The James Comey Show.

The F.B.I. has rules against interfering in politics and rules against being interfered with by politicians.  Recent events have shown how difficult it has become to maintain that rule when some politicians have wandered far from normal behavior.  Back in Fall 2016, President Barack Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, had to investigate the handling of e-mail messages by former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.[1]  Then AG Lynch got into the glue for having had a private meeting with former President Bill Clinton.  She announced that F.B.I. director James Comey would have a free hand to run the Clinton investigation.  In July 2016, at the end of the investigation, Comey held a press conference to announce that Clinton would not be prosecuted, although he condemned her careless handling of sensitive e-mails.  Democrats roundly abused Comey for making his less-than-positive remarks while an election loomed.  Then, in October 2016, Comey announced that the investigation had been re-opened when a bunch of Clinton e-mails were discovered on the lap-top that Clinton aide Huma Abedin shared with her husband.[2]

Shortly before the election, Rudy Giuliani, a Trump supporter, announced that a “pretty big surprise” was coming.  Later Giuliani said that his sources were former, not currently serving, FBI agents.[3]  Several days later, Comey announced that the newly-discovered e-mails were just duplicates of previously examined e-mails.  Again, Democrats roundly condemned Comey for meddling in an election.  Bitter partisan strife followed.

In late January 2017, at the request of Democrats in Congress, the Inspector General of the Department of Justice opened an investigation of how Comey had managed the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s sloppy handling of her e-mail while Secretary of State.[4]  The scope of the investigation included both Comey’s original press conference and his decision to announce the re-opening of the investigation less than two weeks before Election Day.

Early in March 2017, reports circulated of an F.B.I. investigation into allegations of contacts between members of the Trump entourage and various Russians.  White House chief-of-staff Reince Priebus asked Comey to tell the press that no such investigation existed.  The White House also solicited Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House committee investigating the Russian involvement in the election, to tell reporters that the story was bunk.  Comey refused because a) there was an investigation going on and b) politicians—like Priebus—weren’t supposed to interfere.  Apparently, intelligence sources leaked word of the spat to the press.[5]

Three weeks after having refused to deny that there was an investigation, Comey said that “in unusual circumstances, it may be appropriate” for the F.B.I. to comment on an on-going investigation.  Then he confirmed, during public testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, that the F.B.I. is investigating contacts between the Russians and the Trump entourage.[6]  Democrats condemned Comey for having thrown Clinton “under the bus” in Fall 2016.

James Comey has been—repeatedly—thrown into an uncomfortable position by the actions of other people.  So far, none of the complaining gets us closer to the truth(es).

[1] See: “The Hacked Election.”  https://waroftheworldblog.com/2016/12/13/the-hacked-election/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

[2] Habitually described as the “disgraced… Anthony Weiner.”

[3] So, do current FBI agents meet up with still serving colleagues at various Washington, DC watering-holes to talk about old times and…?

[4] “FBI’s Comey investigated over election conduct,” The Week, 27 January 2017, p. 5.

[5] “Russia investigation: A special prosecutor?” The Week, 10 March 2017, p. 16.

[6] “Comey reveals Trump-Russia probe,” The Week, 31 March 2017, p. 5.

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“Chaebol.”

“Chaebol” is a Korean word for “rich clan.”[1]  Probably, in the misty past, that meant families that owned a lot of farm land.  One way or another, they probably had connections to the government.  In the misty present, South Korea has become a major industrial and commercial society.  So long as the Japanese Empire ruled Korea, the country remained a subordinate part of the rough-draft of the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.”  That is, it provided cheap labor and raw materials to Japanese industry.[2]  Then, in 1945, came liberation and national independence, if not national unity.  Then, from 1950 to 1953, came the terrible Korean War.[3]

After the war, the government of the Republic of Korea (aka ROK, aka South Korea) set out to join the modern world.  Those were hard times and there wasn’t much to go around.  The government channeled the scant available resources toward companies that were “bullish” on South Korea.  The government also fended-off foreign competition and stepped down hard on the labor movement.  The government pushed a drive for export-led growth.

Hyundai, Samsung, LG, and Hanjin are among the leading “chaebol.”  Generally, these are conglomerates of related industries within sectors of the economy.  Samsung makes electronics, Hyundai makes cars, and Hanjin is a (now bankrupt) shipping company.  That is, they try not to compete with one another.  Each one has his share of the pie.[4]

A glance at the names of the “chaebol” demonstrates just how successful this effort proved to be.  A further glance north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) at the Peoples’ Republic of Drudge,[5] shows an alternative strategy for development.  In any event, the “chaebol” have molted into families that own a lot of companies.  One way or another, they probably have connections to the government.  That is, rich people finance the election or re-election of pawns.

One “tarantula on a piece of Angel food cake” in this success story is the deep resentment felt by ordinary South Koreans.  In the 1950s and 1960s, the “chaebol” got scarce resources in very hard times.  Ordinary people had to do without.  That has become a folk memory.  Today, the “chaebol” continue to pile up wealth when South Korea no longer needs to fight for survival.  Ordinary people resent that selfishness.  The problem for the “chaebol” is that, in the 1980s, South Korea made the shift from a military-industrial complex government to something approaching a real democracy.  In these circumstances, no longer can every scandal involving the “chaebol” be swept under the rug.[6]

A second “tarantula” appears in the series of scandals and errors plaguing the “chaebol.”  The Asian financial crisis of the 1990s; Samsung phones catching fire; and the sinking of the ferry boat “Sewol”[7] all have called into question the ethics and competence of the “chaebol.”

Then there’s the sinking of the F.V. “Majestic Blue.”  But that’s unrelated.

[1] Carlos Tejada, “Money, Power and Family: Inside the Chaebol of South Korea,” NYT, 18 February 2017.

[2] Not that it has anything to do with economic policy, but you might want to see “The Handmaiden” (2016, dir. Park Chan-wook).  It has been described as an “erotic psychological thriller.”  JMO, but if this doesn’t get your motor running, then you’ve got issues.

[3] Americans commonly—and wrongly—believe that the horrors of that war are encapsulated in the Anabasis of the First Marines from “up on the reservoir” down to the sea.

[4] “Oh what a good boy am I.”

[5] I stole that from someone, perhaps from Walt Kelly.

[6] “There ain’t no clean way to make a hundred million bucks…. Somewhere along the line guys got pushed to the wall, nice little businesses got the ground cut out from under them… Decent people lost their jobs…. Big money is big power and big power gets used wrong. It’s the system.”–Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye (1953).

[7] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinking_of_MV_Sewol