Monday, October 02, 2006

No Soup For You

Things are not looking good for the Republicans in Congressional elections. That's why I thought it was important to accustom my otherwise comfortable and well-fed kids to the coming realities by having them pose in the soup line statues at the FDR memorial in Washington, D.C.


Meanwhile, if you haven't been paying close attention, due to missteps of the Bush administration, the North Koreans tested out a new nuclear bomb earlier in the week, primarily because, as the pundits would have it, the U.S. refused N. Korea's request for bilateral negotiations, instead favoring negotiations with parties in the region as well. Poor Katie Couric was pressing this tagline in an interview with Rice, who answered quite effectively that N. Korea wanted such negotiations for a reason, probably to be able to blame the U.S. for their pre-ordained failure, which is a message that the world is all to willing to agree with. CBS news probably wanted them for the same reason. Katie was clearly overmatched, and just wore a scowl on her face the entire interview, as if she was talking to a recalcitrant child who didn't understand the typical anti-Bush talking points. Of course they are not Katie's talking points - she's merely a puppet who's "tough" interviewing skills never anticipate the possibility that there is a rational answer to such criticisms.

Remember N. Korea was the crowning diplomatic achievement of the Clinton administration, pulling Carter out of the attic to send him to N. Korea to sign a deal that the N. Koreans cheated on from day 1. Now Carter is in the NYT op-ed page blaming Bush. Go figure. His deal accelerated the ability of N. Korea to develop nukes, Madelaine Albright visited the country and smiled widely as the military parade formed a ballistic missile, and its Bush's fault.

In a way, the N. Korean's remind me of the black sherriff in Blazing Saddles. When the sherriff arrives in town to the shock and dismay of the racist border town, as he begins his speech he realizes many in the crowd are cocking their pistols and getting ready to pop him. So he draws his own gun, holds it to his own head, and threatens to blow it off if the crowd doesn't back off, referring to himself in the third person. As one of the townsfolk responds immediately, "that n*&^%er is crazy enough to do it" in alarm, all put their weapons away, and the sherriff lives on. Now, of course, the N. Koreans aren't going to use the bomb on themselves, but the principle is the same - make everyone think they're crazy enough to use it on somebody, and that way you might get what you want. And they probably will.

The efforts to stem non-proliferation are of course equivalent in motive, if not in means, to efforts to pre-emptively strike a would-be enemy before they develop certain levels of capacity for deadly force. The world is now reaping what it sowed in condemning the US efforts of this kind in Iraq. The fact of the matter is only the credible threat of force would keep Iran and N. Korea from developing nukes. Offer them all of the goodies that you care to in exchange for an agreement that they suspend such efforts, and all you do is convince them even more goodies will come when they are successful. They'll other come from Western aid, from sales of nukes to terrorists groups or other interested regimes, or from the ability to bully one's neighbors. After the fact sanctions imposed on leaders who clearly don't give a damn about their starving population won't be very effective, and as in pre-war Iraq, will just draw criticism from the usual suspects about the inhumane sanctions causing widespread deaths in those countries (and it will be the US that is blamed - not the UN; such is the case whenever there is a UN initiative that the US signs onto).


Meanwhile the party that has howled with laughter over Star Wars efforts to develop some ability to defend ourselves against nuclear attack is poised to take over Congress. But at least we know under their leadership that no aging gay Republican representatives will be able to send suggestive text messages to Congressional pages! Whew, that is a load off of my mind. Or do we? Not so many years ago, a Democratic Representative had sex with a teenage male page - he died over the weekend, and Drudge ran a report of the effusive praise he received from Kennedy, Kerry, and others in Massachusetts. The below is from Best of the Web at the WSJ online:

The 1983 Congressional page sex scandal was a political scandal in the United States involving members of the United States House of Representatives.

On July 14, 1983 the House Ethics Committee concluded that Rep. Dan Crane (R-Ill.) and Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) had engaged in sexual relationships with minors, specifically 17-year-old congressional pages. In Crane's case, it was a 1980 relationship with a female page and in Studds's case, it was a 1973 relationship with a male page. Both representatives immediately pleaded guilty to the charges and the committee decided to simply reprimand the two.

However, Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) demanded their expulsion. On July 20, 1983 the House voted for censure, the first time that censure had been imposed for sexual misconduct. Crane, who tearfully apologized for his transgression, lost his bid for reelection in 1984.

Studds, however, stood by the facts of the case and refused to apologize and even turned his back and ignored the censure being read to him. He called a press conference with the former page, in which both stated that they were consenting adults at the time of the relationship. The age of consent was and remains 17 in Washington DC. He stated that this was a private adult relationship, no laws had been broken, and therefore not the business of others to censure them for their private relationship. The people of Massachusetts agreed and he continued to be reelected until his retirement in 1996.

From what I understand, some in the Republican Congressional leadership didn't act very courageously in the Foley affair, but it hardly speaks to the party as a whole. But I understand how people can link the Republicans as a party to the whole sordid mess - I mean, we rely so extensively on support from the North American Man-Boy Love Association, and we've pushed culturally for the sexualization of teenagers for a long time now. I mean, really, has Foley crossed the line if he intended only to have safe sex with these teenagers? Has anyone even asked this question yet? Should we really be condemning him until we know? And do we know if Studds had safe sex? I sense a double standard. Foley, show us the condom and let's Move!


In the category of - I am an academic so blind to my own prejudices that I can write something like this without thinking twice - again from the Best of the Web:

In an op-ed in the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun, one Dennis C. Jett, dean of international studies at the University of Florida, purports to put things in perspective:

In all that has been written and uttered in recent days about the fifth anniversary of 9-11, here is one question that has not been asked: What do boats, bicycles, guns and terrorists have in common? Answer: They all kill about the same number of Americans each year.

Dividing the nearly 3,000 people killed on 9-11 over the last five years gives you an average annual figure of 600. About that number die each year in accidents on boats, while riding bicycles and from the accidental discharge of firearms. (Tens of thousands more die from guns each year, but those are suicides and homicides.) Or put another way, more nonsmokers die as a result of breathing someone else's tobacco smoke every year than died on

The horror of watching the exact moments when thousands of people died was a national trauma, but that shock has been exploited relentlessly since then. . . .

We should never forget what happened on 9-11 nor stop mourning our loss. But we should also not succumb to politically-motivated paranoia and should instead reflect on what 9-11 has been used as a pretext to create: A nation of sheep led by a collection of liars, fools and cowards.

Ah yes, it is so very sophisticated to step back from the herd, with their silly emotions, and explain with cold, raw numbers why terrorism isn't such a big deal.

But we have a few questions for Dr. Jett:

If there were 600 lynchings a year in America, would they belong in the same category as boating accidents?

If 600 Arab-Americans a year were being murdered on account of their ethnicity or religion, would those who consider that a moral outrage of surpassing importance be "sheep" led by "liars, fools and cowards"?

If gangs of thugs were stalking gay bars and beating to death 600 of their patrons a year, would Dr. Jett disagree with those who consider stopping such crimes a higher priority than banning smoking in those same bars?

Just asking.


Blogger Professor Vic said...

I can certainly understand Hatch's outrage at the 600 deaths/year editorial, but I think he misses the point. No one is condoning terrorism or demeaning the 9/11. The question is, how far are we willing to change our society in order to reduce or eliminate these 600 deaths/year?

In the case of boating, we could eliminate all of these deaths simply by banning motorized water sports, but as a country we have decided that this is too high a price to pay for only 600 deaths.

In the case of terrorism, we have decided that suspending constitutional guarantees for suspects, including the right to a trial and the prohibition of torture, and invading Iraq at a cost of roughly 600 American soldiers' lives per year plus hundreds of billions of dollars in monetary costs is not too high a price to pay. It's an interesting contrast.

Of course the Florida dean would be appalled at 600 lynchings or 600 gays being beaten to death per year (as anyone would be, Hatch included, I presume). The question is what would he be give up to eliminate these deaths. If the deaths are easily preventable without giving up significant liberties that we all agree on, then take the necessary steps. If they cannot be eliminated at a low enough cost, then we put up with the carnage.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

Eminently sensible comment, Professor Vic. Only one exception - one can believe that we are taking necessary (and not excessive) steps to avoid such deaths without being a sheep led by liars and cowards. And if it were lynchings, do you really think the argument for restraint in law enforcement efforts would be coming from the campus?

11:12 AM  
Blogger Pulvarizer said...

Ohhh, noooo, the Democrats are coming back to power. I for one am going to buy lots of Campbell's Soup stock. I'm gonna be rich!!!!

I didn't see the Katie Couric / Sec. Rice interview, but if Rice's primary argument for the U.S. not taking part in bilateral negotiations with NK was that NK will simply blame the U.S. for the talks "ultimate" failure seems to miss an important point. If the U.S. does negotiate w/ NK, and as Rice predicts, blames the U.S. for the talks failure, won't the U.S. obtain some measure of high ground, which would create greater leverage in getting the other 6 party figures (namely China and South Korea, to a lesser extent Russia) to fall behind the U.S.’s position? If the U.S. met NK's biggest demand at this point (bilateral talks) and the talks ended up in no workable agreement, most, if not all in the international community would recognize that the North Koreans intentionally destroyed the talks by making unreasonable demands, or acting in a paranoid fashion, as they’ve done in the past. But, at that point, the NKs would have no obvious excuse to continue blaming the U.S., as we met their demand for talks. The U.S. doesn't lose face, as it made a good faith effort to peacefully resolve the crisis, and it would be no worse off strategically, because NK is hell bent on developing nuclear weapons in the absence of talks. So what does the U.S. really lose with talks in the first place? By entering into talks with NK, we take away their biggest gripe, thus gaining leverage without having to give up anything in return.

I hope this wasn’t Rice’s best argument for not entering into talks with NK, because as a strategy, it makes the U.S. seem needlessly recalcitrant. A very ineffective and childish strategy from my view.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

Oh yeah, i forgot about all of the times China and Russia fell in to support the US. If you're banking on that as a strategy, you got problems.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Pulvarizer said...

No, I'm not banking on China and Russia walking in lock step with the U.S. at that point. However, we'd take away their (NK's, China's, Russia's) ability to say the U.S. wasn't doing its part by not entering into bilateral talks. If NK declares the talks over, the U.S. could step back and say, with a very sad look on its face, boy, we sure didn't want the talks to end, as we were hoping that by meeting NK's demand and negotiating in good faith that we could make substantial progress and come to some form of agreement.

At that point, the U.S. would have met NK more than half way, and we could say we did all we could. China and Russia could no longer protest, as we bowed to NKs demand, so the U.S. in turn could say to them now its our turn to make some suggestions, and for other parties to meet our demands. That's how we gain leverage in this whole mess, which we have very little of at this point. Leverage is key in this situation, and any chance to pick up leverage with little to no cost to the U.S. should be persued. So, in this framework, what then is the worst that could happen if we entered into bilateral talks?

2:02 PM  
Blogger Incredible Dirigible said...

The worse thing that could happen would be if we made an agreement with North Korea, & North Korea immediately began cheating on that agreement. Next thing we know, North Korea is nuclear.

Oh wait; that already happened.

6:10 AM  
Blogger Professor Vic said...

If I might weigh in on North Korea, I don't see how anyone can give the Bush Administration's nuclear non-proliferation efforts with respect to North Korea anything but a failing grade. Six year of strong arm tactics have led to a North Korea with nuclear weapons and not much we can do about it.

Now I will not be an apologist for Clinton on this. If someone wants to give the Clinton Adminstration a failing grade as well, I am more than happy to at least have a debate on the topic.

Ultimately, however, the best a Bush defender can possibly say is that "We don't suck at North Korea policy any more than Clinton did." Not much of a campaign slogan...

7:41 AM  
Blogger Incredible Dirigible said...

I can't argue with you, Professor Vic.

While I thought it was reprehensible for Jimmy Carter & the Clintonistas to diss President Bush on this matter without noting their own shortcomings from 1994-2000, you are correct that Bush has been in office for six years & has not stopped North Korea from building a nuke.

Of course, it's interesting to note that with regard to North Korea & Kim Jong, the left seems to accuse Bush of not dealing enough with the apparent threat. And with regard to Iraq & Saddam, the left seems to accuse Bush of overreacting to the apparent threat. Do they want to have it both ways?

8:59 AM  
Blogger Pulvarizer said...

Gents, I don't see how Bush's North Korean policies can be considered anything than complete failures compared to Clinton's. Yes, Clinton entered into negotiations with North Korea, and yes, North Korea ultimately cheated on those agreements. However, under Clinton, we had (1) IAEA inspectors monitoring North Korea's major nuclear sites, and (2) no nuclear bomb tests by North Korea. You're telling me you'd rather trade the reality under Clinton vs. what we have right now? Bush's truculant policies and worldviews have reversed those positive developments and created a great deal of uncertainty and instability. So how then are Clinton's policies just as bad as Bush's?

North Korea is NOT aggressively pushing forward with its nuclear bomb program because the U.S. is soft, or is only offering "carrots," as McCain wrongly criticized Clinton recently. It's because North Korea, namely wild party man Kim Jong Il, seriously and legitimately fears the U.S. will strike or invade North Korea. He's said as much in public. So in a desparate attempt to hold onto power, he's rapidly developing a nuclear bomb capability to deter the U.S. from invading. In fact, both Bush and Rice have publicly stated the U.S. has no plans to invade or attack North Korea in an attempt to assuage Kim Jong Il. Therefore, this notion that North Korea is taking advantange of the U.S.'s softness is unfounded. North Korea wants a deterent capability in fear of a perceived invasion/attack threat from the U.S., which was heightened due to our idiotic invasion of Iraq, a co-Axis of Evil. Bush didn't create the idea and initiative with regard to North Korea developing a bomb, but his policies have recklessly and incoherantly inflamed North Korea's desire to more quickly develop their capabilities.

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Instead of giving your kids soup, give them Chartreuse. Trust me, it keeps them quiet for hours.

4:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


When are you going to post again? My Chartreuse buzz is wearing off.

4:37 AM  

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