ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, September 24

Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
Linked articles in bold purple

North Korea says it will “inevitably” go to war with US. That was the essence of NK foreign minister’s speech to UN (Los Angeles Times)

North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho warned Saturday that it is “inevitable” that his country will launch a missile toward the mainland United States in revenge for the insults President Trump has directed at leader Kim Jong Un.

“None other than Trump himself is on a suicide mission,” Ri said. –Los Angeles Times

US bombers fly off the coast of North Korea, north of the 38th parallel, in a major show of force (Reuters via Straits Times, Singapore)

US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers escorted by fighter jets flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea on Saturday (Sept 23), in a show of force the Pentagon said demonstrated the range of military options available to President Donald Trump. –Reuters

Comment: The US flights are not only a message to Pyongyang, they are a message to China that a war could break out and the US would use overwhelming firepower. Only that prospect, and the related prospect of Japan and South Korea going nuclear themselves, has moved China to act.

My hunch is that Beijing is trying to figure out what kinds of pressure they can use to change North Korean policy or, alternatively, if they want to risk backing a coup.

From the serious (North Korea) to the ridiculous (Trump versus the NFL, NBA): What happened? And what makes it important?

The tweets and text below explain what happened.

It’s important because it exemplifies America’s techtonic cultural and political divide, particularly over race and patriotism.

And it highlights what Trump’s supporters like about him (straight talk, forthright defense of America) and what his opponents loathe (vile language that worsens an inflamed situation).

On Twitter and at his big rally in Huntsville, AL, Pres. Trump attacked NFL players who “took a knee,” rather than stand for the National Anthem. That behavior has spread among NFL teams this season.

A flurry of counter-attacks came from the NFL, led by Commissioner Roger Goodell. This kerfuffle spread to the NBA when LeBron James called the president “a bum” and Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry decided not to visit the White House.

Immediately, CNN decided this was all about Trump being a white nationalist racist. They talked about the Alabama rally being a “white crowd,” etc.


Comment: Here my initial take.

  • The President took a traditional position in an untraditional way. It is hardly surprising that a President supports American patriotism and its prominent symbols.
  • It is beneath the dignity of the office to call the players “sons of bitches.”
  • The players have free-speech rights.
    • Pros don’t have to stand for the national anthem unless their contracts say otherwise.
    • College and high-school players are in a more complicated situation. The coaches and school administrators can set rules of behavior.
  • Fans have rights, too, and can boo the players, refuse to buy products they advertise, refuse to go to games, and so on.

Three points have been missing in this discussion, which seems to be a big deal on cable TV.

  • Professional athletics is entertainment. The athletes are entertainers, same as Hollywood actors, Nashville singers, or sports networks like ESPN. Taking controversial political stances will narrow their audience appeal, as they are finding out. NFL owners know that. They must be beside themselves.
  • The country’s racial and political divide was bound to spread beyond the normal boundaries of politics. Black athletes were drawn in to this controversy, just as they were drawn into the Black Power controversies of the 1960s.
    • Now, the activists on all sides will mobilize and get involved. This is Al Sharpton territory.
  • This could well be brilliant politics for Trump
    • It plays perfectly to his base and to the majority of Americans who respect the flag and other patriotic symbols. Trump knows that in his gut and he moved to exploit it. (His own crude language may undercut some of that support.)
    • The NFL fan base–and Trump voters–hate the players’ disrespect for the flag and national anthem.
    • With NFL attendance and viewership down this year (for whatever reasons), Trump can take credit for leading a parade that was already marching down the street.
    • The only thing that could be better for Trump would be for leading Democrats to support the kneeling athletes. That would be a gift to Trump, but the Democratic base may force prospective presidential candidates to take that position, just as it is forcing them into support for single-payer health care.