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The Ironies of Columbus Day

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This morning I helped my older son work on a short school assignment about whether Americans should continue to celebrate Columbus Day or replace it with some holiday celebrating America’s native inhabitants. My own thoughts on this have always been muddled since we shouldn’t be wasting a national day of remembrance on Columbus even if he’d been a great guy. We have many actual Americans who should be put in or put back in the national pantheon.

The actual man Columbus had little conscious understanding of or much to do with the reign of horrors his arrival in the Caribbean rapidly brought in its wake. (The story of European colonization of America and the catastrophic demographic decline and subjugation of its native peoples is fundamentally a story of epidemic disease. Absent disease Europeans would have been equally cruel and rapacious but far less successful in their efforts.) Columbus was personally brutal enough in his treatment of the native inhabitants of Hispaniola to justify his currently awful reputation. And in any case, Columbus the man as opposed to Columbus the impact or the effect hardly matters very much since the entire issue is one of symbols and commemoration, which are matters of the contemporary world, rather than history.

But the origins of the day are more complex and multivalent than the current debate lets on. As Brent Staples notes in this illustrated column, Columbus Day origins begin in a very different context: the efforts of Italian-American immigrants – often relatively dark skinned Sicilians and southern Italians who were a cultural world away from the Genoese Columbus – to find social acceptance as Americans in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The myth of the Italian-American Columbus was an ingenious end-run around the pride of place and status hierarchy of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Americans. Italians weren’t alien looking and sounding newcomers entering the country in the late 19th century, unknown to and ignorant of the nation’s history and values. They were in fact here at the very beginning, long before English settlers even came into the picture. Without the person of the Italian Columbus (actually a subject of and sailing on behalf of the Spanish Crown of Castile, but whatever…) the whole national experiment wouldn’t even have been possible. Just because he never set foot on any ground the United States has ever held or claimed sovereignty over is just a quibble.

The first Columbus Day Parade in New York City dates to 1929 and in its current, more formalized form to 1944. Today the parade celebrates its 75th anniversary. The 1929 effort and the formalization in 1944 were both the handiwork of Generoso Pope, an Italian-American businessmen who owned a chain of Italian-language newspapers and was a major political figure in New York and national politics. A classic immigrant success story: arrived at 15, worked menial jobs, a millionaire by his thirties, the most prominent and powerful Italian-born American by the time he died at 59.

But as Staples notes, the veneration of Columbus as a sort of patron saint of Italian-Americanism isn’t simply one of benign acceptance. It was also about putting Italian-Americans firmly on the white side of America’s binary, black and white racial divide. In the South especially Italian immigrants were themselves targets of lynchings and the first Columbus Day, declared by President Benjamin Harrison in 1892, was a directly response to lynchings in New Orleans that left 11 Italian immigrants dead. There was no such response to the widespread lynchings of African-American which were reaching their peak at just this time. And as Staples notes, part of that was that there was an Italian government which was able to force a diplomatic crisis with the United States and successfully demand an indemnity for the killings.

In the early decades of Italian mass immigration, Italian immigrants were frequently portrayed as closer to blacks than whites or at least clearly lower on a racial hierarchy than other white Americans. In the South and particularly in Louisiana, they also often built businesses that catered to African-Americans, lived in African-American neighborhoods and intermarried with them.

In this sense, Columbus Day, Columbus Day Parades and the broader movement for acceptance of Italian-Americans as fully-fledged Americans by the 20th century wasn’t merely a matter of benign social acceptance but also involved, indeed was premised upon, buying into America’s ideology of white supremacy: Italians could be full-fledged Americans because they were white. Any ambiguity about where they fit on an imagined racialist spectrum had to be to firmly ironed out of the equation. And yet, in the hothouse politics of New York City, far from the Caribbean and distant from the history of the continent’s indigenous peoples, we cannot ignore the fact that Italian-Americans were genuinely underdogs, the targets of discrimination rather than its authors.

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benzado
2 days ago
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New York, NY (40.785018,-73.97
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Maximum Pressure Against North Korea, RIP

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This article assesses the efficacy of the United Nations (UN) sanctiosns regime for North Korea. It reaches the following principal conclusions:

  • When it comes to North Korea sanctions, US policymakers are failing to grasp a hard truth: UN sanctions are a depreciating asset and the needle can’t be pointed in the other direction.
  • Inadequate sanctions and effective North Korean efforts at circumvention are compounded by a widening gulf at the UN on everything from the content and strategic direction of sanctions to the mechanics of implementation.
  • The ability of the UN Panel of Experts to monitor and report on sanctions and recommend measures to improve implementation has been irreparably weakened.
  • The crumbling of the sanctions regime for North Korea has put the North in a stronger position and will increase its leverage in future US-DPRK negotiations.
  • The Trump administration bears special responsibility for this situation. It has been its own worst enemy in the maximum pressure campaign.

Where Have Sanctions Gotten Us?

Sanctions are a policy tool to induce a change in a country’s behavior. This concept underpins the objectives laid out in UN Security Council resolutions on the DPRK, including denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the halting of the DPRK’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Yet sanctions have now become an end in themselves, ostensibly to punish the DPRK and give the appearance that something is being done.[1] And even that goal is illusory. In 2019, after three years of “maximum pressure”—which includes unilateral US as well as UN sanctions—there are few signs of macroeconomic distress in North Korea, as one might expect, for example, in the foreign exchange rate, gas prices, rice prices and the like. The UN Panel of Experts reports year after year on the failure of countries to devote requisite time, resources and political will to implement the sanctions. Three years after the launch of “maximum pressure,” this is hardly the look of success.

Sanctions are “pick-and-shovel work,” requiring constant support and tightening to sustain pressure, close loopholes and address rapidly changing evasion practices. This necessitates both new resolutions and the implementation of a range of measures to continually prevent sanctions erosion. Yet the last UN sanctions resolutions were adopted in 2017,[2] and the odds are low for qualitatively new measures from the Security Council, especially if North Korea continues to refrain from the only two actions that have ever triggered them: nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches. The possibility of achieving political consensus at the Security Council for further measures will continue to erode. Meanwhile, North Korea presses on with developing its prohibited programs, including through missile tests, which have become routine.

With no new resolutions, there are fewer tools to deal with the North’s relentless circumvention of sanctions. By the time a sanctions provision is adopted, the DPRK has often already instituted measures to dodge it. In the case of sanctions on certain commodities, for example, Pyongyang stockpiled items before prohibitions took effect. Because many of the same North Korean networks facilitate illicit activity across multiple sanctions areas (e.g., shipping, finance, luxury goods and arms sales), evasion techniques and learning spread rapidly through the entire system.[3] Meanwhile, the DPRK has made a quantum leap in evading sanctions through the use of increasingly sophisticated and lucrative cyber attacks to generate income which has largely blindsided financial institutions, cryptocurrency exchanges and other exchanges and entities.[4] These targets remain woefully unprepared for future attacks. Not only does the attacker have the advantage, but the attacks themselves cost next to nothing and generate significant resources for North Korea. These proceeds will almost certainly increase both in scale and as a proportion of DPRK income.[5] Faced with these challenges, the impact of sanctions will only decline over time.

The Role of the UN Panel of Experts

Absent new resolutions, adding new designations to the 1718 Sanctions List becomes key to updating the UN sanctions regime. The current inability of the Security Council’s 1718 Committee (hereafter “The Committee”) to agree to new designations has hampered potential action by Member States and financial institutions against individuals and entities violating the provisions. Indeed, Member States in the Committee now almost reflexively put on hold and then block the requests of other Member States to list a new individual or entity, and have dispensed with the previous practice of including a justification.[6] While China and Russia piloted and perfected this tactic, the US piled on in 2018 by delaying and blocking the majority of humanitarian exemption requests—usually with scant justification.[7] This has helped cement a toxic dynamic of politically-driven “tit-for-tat.”

With the Security Council and Committee unable to take meaningful action, the work of the UN Panel of Experts has become more important. The Panel has a mandate to report to the Council twice a year, in September and March, on incidents of noncompliance with the resolutions and to recommend measures for more effective implementation. Naturally, bad blood in the Council and Committee seeps directly into the work of the Panel which is directly constituted and mandated by these bodies. Moreover, attempts to erode the Panel’s independence and influence have been increasing in scope and scale, while the DPRK finds more clever ways to work around sanctions as the UN apparatus for sanctions approval gets gummed up. Not only have disagreements in the Committee ensured that the Panel’s recommendations languish, but the Panel’s midterm report of August 30, 2019, was half the size of its previous reports, indicating an intention to dial back its monitoring ability.[8]

Disagreement in the Committee has also rendered sanctions measures unenforceable. While Resolution 2397 of December of 2017 capped the amount of oil that North Korea can import annually at 500,000 barrels, the Committee has been unable to take any enforcement action. In July 2018, the US submitted information to the Committee indicating that the cap had been reached, but other Member States called into question its comprehensiveness and the validity of the calculations used to arrive at the cap. Due to the difficulties of gathering information on DPRK ship-to-ship transfers and declassifying this type of knowledge for use by the UN, the US was unable at that time to make available unassailable evidence to counter the questions that were raised about the determination that the North had exceeded the petroleum cap. Nevertheless, instead of shoring up the data, strengthening the submission and making a meaningful attempt to address the concerns, the US decided to share its Committee submission with the media, publicly calling for the halting of oil transfers. This hardened positions and widened the gap between them. With the Committee hamstrung, Washington then expected the Panel to make a determination that the cap had been breached, but without including any information in its report on the concerns about data and calculations articulated by other Member States. Saddling the Panel with such a contentious issue under these constraints was unrealistic at best. When an issue becomes highly politicized in the Committee, it is magical thinking to believe that the Panel of Experts can transcend that deadlock by making a determination.[9]

More than a decade ago, the US worked tirelessly at the UN to establish the DPRK Panel of Experts. With its unique role in reporting sanctions violations to the Security Council, the Panel’s work has been an important buttress for US actions on North Korea. Panel reports are heavily used by officials across US government agencies, Congress and even the judiciary—where Panel findings now regularly appear in criminal complaints and indictments. Due to growing discomfort with perceptions of US unilateral action, an increasing number of governments refuse to act against entities or individuals on the strength of a US démarche alone; instead, they ask whether those individuals or entities have been listed in a Panel report.[10] US officials appreciate Panel reports not only due to this veneer of legitimacy but also because of the onerous and lengthy process needed to declassify intelligence for sharing with other countries and the public. It was, therefore, surprising that then UN Ambassador Nikki Haley announced in the Security Council on September 13, 2018, that the US was blocking the publication of the Panel’s 2018 midterm report due to Russian interference, a decision with far-reaching implications for both the sanctions regime and US credibility at the UN­. US allies and supporters were stunned, lamenting that Haley was killing the goose that laid the golden egg in her public campaign to appear tough on Russia. Typically in these matters, the countries most incentivized to block such reports are those whose nationals or territory are most implicated in sanctions violations. The only other time a DPRK Panel report had been blocked in the Security Council was by China over eight years earlier, and only following the withdrawal by the Chinese Panel member of his signature from the report.

As Haley’s rhetoric against Russia (and the Panel) died down, the facts started to emerge. The report, signed by all eight Panel members, was the strongest midterm report submitted by the Panel to the Security Council. It contained the hardest-hitting content ever reported by the Panel of Experts on both China and Russia[11]—ironic, given Haley’s claim of Russian cheating as her justification for blocking the report.[12] The Panel had added three short sentences to reflect Russian views on the oil cap, removing no information on Russian or other violations.[13]

When other parts of the US government got wind of the situation, requests were made to Haley to release the report. This could have been done quickly—if with some political embarrassment—by simply removing the block. But doing so would also reveal how Haley had overplayed her hand, exaggerating a minor process foul to benefit a political goal.[14] Rather than admitting fault, Haley’s team redoubled its focus on the Panel, insisting that it delete information on Russian violations from its already-transmitted report to the Council.[15] The Panel refused to do so. Not only was there no UN precedent for making substantive changes to a Panel report after it was already submitted to the Council, but conceding to such a request from a Member State would have sounded the death knell for the Panel’s independence and credibility. This entire episode not only further strained relations between the US and its fellow Council members, but also significantly lowered the bar for other countries to similarly threaten to block reports when the contents were distasteful—which even Equatorial Guinea attempted in early 2019.

DPRK Diplomatic and Economic Relations

The DPRK’s political relationships also ensure that it is able to stay ahead of the game by continuing to develop its prohibited programs while guaranteeing that it is shielded from further action at the UN. Kim has met the US president twice and the presidents of China and Russia. He has the president of South Korea on speed dial. And Pyongyang maintains solid diplomatic and economic relations with a broad range of countries. From a sanctions-busting perspective, all of these relationships enable its diplomatic personnel to continue to carry out a wide variety of illicit activities all over the world, as recognized by both the Security Council and the Panel.[16] Venezuela recently opened an embassy in the DPRK, making it that much easier to sell its oil.

With diplomatic outreach allowing it to bring China and Russia more onside, North Korea is able to translate those relationships into economic and strategic benefits far beyond the UN. The US and China trade war, Japan and South Korea’s falling out, the stalled US-DPRK diplomatic process following the failure of the Hanoi Summit and the lack of clarity and coherence in US policy have allowed countries to grow apathetic about sanctions enforcement, with little fear of the consequences. As a result, the efficacy of the sanctions adopted in 2017 will continue to diminish with each passing day.

Maximum Pressure Is on Its Last Legs

Security Council tensions reminiscent of the Cold War are blunting the impact of UN sanctions on North Korea. Pyongyang’s diplomatic overtures since early 2018, its choice to restrain its nuclear and missile testing programs and its ongoing sanctions evasion, have facilitated and exacerbated those divides. The ability of the UN Panel of Experts to monitor and report on sanctions and recommend measures to improve implementation has been irreparably damaged. The Trump administration is in this predicament largely as a result of self-inflicted wounds. US policymakers should be asking themselves what they can realistically expect to accomplish if the UN sanctions regime stays on its present downward trajectory, and what steps, if any, are they willing to take to change the approach.

Meanwhile, the weakening of a critical, if imperfect, source of pressure has left North Korea in a stronger position. The DPRK continues to build its nuclear capabilities below the threshold of US President Donald Trump’s concern, while he remains unwilling to admit fault or failure for the lack of progress on denuclearization or to change the US approach to negotiations with the North. Kim has threatened to resume testing of long-range missiles and nuclear weapons if the US and North Korea do not reach a deal by the end of the year that would provide the North with sanctions relief and security assurances. Should this scenario materialize, the two countries likely seem headed for another crisis, with North Korea in a much stronger and more economically advantageous position.

The post Maximum Pressure Against North Korea, RIP appeared first on 38 North.

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benzado
7 days ago
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New York, NY (40.785018,-73.97
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Does Rural America Know What’s Good For Them?

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Monica Potts has gotten some attention for a piece she wrote over the weekend about her hometown of Clinton, Arkansas. As its hook, her story revolves around the fate of the local library.

Let me set the scene. Van Buren County has a population of 16,000. Its average income is way below the national average and its poverty rate is way above. The average private-sector wage is about $12. They are still suffering from the loss of revenue they used to get from shale gas operators, which has slashed the county budget by 20 percent. Back when times were better, Clinton built a new library, but they still owe $2.1 million on it and they aren’t sure where that money will come from. The library made budget cuts, but there was still a real chance that they might have to close up entirely.

In the midst of all this, the library board proposed increasing the pay of the head librarian by about a third. After all, the candidate for the job had a master’s degree. The residents of Clinton were unimpressed and declined to approve the raise:

I watched the fight unfold with a sense of sadness, anger and frustration….I didn’t realize it at first, but the fight over the library was rolled up into a bigger one about the library building, and an even bigger fight than that, about the county government, what it should pay for, and how and whether people should be taxed at all. The library fight was, itself, a fight over the future of rural America, what it meant to choose to live in a county like mine, what my neighbors were willing to do for one another, what they were willing to sacrifice to foster a sense of community here.

The answer was, for the most part, not very much.

This is the overall tone of the piece: residents of Clinton dislike government spending even when it benefits them, and they really dislike it when it benefits others—especially nonwhite others. But if they aren’t willing to pay higher taxes and spend more on things like libraries, they’ll never attract smart people and they’ll never prosper. They just don’t know what’s good for them.

I’m sort of hesitant to ask this, but am I the only liberal who read this piece and was badly put off by the condescension that ran through nearly every paragraph? Putting aside for a moment the larger problems of rural America, we have here a poor county that has lost a big chunk of revenue over the past few years, and in the middle of that the library board wants to raise the salary of the head librarian by a huge amount.

Can we talk? Does a small rural library really need a librarian with a master’s degree? Should a small rural library really try to pay a salary competitive with a large town or small city? Should anyone be even slightly surprised that the good folks of rural Clinton were not thrilled with the idea of giving their librarian a big raise in the middle of a budget crunch—especially at the same time that they’re already being asked to approve tax hikes to pay off the library building itself? Is it possible that this was a perfectly normal reaction, not a veiled expression of hatred toward immigrants and the poor?

Lord knows, I’m familiar with all the counterarguments. Rural areas are already subsidized by us big-city elites, taking in more in federal benefits than they pay in federal taxes—and showing damn little gratitude for it. Rural areas tend to be insular and, yes, often fairly racist. Rural areas are never going to be actually liberal, so who cares about them? Rural areas are overrepresented in our national discourse and in our national politics.

But even if all that is true, is it really surprising that a rural county with an average wage of $12 thinks that a big-city librarian is not the best use of their money? Does this really teach us a lesson about how they lack a sense of community? Or is it just common sense that maybe some of us big-city types don’t quite get?

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benzado
9 days ago
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kevinwada: micdotcom: Watch: Complaining about political...

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kevinwada:

micdotcom:

Watch: Complaining about political correctness says more about you than it does others.

This says, so succinctly, what I’ve always tried to say about political correctness and how it is not a new thing, nor is it a bad thing.

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benzado
9 days ago
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diannemharris
9 days ago
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Boomers don't like change. Will always complain.

heavyweightheart: “The cultural narrative is that heavier people overeat. If your weight has been...

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heavyweightheart:

“The cultural narrative is that heavier people overeat. If your weight has been fairly stable, however, you’re probably not overeating at all, although you may hear and believe that you are. Several studies, including the largest health and nutrition study conducted by the US government, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, document that higher-weight people eat no more than lean people, despite the popular misconception. One review examined thirteen studies, and found the intake of heavier people to be less than or equal to thin people in twelve of them.”

- Body Respect, Bacon & Aphramor

[source] [source] [source] [source

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benzado
9 days ago
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Both Sides

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I agree that we should impeach both Trump and Joe Biden.

Just to keep the universe in harmony.
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benzado
10 days ago
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New York, NY (40.785018,-73.97
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