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E-Commerce at WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) is effort to hijack basic internet governance issues

By Chakravarthi Raghavan / SUNS

As issues relating to the monopolistic/oligopolistic control over information and data by the Silicon Valley technology giants and their platforms are beginning to attract adverse public and political attention around the world, these technology platforms (Google, Facebook, Twitter) are attempting to hijack the issue of internet governance and democracy by writing trade rules at the WTO under the rubric of "e-commerce".

Scholars and specialists in communication issues have been studying and focussing on this issue for a while, but some recent "incidents" and actions by these platforms have now brought the issue to the centre of political debate in various countries in relation to issues of Democracy, pluralism and democratic governance.

The latest example is that the "tweets" from The Hindu were not appearing in Twitter's search results. The Hindu is a leading English language daily newspaper of India printed and published from several centres, and its Twitter handle has over 4.5 million verified followers. And when The Hindu's attention was drawn to this, and its internet desk took up the matter with Twitter, its tweets began appearing again in the "search results". (See separate article with URL* in this issue, by The Hindu's Readers' Editor A. S. Panneerselvan -- SUNS)

Twitter admitted to The Hindu digital team that @the_hindu handle got "inadvertently" caught in its spam filter. Funnily though, real spams seem to escape the "spam filters" of most email service enterprises/platforms, and flood the regular in-boxes of email users, often resulting in recipients' mailboxes "becoming full, and unable to accept new genuine messages".

So much for the ability of these tech giants and platforms (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft) to filter out spams!

In an email communication to this writer, Prof. Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Washington DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), comments that it is an "amazing story" of The Hindu's tweets not appearing on Twitter's search results, and Twitter's explanation that The Hindu's tweets "inadvertently" got caught in its spam filter.

"There are a variety of different issues here," Prof. Baker says. "But most immediately, these huge platforms (Google, Facebook, Twitter) need to be regulated in the same way the phone company was regulated when it had a monopoly."

"The phone company could not "accidentally" deny service to a political party or organization it didn't like. We need similar rules for these platforms. They also should not be allowed to use their platforms as springboards to other lines of business. That isn't the whole story of a democratic media, but it seems a simple first step."

On The Hindu Twitter issue, Richard Hill, a civil society activist and independent consultant based in Geneva, Switzerland, and formerly a senior official at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), notes that "many of us have noticed that much of the news we read is the same, no matter which newspaper or web site we consult: they all seem to be recycling the same agency feeds. To understand why this is happening, there are few better analyses than the one developed by media scholar Robert McChesney in his most recent book, Digital Disconnect."

McChesney is a Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, specializing in the history and political economy of communications. He is the author or co-author of more than 20 books.

In reviewing McChesney's book, Richard Hill says (the review cited below in full was originally published online at "", with the title "Internet vs Democracy", and is reproduced here in full with permission):

"Many see the internet as a powerful force for improvement of human rights, living conditions, the economy, rights of minorities, etc. And indeed, like many communications technologies, the internet has the potential to facilitate social improvements. But in reality the internet has recently been used to erode privacy and to increase the concentration of economic power, leading to increasing income inequalities.

One might have expected that democracies would have harnessed the internet to serve the interests of their citizens, as they largely did with other technologies such as roads, telegraphy, telephony, air transport, pharmaceuticals (even if they used these to serve only the interests of their own citizens and not the general interests of mankind).

But this does not appear to be the case with respect to the internet: it is used largely to serve the interests of a few very wealthy individuals, or certain geo-economic and geo-political interests.

As McChesney puts the matter: "It is supremely ironic that the internet, the much-ballyhooed champion of increased consumer power and cutthroat competition, has become one of the greatest generators of monopoly in economic history" (p131 in the print edition).

This trend to use technology to favor special interests, not the general interest, is not unique to the internet. As Josep Ramoneda puts the matter: "We expected that governments would submit markets to democracy and it turns out that what they do is adapt democracy to markets, that is, empty it little by little."

McChesney's book explains why this is the case: despite its great promise and potential to increase democracy, various factors have turned the internet into a force that is actually destructive to democracy, and that favors special interests.

McChesney reminds us what democracy is, citing Aristotle (p53): "Democracy [is] when the indigent, and not the men of property are the rulers. If liberty and equality ... are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost."

He also cites US President Lincoln's 1861 warning against despotism (p55): "the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor in the structure of government." According to McChesney, it was imperative for Lincoln that the wealthy not be permitted to have undue influence over the government.

Yet what we see today in the internet is concentrated wealth in the form of large private companies that exert increasing influence over public policy matters, going to so far as to call openly for governance systems in which they have equal decision-making rights with the elected representatives of the people. Current internet governance mechanisms are celebrated as paragons of success, whereas in fact they have not been successful in achieving the social promise of the internet. And it has even been said that such systems need not be democratic.

What sense does it make for the technology that was supposed to facilitate democracy to be governed in ways that are not democratic? It makes business sense, of course, in the sense of maximizing profits for shareholders.

McChesney explains how profit-maximization in the excessively laissez-faire regime that is commonly called neoliberalism has resulted in increasing concentration of power and wealth, social inequality and, worse, erosion of the press, leading to erosion of democracy. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the US, which is the focus of McChesney's book. Not only has the internet eroded democracy in the US, it is used by the US to further its geo-political goals; and, adding insult to injury, it is promoted as a means of furthering democracy. Of course it could and should do so, but unfortunately it does not, as McChesney explains.

The book starts by noting the importance of the digital revolution and by summarizing the views of those who see it as an engine of good (the celebrants) versus those who point out its limitations and some of its negative effects (the skeptics). McChesney correctly notes that a proper analysis of the digital revolution must be grounded in political economy. Since the digital revolution is occurring in a capitalist system, it is necessarily conditioned by that system, and it necessarily influences that system.

A chapter is devoted to explaining how and why capitalism does not equal democracy: on the contrary, capitalism can well erode democracy, the contemporary United States being a good example. To dig deeper into the issues, McChesney approaches the internet from the perspective of the political economy of communication.

He shows how the internet has profoundly disrupted traditional media, and how, contrary to the rhetoric, it has reduced competition and choice - because the economies of scale and network effects of the new technologies inevitably favor concentration, to the point of creating natural monopolies (who is number two after Facebook? Or Twitter?).

The book then documents how the initially non-commercial, publicly-subsidized internet was transformed into an eminently commercial, privately-owned capitalist institution, in the worst sense of "capitalist": domination by large corporations, monopolistic markets, endless advertising, intense lobbying, and cronyism bordering on corruption.

Having explained what happened in general, McChesney focuses on what happened to journalism and the media in particular. As we all know, it has been a disaster: nobody has yet found a viable business model for respectable online journalism.

As McChesney correctly notes, vibrant journalism is a pre-condition for democracy: how can people make informed choices if they do not have access to valid information? The internet was supposed to broaden our sources of information. Sadly, it has not, for the reasons explained in detail in the book. Yet there is hope: McChesney provides concrete suggestions for how to deal with the issue, drawing on actual experiences in well functioning democracies in Europe.

The book goes on to call for specific actions that would create a revolution in the digital revolution, bringing it back to its origins: by the people, for the people. McChesney's proposed actions are consistent with those of certain civil society organizations, and will no doubt be taken up in the forthcoming Internet Social Forum, an initiative whose intent is precisely to revolutionize the digital revolution along the lines outlined by McChesney.

Anybody who is aware of the many issues threatening the free and open internet, and democracy itself, will find much to reflect upon in Digital Disconnect, not just because of its well-researched and incisive analysis, but also because it provides concrete suggestions for how to address the issues."

*The URL for the original Hindu article by A. S. Panneerselvan, published separately, is: ]


Chakravarthi Raghavan is Editor Emeritus of SUNS – South North Development Monitor

This column was published in SUNS #8580 and cross posted by TWN

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The U.S. Media Suffered Its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages: Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened

By Glenn Greenwald / The Intercept.

Over What Happened

Friday was one of the most embarrassing days for the U.S. media in quite a long time. The humiliation orgy was kicked off by CNN, with MSNBC and CBS close behind, with countless pundits, commentators and operatives joining the party throughout the day. By the end of the day, it was clear that several of the nation’s largest and most influential news outlets had spread an explosive but completely false news story to millions of people, while refusing to provide any explanation of how it happened.

The spectacle began on Friday morning at 11 a.m. EST, when the Most Trusted Name in News™ spent 12 straight minutes on air flamboyantly hyping an exclusive bombshell report that seemed to prove that WikiLeaks, last September, had secretly offered the Trump campaign, even Donald Trump himself, special access to the DNC emails before they were published on the internet. As CNN sees the world, this would prove collusion between the Trump family and WikiLeaks and, more importantly, between Trump and Russia, since the U.S. intelligence community regards WikiLeaks as an “arm of Russian intelligence,” and therefore, so does the U.S. media.

This entire revelation was based on an email which CNN strongly implied it had exclusively obtained and had in its possession. The email was sent by someone named “Michael J. Erickson” — someone nobody had heard of previously and whom CNN could not identify — to Donald Trump, Jr., offering a decryption key and access to DNC emails that WikiLeaks had “uploaded.” The email was a smoking gun, in CNN’s extremely excited mind, because it was dated September 4 — 10 days before WikiLeaks began promoting access to those emails online — and thus proved that the Trump family was being offered special, unique access to the DNC archive: likely by WikiLeaks and the Kremlin.

It’s impossible to convey with words what a spectacularly devastating scoop CNN believed it had, so it’s necessary to watch it for yourself to see the tone of excitement, breathlessness and gravity the network conveyed as they clearly believed they were delivering a near-fatal blow on the Trump/Russia collusion story:

There was just one small problem with this story: it was fundamentally false, in the most embarrassing way possible. Hours after CNN broadcast its story — and then hyped it over and over and over — the Washington Post reported that CNN got the key fact of the story wrong.

The email was not dated September 4, as CNN claimed, but rather September 14 — which means it was sent after WikiLeaks had already published access to the DNC emails online. Thus, rather than offering some sort of special access to Trump, “Michael J. Erickson” was simply some random person from the public encouraging the Trump family to look at the publicly available DNC emails that WikiLeaks — as everyone by then already knew — had publicly promoted. In other words, the email was the exact opposite of what CNN presented it as being.

How did CNN end up aggressively hyping such a spectacularly false story? They refuse to say. Many hours after their story got exposed as false, the journalist who originally presented it, Congressional reporter Manu Raju, finally posted a tweet noting the correction. CNN’s PR Department then claimed that “multiple sources” had provided CNN with the false date. And Raju went on CNN, in muted tones, to note the correction, explicitly claiming that “two sources” had each given him the false date on the email, while also making clear that CNN did not ever even see the email, but only had sources describe its purported contents:

All of this prompts the glaring, obvious, and critical question — one which CNN refuses to address: how did “multiple sources” all misread the date on this document, in exactly the same way, and toward the same end, and then feed this false information to CNN?

It is, of course, completely plausible that one source might innocently misread a date on a document. But how is it remotely plausible that multiple sources could all innocently and in good faith misread the date in exactly the same way, all to cause to be disseminated a blockbuster revelation about Trump/Russia/WikiLeaks collusion? This is the critical question that CNN simply refuses to answer. In other words, CNN refuses to provide the most minimal transparency to enable the public to understand what happened here.


Why does this matter so much? For so many significant reasons:

To begin with, it’s hard to overstate how fast, far and wide this false story traveled. Democratic Party pundits, operatives and journalists with huge social media platforms predictably jumped on the story immediately, announcing that it proved collusion between Trump and Russia (through WikiLeaks). One tweet from Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu, claiming that this proved evidence of criminal collusion, was re-tweeted thousands and thousands of times in just a few hours (Lieu quietly deleted the tweet after I noted its falsity, and long after it went very viral, without ever telling his followers that the CNN story, and therefore his accusation, had been debunked).

Brookings’ Benjamin Wittes, whose star has risen as he has promoted himself as a friend of former FBI Director Jim Comey, not only promoted the CNN story in the morning, but did so with the word “Boom” — which he uses to signal that a major blow has been delivered to Trump on the Russia story — along with a gif of a cannon being detonated:

Incredibly, to this very moment — almost 24 hours after CNN’s story was debunked — Wittes has never noted to his more than 200,000 followers that the story he so excitedly promoted turned out to be utterly false, even though he returned to Twitter long after the story was debunked to tweet about other matters. He just left his false and inflammatory claims uncorrected.

Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall believed the story was so significant that he used an image of an atomic bomb detonating at the top of his article discussing its implications, an article he tweeted to his roughly 250,000 followers. Only at night was an editor’s note finally added noting that the whole thing was false.

It’s hard to quantify exactly how many people were deceived — filled with false news and propaganda — by the CNN story. But thanks to Democratic-loyal journalists and operatives who decree every Trump/Russia claim to be true without seeing any evidence, it’s certainly safe to say that many hundreds of thousands of people, almost certainly millions, were exposed to these false claims.

Surely anyone who has any minimal concerns about journalistic accuracy — which would presumably include all the people who have spent the last year lamenting Fake News, propaganda, Twitter bots and the like — would demand an accounting as to how a major U.S. media outlet ended up filling so many people’s brains with totally false news. That alone should prompt demands from CNN for an explanation about what happened here. No Russian Facebook ad or Twitter bot could possibly have anywhere near the impact as this CNN story had when it comes to deceiving people with blatantly inaccurate information.

Second, the “multiple sources” who fed CNN this false information did not confine themselves to that network. They were apparently very busy eagerly spreading the false information to as many media outlets as they could find. In the middle of the day, CBS News claimed that it had independently “confirmed” CNN’s story about the email, and published its own breathless article discussing the grave implications of this discovered collusion.

Most embarrassing of all was what MSNBC did. You just have to watch this report from its “intelligence and national security correspondent” Ken Dilanian to believe it. Like CBS, Dilanian also claimed that he independently “confirmed” the false CNN report from “two sources with direct knowledge of this.” Dilanian, whose career in the U.S. media continues to flourish the more he is exposed as someone who faithfully parrots what the CIA tells him to say (since that is one of the most coveted and valued attributes in US journalism), spent three minutes mixing evidence-free CIA claims as fact with totally false assertions about what his multiple “sources with direct knowledge” told him about all this. Please watch this — again, not just the content but the tenor and tone of how they “report” — as it is Baghdad Bob-level embarrassing:

Think about what this means. It means that at least two — and possibly more — sources, which these media outlets all assessed as credible in terms of having access to sensitive information, all fed the same false information to multiple news outlets at the same time. For multiple reasons, the probability is very high that these sources were Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee (or their high-level staff members), which is the committee that obtained access to Trump Jr.’s emails, although it’s certainly possible that it’s someone else. We won’t know until these news outlets deign to report this crucial information to the public: which “multiple sources” acted jointly to disseminate incredibly inflammatory, false information to the nation’s largest news outlets?

Just last week, the Washington Post decided — to great applause (including mine) — to expose a source to whom they had promised anonymity and off-the-record protections because they discovered that she was purposely feeding them false information as part of a scheme by Project Veritas to discredit the Post. It’s a well established principle of journalism — one that is rarely followed when it comes to powerful people in D.C. — that journalists should expose, rather than protect and conceal, sources who purposely feed them false information to be disseminated to the public.

Is that what happened here? Did these “multiple sources” who fed not just CNN but also MSNBC and CBS completely false information do so deliberately and in bad faith? Until these news outlets provide an accounting of what happened — what one might call “minimal journalistic transparency” — it’s impossible to say for certain. But right now, it’s very difficult to imagine a scenario where multiple sources all fed the wrong date to multiple media outlets innocently and in good faith.

If this were, in fact, a deliberate attempt to cause a false and highly inflammatory story to be reported, then these media outlets have an obligation to expose who the culprits are — just as the Washington Post did last week to the woman making false claims about Roy Moore (it was much easier in that case because the source they exposed was a nobody in D.C., rather than someone on whom they rely for a steady stream of stories, the way CNN and MSNBC rely on Democratic members of the Intelligence Committee). By contrast, if this were just an innocent mistake, then these media outlets should explain how such an implausible sequence of events could possibly have happened.

Thus far, these media corporations are doing the opposite of what journalists ought to do: rather than informing the public about what happened and providing minimal transparency and accountability for themselves and the high-level officials who caused this to happen, they are hiding behind meaningless, obfuscating statements crafted by PR executives and lawyers.

How can journalists and news outlets so flamboyantly act offended when they’re attacked as being “Fake News” when this is the conduct behind which they hide when they get caught disseminating incredibly consequential false stories?

The more serious you think the Trump/Russia story is, the more dangerous you think it is when Trump attacks the U.S. media as “Fake News,” the more you should be disturbed by what happened here, the more transparency and accountability you should be demanding. If you’re someone who thinks Trump’s attacks on the media are dangerous, then you should be first in line objecting when they act recklessly and demand transparency and accountability from them. It is debacles like this — and the subsequent corporate efforts to obfuscate — that have made the U.S. media so disliked and that fuel and empower Trump’s attacks on them.

Third, this type of recklessness and falsity is now a clear and highly disturbing trend — one could say a constant — when it comes to reporting on Trump, Russia and WikiLeaks. I have spent a good part of the last year documenting the extraordinarily numerous, consequential and reckless stories that have been published — and then corrected, rescinded and retracted — by major media outlets when it comes to this story.

All media outlets, of course, will make mistakes. The Intercept certainly has made our share, as have all outlets. And it’s particularly natural, inevitable, for mistakes to be made on a highly complicated, opaque story like the question of the relationship between Trump and the Russians, and questions relating to how WikiLeaks obtained DNC and Podesta emails. That is all to be expected.

But what one should expect with journalistic “mistakes” is that they sometimes go in one direction, and other times go in the other direction. That’s exactly what has not happened here. Virtually every false story published goes only in one direction: to be as inflammatory and damaging as possible on the Trump/Russia story and about Russia particularly. At some point, once “mistakes” all start going in the same direction, toward advancing the same agenda, they cease looking like mistakes.

No matter your views on those political controversies, no matter how much you hate Trump or regard Russia as a grave villain and threat to our cherished democracy and freedoms, it has to be acknowledged that when the U.S. media is spewing constant false news about all of this, that, too, is a grave threat to our democracy and cherished freedom.

So numerous are the false stories about Russia and Trump over the last year that I literally cannot list them all. Just consider the ones from the last week alone, as enumerated by the New York Times yesterday in its news report on CNN’s embarrassment:

It was also yet another prominent reporting error at a time when news organizations are confronting a skeptical public, and a president who delights in attacking the media as “fake news.”

Last Saturday, ABC News suspended a star reporter, Brian Ross, after an inaccurate report that Donald Trump had instructed Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser, to contact Russian officials during the presidential race.

The report fueled theories about coordination between the Trump campaign and a foreign power, and stocks dropped after the news. In fact, Mr. Trump’s instruction to Mr. Flynn came after he was president-elect.

Several news outlets, including Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal, also inaccurately reported this week that Deutsche Bank had received a subpoena from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for President Trump’s financial records.

The president and his circle have not been shy about pointing out the errors.

That’s just the last week alone. Let’s just remind ourselves of how many times major media outlets have made humiliating, breathtaking errors on the Trump/Russia story, always in the same direction, toward the same political goals. Here is just a sample of incredibly inflammatory claims that traveled all over the internet before having to be corrected, walk-backed, or retracted — often long after the initial false claims spread, and where the corrections receive only a tiny fraction of the attention with which the initial false stories are lavished:

  • Russia hacked into the U.S. electric grid to deprive Americans of heat during winter (Wash Post)
  • An anonymous group (PropOrNot) documented how major U.S. political sites are Kremlin agents (Wash Post)
  • WikiLeaks has a long, documented relationship with Putin (Guardian)
  • A secret server between Trump and a Russian bank has been discovered (Slate)
  • RT hacked C-SPAN and caused disruption in its broadcast (Fortune)
  • Crowdstrike finds Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app (Crowdstrike)
  • Russians attempted to hack elections systems in 21 states (multiple news outlets, echoing Homeland Security)
  • Links have been found between Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci and a Russian investment fund under investigation (CNN)

That really is just a small sample. So continually awful and misleading has this reporting been that even Vladimir Putin’s most devoted critics — such as Russian expatriate Masha Gessen, oppositional Russian journalists, and anti-Kremlin liberal activists in Moscow — are constantly warning that the U.S. media’s unhinged, ignorant, paranoid reporting on Russia is harming their cause in all sorts of ways, in the process destroying the credibility of the U.S. media in the eyes of Putin’s opposition (who — unlike Americans who have been fed a steady news and entertainment propaganda diet for decades about Russia — actually understand the realities of that country).

U.S. media outlets are very good at demanding respect. They love to imply, if not outright state, that being patriotic and a good American means that one must reject efforts to discredit them and their reporting because that’s how one defends press freedom.

But journalists also have the responsibility not just to demand respect and credibility but to earn it. That means that there shouldn’t be such a long list of abject humiliations, in which completely false stories are published to plaudits, traffic and other rewards, only to fall apart upon minimal scrutiny. It certainly means that all of these “errors” shouldn’t be pointing in the same direction, pushing the same political outcome or journalistic conclusion.

But what it means most of all is that when media outlets are responsible for such grave and consequential errors as the spectacle we witnessed yesterday, they have to take responsibility for it by offering transparency and accountability. In this case, that can’t mean hiding behind PR and lawyer silence and waiting for this to just all blow away.

At minimum, these networks — CNN, MSNBC and CBS — have to either identify who purposely fed them this blatantly false information, or explain how it’s possible that “multiple sources” all got the same information wrong in innocence and good faith. Until they do that, their cries and protests the next time they’re attacked as “Fake News” should fall on deaf ears, since the real author of those attacks — the reason those attacks resonate — is themselves and their own conduct.


(Update: hours after this article was published on Saturday — a full day-and-a-half after his original tweets promoting the false CNN story with a “boom” and a cannon — Benjamin Wittes finally got around to noting that the CNN story he hyped has “serious problems”; needless to say, that acknowledgment received a fraction of re-tweets from his followers as his original tweets hyping the story attracted).

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Election 2018: a Battle Over #Fightfor15

By Quinton Ascah / Socialist Project.

The 2018 Ontario provincial election will be fought over many issues. Liberal Kathleen Wynne’s unpopularity as Premier, Progressive Conservative Party Leader Patrick Brown’s flip-flopping on major issues, the election of Donald Trump in the United States and subsequent re-evaluation of NAFTA are all certainly to come up in coverage and debates. However, one of the biggest issues that will be fought next year is a struggle that activists have been working on for years, and one which opponents believe could derail Ontario’s entire economy: Bill 148. The minimum wage hike, and other labour reforms in the Bill, may be the most controversial public policy issue in Ontario right now. The effects of it will impact students, young workers and working class people for years to come.

Fight for $15

Bill 148, known as the “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017,” will make for many changes to Ontario labour policy, but the most significant and newsworthy of the changes is the minimum wage increase. According to Section 23.1 of this update of the Ontario Employment Standards Act, the provincial government will raise the hourly minimum wage for workers to $14 an hour in January of 2018, and $15 an hour the following year.

While the bill has passed the third reading in the House and will come into effect after the winter months, it has recently inspired a lot of debate. Activists and workers who support the law believe that it will lift people out of poverty, create stability in a difficult job market, and will benefit the economy and businesses. Opponents, however, see it as a job-killer which will hurt both the most vulnerable of the working population and small businesses. So, on which side of the argument does the evidence lay?

Experts Disagree

The debate has been fought not only between activists on either side, but also between academics, economists, businesses and banks. In an economic assessment of a minimum wage hike released in late September, TD Canada Trust, one of the largest financial institutions in the country, urged caution with the legislation. In their forecast, TD estimated a net reduction of between 80,000 to 90,000 jobs by 2020. It sounds doom-and-gloom, but even within TD’s own public release, the estimation still reveals that employment would continue to ‘expand’ in the next decade.

What does all that mean? Even if TD’s rather negative forecast of nearly 1,000 net lost jobs – the number of jobs lost subtracted from the number of jobs created – over the next four years due to the wage hike is true, employment in Ontario would still grow by 0.5 per cent a year. A common theme that can be interpreted from research into the topic is a simple one: the minimum wage is only one of perhaps thousands of factors that determine economic performance and employment.

In fact, many economists disagree about the economic implications of a minimum wage hike. Throughout the 20th century and into today, many empirical studies were conducted to determine the real effects of a wage hike. One of the most famous of these studies was conducted by economists David Card and Alan Krueger in 1992. The two conducted a comparative study between the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which border one another. The government in New Jersey raised the minimum wage by nearly 20 per cent, while Pennsylvania’s remained constant (before the hike in New Jersey, both states had the same minimum).

In their 1993 study “Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania” published in the American Economic Review, the authors found no negative correlation between a minimum wage increase and employment. In fact, a far more thorough study conducted by the Institute for Research on Labour and Employment from 1990 to 2006 found similar effects. By comparing “contiguous county pairs” on state borders, the study found no long-term negative effects of the minimum wage increases.

Social Justice Movement

Economists are far from the only concerned party with this issue. For years, activists with the labour movement and social justice organizations have been using their voices and platforms to promote a $15 minimum wage and other work reforms. One of the most notable, province-wide organizations involved in fighting for a ‘living wage’ is the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign.

The campaign, which considers itself part of a larger movement across North America to create better jobs, has fought for various provisions in Bill 148. Although the name of the campaign indicates a focus on increasing the living wage, the group has fought for other elements such as equal pay for equal work, fair scheduling and paid leave for workers facing sexual and domestic violence.

Their work has paid off. Bill 148 has nearly been sent through the full legislative process in the provincial House. There was an amendment in the original draft of the bill for equal pay between full-time, part-time, seasonal and temporary workers. There was also language which closed a loophole in original text of the Employment Standards Act, which is intended to stop employers from using seniority to disadvantage part-time workers as opposed to full-time workers.

In terms of scheduling, there were some big gains for workers that activists fought for years. Three major changes were enacted into the legislation: pay for on-call employees who aren’t called, pay for employees who have their shifts cancelled (with less than 48 hours’ notice), and the right for employees to refuse shifts if they are given less than four days of notice.

The Political Parties

Organizations such as $15 and Fairness have also petitioned concerned citizens to get involved in political action. The campaign has come out strongly against the candidacy of Progressive Conservative (PC) leader Patrick Brown, who will be running in 2018 for Premier against NDP Andrea Horwath and the current Premier Kathleen Wynne.

And it’s true: the Ontario PC party has pledged that, given the opportunity to form government, would delay the increase until 2022. The PC and their elected MPPs have quoted a study by the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) that up to 50,000 workers could lose their jobs.

Brown has not come out fully against the idea of the minimum wage (as some right-wing politicians have), but has urged caution on what he considers a ‘dramatic’ raise to the wage. He made his thoughts clear in a statement to a media scrum outside Queen’s Park earlier this year in June. “My concern is the speed that we’re going about this, the fact that there is no cost-benefit analysis… I’m not sure that’s giving proper notice to our job creators,” Brown told reporters.

Aside from politically interested parties, criticisms have been raised by other parties who claim they will be negatively affected by the hike. In one instance, many municipalities in North and Northwestern Ontario are considered that the increased minimum wages will affect budgeting for local services such as volunteer firefighting. In a statement to Thunder Bay News, the Fire Chief in the town of Shuniah is concerned that the town firefighting budget will increase exponentially following the wage increase, beyond what the municipality can afford. Shuniah and many other municipalities are currently pressuring the provincial government for an exemption.

But in the province as a whole, it appears that the majority of people would choose to err on the side of increasing the minimum, and of Bill 148’s provisions. A Forum Research survey, which asked respondents whether they supported a $15 minimum wage, showed that 53 per cent of those surveyed were in favour of the changes. Other provisions in Bill 148 were even more popular: 74 per cent were in favour of the vacation changes, 67 per cent supported equal pay amendments, and 57 per cent were on board for pay for on-call employees and canceled shifts.

Simon Black, an Associate Professor in the Department of Labour Studies at Brock University, voiced his support for Bill 148, based both on empirical evidence and the effects it could have on the lives of workers throughout the province.

“First thing’s first: whatever Bill 148’s deficiencies, it should not be seen as a gift bestowed on low-wage workers by a benevolent government. It should be seen as the product of social movement organizing and activism, petitions and protest, and persistence,” Black explained. “We should salute all those everyday working class folks, from child care workers to retail clerks, auto workers to adjunct professors, airport workers to the folks serving coffee at the local Tim Hortons, from trade unionists, to seniors to single moms – and especially, the amazing student activists – who have made this bill a reality.”

Black not only noted the work of organizers across the province who have fought for progressive reforms to labour law, but how the proposed reforms will help the working class people of our province who provide so many of our daily services.

“The bill is an important step toward ensuring equal pay and equal access to benefits for part-time, contract and temporary workers. It includes modest improvements to scheduling rules and the introduction of mandatory sick days,” Black stated. “It will also make it easier for workers, particularly in a few sectors, to join unions. Of course, the centerpiece of the bill is the $15 minimum wage. By raising the wage floor in the labour market, the $15 minimum will be of great benefit to students, who tend to be concentrated in low-wage work.”

The minimum wage has sparked controversy not only in Ontario, but across North America. In the province of Alberta, the provincial NDP government led by Premier Rachel Notley has increased the minimum wage twice during its time in power. The government, much like our Ontario Liberals, pledge to increase the wage to a total of $15 an hour by late 2018. Notley has made special note of how the law would disproportionately impact women and people of colour, who tend to be overrepresented in precarious work environments. This is true across the country, and shows how the Alberta NDP has made their promise to raise the wage in a way a commitment to the principles of social justice. Notley, like her counterpart Wynne, has also made the smart political move of cozying up to small business owners who pay a higher wage or support the increase, in an effort to make the hike palatable to economic conservatives and appear to be a best-of-both-worlds approach.

None of this is to say Notley has not faced opposition. The United Conservative Party, the Official Opposition in Alberta, has staunchly opposed Notley’s efforts and has claimed that the party is putting “ideology ahead of evidence.” As in the case in Ontario, economists from institutes and universities in Alberta have spent months fiercely debating the issue.

The debate over the minimum wage is also quite lively south of the border. Although the federal government only mandates a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for American workers, more than half American states have passed legislation to raise the minimum higher than the federal standard. Due to action by groups such as Fight for $15 in the United States, the Democratic Party, one of the two major political parties in the country, came out for a $15 minimum wage as part of their official policy platform in the 2016 presidential election. Polling conducted by the Pew Center in the U.S. in 2014 showed that a strong majority (73 per cent) of Americans favored the increase of the minimum wage to ten dollars an hour. In fact, 53 per cent of registered Republicans even favored the increase in the same poll. However, the administration of President Trump, as well as top Republican elected officials such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, adamantly opposes a higher wage.

While the debate is likely to rage on until even after the initial effects of the raised wage in the province are felt, for many activists who support a living wage, the incoming legislation feels like a victory. But that does not mean the battle is completely over.

In a packed house of living wage advocates at the University of Toronto, activist Deena Ladd let the audience know that a lot depends on the results of the upcoming election – and how much pressure activists are able to put on whoever is in power come the end of 2018.

“This is the time to get our communities organized,” Ladd stated to the crowd. “We need to be working every day, every weekend, until we win these changes.” •

Quinton Ascah is a Board Member and News Editor for The Brock Press, where this article was first published.

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Chile’s Political System Shaken by Rise of New Anti-Neoliberal Left

By the Socialist Project.

The first round of Chile’s presidential election was held on November 19. The right-wing candidate, ex-president Sebastian Pinera, won with 36% of the votes. He will compete in the second round against centre-left candidate Alejandro Guiller.

But the big surprise was the result for the Broad Front (Frente Amplio, FA), a heterogeneous left coalition headed by Beatriz Sanchez. The FA candidate came in third, with 20% of the vote (just two points short of making the second round).

The coalition also won 18 deputies and a senator, which is unheard of for an anti-neoliberal force outside of the traditional parties.

Viento Sur’s Brais Fernandez spoke with Luis Thielemann, an activist with Autonomous Left (one of the organizations with parliamentary representation within the FA), about the elections and the rise of this new left formation.

Brais Fernandez (BF): What is your analysis of the results of Chile’s elections?

Beatriz Sanchez launches her candidacy for the Chilean presidential election, in Santiago on April 3.

Luis Thielemann (LT): First, it’s clear that the result, for any observer, was a complete surprise. Although looking at it now we can see that there were many signs pointing to the possibility of a high vote for the FA, the truth is that no one believed it was possible to go into double digits. Polls showed it with about 8% support, and the history of the left in the past three decades in Chile is one in which it has never surpassed this limit.

Moreover, the FA went to the elections without the backing of the biggest left force in the country – in terms of history, number of activists and organising capacity: the Communist Party. In this context, the first point is the surprise factor.

The second is the political chaos that has been generated in Chile. If the FA is seeking to alter the balance of forces that has dominated Chile for almost three decades since the final years of the dictatorship, it has still not achieved this. But [the election] was a big step forward in this direction: it created electoral uncertainty, not only in terms of the second round, but for years to come in Chile.

In this way, the FA went from being ignored by the traditional political forces, to being the third political force in a system accustomed to only two players. And it is not just any third force, but one whose program is based on the big anti-neoliberal social struggles of the past decades.

Lastly, it was a gratifying vote for the FA, which had been accused of elitism by Communist and Socialist Party activists, due to its origins on the university campuses and middle-class neighbourhoods.

In the poorest neighbourhoods of Santiago, the FA vote was surprisingly high, in many cases beating the candidate of the New Majority (Nueva Mayoría), Alejandro Guillier.

This demonstrated grassroots work among the popular classes that, perhaps because of its incipient and discreet nature, had been missed by many observers, including those from the left.

BF: What is the FA, where does it come from, who is part of it?

LT: The FA was officially created in 2017, but the idea of its formation has been broadly shared by the left since the 2011 student mobilizations [for free education].

That it was broadly held does not mean that there were no important tactical and strategic differences between the different forces, as its formation has been one of the main discussion points within the left for the past few years.

It is made up of 13 organizations, that go from the small but important Liberal Party to Marxist and libertarian organizations.

The broadness of the FA reflects two aspects of Chilean politics: how far to the right politics has shifted (to the point where the Liberal Party feels comfortable in a coalition to the left of [incumbent New Majority president Michelle] Bachelet), where a minimal reform of neoliberalism is seen by the Chilean right as a Jacobin proposal.

And second, the social and political diversity of the opposition to neoliberalism and the authoritarian democracy inherited from the dictatorship [as part of the post-dictatorship transition pact between the parties of the right and centre-left].

The FA was the result of a maturing of various experiences. The first was the defeat of the 2006 student movement, which was defeated by the technocratization of its conflict by [the parties of] the transition pact in 2008.

Then there was the process of learning that the student and social movements of 2011 went through as a result of the creation of its own autonomous political leadership and its open rupture with the transition pact parties.

These movements – in particular the student movement – set up a series of radical left political organizations before, during and after 2011. Some of them have since disappeared, been refounded, split or fused.

The stand out organizations are Democratic Revolution (the strongest group in the FA), Autonomous Left (iA) and Autonomist Movement (a group that emerged out of a split from iA), among others. To these groups we can add those small parties that come from the extra-parliamentary left that emerged during the decades of the transition, such as the Humanist Party, the Green Ecologist Party, Equality Party, etc.

A third camp includes those parties that were formed as split-offs from the Coalition of Parties for Democracy [the centre-left coalition known as Concertacion, which predates the New Majority]. They saw in the FA the possibility of having a political impact, even if they do not have a clear or ideologically coherent left position. Within this group are parties such as Power or the Liberal Party.

The unifying element has been, on the one hand, the political window of opportunity that the crisis of the transition pact represents. Within this is seen the possibility of imposing or pushing forward the demands of the social movements that have challenged neoliberalism. These include the movement for public education, the university professors strikes, the movement against the AFPs (private administrators of pension funds), environmental struggles, to renationalize water and natural resources, etc.

What these struggles have tended to unite a social layer that has decided to stop looking to the Concertacion as a vehicle for potentially putting an end to the enduring legacy of the dictatorship; who got tired of seeing promises for reforms converted into the deepening of the model. This layer revealed itself on November 19 to be the third political force and 20% of voters.

BF: What position will the FA take in the second round?

LT: This is the main issue of debate for the coming weeks. The second round will be on December 17, which means we don’t have much time.

We knew there would not be any time to debate this issue, nor peace of mind, as the level of political pressure placed on the FA since [November 19] has been enormous. But of course, no one thought that the FA would be key to the outcome of the presidential elections, as no one expected we would win 20% of the vote.

Given all this, some forces, such as iA, argued that the issue of negotiating with Guillier on the basis of the programmatic points put forward by FA candidate Beatriz Sanchez, and that have emerged out of the social struggles (end AFPs, free education, etc.), should have been resolved before the first round.

Despite there being no debate, the FA has shown clarity on two important points: it will not accept positions in any eventual Guillier government, and will only support him on the basis of Guillier publicly committing to aspects of the FA program and with the aim of avoiding a right-wing government.

We are not dealing here with left forces that are debating among themselves on a university campus, but a political alliance in which one out of five voters has deposited their faith. These voters have not asked the FA to adopt a maximalist anti-everyone position, or to give carte blanche support to Guillier and the transition pact.

Instead, voters want us to, as much as possible, put an end to the legacy of the dictatorship, and begin a new cycle of democratization and expel the market from peoples’ everyday lives.

We know that this is very little and mediocre compared to the dreams of those in Petrograd 100 years ago [during the Russian Revolution]. But before dreaming about storming the Winter Palace, before even thinking whether it makes sense to storm palaces, we have to at least build the conditions to make this possible; we have to at least recuperate the possibility of doing left politics in Chile.

But the FA is 13 groups. Some have already said that they will decide their position internally and without discussing it with others, abusing their parliamentary hegemony within the left.

Others have said that they will not negotiate at all, which also prevents us from doing politics this month.

It is important to make a point here: left politics is not about remaining pure, about being the best martyrs.

Left politics is about provoking chaos, the decomposition of the forces of capital, and at the same time, rebuilding a force capable of imposing another politics, new relations of power, that tend towards expelling capitalism and building communism.

It is a slow process, but it is fought at every step, no matter how institutional or unimportant they seem to be.

Refusing to support Guillier in the second round might seem like the most radical position, but in reality it is a conservative position: it gives the political initiative to those who have always held it, reducing the FA’s electoral result to a mere protest vote.

The FA should propose a negotiation tha, whether accepted or rejected, will produce chaos among the neoliberal parties and the party system that has maintained them for decades.

If Guillier accepts the proposal for a government that pushes genuinely anti-neoliberal reforms, the transition pact will end up being destroyed; if, on the other hand, he makes no changes that are of interest for the FA, he will not be able to win the presidential elections.

What the FA is seeking in the second round is the possibility of directly impacting on the level of decomposition of the transition pact, and perhaps even beginning the process of its open destruction. •

Translated from Viento Sur by Federico Fuentes.

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North Korea is Not a Threat to the US

By David William Pear, December 11, 2017

Like Pavlov's dog, the mainstream media slobbers platitudes every time North Korea launches another test missile. Listening to the blather one would think that once Kim Jong-un has a missile capable of reaching the US, he is going to use it in an unprovoked nuclear attack on the US mainland killing millions of Americans.

For Kim to attack the US he would have to be insane, paranoid, and suicidal. Top officials in the US intelligence agencies say he is not. Director of Intelligence Dan Coats has said publicly that Kim is acting very rational; the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that Kim is "not insane "; the CIA deputy director of the Korea Mission Center, Yong Suk Lee, says that Kim is not suicidal, either. So we can rest with ease that Kim Jong-un is highly unlikely to wake up one morning and nuke America because he can. According to Yong, Kim "wants to rule for a long time and die peacefully in his own bed."[CNN, October 6, 2017]. Everyone in the mainstream media knows this or should.

North Korea is not an existential threat to the US national security. Occasionally the mainstream media does tell the truth, but that does not sell news, or make the military-industrial-security-complex, neocons, and others in the Deep State happy. Instead the mainstream media tell us about the latest war of words and weapon tests, usually instigated by the US, which the media does not tell us. The word-war is exacerbated every time the US threatens, insults and mocks Kim.

The US regularly practices nuclear attacks on North Korea by air, land and sea which also get a propaganda response from Kim. North Korea has offered to stop testing nuclear bombs, if the US would stop playing nuclear war games on its border [The Guardian]. The US has been threatening North Korea for over 70 years.

What should frighten the American people is the long history of US crazies who would start a nuclear war. President Trump is not the first president that cannot be trusted with nuclear bombs. It is only by sheer luck that the world has escaped a nuclear war or a cataclysmic nuclear accident. There have been many close calls, and one day there will be one too many.

The US keeps gambling away with nuclear roulette anyway, threatening North Korea, Iran, Russia, and the enemy du jour. One of the favorite US verbal threats is to say that "all options are on the table", that includes nuclear, but the diplomacy option is usually missing. The US has even used nuclear bombs twice against civilian populations in 1945, and according to many historians unnecessarily, because Japan had already offered to surrender. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese died mostly so that Harry Truman could try to impress Joseph Stalin with a show of US power.

During the Korean War (1950 to 1953) President Truman publicly threatened to use the atomic bomb, and the military planned, practiced and shipped nuclear bombs to Asia to be dropped on North Korea. General Douglas MacArthur wanted to use 26 nuclear bombs and start a war with China too [History News Network]. Truman did give General Matthew Ridgeway pre-authorization to use nuclear bombs, even after MacArthur was relieved of his command. Instead the US completely destroyed North Korea with conventional bombs and napalm, killing an estimated 20% to 30% of the population "anyway, someway or another, direct casualties of war, or from starvation and exposure" [Air Force General Curtis LeMay].

The Korean War is called the "Forgotten War" for reasons: the US was humiliated and lost the Korean War; over 50,000 Americans were killed as negotiating chips, they "died for a tie" as to where to draw the Military Demarcation Line between the North and South; and South Korea was "destroyed to save it".

The South Koreans deserve a lot of credit for rebuilding a modern highly advanced society in all categories such as education, healthcare, technology, and their standard of living. But contrary to propaganda mythology they did not develop under capitalist free-trade and democracy. The South Korean "miracle on the Han river" was achieved under US backed military dictatorship, a highly planned economy, and billions of dollars from US aid, loans and direct investment. ["Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism", by Ha-Joon Chang].

Kim Jong-un has very good reasons to fear US threats. He knows that the US is ruthless enough to kill millions of his people and destroy his country, just as the US did in Iraq and Libya. Senator John McCain's daughter Meghan McCain even said on Fox news that the US should assassinate the "Crazy Fat Kid". Words like that, Trump's insults, threats and nuclear war games are going to get bombastic verbal reactions by Kim Jong-un, and cause him to redouble his nuclear and missile programs. [The Nation].

While the US constantly talks about a denuclearized Korean peninsula, it is the US that first nuclearized it, starting with President Harry Truman's threats in 1951. Then in July of 1957 President Dwight D. Eisenhower unilaterally withdrew from section 13(d) of the 1953 Armistice Agreement, which made the introduction of any new weapon systems in the Korean peninsula forbidden to both sides. The US broke the promise so that it could "equip U.S. forces in Korea with modern weapons;"dual capability (nuclear-conventional) weapons, such as the Honest John and the 280 mm. cannon", i.e. tactical nuclear weapons [National Security Council Report]. All during the rest of the Cold War the US stationed at least 950 nuclear weapons in South Korea. The US may have withdrawn its nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991 as it says, but it still has plenty in Guam and elsewhere that it uses to constantly threaten North Korea with a nuclear attack.

While the mainstream media ponders how to get North Korea to sit down at the negotiating table, it is the US that refuses to talk. North Korea has often offered to sign a permanent peace treaty and non-aggression agreement, but the US has consistently rebuffed the offers. The State Department has repeatedly said in news conferences that it will not negotiate with North Korea unless they meet unspecified preconditions first [US Department of State]. What is puzzling is what the preconditions are, and how to get the US to sit down at the table. Incredibly the US and the media constantly repeat that it is North Korea that refuses to talk!

Unless there is a diplomatic solution, Kim Jong-un is rationally following in his father's footsteps by developing a credible nuclear deterrent against US aggression. In 2000 President George W. Bush scoffed at President Clinton's nuclear agreement with North Korea, and then he intensified threats in 2002 with his "Axis of Evil" speech. Bush followed that speech by invading Iraq in 2003 with "Shock and Awe", leaving the cradle of human civilization in ruins, and later hanging Saddam Hussein.

Bush did not plan to stop with Iraq. General Wesley Clark says that he was told at the Pentagon that Bush planned to invade 7 countries in 5 years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran [YouTube]. It is the US that has been paranoid, unpredictable and insane during the 21stcentury, and it did not start with Trump, but he takes prides in acting more insane.

After the initial US invasion of Iraq, a smug looking Bush got out of the passenger seat of a fighter jet that the pilot had landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln. He strutted over to the microphone in his flight suit and gave a premature "Mission Accomplished" speech. Lisa Schiffren gushed in the Wall Street Journal that Bush's performance made him look hot and sexy in his flight suit, adding with admiration that Bush is "credible as a Commander in Chief". The mainstream media has been the cheerleader for all of the Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Obama, Clinton and Kerry wars. They are now inciting the US public with propaganda for war with North Korea, Iran and Russia.

Kim Jong-un is not paranoid to be fearful, and he has been acting predictably. The US has left him no choice other than to defend his country with the deterrent of nuclear weapons. Bush sabotaged the negotiated nuclear agreement that the US and North Korea had made under President Bill Clinton in the 1990's. That is what precipitated North Korea withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and resuming their nuclear program.

In 2003 when Bush persuaded Libya's Muammar Gaddafi to abandon his nuclear program, he singled out North Korea when he said, "we want to have lessons learned, because we want Libya to be a model for other countries" to unilaterally disarm. North Korea was paying close attention in 2011 when President Obama and Hillary Clinton destroyed Libya and assassinates its leader, once he was defenseless. Clinton then gloated "we came, we saw, he died, hahaha". The lesson of Libya is that "if you have nukes, never give them up--if you don't have them, get them" [US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats].

The North Koreans are not going to trust a US agreement again. They will trust in themselves, as they did when Kim's grandfather Kim Il-sung led the guerrilla warfare against the Japanese. Korea's historical philosophy is based on the principle of self-sufficiency and resistance against foreign domination, especially in the North. The North Koreans now call their historical philosophy "Juche". North Korea is determined to follow the principle of Juche to the "realization of independence in politics, selfsufficiency in the economy and self-reliance in national defence"" [official DPRK Juche link].

President Trump slammed the door shut on negotiations with Kim Jong-un by threatening to totally destroy North Korea with "fire and furry" and insulting him with the "Little Rocket Man" slurs. Kim takes it seriously when the US repeatedly threatens to destroy his country. Trump's insults caused Kim to "lose face (kibun)". Respect is extremely important in Korean culture. The natural reaction for a Korean who has been disrespected is to become infuriated. It is predictable, and the US knows it.

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley's latest outburst that "if war comes, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed" is an obvious provocation, which the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov called "a really bloodthirsty tirade". Interestingly, Levrov added that "Moscow has been closely working with the US on the North Korean issue, with several meetings being held between the countries' diplomats in the Russian capital, and other venues."

In the 21st century the US has killed millions of defenseless people all over the world with wars of aggression, and by using excessive force and total war against civilian populations. The US uses food, water and medical supplies as psychological weapons of mass destruction. As Madeleine Albright said, 500,000 dead children is "worth it" to bring a country to its knees. That is what the US sanctions are now doing to North Korea. But as Russian President Vladimir Putin said, "North Korea will 'eat grass' before giving up nukes".

The Koreans know the history of US aggression well. The US's first contact with Korea in the 19th century was an act of aggression. The US considered Korea's isolation, self-sufficiency and refusal to trade an arrogant and intolerable insult, and a loss of profit. So in 1871 President Ulysses S. Grant launched an invasion against Korea. When Japan colonized and annexed Korea in 1910 the Western colonial powers including the US cheered their approval.

All Korea has ever wanted was to be left alone. During their 4000 year history Korea has not been an aggressive expansionist country. To the contrary, Korea has often been invaded by China, Mongolia, Japan, Russia and the US. Historically Korea has resisted contact with foreigners because foreigners had always brought invasions. Like his Korean ancestors, Kim Jong-un just wants North Korea to be left alone for the Korean people to determine their own future.

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