We ended the last episode in March 2001, at the point where Junior flushed several years of international diplomacy, insulted a
Nobel laureate, and kicked off a sure-enough crisis all in one day by being the asshole that he is.
This timeline from the Arms Control Association provides more details of what happened in March 2001:
March 6, 2001: At a joint press briefing
with the Swedish foreign minister, Secretary of State Colin Powell says that the administration “plan[s] to engage with North
Korea to pick up where President Clinton left off. Some promising elements were left on the table and we will be examining
March 7, 2001: In a New York Times op-ed, Wendy
Sherman, former special adviser to the president and secretary of state for North Korea policy, writes that a deal with North
Korea to eliminate its medium- and long-range missiles and end its missile exports had been “tantalizingly close” at the end
of the Clinton administration.
After a working meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung
at the White House, President George W. Bush tells reporters that he “look[s] forward to, at some point in the future, having
a dialogue with the North Koreans, but that any negotiation would require complete verification of the terms of a potential
agreement.” According to Clinton administration officials, the issue of how to verify a missile deal remained one of the final
stumbling blocks to a successful arrangement. Bush also questions whether Pyongyang is “keeping all terms of all agreements.”
Just prior to Bush’s comments, Powell amended his remarks from
the previous day, noting that if “there was some suggestion that imminent negotiations are about to begin—that is not the
March 13, 2001: North Korea, apparently reacting
to Washington’s new tone, cancels ministerial-level talks with Seoul. The talks were intended to promote further political
March 15, 2001: Pyongyang threatens to “take thousand-fold
revenge” on the United States “and its black-hearted intention to torpedo the dialogue between north and south [Korea].” The
statement, issued by the Korean Central News Agency, called Washington’s new policies “hostile” and noted that Pyongyang remains
“fully prepared for both dialogue and war.”
Bush's foreign policy was off to a brilliant start.
In April 2001, the Shrubster was put on notice he was playing
in the big leagues when a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet in Chinese air space. The U.S. crew had to make an emergency landing
and were taken into custody by the Chinese, who demanded an apology from Bush. The Bushies eventually realized there were
limits to what they could achieve by blustering, although this lesson seems to have been quickly unlearned. There's a BBC
News archive of the incident here, and a good analysis here.
In June 2001 (see timeline), the Bushies sent signals that they were prepared to engage in bilateral talks with the North Koreans. Some
meetings were held to work out the details of these talks. Through the remainder of 2001 the North Koreans appeared to
have settled down a bit, and in any event after September 11 the Bushies were focused elsewhere.
Still, Kim Jung Il let it be known that he wasn't going to make
diplomacy easy. On January 1, 2002, he announced a military build-up to meet the threat of U.S. aggression.
Bush responded to this by pouring fuel on the fire. On January
29, 2002, he made his famous "axis of evil" remark in the SOTU speech, and also criticized North Korea for “arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.”Two days later, the North Koreans declared Bush's speec was "little short of a declaration of war."
Just a week later, on February 5, Colin Powell restated the Bush Administration's willingness to engage in bilateral talks with North
Korea at "any time, any place, or anywhere without any preconditions."
A pattern is established -- Colin Powell at least puts on a good act
of being diplomatic and smoothing things out, and then Georgie Boy stomps into the room and throws his toys around and makes
Later in February 2002, President Bush paid a visit to South Korea.
While hundreds of protesters marched against Bush and burned
home-made U.S. flags, and 20,000 riot police kept order on the streets, Bush talked with Kim Dae Jung.
Worldwide controversy over Bush's speech last month
labeling North Korea, Iran and Iraq an "axis of evil" has been strong in U.S. ally South Korea, where 70 percent of the public
disapproved of the characterization.
In a news conference after his talks with President Kim, Bush stood by his tough words, saying North
Korean leader Kim Jong-il had to earn his trust, but that the United States had no intention of attacking the North.
"I will not change my opinion on Kim Jong-il until he frees his people and accepts genuine proposals
from countries such as South Korea to dialogue," Bush said.
"I am concerned about a country that is not transparent, that develops weapons of mass destruction,"
Whoops! But George W. Bush was riding high
and feeling very sure of himself, or full of himself, whichever.
Some 11 months ago, Bush included North Korea in an "axis
of evil" with Iran and Iraq in his 2002 State of the Union speech. And on a visit to South Korea, he visited the 38th Parallel
demilitarized zone and in a deliberate echo of President Ronald Reagan at the Berlin Wall, he called on the North's leaders
to "tear down this DMZ." So far, Kim Jong Il has not complied with his demand. [Martin Sieff, "Deadly Adversary Kim Jong II," UPI, December
Standing atop a sandbag
bunker and protected by bulletproof glass, U.S. President George W. Bush peered through binoculars at North Korea on Wednesday
and bluntly called it "evil."
... Among the things Bush could see were
North Korean signs written in large, white Korean characters with slogans such as: "Anti-America" and "Our General is the
best" -- a reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
Bush spent about 10 minutes atop the bunker and then he and Secretary
of State Colin Powell sat down to a lunch of cold cuts, potato chips, fruit and cookies with about a dozen U.S. soldiers who
help man the post 24 hours a day.
Again, notice the
pattern -- the President trots out in public and struts about, talking tough for the home crowd. But according to this timeline, while in South Korea Bush expressed support for the Sunshine Policy, the same policy he had dissed in
In March 2002, Bush refused to certify
North Korea's compliance with the 1994 Agreed Framework, but said the U.S. would continue deliverying oil for energy to North
The much-compromised Judith Miller
wrote (with David Sanger):
For the first
time since North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear activities in exchange for foreign aid, the United States will refuse
to certify that the country is complying with its commitments under the accord, a senior administration official said today.
But in what appeared to be an effort to forestall a diplomatic crisis
with one of the countries that President Bush listed as part of the ''axis of evil,'' he will inform Congress that he has
also decided to continue fulfilling America's obligations under the accord.
The official said Mr. Bush would waive, in the interest of national
security, the certification of North Korean compliance that Congress now requires. That would enable the United States to
continue providing North Korea with fuel oil under the agreement.
Mr. Bush's decision strikes a delicate political balance.
On the one hand, it may satisfy conservative critics of the agreement,
who contend that while North Korea may have halted activity at its main nuclear site, at Yongbyon, the country may be continuing
to develop nuclear weapons at hidden underground sites.
On the other hand, it enables the administration to avoid a breach
with Japan and South Korea, which strongly support the 1994 accord with North Korea. That accord was initiated by the United
States after a dangerous confrontation with North Korea in spring 1994 that Clinton administration officials now say came
dangerously close to setting off a military conflict. [Judith Miller and David Sanger, "U.S. to Report North Korea Is Not
Meeting A-Pact Terms," The New York Times, March 20, 2002]
In other words, Bush's two-faced policy was the result
of trying to appease the hard-line troglodytes in the Republican Party while also trying to appease Kim Jong Il just enough
so that he didn't nuke Japan. (Or Alaska. Or Sacramento.)
But what happened next is still inexplicable. It was either a
monumental screwup or some lamebrain Bushie tactic that backfired, or both.
In September 2002, the North Koreans announced they would behave
and extend their long-range missile moratorium. They also made some ambiguous noises about keeping their nuclear weapons commitments.
This was the result of meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
October 3-5, 2002: James Kelly, assistant secretary of
state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, visits North Korea. The highest-ranking administration official to visit Pyongyang,
Kelly reiterates U.S. concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, export of missile components, conventional
force posture, human rights violations, and humanitarian situation. Kelly informs North Korea that it could improve bilateral
relations through a “comprehensive settlement” addressing these issues. No future meetings are announced.
Referring to Kelly’s approach as “high handed and arrogant,” North
Korea argues that the U.S. policy “compels the DPRK to take all necessary countermeasures, pursuant to the army-based policy
whose validity has been proven.”
October 16, 2002: The United States announces that North
Korea admitted to having a clandestine program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons after James Kelly, assistant secretary
of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, confronted representatives from Pyongyang during an October 3-5 visit. Kelly
later explained that the North Korean admission came the day after he informed them that the United States was aware of the
program. North Korea has denied several times that it admitted to having this program.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher states that "North Korea's
secret nuclear weapons program is a serious violation of North Korea's commitments under the Agreed Framework as well as under
the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, its International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards agreement, and the Joint North-South
Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Boucher also says that the United States wants North Korea to
comply with its nonproliferation commitments and seeks "a peaceful resolution of this situation."
Announcement of the "clandestine program to enrich uranium for
nuclear weapons" set the American punditocracy into overdrive. Rightie bobbleheads hit every radio and television talk show
they could find, screaming that North Korea had been cheating on the 1994 agreements all along, and didn't that prove that
Clinton's appeasement policies was a policy for suckers and wimps.
The part of the story that rarely bubbled to the surface is that
the 1994 agreement primarily had been about plutonium, not uranium. North Korea's plutonium processors were
still sealed in October 2002. The North Koreans were still in compliance with that part of the agreement. As I explained
in Part 1, uranium is to plutonium what an auto parts junkyard is to NASA.
On October 4, 2002, the United States suddenly confronted North Korea
with a damning accusation: that it was secretly developing a program to enrich uranium to weapons grade, in violation of the
1994 agreement that Pyongyang had signed with Washington to freeze its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Since North Korea had cheated,
the Bush administration declared, the United States was no longer bound by its side of the deal. Accordingly, on November
14, 2002, the United States and its allies suspended the oil shipments they had been providing North Korea under the 1994
agreement. Pyongyang retaliated by expelling international inspectors and resuming the reprocessing of plutonium, which it
had stopped under the 1994 accord (known as the Agreed Framework). The confrontation between North Korea and the United States
once more reached a crisis level
Much has been written about the North Korean nuclear danger, but one
crucial issue has been ignored: just how much credible evidence is there to back up Washington's uranium accusation? Although
it is now widely recognized that the Bush administration misrepresented and distorted the intelligence data it used to justify
the invasion of Iraq, most observers have accepted at face value the assessments the administration has used to reverse the
previously established U.S. policy toward North Korea.
But what if those assessments were exaggerated and blurred the important
distinction between weapons-grade uranium enrichment (which would clearly violate the 1994 Agreed Framework) and lower levels
of enrichment (which were technically forbidden by the 1994 accord but are permitted by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
[NPT] and do not produce uranium suitable for nuclear weapons)?
A review of the available evidence suggests that this is just what
happened. Relying on sketchy data, the Bush administration presented a worst-case scenario as an incontrovertible truth and
distorted its intelligence on North Korea (much as it did on Iraq), seriously exaggerating the danger that Pyongyang is secretly
making uranium-based nuclear weapons. This failure to distinguish between civilian and military uranium-enrichment capabilities
has greatly complicated what would, in any case, have been difficult negotiations to end all existing North Korean nuclear
weapons programs and to prevent any future efforts through rigorous inspection. On June 24, 2004, the United States proposed
a new, detailed denuclearization agreement with North Korea at six-party negotiations (including the United States, China,
Japan, Russia, South Korea, and North Korea) in Beijing. Before discussions could even start, however, the Bush administration
insisted that North Korea first admit to the existence of the alleged uranium-enrichment facilities and specify where they
are located. Pyongyang has so far refused to confirm or deny whether it has such facilities; predictably, the U.S. precondition
has precluded any new talks.
This is turning into a bigger project than
I'd estimated it would be, as I keep finding new stuff. But tune in tomorrow (I hope) for Part 3, when maybe I'll get to the
present North Korean flap. Or not.
They [righties] think the Iraqi people have finally sent America those
long-awaited flowers and sweets, when Iraq's voters just gave them the (purple) finger. Judging by the millions of votes already
counted, Iraqis have voted overwhelmingly to throw out the US-installed Ayad Allawi, who refused to ask the United States
to leave. A decisive majority voted for the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA); the second plank in the UIA platform called for "a
timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq".
There are more single-digit messages embedded in the winning coalition's platform.
Some highlights: "Adopting a social security system under which the state guarantees a job for every fit Iraqi ... and offers
facilities to citizens to build homes"; the alliance also pledges "to write off Iraq's debts, cancel reparations and use the
oil wealth for economic development projects". In short, Iraqis voted to repudiate the radical free-market policies imposed
by the former chief American envoy Paul Bremer and locked in by a recent agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
I really will get to the second part of the North Korea post tomorrow.
But first, there are some other random things I want to comment on.
First, as you may have heard, Eason Jordanresigned from CNN. That stomping sound you hear in the distance is the Right Blogosphere Victory Dance.
I don't have a strong opinion about Eason Jordan, as I don't know enough of the facts
to know exactly what he said, or whether there might be some truth to it, or exactly how hard he was pressured to
resign, or where that pressure came from, or a lot of other things. And I'm not so big a fan of CNN to feel protective
of its editorial management. But the way he was pressured to resign worries me.
David Neiwert posts about the slime thrown at Eason Jordan by the righties to drive him out of his job:
What has proceeded apace is a classic right-wing blogosphere witchhunt.
Some have even put together an "Easongate" blog. It's obvious that, after "Rathergate," right-wing bloggers have concluded
that the way to make a name for yourself is to take down someone from the "MSM," even if it's a little-known executive for
a cable network. They're calling for his dismissal, as are members of the D.C. conservative pundit class.
aren't outraged. They're hunting pelts.
Regarding our other press controversy, one of the shamelessly hypocritical technoweenies
who writes for Little Green Footballs -- to which I do not link -- wrote this about the Jeff Gannon scandal:
INDC Journal has a post on the Atrios/Daily Kos internet lynching of Jeff Gannon.
I must be getting jaded, because I find this despicable behavior from lefty
bloggers to be completely unsurprising. This is just a particularly vile case of the same below-the-belt tactics these people
use all the time.
I was on the receiving end of some "tactics" generated by LGF last fall. There's
nothing quite like picking up the phone and hearing vile language and threats from one of LGF's readers. I couldn't
answer my phone for three days. I had to shut down the comments on this blog for about five days because of the gentle attention
of LGF readers and the interesting comments they were posting.
There is absolutely no limit to the hypocrisy of these jerks. Language can't get
close to expressing how despicable they are.
Just thought I'd mention that.
Typically, the righties are too dishonest to even admit to the real issues
surrounding Jeff Gannon. They've persuaded themselves that he's being targeted by the "liberal media" because he's a conservative. Not
so, as explained by Eric Boehlert in today's Salon. The real issue is "how a partisan novice reporter working for a fake news organization was able to gain
regular access to White House briefings." See also this post at The Carpetbagger Report.
New item: I apologize for not being all over the new 9/11 report and the way the White House tried to suppress it. There's only one of me. Maybe I can get to that after North Korea.
I'm interrupting the history of North Korea for another rant, which is
my long-time contention that all ideologies are wrong.
I call this the Ideology of No-Ideology.
My dictionary defines ideology as "A set of doctrines or beliefs
that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system." Doctrine is "A principle or body of principles presented
for acceptance or belief, as by a religious, political, scientific, or philosophic group; dogma." A belief is "Mental
acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something: His explanation of what happened defies
belief. Something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group
And so on. I define ideology as a kind of cognitive filing system. The cosmos
is an infinitely complex place, and we have very finite brains, so as we grow and learn we tend to organize input in certain
ways to make sense of it. The way we learn to file depends a lot on our upbringing, the social and cultural values we absorb,
our experiences, the limitations of our intelligence, etc. etc. We use cognition to interface with absolute reality, breaking
the awesome absolute down into little digestible relative bits that we can comprehend, label, and file. And we all do this,
unless maybe you are a superduper Einstein-level genius, and then I suspect you still do it most of the time.
When I say that all ideologies are wrong, I don't mean they are all wrong about everything.
Most ideologies are partly right, or relatively right, about at least some things. But none of them are always and absolutely right
We might define wisdom as the ability to recognize a truth that doesn't
fit one's old cognitive filing system, and then to change the system to accommodate the truth. But hard-core ideologues can't
do that. Instead, they reject the truth, or twist it around somehow so that it fits the ideology.
If you've ever tried to argue with or explain something to an ideologue, you know
what I'm saying. You can hold up plain, unadulterated fact, in technicolor, with a note from God, but if it doesn't fit into
their cognitive filing system they won't even look at it. They get hostile and defensive and even violent rather than look
at it. That's because they perceive a threat to the integrity of their filing system as a personal threat, and it frightens
Therefore, a wise person doesn't take ideology too seriously, or at least keeps whatever
ideology he adopts loose and fluid enough to be able to accommodate new facts and truths as they come along.
Ideologies are to cognition what a pitcher plant is to a fly. A person is introduced
to an ideology and recognizes in it some truth, some perspective, that reverberates well with his own experience. OK.
But then he adopts more and more of the ideology, and is sucked deeper and deeper into it, until he is no longer capable of
recognizing reality if it bit his butt. He's living at the bottom of a pitcher plant and thinks that's what the whole world
Beliefs are problems because beliefs are what we use to fill in the blanks
of knowledge. If something is a plain fact, we don't have to believe in it, because we know it. I don't
have to believe I have fingers, for example, because I'm keyboarding with 'em right now. If there are phenomena we
don't quite understand, our human brains naturally construct beliefs to make sense of them. But when people become so attached
to beliefs that they freeze out knowledge when it turns up, that's a problem.
As Mark says, what's needed here is something beyond "meetings or traditional
coalitions around particular shared interests," which we do already have. What's needed, in short, is a real ideology
that, as such, has adherents. The adherents would, of course, specialize to some extent as people always do. But what we have
right now is really a coalition of lots of micro-ideologies and micro-interests that happen to collaborate with one
another from time to time on this or that. I also liked the point earlier in Mark's post (which, again, will be echoed in
my piece in the very different context of national security) about the problems with the over-technocratic mindset of too
many leaders on the left.
The problem is that for many years progressives have been marching in the many different
directions of many pet issues -- environmentalism, civil rights, labor, health care, feminism -- and instead of working together
we compete with each other for funds and attention. In the Decembrist article linked above, Mark Schmit quotes Ted Nordhaus:
A critique similar to the one we've made on environmentalism could be made
of many other movements -- women's rights, abortion rights, anti-war, criminal justice, labor, and so on. Each of those so-called
movements has turned itself into a special interest in defining the problem narrowly and offering technical policy solutions
instead of an inspiring vision.
And later in this post, Schmitt writes,
We can't possibly find ways to move society forward as long as everything
is put neatly into boxes labeled "environment," "health care," "campaign finance reform," "low-income programs," "pro-choice,"
etc., and the coalitions that exist are made up of representatives from those movements. Trying to force environmentalists
to think about health care doesn't solve the problem either. We need a whole new structure, built around a convincing narrative
about society and the economy, and a new way to fit these pieces together.
This is right. But don't talk to me about ideologies. I don't trust 'em.
Vision, yes; principles and values, yes. I'll even take on a doctrine or two, within reason. But keep the ideology, thanks.
If you want to see what ideology does to the brain, read this rightie blog post that comments on the Matt Yglesias and Mark Schmitt posts I've discussed. The post is titled "How do you justify
your existance?" and the blogger asks,
Without venturing into a normative judgement of the propriety of the liberal
philosophy -- at the end of the day, I don't think a political philosophy can be "right" or "wrong", except in matters of
internal consistency, and the reliability of its assumptions -- one has to ask oneself: why does modern political
liberalism not have an organizing principle?
So this is followed in the comments by the standard crapola that liberalism
stands for "More government. More taxes. More welfare," so I challenged the commenters to explain the "organizing principle"
of the current Republican Party. And here are the answers:
"... its organizing principle is based in the right of an individual to
the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. That tends to see that party favor less government, lower taxes and less intrusion
at least traditionally. They see defense as one of the few legitimate functions of government (again as a protection of the
"... modern Republicanism is grounded in the idea of using the power of
the state to provide as much opportunity to as many people as possible."
"It boils down to a tendency toward individual rights (Republican)
vs. a tendency toward collective rights (Democrat)."
See what I mean about living at the bottom of a pitcher plant?
The last time those were really the principles of the "modern Republican party," Teddy Roosevelt was president. They've
gone all the way from ideology to mythology. And they go on about how "individual" they are, when the fact is they were assimilated
into the Hive Mind long ago. The Rightie Borg Collective.
That's why I say, no ideology. I prefer to deal with things as-they-are,
whether they fit into patterns, or file systems, or not. I'm a big girl and not frightened by ambiguities.
Further, and I hate to say this, but IMO one problem with many liberal
causes is that many of the worker bees who populate them are too ideological for their own good. Feminism, for example, just
about consumed itself in the 1970s because many of us who just wanted to deal with women's issues like equal pay and child
care were driven off by the hard core who wanted to live on Amazon Planet.
I think liberals need leadership, to give us direction. And we need vision, so
that more of us can see how all the pieces of our good intentions fit together. And maybe a few catchy slogans would
be useful. No ideologies, though, thanks.
One of the great things about writing stuff on the web is that people
let you know what you're leaving out. I need to go back and say a little more about the 1994 agreement worked out between
Jimmy Carter and Kim Jong Il.
for what it's worth, the clintonians
never shipped the two reactors or the fuel oil promised the north koreans. this was on the watch of cohen (dod) & albright
(sos). so technically, while still being a prime dweeb, bush did have some tradition to guide his pea brained policies.
Regarding the reactors -- according to the Arms Control Association, an international consortium called the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) was formed in 1995 to implement the agreement, which included building the two light-water reactors. After several
years of site preparation and negotiations over one piddling thing after another, actual construction began in August 2001,
way behind schedule. KEDO poured the concrete for the first reactor in August 2002, but suspended the project on December
So, technically, it's true that construction didn't begin until Bush's
watch, but this wasn't because of anything Bush did or Clinton didn't do. The North Koreans caused most of the delays,
Regarding the fuel oil, however, the commenter is incorrect. The heating
oil was supplied to North Korea through the KEDO program, not directly from the U.S., but the U.S. was the chief contributor
to KEDO. Through most of the Clinton Administration KEDO was supplying nearly half of North Korea's heating oil needs.
In January 1995, the Clinton Administration arranged for the shipment of
50,000 metric tons of U.S. heavy oil to North Korea. This was followed by a shipment of 100,000 metric tons of oil in October
1995. Starting in October 1996, the United States is to facilitate shipments of 500,000 metric tons of heavy oil to North
Korea annually until 2003 or until the first of the two light water reactors becomes operational. The total cost of the oil
from 1995 to 2003 is estimated at up to $500 million. The Administration financed the initial shipment of 50,000 tons of oil
with $4.5 million from appropriated Defense Department funds designated for "emergency expenses." Foreign aid legislation
for FY1996 and FY1977 allocated $19 million and $25 million respectively for oil shipments in 1996 and 1997. Japan has been
the other major financial contributor. The Administration is discussing membership of the European Union on KEDO's current
three member (the United States, Japan, and South Korea) executive board, which reportedly would bring in $20 million annually
from Western Europe to meet the costs of the oil shipments. It has had little success in securing financial support from Southeast
Asian and Persian Gulf countries.
Republicans mostly hated this agreement and thought the Clintons
were saps for paying millions of dollars to North Korea to not process plutonium. $500 million over seven or so years is a
lot cheaper than war, however.
Another commenter, Tom "The Editor" Sumner, writes,
When D. Rumsfeld was on the board there, didn't ABB sell some key
nuke-building material to North Korea?
Rummy's old outfit ABB won a $200 million contract to design and supply key components for the two light-water reactors that were part of the 1994
agreement. The deal was announced in 1999 and made official in 2000. Rummy was sitting on the Board of Directors at this time.
What happened next will be explained in Part 2.
A few hours ago North Korea announced it had nukes. This was no surprise.
Immediately after this announcement many on the Right Blogosphere blamed Bill Clinton (see random examples here, here, and here). This also was no surprise. These people are ignorant of what really happened in North Korea in the 1990s and on the Bush
Junior Watch, and they form opinons in ignorance. No surprise.
For a detailed history of North Korea and its nuclear program from 1977
to 1999, I recommend this timeline maintained by the Monterey Institute of International Studies. But here is the highly simplified version:
When Bill Clinton became president in 1993 he inherited a ton of unresolved messes
from Poppy Bush. Somalia got most of the headlines, but North Korea was a mess, also. In 1992 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had conducted some inspections in North Korea, but chief inspector Hans
Blix suspected the North Koreans were hiding some stuff and fibbing about other stuff.
Throughout 1993 North Korea and the IAEA inspectors engaged in major head
butting. The IAEA said North Korea had more uranium and plutonium fuel than it was admitting to. Also, the U.S. announced
that it had intelligence, some from satellite photos, that there was a lot of nuclear-waste-related activity going on in North
Korea that had been concealed from the IAEA. Details here.
Although North Korea had both uranium and plutonium, it was the plutonium that really
worried everyone. In the nuclear weapons biz there is a huge difference between plutonium and uranium that news stories
don't always make clear. Very basically, you need vast amounts of uranium and years and years of processing in order to get
enough nuclear stuff to make a bomb. But plutonium is nearly ready to use out of the box, so to speak.
The biggest point of ignorance on the part of the righties has to do with the distinction
between plutonium and uranium, and as I said, lots of journalists, and also lots of politicians, are not clear about this,
either. But now you are informed.
So, even though North Korea had both uranium and plutonium, it was the plutonium
that concerned the rest of the world. The North Koreans were thought to be years away from doing much with the uranium.
But by 1993 it was believed North Korea already had enough plutonium in the can,
so to speak, for at least one nuclear weapon.
In 1994, western intelligence sources realized that a reprocessing complex being built at Yongbyon included a gas
graphite reactor designed specifically for separating plutonium from nuclear waste. This scared the stuffing out of lots of
people. The IAEA believed North Korea was hiding more plutonium somewhere. And then North Korea announced it was restricting
IAEA inspections. Matters came to a head in June 1994, when North Korea relinquished its IAEA membership and all the inspectors
cleared out of the country.
But then along came Jimmy. In June 1994, former President Carter went to
North Korea to negotiate with Kim Il Sung, president of North Korea. These negotiations were a great success. North Korea committed to freezing its plutonium weapons program in exchange for two proliferation-resistant nuclear
reactors and other aid. As President Carter explained,
Responding to a standing invitation
from North Korean President Kim Il Sung and with the approval of President Bill Clinton, I went to Pyongyang and helped to secure an
agreement that North Korea would cease
its nuclear program at Yongbyon and permit I.A.E.A. inspectors to return to the site to assure that the spent fuel was not
reprocessed. In return, the United States and our allies subsequently assured the North Koreans that there would be no nuclear
threat to them, that a supply of fuel oil would be provided to replace the power lost by terminating the Yongbyon nuclear
program and that two modern nuclear plants would also be provided, with their fuel supplies to be monitored by international
inspectors. [Carter, "Engaging North Korea,"
The New York Times, October 27, 2002]
And, in spite of what the righties will tell you, the North Koreans kept
this agreement. The plutonium processing at Yongbyon and elsewhere
stopped, and IAEA inspectors were allowed back into North Korea. The plutonium processors were sealed with IAEA seals.
This doesn't mean all was peaches and cream with North Korea. Kim Il Sung died in
July 1994 and was replaced by his dumber and nuttier son, Kim Jong Il. Head butting and game playing between North Korea and
the IAEA continued. In 1998 there were rumors the North Koreans had broken the IAEA seals on the plutonium processors, but
inspectors confirmed the seals were still in place. Many western intelligence agencies
believed North Korea had resumed processing uranium, however. Consensus was that this situation required watching
but was not an immediate concern. Also in 1998, North Korea tested a long-range ballistic missiles.
On the other hand, South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, elected in 1998, began a
"Sunshine Policy" to lessen tensions and build reconciliation between North and South Korea. In June 2000 the North and South
Korean leaders held a historic three-day summit in Pyongyang, the first such contact in 50 years. They signed a pact in which
they agreed to work toward reunification. Kim Dae Jung was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000.
So here's where we stood when Bush II became President: Kim Jong Il was (and remains)
a genuinely horrible leader whose people were starving, and western intelligence agencies at least suspected he
was processing uranium. But relations with South Korea were improving, the IAEA was still inspecting, and the plutonium
processors were still sealed.
But then there was Bush.
Kim Dae Jung came to Washington in March 2001 to pay respects to the
new U.S. President Bush and ask for his support for the Sunshine Policy. And what happened?
Bush dissed him, that's what. The arrogant little twerp snubbed a Nobel
Prize winner and friend to America. And when word of the snub reached North Korea, the "Sunshine Policy" died.
The late, great Mary McGrory wrote:
We should perhaps remember that President Bush has never liked talking to
Koreans. His first overseas visitor was the estimable Kim Dae Jung, whom Bush snubbed.
Bush, as he was eager to demonstrate, was not a fan. Kim's sin? He was instituting
a sunshine policy with the North, ending a half-century of estrangement. Bush, who looked upon North Korea as the
most potent argument for his obsession to build a national missile defense, saw Kim, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, as nothing
but trouble. He sent him home humiliated and empty-handed. [McGrory, "Bush's Moonshine Policy," The Washington
Post, December 29, 2002; emphasis added].
As a reaction to Bush's unexpected hard-line stance, North Korea cancelled
scheduled reconciliation talks with South Korea.
Tomorrow, come back for Part II, in which Bush's continued carelessness and arrogance finally pushed North Korea into resuming
plutonium processing. I'll also explain how really bad reporting gave the impression that the deterioration of relations with
North Korea was the fault of the Clinton Administration.
Yesterday I wondered which blogosphere story -- Eason Jordan's or Jeff Gannon's -- would first break through to exposure in establishment
media. Wonder of wonders, it may be that Mr. Gannon is winning.
A news google for "Eason Jordan" reveals that Jordan-gate is still mostly
a rightie web wonder, although it has received some big-city newspaper attention. The newspaper stories include the Howard Kurtz article in the Washington Post(for which the righties are remarkably ungrateful), an article in the Miami Herald that says the initial Internet report of the story came from a Broward County businessman who attended Davos, the Boston Globe(media/entertainment section), and the New York Sun, which is a rightie propaganda rag that no New Yorker I know admits to reading.
Today, Power Line blogger The Big Trunk is p.o.'d because a Wall Street Journal editorial on the matter brushed Jordan-gate off as not that big a deal. This may be significant, because I believe the Wall
Street Journal editorial page to be the official disseminator of White House/GOP talking points.
WSJ may be signaling the troops to back off, for some reason. (Could it be that the White House doesn't want
an investigation of the allegation that troops targeted journalists? After reading this Body and Soul postI suspect that's a possibility.) On the other hand, the WSJ editorial was written by an eyewitness
to the incident, so I suppose there's a remote possibility the writer was just being honest.
Of course, to say that the story is getting media attention is not the same thing
as saying it's getting accurate media attention. The Fabulous David E deconstructs a predictably lame interview of Howard Kurtz by Wolf "Leslie" Blitzer. See Digby's take, also.
On the plus side, the indispensable Keith Olberman gave a report on last night's
Countdown on MSNBC that skillfully brought together the diverse strands of the growing Gannon story. Even better, Olbermann recognized that
the real scandal is not Gannon's homosexuality, or even his porn sites, but the fact that an obviously phony journalist
got White House press credentials and appears to have been working in collusion with the White House. And better, Gannon seems
to have played a role in outing Valerie Plame. Via the Left Coaster and Nomad 559 at Democratic Underground, you can watch the video here.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-New York) wrote a letter to President Bush asking for an explanation for Gannon's admittance to White House briefings.
Click here to see the video of Rep. Slaughter's interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN.
As David E might say, "Sing Out, Louise!"
Sour grapes from the Right -- Mens' News Daily reports, "The Leftwing Media Gets Their [sicsic; double grammar error there] Scalp: Jeff Gannon Resigns from Talon
Congrats to World o' Crap for being front and center on this story and getting mentioned (deservedly) on television and in newspapers. Also in blogs
-- Giblets creates a Gannon replacement, and Max takes a long view of blog-driven news.
I've written before about the tendency of righties to get fired up about
saving fetuses, which they call the "pre-born," while ignoring high rates of mortality among infants, or the "post-born."
See, for example, here and here.
Four months after Peterson's arrest for the killing of his wife, Laci, and
their unborn son, Conner, Bush last April signed into law the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, making it a crime to harm a
fetus during a federal offense. A Bush campaign ad slammed Sen. John Kerry for opposing the legislation, dubbed Laci and Conner's
Twenty-nine other states have similar laws, and at least four of them passed the laws in the wake of the Peterson
case. About a dozen more states are considering such legislation. ...
Infuriating women's groups is what they consider
the dichotomy of conservatives' support of laws to prevent abortions, coupled with their opposition to laws targeting
violence against women.
"It's unsettling that there is so much concern for the fertilized egg and so little
concern for the battered woman," Gandy said.
Congress and most of the state legislative bodies that have approved laws
to protect unborn victims of violence, for example, have rejected alternative legislation that would have strengthened penalties
for crimes committed against pregnant women.
Perkins said that's because the alternative laws, invariably introduced
by pro-abortion-rights legislators such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), do not specifically recognize fetuses as living
beings. "They want to stand with the women but deny the children," he said.
In other words, extreme righties do not recognize women as living
beings, or at least not human beings. They want to protect the fetus, but not the mother, and they don't seem to give a bleep
about children once they are born.
It's possible the righties are just confused. I have created a handy-dandy
field guide to help them sort through the confusing diversity of life forms on earth:
Also today, Achidne of the Snakes looks at laws that punish mothers for passing harmful drugs through their umbilical cords to a fetus. Opponents
of these laws say they discourage women from revealing their addictions and getting help for them. Proponents of the laws
say that when an addicted pregnant woman uses drugs, it's no different from giving drugs directly to the child.
In other words, in this view, the woman is just a passive vessel undeserving of consideration.
Echidne calls such cases "another example of the problems that appear when
people are viewed as containing other people in the manner of those Russian babushka dolls, and when the insert-people are
regarded as independent for legal purposes."
Perhaps another clip 'n' save guide is in order --
The Right Blogosphere is on an all-Eason-Jordan-all-the-time loop, as
is much of National Review Online. (If the name "Eason Jordan" doesn't ring a bell, catch up here.) Clearly, that ol' liberal media is engaged in a scandalous cover up, the righties say.
To better understand this issue, I've been watching the rightie critters
(with binoculars, from a remote location) and have been making notes on their behavior in their natural habitat.
Only if someone finds documentation that Donald Rumsfeld ordered U.S.
sharpshooters to target journalists, with Bush's permission, after Alberto Gonzales prepared a memo saying that shooting
journalists was perfectly legal. Then, maybe. Otherwise, not.
Malkin, remember, is the same individual who responded to Bush's plans to raise prescription
prices for veterans as "Another Deceptive Democrat Talking Point," demonstrating how much Malkin actually cares about our troops. See the update to this post for my comments on Malkin. And also note that she wrote her blog post on "deceptive democrat talking point" before any Democrat
or leftie blogger of note had reacted to the news story on veteran benefits. This is an example of "proactive snarking." Remarkable
Via Steve at No More Mister Nice Blog, Ann Coulter (species: macresco bardus female canis) told Larry "fuzzy math" Kudlow that shooting journalists would
be a good thing.
Steve asks, "Explain to me again: Why is Ward Churchill a pariah and Ann Coulter isn't?"
This requires some background. You can get background on this issue from Media Matters, which the Brainster links to, not noticing that Media Matters is David Brock's organization, and David Brock ... well, you
know. More background from Kos. See also World o' Crap and AMERICAblog.
In a nutshell, the gay person allegedly witchhunted is a fake journalist working for a fake news service who somehow got
credentialed to the White House press pool. The "journalist," who goes by the psueudonym Jeff Gannon, has been helping
White House Press Stooge McClellan, and the President also, get through press briefings and press conferences by asking softball
and change-the-subject questions at critical times. The Media Matters page linked above documents this. It appears
that some behind-the-scenes coordination has been going on between the White House and Gannon, although I'm sure everyone
involved denies this.
Better, various people have dug around the Web and discovered that Gannon also owns and operates some gay porn and prostitution
Even better, John in DC at AMERICAblog seems to have found gay-bashing articles on the web page of Gannon's fake news service, Talon, some written by Gannon himself, although the stories John linked to
have been yanked.
Just imagine if some guy with alleged ties to male prostitution were given
unprecendented access to the White House, and given a White House press pass that didn't even have his real name on it, in
order to throw fake softball questions at the press briefings to help make the president look good.
Now imagine that
president were named Bill Clinton.
Now imagine what would happen next?
I imagine the whole Vast Right Wing Echo Chamber Conspiracy would be all
over that faster'n you can say "Witchhunt."
White House-credentialed fake news reporter "Jeff Gannon" from fake
news agency "Talon News" was cited by the Washington Post as having the only access to an internal CIA memo that named
Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a covert CIA agent. Gannon, in a question posed to Wilson in an October 2003
interview, referred to the memo (to which no other news outlet had access, according to the Post). Gannon subsequently has
been subpoenaed by the federal grand jury looking into the Plame outing.
So, you can see why the only reason the Left Blogosphere is discussing
Gannon is that he's gay.
"Every Hispanic in America is watching," Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch
declared ominously as most Senate Democrats voted last week to oppose the nomination of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general.
What was the senator from Utah implying? Hatch and everyone else knew
perfectly well that Democrats voted against the new attorney general not because of his ethnicity but because they wanted
to hold Gonzales and the White House he served accountable for appalling policies that led to the mistreatment of prisoners.
But playing ethnic politics is more profitable for Republicans than arguing about torture, so Hatch let it rip.
As Dionne points out, it is conservatives, not liberals, who
most often use "political correctness" to sidestep hard issues. And Brainster provides another example.
But the Right Blogosphere is flaming over Eason Jordan because of something he may or may not have said that might
have been insulting to the troops, while the Left Blogosphere is on to a genuine scandal involving the White House engaged
in corruption of the news process.
Which story, do you think, will most likely break through to dead-tree and network/cable media?
Update: Courtesy of No More Mr. Nice Guy, some evidence that maybe some troops are targeting journalists.
There's a lot to blog about today, so stay tuned. But the good news is
that it appears Howard Dean is all but certain to be the next DNC Chair.
We have yet to see if he can do the job, but for the moment I'm happy. This
should send a message to the small but powerful DLC/Lieberman/Beinart wing of the Dem party that no
one is listening to them.
It can be argued that Dean may not understand how to win elections, but at the moment
that's not the most critical issue. To survive, the Democratic Party absolutely must pull its head out of its butt
and reconnect to its base. (You remember the base, guys? Us little people outside the beltway who are supposed to carry
water for you even if you don't listen to us?)
I think Dean understands this. Go, Howard!
Kos has a thread going on what we can do to support Dean and bring about some much needed reform in the party.
As I mentioned this morning, it seems the entire Right Blogosphere is
consumed by the "Eason Jordan scandal," an issue that was a bit off my radar. So I looked into
This much is certain: Eason Jordan is executive vice president and chief news executive of CNN. He attended the world Economic Summit at Davos, Switzerland,
in January. At some panel discussion at Davos, Jordan said something about the deaths of journalists
in Iraq that has set the entire Right Blogosphere foaming at the mouth and calling for Jordan's blood.
This much is not certain: Precisely what Jordan said and what he meant by it.
Richard Sambrook, Director of BBC News, was present when Jordan said the controversial
thing and issued this statement about it:
Eason's comments were a reaction to a statement that journalists killed in
Iraq amounted to "collateral damage". His point was that many of these journalists (and indeed civilians) killed in Iraq were
not accidental victims--as suggested by the terms "collateral damage"--but had been "targeted", for example by snipers.
He clarified this comment to say he did not believe they were targeted because
they were journalists, although there are others in the media community who do hold that view (personally, I don't). They
had been deliberately killed as individuals-- perhaps because they were mistaken for insurgents, we don't know. However the
distinction he was seeking to make is that being shot by a sniper, or fired at directly is very different from being, for
example, accidentally killed by an explosion.
Some in the audience, and Barney Frank on the panel, took him to mean US troops had deliberately set out to kill journalists. That is not what he meant or, in my view, said;
and he clarified his comment a number of times to ensure people did not misunderstand him. However, they seem to have done
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who attended the World Economic Forum panel
at which Jordan spoke, recalled yesterday that Jordan said he knew of 12 journalists who were killed by coalition forces in
Iraq. At first, said Frank, "it sounded like he was saying it was official military policy to take out journalists." But Jordan
later "modified" his remarks to say some U.S. soldiers did this "maybe knowing they were killing journalists, out of anger.
. . . He did say he was talking about cases of deliberate killing," Frank said.
Jordan denied that last night, saying he had been responding to Frank's
comment that the 63 journalists who have been killed in Iraq were "collateral damage" in the war. "I was trying to make a
distinction between 'collateral damage' and people who got killed in other ways," Jordan said last night. "I have never once
in my life thought anyone from the U.S. military tried to kill a journalist. Never meant to suggest that. Obviously I wasn't
as clear as I should have been on that panel."
In some of the cases, "with the benefit of hindsight, had more care
been taken, maybe this could have been avoided," Jordan said, referring to shootings that involved mistaken identity. But,
he said, "it's a war zone. Terrible things happen."
Kurtz says that David Gergen, who was also present at the incident, backs up Jordan's
version of what happened.
A number of pundits who were not present at the incident have jumped
in, anyway. Larry Kudlow -- television bobblehead, alleged economist, and a man with decidedly quixotic notions of "accuracy"
-- calls Jordan "the CNN news executive who slandered the U.S. military without a shred of evidence to back his claims," and
says CNN should fire Jordan. I've read some of Kudlow's columns, so I can't understand why not having evidence of
something would bother him. I guess what set him off was the slander of U.S. troops.
But Kudlow has forgotten that "coalition troops" is not the same thing as "U.S.
troops." They might have been British. And don't forget Poland.
A blogger with the cute fantasy title of "The Moderate Voice" says that Howard Kurtz
had tarnished himself by making excuses for Jordan, even though Kurtz doesn't seem to have done anything but report what people present at the Davos
panel discussion were saying. Never mind; everything Kurtz ever writes from now on is suspect, says the Voice. "The Moderate
Voice" was endorsed and linked to by a number of rightie bloggers.
In summation: The righties are certain that Jordan accused U.S. soldiers of targeting
journalists for death, and they want him skinned for it. Anyone who says that maybe Jordan didn't say exactly that is a liar
and collaborator and ought to be skinned, also. The more moderate righties are demanding that somebody -- either CNN or the
World Economic Forum -- produce a tape of what Jordan said, so that after they have the evidence in their hands they can skin
him with impunity. If CNN cannot comply, probably more people at CNN should be skinned.
Further, the Eason Jordan scandal is the most important thing happening on the planet
right now. Forget the budget; forget Social Security; forget the continuing guerrilla war in Iraq; even forget the Middle
East cease fire that may have Condi's fingerprints on it. None of these issues are noteworthy. All that matters is Eason Jordan
and punishing him for what the righties believe he said, whether he said it or not.
... ask yourselves how a seasoned newsman’s passion for the protection of
the lives and safety of those who carry out their work in the most dangerous of situations (to show us the truth) is, by any
standard, “unprofessional”. I would have to say just the opposite. The values Eason Jordan appears to espouse involve a concern,
caring, and a call for the utmost protection for those who serve in the field of journalism.
We all know that war is a risky place for journalists. The Iraq war is a public
action carried out, in my name and yours, by our government. The lives of those who serve the journalism corps in the middle
of a war zone deserve every bit as much care and respect as the soldiers (the ones with the guns, I’d like to remind you).
I don’t think Eason Jordan should be professionally crucified for what we
can liken to a motherly nature when discussing a delicate matter (out of the public eye, for the most part - the
Jan. 27 Davos session was supposed to be off the record).
Those who are hot on Eason’s trail are only those who wish to inflict some
political damage on the few in the mainstream media who still possess extreme courage of conviction. This is not a case of
Dan Rather using fake documents. This seems to be more of a case where a professional journalist has called, in his own fumbling
way, for better judgement and a higher degree of care and liability on on the part of U.S. military in choosing their targets.
(For every target is, indeed, a choice and requires responsibility and accountability).
It seems to me that Jordan's point may have been that journalists killed by bullets
are not "collateral damage." Maybe not; I wasn't there. But neither was the "Moderate Voice," or Larry "fuzzy math" Kudlow,
or any of the bloggers at Instapundit and Little Green Footballs and elsewhere who are calling for Jordan's blood. So I figure
my interpretation is as good as any.
Keith Olbermann on low-rider pants: "If I really wanted to see your backside, I would
buy you dinner."
None of the movers and shakers at the World Economic Forum in Davos thought
the Bush administration was serious about cutting the budget deficit, and they appear to have been right. ...
... the degree to which the Bush administration had proved to be a welfare
programme for the already rich was obscene, but it did not seem to be a subject people talked about. In the land that gave
us The Great Gatsby, it was simply accepted that these people had a right to their permanent tax cuts.
According to the Financial Times, some two-thirds of the deterioration in
US public finances since 2001 is accounted for by 'revenue shortfalls', ie tax cuts . Yet all the emphasis in the budget proposals
is on cutting spending - wounding for the poor, but not so significant overall as to make more than a $15bn (£8bn) dent in
the $400bn (£215bn) deficit between this year and next. ...
... The overwhelming consensus at Davos was that there was a huge crisis
in the making. The only question was when it would hit. One leading international economist said: "There is certainly going
to be an explosion sometime, when people lose complete confidence in the dollar. It may be in 10 months, but it may be in
10 years. "
No wonder Dick Cheney swears he will never run for president. Even a
quick peek at the astonishingly dishonest federal budget the administration released yesterday shows that President Bush and
his veep plan on leaving ticking time bombs behind when they get out of town four years hence. By general agreement, the government's
finances are lacking in elementary credibility. That's now. What is less well understood is how much of Bush's budgetary buffoonery
is meant to become apparent after his successor is in office.
In some cases the proposed cuts would work directly against Bush's own core
goals, including protecting against terrorism. States and cities would see federal aid for homeland security cut back sharply,
and support for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be reduced by 9 percent, jeopardizing their ability to
fight potential biological terrorism.
The reason for the austerity of this budget, Bush concedes, is his pledge
to put some limits on the mountain of debt he is piling up. But the main causes of annual deficits topping $400 billion are
the series of wealthy-friendly tax cuts, hefty increases in the Pentagon budget, and costs related to the Sept. 11 attacks.
The deficits were not created by domestic social programs, and it is shameful that Bush would seek to bail himself out by
squeezing them. By proposing to cut programs that mostly benefit low-income Americans while insisting that big tax cuts for
the wealthy be made permanent, Bush betrays his role as a national leader only days into his second term.
Administration supporters often try to explain the deterioration of the budget
picture in three words: war, recession, and terrorism.
That explanation does not satisfy. The FY 2006 budget includes no funding
for the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. The cost of those operations will be in addition to the numbers cited above. The costs
of war, therefore, do not explain the gaps.
The recession ended about three and a half years ago. If I claim on a Monday that the dog ate my homework, when I have still not
turned in the assignment by Friday, the excuse falls flat. When the 2002 budget was prepared, the economy had been expanding
for a decade. Was it really so difficult to predict that a short, shallow recession might
occur within the next four years?
What about terrorism? The FY 2006 budget asks for a little under $50 billion
for Homeland Security. The shortfall from the FY 2002 budget projections is more than $600 billion. The Homeland Security
budget accounts for 1/12 of the gap.
There are two ways to treat a president's budget proposal. The realistic,
even cynical, method is to unmask the various bits of budget gimmickry involved, to assume that some aspects are dead on arrival,
and to view the document as the administration's opening gambit in a long political chess match. The other is to take it seriously,
as the administration's idealized vision of what government should be. Either way, the fiscal 2006 budget proposed yesterday
by President Bush is breathtaking -- in the first approach as farce, in the second as tragedy.
President Bush's latest deficit-steeped budget,
for all its tough talk of reining in spending, stands out as a monument to misplaced political capital. It would take some
hard work, indeed, to get Congress to face up to the binge of deficit spending that is haunting the nation and future generations
of taxpayers. Yet Mr. Bush is not going to face the music. Instead, he's investing his precious re-election clout in pushing
a wildly expensive plan to divert some Social Security payments to private accounts, a step that would not even address the
long-term financial problems with the current system. His proposed budget, meanwhile, is a picture of reduced revenue and
swollen pockets of hidden spending. The lip service about draconian clampdowns will hardly solve the problem, particularly
in the eyes of the international markets that are studying the administration for signs of commitment to closing the budget
Even as President Bush proposes significant cuts in healthcare, farm subsidies
and other domestic programs, his new budget makes one thing clear about the legacy of his first term in the White House: The
era of big government is back.
Bush's $2.57-trillion budget for 2006, if approved by Congress, would be more than a
third bigger than the 2001 budget he inherited four years ago. It is a monument to how much Republicans' guiding fiscal philosophy
has changed over the 10 years since the GOP's Contract With America called for a balanced budget and abolition of entire Cabinet
On the other side of the spectrum, this story says there's a Wall Street Journal editorial (not available online to nonsubscribers) that actually says,
"Hooray for the Deficit," thundred The Wall Street Journal from the top of
its editorial, which praised the deficit for being "the main, and perhaps the only, reason we may finally get some federal
"The White House is finally asking Congress to choose
between guns for the war on terror or more domestic spending," said the economic daily, for whom runaway government spending
is the real culprit of the deficit.
How, exactly, is Congress being asked to choose between guns and butter when the
guns (for Iraq and Afghanistan) are off the budget?
Or, what the blogosphere is and is not saying about Condi Rice's
role in the new Middle East cease fire.
Some good news from the Middle East --
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas declared
Tuesday that their people would stop all military or violent activity, pledging to break the four-year cycle of bloodshed
and get peace talks back on track. [Associated Press]
Let's hope it's for real this time.
This announcement comes at the end of a two-day summit in Egypt. Egyptian Prime Minister
Hosni Mubarak appears to have been the initiator of the summit as well as the host.
Condi Rice zipped in on the eve of the summit (which she did not attend) and got
her picture taken (separately) with Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas. Some U.S. news stories gave the impression
that the cease-fire was Condi's doing. Maybe it was, and maybe she only inserted herself into something that would have happened
anyway. I can't tell.
As this story says, Condi's visit was the first direct U.S. involvement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a year and a half. Were the
Bushies waiting for some positive developments so they could step in and take credit?
But I noticed that Mubarak announced the summit on February 2, the same day as the
SOTU. And in his SOTU speech, Bush asked Congress for $350 million to support Palestinian economic, political, and security
reforms. Perhaps there has been behind-the-scenes coordination between the White House and Mubarak, and if so that's a good
thing. Credit where credit is due.
But what I really want to talk about is the reaction of the Blogosphere. And so far
there hasn't been all that much reaction, from Left or Right.
That may be because some of us older folks are a bit jaded about Middle East cease-fire
announcements. They come along every so often, like flowers in spring, but never seem to last. Or it may be that it's not
clear what part the U.S. played. And the Left is absorbed in domestic issue right now, notably Social Security.
Still, you'd think the Right Blogosphere would be all over this. It makes their boy
look presidential, and it appears to be some kind of coup for Condi. But I surveyed a few major rightie sites --
Vodkapundit, the Rottweiler, Instapundit, even that site to which I do not link, Little Green Footballs. Nada, as of this writing, unless it's scrolled off their
front pages. I was surprised by LGF, as I thought the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was a major focus for them. But the only
Palestinian-related story on their front page was about a Columbia University professor suspected of pro-Palestinian activism.
(However, these sites are all over the "Eason Jordan scandal," whatever that is.
I suppose I should check that out.)
So, I did a Technorati search for "rice palestinian cease fire." Not a lot popped
up. A couple of "way to go, Condi" posts; that's about it. I did another Technorati search for "Middle East cease fire" and
got a whole lot of posts that said "this is good news, let's be cautiously optistic." No blogs I was familiar with turned
up, so I don't know the political orientation of the bloggers.
Liberals are sooooo quiet these days. It must be because they are truly
devastated by the stunning progress in the Middle East ...
The blogger pointed to four recent "successes": (1) Afghanistan (the boy is getting his news from different sources than
I do, methinks); (2) the Iraqi elections, about which the Left Blogosphere was not at all quiet; (3) Palestinian
elections, which I hadn't noticed was a leftie versus rightie issue -- and they've had elections before, haven't they?
-- and (4) the new cease fire, about which, as I said, the Right Blogosphere isn't saying all that much, either.
I try very hard not to "score" events based on whether they make Bush look bad or good. A Middle East cease fire is a very
good thing. I can't imagine anyone either Left or Right saying otherwise. If the White House played a part in this, that's
fine with me. The White House is still wrong on the economy, health care, Social Security, national security, Iraq (I suspect
the righties still haven't noticed the election results aren't all that favorable to their boy), and just about every other Bush
policy, foreign and domestic. Plenty for me to write about, in other words.
I still want to know what the LGFers will do if Bush gets buddy-buddy with the Palestinians, though. Maybe their heads
will explode. Let's be cautiously optimistic.
Update: 'Scuse the tin foil hat, but I got another awful thought.
Could it be (and I don't pay the closest of attention to the Israeli-Palestine conflict, as you may be able to tell)
that the cease fire was something Colin Powell had been working on, and the reason the White House was so quick to bounce
him after the election was to allow Condi to step in and take credit for it?
One of the chief proponents of the so-called "intelligent design" (hereafter
called "ID") explanation for the origin of species, Michael Behe, writes about ID in today's New York Times.
This article is noteworthy, if only because Behe calls ID a "rival theory" in the
first sentence. Does this mean we can put stickers in all the nation's textbooks warning that ID is "just a theory"?
Behe says ID is a rival theory to Darwinian evolution, but not to evolution
Intelligent design proponents do question whether random mutation and natural
selection completely explain the deep structure of life. But they do not doubt that evolution occurred. And intelligent design
itself says nothing about the religious concept of a creator.
It's my understanding that biologists since Darwin have also questioned
whether random mutation and natural selection completlely explain the deep structure of life; more about that later. And I
understand there are diverse opinions about exactly how mutation and natural selection work to effect change. That's not
the same thing from doubting that they do.
So what is ID? I read all of Behe's article, and based on his arguments my
answer is, hell if I know.
Behe's argument boils down to four major points:
"We can often recognize the effects of design in nature."
"The physical marks of design are visible in aspects of biology."
"We have no good explanation for the foundation of life that doesn't involve intelligence."
"In the absence of any convincing non-design explanation, we are justified
in thinking that real intelligent design was involved in life."
Behe doesn't bother to define exactly what he means by certain critical words
and phrases, like design and foundation of life. This renders his "theory" into something
like primordial soup, out of which all manner of speculative critters might crawl.
I find this mushiness entirely unsatisfactory. I can only guess what
he's calling "design," but I infer he's referring to the fact that most species are fairly symmetrical and have functional
body parts. (Which I think Darwin explained rather elegantly.) Foundation of life could mean life itself and
how it came to be, which is not really what evolution addresses.
But as for the "design" part, is it true that natural selection and random mutation
are inadquate to explain the enormous diversity of life? The scientists at the Digital Life Laboratory at CalTech say otherwise.
The CalTech team created a digital world called Avida, in which simple computer programs
mutate and evolve. Carl Zimmer wrote about Avida in the February issue of Discover magazine. (The full article is only available to subscribers.)
These are digital organisms—strings of commands—akin to computer viruses.
Each organism can produce tens of thousands of copies of itself within a matter of minutes. Unlike computer viruses, however,
they are made up of digital bits that can mutate in much the same way DNA mutates. A software program called Avida allows
researchers to track the birth, life, and death of generation after generation of the digital organisms by scanning columns
of numbers that pour down a computer screen like waterfalls.
After more than a decade of development, Avida’s digital organisms are now
getting close to fulfilling the definition of biological life. “More and more of the features that biologists have said were
necessary for life we can check off,” says Robert Pennock, a philosopher at Michigan State and a member of the Avida team.
“Does this, does that, does this. Metabolism? Maybe not quite yet, but getting pretty close.”
One thing the digital organisms do particularly well is evolve. “Avida is
not a simulation of evolution; it is an instance of it,” Pennock says. “All the core parts of the Darwinian process are there.
These things replicate, they mutate, they are competing with one another. The very process of natural selection is happening
there. If that’s central to the definition of life, then these things count.”
... the Avida team is putting Darwin to the test in a way that was previously
unimaginable. Modern evolutionary biologists have a wealth of fossils to study, and they can compare the biochemistry and
genes of living species. But they can’t look at every single generation and every single gene that separates a bird, for example,
from its two-legged dinosaur ancestors. By contrast, Avida makes it possible to watch the random mutation and natural selection
of digital organisms unfold over millions of generations. In the process, it is beginning to shed light on some of the biggest
questions of evolution.
I'd reprint the whole article were it not for that pesky
copyright thing. But in a nutshell, the computer model has shown that simple things really do evolve into complex things,
and that the wondrous diversity of life on this planet really can be explained by natural selection and mutation. The Avida
project absolutely destroys Behe's arguments, whatever they are.
I did a news google for "Avida" and got two relevant hits, this one and this one, both well worth reading. A news google for "intelligent design" gets multiple pages of hits, however.
This suggests that, on the web, stupid evolves a lot faster than
It is the 2004 deficit that Bush is promising to cut in half, but he's not
starting with the actual 2004 deficit of $412 billion.
Instead, his benchmark is the projected $521-billion deficit
that his Office of Management and Budget estimated a year ago, when the fiscal year was four months old. Using half of that
figure, Bush's goal is to reach a deficit of $260.5 billion.
If Bush were to start with the actual 2004 figure, his
goal would be a deficit of $206 billion — $54.5 billion more.
There are more twists. Bush proposes to cut the deficit
in half not in dollars but as a share of the economy. If the economy grows, as is projected, then the deficit will decline
as a share of the economy even if it does not shrink by a single dollar.
The 2004 deficit was 4.5% of the economy.
So in fiscal 2009 it must be 2.2% or less. That is exactly the average share of the last 43 years, according to the Congressional
And then if you keep big-ticket items like Iraq, Afghanistan, and destroying Social Security off the budget, it almost works.
See, the deficit itself is not important. What's important is the talking points strategy. The Bushies have created
a way for the usual rightie bobbleheads to talk about the budget deficit on radio and television so that it sounds like the
Bushies are actually doing something about it. Without prompting, the Right Blogosphere will pick this nonsense up and repeat
And those of us who see that it's all smoke and mirrors, who are left sputtering that the Bushies aren't really
reducing the deficit, will be labeled "loony lefties" and dismissed.
And was the budget always submitted the day after the Super Bowl? I don't recall.
President Bush's budget would more than double the co-payment charged to many
veterans for prescription drugs and would require some to pay a new fee of $250 a year for the privilege of using government
health care, administration officials said Sunday.
Is there anything
in this budget that calls for one teeny little sacrifice from people who live off inherited wealth and wriggled out of
military service somehow?
"We are being tight," Vice President Cheney said yesterday. "This
is the tightest budget that has been submitted since we got here." But Cheney defended the cuts as measured. "I think you'll
find, once people sit down and have a chance to look at the budget, that it is a fair, reasonable, responsible, serious piece
of effort," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "It's not something we've done with a meat ax, nor are we suddenly turning
our back on the most needy people in our society."
He's right, you know. It's not sudden at all. It's what they've been doing all along.
Vice President Dick Cheney acknowledged yesterday that the federal
government would need to borrow trillions of dollars over the next few decades to cover the cost of the private retirement
accounts at the heart of President Bush's plan to revamp Social Security.
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Cheney said the government would have to borrow
$754 billion over the next 10 years, and conceded that the price tag would involve borrowing trillions of dollars more in
"That's right. Trillions more after that," Cheney said in response to a question.
Dick added that
"The real cost over time is doing nothing," and he's right about that, too. If We, the People and our
representatives in Congress do nothing while these bozos dismantle the economy and every progressive program launched since
the McKinley Administration, we'll all be ruined.
Between 2000 and 2003, the number of people living in poverty rose
14 percent. In 2003, the most recent year for which numbers are available, one out of every eight Americans was poor, a disproportionate
number of them children. The number without health insurance was the highest on record; more Americans went hungry. The poorest
fell further below the poverty line while the richest took home a greater share of national income than ever.
Variation on an old joke -- President Bush must love poor people. He makes sure there are more and more of 'em.
The president would increase the co-payment for a month's supply of a prescription
drug to $15, from the current $7. The administration says the co-payment and the $250 "user fee" would apply mainly to veterans
in lower-priority categories, who have higher incomes and do not have service-related disabilities.
The clearly overpaid Malkin said the $7 copay was "ridiculously low," which is what I feel about taxes paid by the rich
Malkin also says that Bush has increased the budget for the Department of Veteran's Affairs by nearly 50 percent.
This increase is mostly for health care. This increase has been made necessary because of all our young soldiers getting
mangled in Bush's Stupid War. All those hospital wards of brain- and body- damaged troops are expensive.
A section from the Times story that Malkin, somehow, missed:
Veterans groups attacked the proposals. Richard B. Fuller, legislative director
of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, said: "The proposed increase in health spending is not sufficient at a time when the
number of patients is increasing and there has been a huge increase in health care costs. It will not cover the need. The
enrollment fee is a health care tax, designed to raise revenue and to discourage people from enrolling."
Mr. Fuller added that the budget would force veterans hospitals and clinics
to limit services. "We are already seeing an increase in waiting lists, even for some Iraq veterans," he said.
In Michigan, for example, thousands of veterans are on waiting lists for medical
services, and some reservists returning from Iraq say they have been unable to obtain the care they were promised. A veterans
clinic in Pontiac, Mich., put a limit on new enrollment. Cutbacks at a veterans hospital in Altoona, Pa., are forcing some
veterans to seek treatment elsewhere.
Yet, in Malkin World, it is "demagoguery" to criticize the Bushies for expecting veterans to pay for tax cuts for the
Tomorrow, President Bush will submit a budget that "holds the
growth of discretionary spending below inflation, makes tax relief permanent, and stays on track to cut the deficit in half
by 2009." Or, at least that's what Bush said in his Saturday radio address.
The White House will propose spending cuts in these areas, among others:
Grants to local police agencies
Grants to local fire fighters
American Indian schools
The National Park Service
Home heating aid for the poor
The Center for Disease Control
Health programs, including programs designed to respond to terrorist attacks
Farm subsidies (Be sure to read what Brad DeLong says about the farm subsidies.)
But get this -- the budget will not include the costs we're incurring in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Nor will it include any money for Bush's proposed Social Security "reform."
So not only does Bush's budget drain resources from the poor and middle class to pay
for his tax cuts for the rich; the blasted budget is a fantasy because it doesn't include the money hemorrhage in the Middle
The Bushies pulled the same trick with the 2005 budget -- left out Iraq and Afghanistan -- and so far the Bushies have requested $105 billion in supplemental
appropriations for fiscal 2005. And we're only in the second quarter of the fiscal year.
This is not fiscal discipline, people. This is fiscal rope-a-dope.
It seems to me that if Congress were doing its job, it would bounce the fantasyland
budget back to the White House and require that the Bushies include reasonable appropriations for Afghanistan and
Iraq. And if the Bushies refuse, Congress should put a cap on how much "supplemental appropriations" the Bushies can get in
a fiscal year.
As for the cuts -- and we don't know what they all are, yet -- as Stirling Newberry says on BOP News -- "Stop wiggling so much while they scale you."
"The Shia in Iraq are Iraqis they are not Iranians, and the idea that they are going to end up with a government like Iran
with a handful of mullahs controlling the country, I think is unlikely," Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in an interview
with NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
He said Iraq like other Muslim countries would find a way to include Islamic principles into the new constitution, which
will be written after the results of last week's elections are known, without having religion dominate the new government.
Iraq's Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah
Ali al-Sistani and another top cleric staked out a radical demand that Islam be the sole source of legislation in the country's
One cleric issued a statement setting out the position and the spiritual
leader of Iraqi Shiites made it known straight away that he backed demands for the Koran to be the reference point for legislation.
Rummy also said that Iran is "years away" from possessing nuclear weapons. Expect underground testing to begin next week.
The Shiite party won a whopping majority of the vote in last Sunday's
election in Iraq, and now "leading Shiite clerics are pushing for Islam to be recognized as the guiding principle of the new
constitution." This is according to Edward Wong in today's New York Times.
At the very least, the clerics say, the constitution should ensure that legal
measures overseeing personal matters like marriage, divorce and family inheritance fall under Shariah, or Koranic law. For
example, daughters would receive half the inheritances of sons under that law.
On other issues, opinion varies, with the more conservative leaders insisting
that Shariah be the foundation for all legislation.
This is not what the Bushies had in mind. But the Shiites are not
only pushing to make Islam the foundation of their yet-to-be-written constitution; they also insist that Americans keep their
fingers out of the drafting of that constitution.
The Shiite leaders, now the strongest political power in Iraq, have publicly
promised not to install an Islamic theocracy like that of their next-door neighbor, Iran. Even so, Iraq is already starting
to look more like Iran ...
The leading Shiite clerics say they have no intention of taking executive
office and following the Iranian model of wilayat al-faqih, or direct governance by religious scholars. But the clerics also
say the Shiite politicians ultimately answer to them, and that the top religious leaders, collectively known as the marjaiya,
will shape the constitution through the politicians.
Some effects are already being felt locally. In Basra, the second-largest
city in Iraq, where one of Ayatollah Sistani's closest aides has enormous influence, Shiite religious parties have been transforming
the city into an Islamic fief since the toppling of Mr. Hussein. Militias have driven alcohol sellers off the streets. Women
are harassed if they walk the streets in anything less than head-to-toe black. Conservative judges are invoking Shariah in
Although they aren't saying so, seems to me the Bushies ought to
be nervous about the possibility of an Iraq run by mullahs (or moo-laws in Bushspeak). Jim Hoagland writes in today's Washington Post about Bush diplomatic policy toward Iran:
Years of American fumbling for a workable approach toward the hostile
theocratic regime in Tehran have yielded only a single sentence as agreed Bush policy. The sentence, which Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice delivered in fancy dress to the Europeans during her current travels, comes down to this:
The United States will take no action that extends legitimacy to the
ayatollahs in Iran. Pressed, Rice may add: Nada. Zip. No way. Or elaborate diplospeak equivalents.
Even if the new Iraq constitution is mostly secular, there will be enormous
pressure coming from the Shiite majority to run the nation like a theocracy. Bush claimed only 51 percent of the vote in November,
and the Christian fundies took this to be a mandate to run America like a Bible-based theocracy. Word is that the
Shiite party won 66 percent of the seats in the new Iraqi congress.
Moo-laws, here we come.
Update:Oliver Willis asks, "is the creation of yet another hardcore fundamentalist Islamic republic worth the cost of American lives?"
And it is up to Washington to end the pretense of US-Saudi harmony. President
Bush last week referred to Saudi Arabia as one of ''our friends" in the Middle East. But friends don't flood friends' houses
of worship with hateful religious propaganda. We are in a war against radical Islamist terrorism, and Saudi Arabia supplies
the ideology on which the terrorists feed. Until that incitement is stifled, the Saudis are no friends of ours.
Before the Iraq invasion, many of us liberals tried to say that Saudi Arabia
was a much bigger supporter of anti-American terrorism than Iraq was, but the righties shouted us down. If history is our
guide, we can expect the reality of Saudi-sponsored terrorism to slowly sink in to the collective rightie brain,
after which they will scream at us liberals about how this is somehow our fault.
And didn't Michael Moore say something about the Saudis in Fahrenheit 911?
Seems to me (she said, snarkily) that he did ...
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the
president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is
morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918
The War Prayer
I come from the Throne -- bearing
a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be
your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like
unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.
"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has
he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of
Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....
"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered
part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you
in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these
words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into
those pregnant words.
"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also
the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our
hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved
firesides to smite the foe.
"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody
shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown
the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;
help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their
little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the
sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of
the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter
pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded
feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset,
& seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor
& glory now & ever, Amen."
(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire
it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."
· · · · · ·
It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic,
because there was no sense in what he said.