies, which were then considered “unacceptable” by the ACA.

To compound the problem, the low penalty for not buying insurance under the ACA has been counterproductive. Millions of young, healthy men and women have ignored the ACA. They understand they can simply apply when, and if, they eventually get sick, knowing they can’t be turned down nor can they be charged a higher premium for waiting until they are about to impose high health-related costs on the system. Not surprisingly, this resulted in a deluge of applicants who were disproportionately older and sicker, while far too many younger and healthier Americans took a pass, or, maybe, a trip to Disneyland instead.

To make matters worse, Americans were “sold” on the ACA with what we’ll call the most famous three no’s since Khartoum. The Obama “three no’s were, (1) no loss of your doctor, (2) no loss of your plan and (3) no increase in premiums. Of course, millions of people quickly lost their doctors, their plans, and their former premiums, not to mention incurring substantial increases in their deductibles.

Premiums for healthcare plans sold through HealthCare.gov are projected to increase by an average of 22 percent this year—nearly triple the 7.5 percent annual increase in 2015 and again in 2016.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average annual growth rate of annual healthcare spending will continue to increase by more than 5.0% a year by 2020. That’s at least a 50% increase over a five-year period, with continued increases of more than 5.0% projected thereafter. This after candidate Obama promised in 2008 a $2400 reduction in premiums for families by 2012. Well, who remembers 2012 anyway?

Republicans have pontificated for the better part of a decade that when and if they gained control of Congress they would repeal and replace the ACA. As Candidate (and then President) Trump promised, the Republicans were going to replace Obamacare with something…beautiful and terrific. Now that Republicans have gained control of Congress they are finding that the silk purse they wanted to make of the sow’s ear known as Obamacare, is turning out to be nothing more than the sow’s other ear.

That’s because the Republicans want to keep the most popular provisions of the ACA while simultaneously reducing costs. The only way to do that, really, is to pull back on the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, which, of course, has created a firestorm of criticism. That’s because of the potential impact on millions of additional lower-income citizens who were brought into the ACA who, prior to Obamacare, still earned too much to qualify for Medicaid. Politicians who vote to take away or reduce an entitlement are called all sorts of names. In the case of cutting back on the expansion of Medicaid the name de jour is “murderer.”

We assume that those of our fellow citizens who had to drop health insurance coverage under Obamacare because they couldn’t afford the higher premiums and deductibles being incurred under the ACA are also prospective murder victims at the hands of those who passed the ACA in the first place.

Under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, many states chose to accept the federal dollars dangled in front of them to expand the government Medicaid program. That was the proverbial carrot at the end of the stick. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that 13 million additional people will be enrolled in Medicaid through 2017 as a result of the ACA.

Now comes the non-partisan Foundation for Government Accountability with the finding that adult Medicaid enrollment in 24 of the 29 States that accepted Medicaid expansion has exceeded projections by an average of 110 percent. That means that the States’ portion of the tab for this expansion will double in the next couple of years, leaving taxpayers in those States on the hook for substantially increased budgets and the increased State taxes that are certain to follow. It seems free lunches are just as hard to come by today as they ever were.

Now, here’s the conundrum. Republicans are hell bent on reducing taxes. The Republicans have no choice but to reduce the budgetary impact of the ACA if they want to enact tax reform later using the rather arcane reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority vote. Without being able to use the reconciliation process, the Republicans would have no chance of getting tax reform through the Senate as that would require a supermajority of sixty votes. A Senate healthcare bill must, as a practical matter, result in deficit reduction over ten years if it is to pass with a simple majority through reconciliation. That’s why turning back the Medicaid expansion in the ACA is a must for the Republicans. That’s where they can most readily reduce the impact of healthcare on the federal fisc.

That’s because the use of the reconciliation process is prohibited for provisions that would increase the deficit beyond 10 years following the reconciliation measure. In other words, a budget provision that is enacted using reconciliation must either lapse after ten years or result in a deficit reduction within ten years, which the bill passed by the Republican-controlled House does and, which the Senate bill, if it is ever enacted, must do.

That is why the tax cuts enacted during the Bush (43) Administration lapsed after 10 years in order to satisfy the requirement that prohibits legislation that increases the deficit within the ten-year time period covered by a budget resolution passed through reconciliation.

The House healthcare bill is expected to reduce deficits by $119 billion over a 10-year period, which, therefore, qualified it for a simple majority vote. The reconciliation rules dictate that any budget bill that isn’t deficit neutral in ten years, or which failed to provide budget deficit reduction cannot qualify under reconciliation and would, therefore, be subject to filibuster (legislation-killing unlimited debate). That’s why the Republican Senate’s healthcare legislation is projected by the CBO to reduce deficits by over $300 million over the next ten years.  It’s all about deficit reduction. The Republicans are determined to produce a healthcare bill that slashes Obamacare costs so that they can enact tax-reduction legislation later this year or next year.

But all of this is, of course, academic if we as a nation have determined that more or less state-of-the-art medical treatment is a basic human right. But is it? More on that next week.

The summer reading best picks –

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Remarkable “Takeaway” From Aspen Ideas Festival

Of Thee I Sing Heading Authorsde Tocqueville would smile.

Aspen Colorado – So, a remarkable “takeaway” for us from the Aspen Ideas Festival, an annual gathering of mostly left-of- center, well educated, and successful Americans who care greatly about their nation’s future was this—America has to reduce its reliance on Washington and focus more on local initiatives to make progress and solve problems. While Republicans tie themselves in knots and make a spectacle of themselves as well as the US Congress, many liberal elites have, ironically, begun to focus on a traditional bedrock Republican position—decentralization of political initiative in order to get things done.  Who knows, perhaps federally funded block grants to fund state and local initiatives will gain attraction among thinking politicians of both parties.

The decentralization of the political process for problem-solving in 19th century America is exactly what so excited Alexis de Tocqueville one hundred and eighty years ago. As a young French historian, de Tocqueville traveled throughout America and chronicled his observations in his seminal work, “Democracy in America,” which we strongly commend to everyone.

de Tocqueville marveled at the uniquely American practice of self-reliance. He saw an entire nation in which people looked to themselves and to their neighbors to address and resolve all manner of issues and problems. It was, he said, as nothing he had ever seen before.  Elsewhere, especially in Europe, the people were totally conditioned to look centrally, to their sovereign or monarch, for resolution of all disputes and formulation of all programs for the common good. Not so in America. He described these new Americans as Englishmen left to themselves.  This was, he observed, “a general progress and evolution that history has never yet experienced.” He found “no parallel to what is occurring before my eyes.” This was, we believe, the American Exceptionalism that so impressed de Tocqueville.

In describing 19th century Europe, de Tocqueville wrote as though he were channeling 21st-century American domestic debate.  “It (the governments of Europe) covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”

The Aspen Ideas Festival is a feast for those who hunger to understand the issues of the day and our collective prognosis for the future. There were hundreds of speakers and panel participants and thousands of attendees spread over two sessions between Sunday, June 25 and Saturday, July 1st. Often, there were as many as eight sessions running simultaneously.

There were many different points of view discussed and, no doubt, there were attendees who came merely to have their own views affirmed, but we were impressed with the willingness of most of the attendees to respectfully consider perspectives that differed from their own. There was also a willingness of panelists to, respectfully, take issue with fellow panelists.

Jeffrey Immelt, retiring  Chairman, and CEO of GE provided candid insight into his management philosophy and his view of globalization and of our very interconnected world.  Today 70% of General Electric’s business is generated outside of the United States.

Our favorite participant who served as both panelist and moderator in various sessions was Gillian Tett of Financial Times.  She was invariably perceptive, crisp in her comments, and never hesitant to provide a point of view that differed from other panelists. We’ll be renewing our subscription to Financial Times.  We don’t want to miss anything Gillian Tett writes.

We thought commentator Chris Mathews (MSNBC) was, perhaps, the least impressive panelist, moderating a light panel discussion between two Saturday Night Live regulars, Colin Jost and Michael Che. While his session was, of course, designed to provide a light and humorous touch, his Trump bashing deteriorated into silliness and was, we thought, out of place in an otherwise high-quality array of sophisticated and often differing points of view.

We found the discussion, “Being Muslim and American in 2017,”   by Rabia Chaudry and Haris Tarin to be the most moving and, in many respects, the most eye-opening presentation. Rabia Chaudry is an attorney, an immigration and human rights activist and a superb advocate for those who are at risk of becoming road kill at the hands of those political demagogues who wrongheadedly infer or equate all Muslims as the enemies among us. Haris Tarin is actually a senior policy advisor at Homeland Security. Their discussion of post-911 America and how this period has affected their and their family’s lives was something every thinking American should hear.

“Around the World in 60 Minutes,” a discussion between David Petraeus and John Dickerson was also quite worthwhile as was the discussion, “National Security in the Age of America First” with Professor Peter Feaver of Duke University, Julia Ioffe, Atlantic Magazine, and David Petraeus (4-star General ret.) and moderated by foreign affairs author, Professor, David Rothkopf.

We thought “China in Transition” was both enlightening and sobering as discussed by Elizabeth Economy (Director of Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Affairs), Julian Gewirtz (Author, “Unlikely Partners”), Evan Osnos, (New Yorker) and beautifully moderated by Financial Times’ Gillian Tett.

Journalists Thomas Friedman and Fareed Zakaria along with Elizabeth Economy provided rare insight into the growing crises with North Korea.

Considerable time was devoted to cyberwarfare and what we can do about it by Dmitri Alperovitch (Co-founder and chief Technology Officer of Crowdstrike), Yasmin Green (Director of Research and Development, Jigsaw – Alphabet), and Garrett Graff (Executive Director, Cybersecurity and Technology Program, The Aspen Institute).

We leave you this week with this tidbit of wisdom from cyber exec Dmitri Alperovitch. “There are two types of people.  Those who have been hacked, and those who don’t know they have been hacked.”

Georgia’s 6th District Special Election: The Trump Referendum

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsOminous development for Democrats.

There’s much more than meets the eye here.  True, Georgia’s 6th Congressional District is and has been a strongly Republican district, but it was a very weak Trump district. It was and is full of very reluctant Trump voters, which made it a juicy target for Democratic strategists. Trump won the national election last year in spite of himself.  Simply stated, Donald Trump captured a sizeable share of voters who really didn’t like him.  It’s true.   Analysis of post-election survey data reveals that about 7 percent of all voters are so-called reluctant Trump voters.  They didn’t like Trump, and they didn’t like Hillary Clinton very much either.  Flip about half of the so-called reluctant Trump voters, the reasoning goes, and you can flip the entire election map.  We would agree IF the Democrats handled this critical reality with a modicum of sophistication and strategic judgment. But, instead, as we’ve opined over and over again in our recent essays, the Never-Ever-Trump-Resistance movement, and the left-leaning media that provides non-stop wind for its sails has so overplayed their cards that a backlash that redounds to Trump’s benefit was likely to emerge.  And now it has.

Georgia’s 6th congressional district is one of the most highly educated districts in the country. These highly educated districts are areas with which Trump generally has trouble. Reluctant Trump voters, as might be expected, have had more education than other Trump voters; it’s one of their defining characteristics as a group. In the 2016 election, 37 percent of reluctant Trump voters have at least one college degree compared with 25 percent of all other Trump voters. That’s exactly consistent with the general movement away from the Republican Party by well-educated voters in 2016. The latest American Community Survey finds that 58 percent of Georgia’s 6th District residents age 25 and older have at least one college degree, which is higher than all but five other congressional districts in the entire nation. This would not generally be considered fertile Trump territory.  And in fact, it isn’t now and it wasn’t last November.

Think of it. John McCain took Georgia’s 6th with 62 percent of the vote beating Barack Obama by 18 percentage points, and Mitt Romney topped that with 68 percent of the vote, beating Obama by over 23 percentage points.  Donald Trump squandered that traditional Republican lead and squeaked by with 48 percent of the vote,  beating Clinton by barely one percentage point. That’s why the Democrats, quite correctly, focused on this congressional race like a laser. They raised seven times more money for the Democrat Jon Ossoff than the Republicans raised for their candidate, Karen Handel. Democrats poured approximately $30 million into Ossoff’s coffers (mostly from California), compared to barely $4 million that Handel raised.  Ossoff wasn’t a long shot, dark horse. It was his to lose — and he did.

So what or who beat Ossoff? Karen Handel is a seasoned state politician, but not that charismatic and not that well funded.  In fact, she was swamped by the Ossoff campaign’s fundraising. The ridiculous $30 million Ossoff raised made his campaign the highest and best funded congressional campaign in American history. Yet Handel won comfortably with nearly a 4-point margin of victory.

As our readers know, we’re not entirely surprised.  We have in these essays warned time and time again that near 24-hour Trump bashing by much of cable news and leading print news was almost certain to backfire just as it did in 1972. That’s  when Richard Nixon, forty-five years ago, beleaguered by Viet Nam, the King Assassination, widespread urban riots, anti-Nixon protests throughout the country, Kent State, and Watergate called upon the “Great Silent Majority” in whose sense of fair play he professed confidence and placed his trust. His confidence and trust were well founded.  He went on to win in the greatest presidential landslide in American history.

The greatest Special Prosecutor Investigation since Watergate and  Whitewater is now underway. The Watergate and Whitewater investigations both involved known crimes, and a Special Prosecutor was appointed to determine whether Nixon, in the case of Watergate, and Clinton(s) in the case of Whitewater were implicated in a crime that had previously taken place. In Watergate, there had been a burglary, and in Whitewater there had been 18 felony convictions attributed to Whitewater partner Madison Guarantee Savings and Loan owned by James McDougal (Clinton’s partner in Whitewater).  In the current investigation, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, seems to be looking for a crime (any crime will do), and then whether Trump or his campaign participated in the yet undiscovered crime. There is a difference, which many find troubling. Count us among them.

We believe we have just witnessed the first indication of a dramatic backlash that is building against the almost hysterical over-the-top Stop Trump at-any-cost movement about which we’ve been warning for weeks. In this case “at any cost” was a $30 million cash assault on a Georgia congressional district. Thirty million dollars gone with the wind like the lost cause at Tara one hundred and fifty years ago.

 

 

 

Investigation of Trump/Russia Collusion: Even Torquemada would blush.

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsAt least Tomas de Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition, had a shred of evidence when he unleashed his horrific crusade to purge Spain of alleged secret Jews. They were the Spaniards whose ancestors were Conversos, neighbors whose forefathers, generations or even centuries earlier, had converted to Catholicism, often at the point of a sword. Everyone who was a descendant of a Converso, (many of whom didn’t even know they were of Jewish ancestry) was suspect. That they were of Converso ancestry was all the evidence the fanatical Castilian Dominican friar needed to send the suspected infidels to the rack. Pretty paltry evidence, but evidence nonetheless. Of course, Torquemada, himself a descendant of Converso’s, conveniently exempted himself from the Inquisition

Today’s inquisitors are simply partisan Never Trumpster members of any of the various congressional or agency committees who have been feeding at the Never-Trump trough. Let’s count them. There’s the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, The Senate Judiciary Armed Services Committee and the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism. And, of course, we have the FBI, the CIA and the NSA, all of which have, and are, conducting their own investigations. The first of these investigations commenced last July, nearly a year ago.

There seems to be plenty of evidence that the Russians practiced high mischief during the 2016 presidential campaign, but that’s really nothing new. We’ve engaged in some pretty impressive mischief ourselves. Our snoops were bugging German Chancellor Merkel’s phone for ten years, and in July of last year, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that an NGO with connections to President Obama’s 2008 campaign used U.S. taxpayer dollars in an attempt to oust Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015. But we digress.

Here’s what we know so far: none of these Trump/Russia investigations have found a shred of evidence (not a shred) linking the Trump campaign, or Trump himself, to any election collusion with Russia. Everyone agrees that there’s been plenty of smoke, but they’ve lost sight of the fact that most of the smoke has been created by leaks from anonymous sources within those committees and agencies who are searching for collusion. And according to none other than former FBI Director James Comey, media stories suggesting that the multitude of investigations have found collusion simply have been dead wrong.

This is serious stuff. The Russians could have never dreamed in a million years that their cyber-age mischief (hacking and leaking the unseemly goings on in the Clinton campaign) could have so tied up and paralyzed our government. Nor could they have imagined the distemper that would be unleashed in the land. Last month in Portland two men were killed and another injured when they tried to stop a deranged man from harassing two women, one black and the other wearing a hijab.  As we went to press today, a Sanders supporter began shooting up a congressional Republican baseball team practicing for an annual Republican-Democrat charity baseball game.  We are making a spectacle of ourselves searching for some scintilla of evidence that Trump or his campaign was involved in the Russian hijinks. The Clinton campaign masterfully pivoted attention from its own foibles to the fact that we learned of them from Russian hackers.  The Russian hacking and the predictable innuendo that the Trump campaign must have been involved became the issue.

Our top intelligence agencies have been investigating the possible link between the Trump campaign and the Russians ever since Moscow’s election mischief became apparent nearly a year ago.  One of the most powerful men in our nation’s intelligence community has been James Clapper, former US Director of Intelligence, the cabinet level position that coordinates all of our intelligence efforts and advises the President accordingly. No fan of President Trump, Clapper nonetheless confirmed that as of the time he left government none of our intelligence agencies could find any evidence that the Trump campaign or Trump himself had colluded with the Russians.

Former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell, himself a presumed Clinton supporter, also concluded that the CIA had found no evidence that Trump associates cooperated with the Russians. Smoke but no fire, “not even a spark,” he said. The same is true of virtually every Democratic member of a congressional investigating committee when asked if their committee had found any evidence of collusion. No evidence.  Plenty of smoke, but no evidence. And where has the smoke originated?  From unnamed sources within the various committees. The one named source who has, perhaps, the greatest gripe regarding President Trump, Former FBI Director James Comey, has also acknowledged, under oath, that the bureau had found no evidence of collusion, and that press reports to the contrary were simply wrong.

The Russians probably can’t believe what we are doing to ourselves. We had an election in which both candidates wound up with an opponent they could only have prayed for. Each had millions of followers who could not countenance a win by the other side. Millions on each side delight in whatever misery they can inflict on the other side. Little to nothing gets done and the nation suffers as politicians get in their licks.

As we have written in recent essays, the danger of “over-the-top” implacable, bitter and revengeful harassment of the Trump Administration could well produce a backlash that will redound to the benefit of the Republicans and to President Trump.

Now, irrational schadenfreude reigns supreme.  We are reminded of Shakespeare’s “The Rape of Lucrece”:

 “What win I, if I gain the thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy.
Who buys a minute’s mirth to wail a week?
Or sells eternity to get a toy?
For one sweet grape who will the vine destroy?

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Ideas and commentary with allegiance to neither the left nor the right, but only to this sweet land of liberty.