The PRC’s Misunderstanding

After too much hemming and hawing, the US finally got around to approving the sale of four, used, Oliver Hazard Perry class guided-missile frigates to the Republic of China. Even used, these combat ships represent a considerable boost to Chinese national security.

Naturally, the People’s Republic of China is…up in arms. The PRC’s Foreign Affairs Minister of objected, asserting that helping arm RoC

blatantly interferes in China’s domestic affairs and undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests[.]

Misunderstanding

…by Howard Kurtz in his recent Fox News piece.

Sony’s unforgivable blunder was in making this misbegotten movie in the first place. I mean, an assassination “comedy” that includes Kim Jong Un’s head being blown up, with an internal debate over how much his hair should be on fire? As Greta Van Susteren tweeted, “Anyone who has been to NK knows how dangerous it is and would not have been so stupid to make that movie.” Sony Pictures and Seth Rogen didn’t even have the wit to make it about a fictional regime with a short leader.

Is Sony Dissembling?

President Barack Obama said Sony “made a mistake” when they decided not to release their movie in surrender to northern Korea’s hacker threats.

Sony had this in response to Obama’s recognition:

Let us be clear: the only decision that we have made with respect to release of the film was not to release it on Christmas Day in theaters, after the theater owners declined to show it. Without theaters, we could not release it in the theaters on Christmas Day. We had no choice.

On Trade with Cuba

Doug Erwin, an Economics Professor at Dartmouth, writing in The Wall Street Journal, had a thought.

Restoring trade ties and expanding commerce would revolutionize the Cuban economy and transform Cuban society. It would spur the growth of a business class, creating competing pockets of power and new, wealthy groups that would challenge the ruling Communist Party. It would give Cuban citizens access to more information, and information about the outside world destabilizes any repressive regime. What would happen if every Cuban citizen had access to a smartphone, could organize protests via Twitter, and spread the word about government outrages?

Obama’s Cuba Normalization Move

It’s certainly true that 50 years of trade embargo and absence of formal—normalized—relations between the US and Cuba have not brought about increased freedom or prosperity for the Cuban people. Neither had 45 or more years of Cold War containment succeeded in giving the Russian people, or the other peoples trapped behind the USSR’s iron curtain, a chance at improving their lot. Until it did.

Normalization isn’t the necessary change in policy here.

Sony’s Fold

Sony made a movie about two journalists scoring an interview with northern Korea’s Bébé Doc, Kim Jong-un, the CIA convincing the journalists to assassinate Kim, and the comedic aspects of such a thing.

This offended Baby Kim and his sycophants, and they threatened mayhem against Sony’s executives and those US movie theaters with the temerity to show the movie.

Rather than letting us Americans make up our own minds about whether to go see the movie, rather than letting movie theater managers determine for themselves whether to show the movie (some had), those threatened Sony executives collapsed like yesterday’s tissue and made the executive decision to not release the movie at all.

Technology, Oil, and Government

Falling oil prices are a good thing. Except when they’re not. Or….

The irony in the falling prices is that the success of US producers using hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies is partly responsible, along with slowing demand by struggling Asian and European markets. Now that success could come back to bite the so-called fracking industry and other drillers in America.

[Wyoming Governor Matt, R] Mead acknowledged that in the short term, lower gas prices will benefit businesses and residents in his sparsely populated state, where distances between towns are often calculated in hours instead of minutes.

Taxes and Congress

The 113th Congress, in its last days, has passed and sent to President Barack Obama for signature (or veto) a bill extending expired tax breaks through the end of this year. It’s retroactive because the expiration occurred at the end of last year. And the extension is good only for a couple more weeks. The breaks are an amalgam of exemptions that

benefit big corporations and small businesses, as well as struggling homeowners and people who live in states without a state income tax.

Congress’ Productivity

Gerald Seib had an interesting piece in a recent Wall Street Journal, not so much for what he said as for the mindset from which he said it. To wit:

We have learned in recent days that both President Barack Obama and Republican leaders in Congress seem to want to pull their parties together in the middle to get some things done in Washington.

To many in the capital, this is a long overdue development. But it also raises a question: What if the leaders get to the middle and find there’s nobody there to join them?

Trust and the PRC

Having finally, and successfully, crushed a pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, the People’s Republic of China has declared null and void its treaty with Great Britain, the Joint Declaration that turned Hong Kong over to PRC control.

China’s deputy ambassador to Britain, Ni Jian, told the committee’s chairman, Richard Ottaway, that the Joint Declaration “is now void and only covered the period from the signing in 1984 until the handover in 1997.”

Never mind that the treaty the PRC signed was agreed by the PRC to run for 50 years from 1997, the year of the turnover.