Chutzpah of the decade

From CNN we have a report that North Korea billed the U.S. for $2 million for “hospital care” for Otto Warmbier, the student who died after being arrested in the DPRK, kept in North Korean custody, and then returned home in a coma. In my view, they killed him.

Click on the screenshot to read:

North Korea wouldn’t release Warmbier unless the U.S. signed the bill and agreed to pay it, and so U.S. special representative Joseph Yun signed. But, in a rare display of recalcitrance, the Trump administration won’t pay it. And we shouldn’t, for this is ransom.

The Trump administration has not paid this bill, a third source familiar with the matter told CNN Thursday, adding that North Korea did not raise the issue as it sought to begin easing the tensions with the US in 2018 nor when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo negotiated the release of three Americans that same year, the source said.
“We made clear that they were never going to get anything” when the negotiating occurred for the release of the 3 Americans, the source added.
Is there any regime on the planet more odious and repressive than North Korea?



  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 25, 2019 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I can think of one guy who does a better job of lying. Does a better job of consorting with the enemy. Does a better job of shooting his mouth off with nothing behind it. Maybe that is why he admires Kim so much.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 25, 2019 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      Well said!

    • Posted April 26, 2019 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      I take it you are not talking about Donald Trump, because he is a terrible liar. It’s almost always obvious when he is lying (no “his lips are moving” jokes please). The lies are either not credible, contradicted by other people elsewhere or contradicted by Trump himself elsewhere or easily fact checked.

      He’s better at consorting with the enemy.

  2. Posted April 25, 2019 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    It’s cute little gestures like this that caused Trump to “fall in love” with Kim. This and Kim’s “beautiful letters” to Trump.

  3. Mike Anderson
    Posted April 25, 2019 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    More evidence that socialized medicine isn’t effective.

    • Filippo
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      Kim himself appears to be in quite good health.

  4. BJ
    Posted April 25, 2019 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Well, according to HuffPo (and several others, if you look up articles regarding “Otto Warmbier white privilege” on google), it was all Mr. Warmbier’s fault anyway and he doesn’t deserve sympathy. Anybody remember this:

    According to WashPo, even Comedy Central and Salon made Warmnier’s story about white privilege, though I can no longer find those articles or videos.

    According to some people, Otto Warmbier, his family, and this nation just got what was coming to them. Disgusting.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 25, 2019 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Lookit you, BJ, actin’ like a common Ken Kukec, shifting the topic so you can bitch about what ya wanna. 🙂

      • BJ
        Posted April 25, 2019 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

        I mean, the topic is Otto Warmbier’s death…It’s not as if I brought up Trump in a comments section of an article not even tangentially related to him.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 25, 2019 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

          Oh, hell, you know me, Beej; I’m just funnin’ ya, is all. 🙂

    • Posted April 27, 2019 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      These viewpoints are odious. However, I see a kernel of rationality deep inside: common sense dictates ordinary normal people to stay away from places like North Korea. (I’d make an analogy with the missionary who attempted to proselytize on the Sentinel Islands.)

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 27, 2019 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

        We agree on that point. It isn’t always ‘victim-blaming’ to point out that the victim was being unwise to put themselves in that position.


  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 25, 2019 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    The Donald said his inamorato Chairman Kim knew nothing of the gross mistreatment leading to Otto Warmbier’s death, so clearly he must have been kept in the dark about the $2 million tab, too.

    So much in NoKo happens behind Dear Leader’s back!

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted April 25, 2019 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t that odd, Trump said the same thing about Putin. You know Putin said he didn’t do it and I don’t know why he would.

      Probably why Putin and the dear leader just had a big summit a few days ago. Putin said he still want’s to denuclearize NK. Just needs assurance he will not be attacked. Sure, that’s what he wants and all he would need to get that assurance is south korea.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 25, 2019 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        After meeting with Vladimir Putin today, Kim Jong-un accused Trump of “acting in bad faith” at their Hanoi Summit in February.

        Also, this video just in of Trump’s meeting with Putin before their joint press conference in Helsinki:

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted April 25, 2019 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

          HA, I didn’t even need to play that one to know exactly what is was. Perfect.

    • Posted April 26, 2019 at 5:05 am | Permalink

      I can’t think of any powerful country that capitulates so meekly as the US at the moment. It’s not just Trump — half the population is fine with it.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 26, 2019 at 9:14 am | Permalink

        Well, it’s more like 40% than half, but yeah, you’re right.

      • rustybrown
        Posted April 26, 2019 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

        What capitulation are you referring to?

        • Posted April 27, 2019 at 5:19 am | Permalink

          The acceptance of the massive security breach, the subordination of foreign policy to the wishes of other leaders, the execution of a resident, the torturing almost to death and return of Warmbier in a manner designed to humiliate the nation being meekly accepted and excused by the president… That kind of stuff. The US didn’t used to take that kind of thing at all, let alone with such simpering obeisance.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted April 27, 2019 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

            Damn decent start, Yakaru. 🙂

          • rustybrown
            Posted April 27, 2019 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

            “the acceptance of the massive security breach”

            You mean the Russian hacking? That happened under Obama’s watch and against all advice he failed to do anything about it. Warmbier’s capture also happened when Obama was in office and Obama failed to secure his release. Trump stepped in to do that.

            Didn’t realize you were talking about the meek capitulation of the Obama years. You’re absolutely right; it’s a good thing that guy’s not in office anymore.


  6. Michael Sternberg
    Posted April 25, 2019 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Ransom this was, indeed. But that makes it a mistake to have signed the bill in the first place. Not paying up now gives North Korea an easy propaganda victory, for they can say that the US does not stand by its word.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 25, 2019 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

      Highly unwise not to pay up, I think. It has implications for any future hostage negotiations with anybody.

      (If he was getting hospital care for an extended period, $2M doesn’t seem absurd, at least by US standards. Probably the hospital was doing what American hospitals are reputed to do and overcharging those who can pay to compensate for those who can’t.)


      • Posted April 27, 2019 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        I think it would be worse if the money had been paid. It would encourage future hostage-taking.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 27, 2019 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

          I think it just sends a signal that hostage-takers should make sure they get paid upfront, in cash.


    • Steve Gerrard
      Posted April 25, 2019 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

      I think it’s more a propaganda victory for the US. Imagine if kidnappers took a signed paper as the ransom instead of cash. Everyone would happily sign, knowing the signed paper is worthless. It makes NK look ridiculous.

    • Posted April 26, 2019 at 5:03 am | Permalink

      That’s an important point here. though no one takes the word of the US seriously anymore any, and everyone knows Trump doesn’t pay his bills.

    • Posted April 27, 2019 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      I think that the North Korea can only lose by parading this sheet of paper like a banner, and knows it.

  7. Gordon Anderson
    Posted April 25, 2019 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    “Is there any regime on the planet more odious and repressive than North Korea?”

    Possibly not but there are a goodly number of competitors

  8. Mike Anderson
    Posted April 25, 2019 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    But, in a rare display of recalcitrance, the Trump administration won’t pay it.

    I wonder if this is true. Definitely not beyond Trump’s style to pay it then deny paying it.

    If they did pay it, it will probably discovered by a reported in the next few days, and Trump will still deny it.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 25, 2019 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      He could always run it through Michael Cohen’s home-equity credit line — you know, like a common porn-star hush-money payoff.

  9. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 25, 2019 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    “In my view, they killed him.”

    Evidence? Other than the general sense that he ‘died’ (or rather suffered the comatose condition) while in their custody, which might not have happened had he been free.

    There was no medical evidence that he had been mistreated (other, of course, than the mistreatment of being jailed on ridiculous charges in the first place).

    I’m just not sure what the motive would have been for killing or torturing him. Unlike Guantanamo detainees, there can’t have been any ‘information’ they wanted.


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 25, 2019 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

      On reflection, I took ‘they killed him’ to imply intent (which I doubt), rather than responsibility (which imputes to them by reason of his being in their captivity at the time).


    • Harrison
      Posted April 25, 2019 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

      Despotic regimes torture and kill purely as a show of force. There need be no immediate material gain.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 26, 2019 at 1:27 am | Permalink

        That claim is not evidence of anything.

        A ‘show of force’ aimed at who? Poster thieves?


        • Posted April 27, 2019 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

          Americans. I am not convinced that this was the motivation, but would not exclude it.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 27, 2019 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

            I still can’t see it. If they wanted to go that route, they could have executed him on some pretext and that would have been, I think, a far more explicit show of force.

            If they just wanted to discourage tourists (why? It’s not as if they have a tourist problem 😉 then his original savage sentence was surely enough for that.

            And if they wanted to use him as a bargaining chip then he was probably worth just as much in full working order, without them incurring the opprobium that they have over the affair.


            • Posted April 28, 2019 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

              The fate he had was more terrifying than an execution, while alllowing NK authorities to escape responsibility.

  10. Dave
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Totally off topic, but if you want to forget the horrors of North Korea for a moment, here’s a story to cheer you up!

    • Posted April 26, 2019 at 5:41 am | Permalink

      Very cheerful, though I wonder if a baby squirrel can thrive on cat milk!

  11. Posted April 26, 2019 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    The BBC story is comedy gold.

    I feel that the BBC missed a trick when they put Sarah Huckerbee Sanders’ assertion that they do not comment on hostage negotiations below Trump’s tweet instead of just above it.

  12. rustybrown
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    What TDS looks like:
    Trump team secures the release of Warmbier and stiffs NK on their 2M ransom demand=Orange Man Bad.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      Damn, it’s the return of the Vox Trumpiana.

      I was afraid you’d suffocated with your head so far up the Cult of Personality, rustybrown.

      But I see it’s merely a case of major neurological impairment, what with your claiming it as a yooge “win” that Kim Jong-un dumped the dying husk of Otto Warmbier’s body in Trump’s lap, in exchange for the Donald completely absolving his inamorato Dear Leader of all wrongdoing (pace what the Warmbier family itself maintains) and signing a $2 million chit for medical expenses due.

      • rustybrown
        Posted April 26, 2019 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

        Are you feeling alright, Ken?

        Warmbier was taken under Obamas watch. And although Trump secured Warmbier’s release (a feat Obama was unable to accomplish) there’s no evidence Trump paid a dime of the 2M ransom being asked.

        I understand you must be smarting after being proven so thoroughly wrong about the Trump/Putin conspiracy hoax you’ve been pushing, but you should still try to maintain some perspective.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 27, 2019 at 9:36 am | Permalink

          Maybe you should read the actual redacted Mueller report itself, rustybrown, rather than just accept the state-tv spin put on it by some Fox News commentators. (Some, but not all: Fox News’s own “legal analyst,” Judge Andrew Napolitano, told it like it is. I’ll put the relevant clip for you below, in case you missed it.) Pace AG Barr’s BS attempts to minimize the damage, the Mueller report is devastating to your boy, the Donald.

          And, contrary to your assertion above, I never said there was a “conspiracy” between Trump and Russia. What I said, and what you denied, but what is borne out in spades by the redacted Mueller report, is that there was “a sweeping and systematic” effort (as the Mueller report puts it) by the Russian Federation to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election, and that Donald Trump and his campaign willingly encouraged those efforts and accepted that help. As the Mueller report states (right at pages 1-2):

          … the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and the Trump Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through the Russian efforts …

          But, hey, as long as you’re here, let me ask you a question, and step up to the plate on this one, no waffling: Did former White House counsel Don McGahn commit perjury when he testified that Donald Trump ordered him to fire Robert Mueller, and that Trump then later directed McGahn to issue a statement lying to the American people about Trump having ordered him to do so?

          Anyway, here’s your clip:

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted April 27, 2019 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

            Oh, and …


          • rustybrown
            Posted April 27, 2019 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

            “And, contrary to your assertion above, I never said there was a “conspiracy” between Trump and Russia.”

            Oh really? You, a short time ago:

            “Trump’s lawyers’ memo admits that he dictated his eldest son’s dissembling press release regarding the June 8, 2016, Russian-collusion meeting at Trump Tower”


            “In addition, there were numerous incriminating contacts between the Russians and the Trump campaign, and numerous suspicious actions taken by Trump vis-a-vis Russia both during the campaign and since he took office. There is also now extant an indictable case of obstruction of justice against Donald Trump.”


            There’s plenty of evidence of collusion — from the “Moscow project,” to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, to Trump’s call-out to “Russia, if you’re listening,” to the change in the GOP’s 2016 platform regarding the Ukraine, to the communications with Wikileaks, to the shenanigans with Russia during the presidential transition period.”


            “Despite this lack of direct communication, I think the evidence will be overwhelming that there was a conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 encompassing Trump and Russia — the same type of evidence of conspiracy on which Americans are convicted on every day of the week in US federal courts, and for which they are then sentenced to substantial time in federal prison.”


            “The second was providing the special counsel’s office with “useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contacts with [Trump] Company executives during the campaign.” (emphasis added). What is “core” to the Mueller investigation is the Trump campaign’s cooperation with Russians in rigging the 2016 presidential election.


            “I believe we will see criminal charges against people from Trump’s inner circle (and, eventually, articles of impeachment against Trump himself) alleging “collusion” — viz., a Trump-Russia conspiracy to unlawfully influence the 2016 election (in addition to obstruction of justice, perjury, and a host of other criminal charges).”


            “Trump may well turn out to be some sort of Russian “Manchurian candidate.”

            And you also wrote this gem:

            “Let’s not forget that the bastard was ready to undermine American democracy with all his blather and bullshit about the 2016 election being “rigged” when it looked like he was going to lose. This nation as an ideal, and the institutions and norms that undergird it, means nothing to him.”

            Holy shit! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! It’s quite apparent that YOU’RE the one blathering and bullshitting about rigged elections!

            So your either lying or you can’t remember what you were thinking about this issue a short time ago. I can’t decide which one is more pathetic. Either way your record for being wrong is pretty impressive. Bill Kristol may have work for you.

            You’re also wrong that I ever denied that the Russians meddled in the 2016 election. In fact, I remember specifically saying that I’m sure there’s a certain amount of meddling from many different countries in our elections going on all the time, and we do the same to them.

            And I’m happy to answer your question about McGahn: Who knows and who cares? Your concerns have devolved from Trump colluding with Putin to steal the Presidential election to Trump disagreeing with an employee.

            But by all means keep beating that drum! Dems should run on trivial nonsense like that and their desire to restore voting rights to Dylan Roof and Trump will run on his bitchin’ economy.


  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 27, 2019 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Have you actually read the Mueller report, rustybrown? You haven’t have you? Because it by and large bears out everything said above. Mueller found plenty of evidence of Trump-Russia collusion — including well over a hundred contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians (whereas the Clinton, Romney, McCain, and Obama campaigns combined had zero) — but determined there was insufficient evidence to support criminal conspiracy charges, not for want of trying by both sides, but because the Trump campaign was too uncoordinated for Russia to conspire with. (And as to the indictment of people in Trump’s inner circle, there are 12 ongoing criminal investigations specified in, but redacted from, the Mueller report, so we shall see.)

    And your answer as to the question regarding Don McGahn –“Who knows and who cares?” — is so pitifully Trumpian: That’s the lie Trump himself tells every time he gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar — the endorsement of David Duke? “I don’t know who he is or what white supremacy is”; Michael Flynn’s lies to the FBI? “I haven’t heard anything about that”; Michael Cohen’s hush-money payoffs to a porn-star and playmate? “I don’t know anything about that; you’ll have to ask Michael”; the intelligence reports that Kim Jong-un continues to enrich uranium and advance his missile program? “I don’t know about that,” and on and on and on.

    You really don’t care that a hostile foreign power undertook a massive effort to interfere in our last US presidential election (not, as you’ve characterized it, the usual, simple fuckery that one government sometimes pulls on another) and that Russia is gearing up to do it again in 2020 (and that Donald Trump has done and said nothing to discourage it, indeed appears again to be welcoming it)? Really?

    And you don’t care that the president of the United States engaged in a widespread, long-term effort to obstruct the investigation of that election interference and his role in it (as detailed in Volume II of the Mueller report) — and that he has abused the powers of his office, and has continually lied to the American people, in doing so? Really?

    Now, that is pathetic.

    • rustybrown
      Posted April 28, 2019 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      “Clinton, Romney, McCain, and Obama campaigns combined had zero (contacts with Russians)”

      Whoo boy. Wrong again, Ken. You actually believe modern presidential campaigns have zero contacts with Russians? I can’t imagine how crazed one would have to be to make that absurd claim. Just one infamous example:

      “This is my last election … After my election I have more flexibility,” Obama said, expressing confidence that he would win a second term.

      “I will transmit this information to Vladimir,” said Medvedev, Putin’s protégé and long considered number two in Moscow’s power structure.

    • rustybrown
      Posted April 28, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Just for kicks, one more thing you’re wrong about (I’ll have to stop here because pointing out your fallacies and distortions could turn into a full time job): your malicious smear that Trump didn’t disavow David Duke and white supremacy. 

  14. rustybrown
    Posted April 28, 2019 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Here’s a shortened version of our discussion:

    Ken: “I never said there was a Trump/Russia conspiracy!”

    Rusty: “Yes you did Ken, here are several examples of you saying exactly that.”

    Ken: “And I was absolutely right!! There IS a Trump/Russia conspiracy!!”

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 28, 2019 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      Here’s the difference between you and me, rustybrown:

      Even if I loved the current president — even if I thought he was George Washington times Abraham Lincoln squared — I would still want to know all the facts regarding any assistance he received from a hostile foreign power in getting elected. And I would expect that president to want the same. I would also expect that president to level with the American people and to take measures to prevent such hostile foreign interference from occurring in the next election. And, if that president obstructed justice regarding that investigation, I would want him or her called to account, either by the justice system, or by the United States congress. After all, American democracy is much more about the processes and norms and traditions by which we elect our government than about who gets to prevail.

      You, quite obviously, do not share those sentiments.

      • rustybrown
        Posted April 28, 2019 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

        What self-righteous sophistry and hypocrisy. You claim to care about Democracy and rule of law yet you’re remarkably uncurious about the origins of the Trump/Russia hoax in which there’s ample evidence of a soft coup to overturn a duly elected president. You’re apparently fine with a sitting president using the government to spy on an incoming president. I’ll wager you were fine with all of the talk of subverting the Constitutional process of the electoral college to reverse the outcome of the election after Trump was elected but before he was sworn in. And you’re certainly fine, even giddy with an opposition party engaging in never-ending witch hunts to hound and hinder a sitting president.

        You carry on about “processes and norms and traditions” yet are conspicuously silent on your side running on open borders, scrapping the electoral college, lowering the voting age to 16, and packing the Supreme Court.

        Save the sanctimony, Ken.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 28, 2019 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          I’m through, rustybrown. There’s no reaching someone caught up in the throes of a cult of personality. Especially one for whom the main defenses — “Who knows and who cares?” — are ignorance and apathy.

          Dialogue won’t do; you need deprogramming.

          • rustybrown
            Posted April 28, 2019 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

            Not surprised you’re tapping out; you’ve got nothing. For the record though, “Who knows and who cares?” is not my main defense. It’s my specific answer to your frivolous concern regarding a disagreement between Trump and McGahn; a story in the current news cycle that I’m sure Rachel Maddow has spent countless hours “investigating” (and you’ve spent watching) but will ultimately prove to be just as fatuous as all of your other talking points.

            My main defense is debunking your bogus claims, as outlined above.

          • rustybrown
            Posted April 28, 2019 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

            Oh, and here’s a cogent rebuttal by Dershowitz to the Napolitano opinion you posted:


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