January 11, 2003

UH, AREN'T COMMUNISTS SUPPOSED TO BE ATHEISTS?

North Korea is calling for "holy war" against the US. Maybe Kim is just trying to fit in better with his fanatical "axis of evil" partners.
Posted by B. Preston at 06:52 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

CONFESSION OF A TERRORIST

One of the "Lackawana Six"--an alleged al Qaeda sleeper cell rounded up last year--has confessed to attending training in an al Qaeda camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan. Guess they were what they seemed to be--US citizens of Middle Eastern extraction whose loyalties lay with murderers. And they came from firmly middle-class homes, so I don't guess "poverty" or "hopelessness" had much to do with their motivations.
Posted by B. Preston at 06:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 10, 2003

"EUROPEANS SEEK TO REIN IN AMERICAN WAR MACHINE"

Howsat for a headline, huh? Here's one to objectivity, straight from Reuters--and from a reporter by the name of Huda Majeed Saleh, writing from Baghdad. Hmmmm. I'm ordinarily not one to follow stereotypes much, but how surprising is it that Huda Majeed Saleh, writing from Baghdad, would come up with that title? What's surprising (or was once surprising) is that Reuters went with it.

Reuters--the news organ that always puts the word "terrorist" in quotes, and still insists that Osama bin Laden is merely accused of plotting 9-11--gives us that stinking pile of a headline. And the story isn't any better.
Posted by B. Preston at 04:39 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

BIG FISH

Germany has apparently nabbed a couple of high-ranking al Qeada types. They're from Enemy..I mean Yemen.
Posted by B. Preston at 03:32 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

CAMPAIGNING ON THE CONFEDERATE FLAG

On CNN a few weeks back, Bill Clinton accused the entire Republican establishment of campaigning on the Confederate flag in the South, and that that's why they won big down there. It turns out someone is campaigning on the Stars and Bars though--and he's a Democrat.

Hmmmm....where is the uproar from the race-baiting pundit who agreed with Clinton's view?

UPDATE: Kevin beat me to the punch on this one.
Posted by B. Preston at 02:35 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

HAPPY BLOG BIRTHDAY

Mark Byron has been at it for a year as of Wednesday. He's a class act--if you don't already have him as a frequent stop, you probably should.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:08 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

SLEEPER CELLS

The FBI believes there may be 1,000 al Qaeda sympathizers living in 30 US cities. Many may be under the direct al Qaeda control. The FBI has thus far identified none.

Of course, this is the same FBI that thought the DC sniper was a white guy in a white van.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

THE TIPPING POINT

Well, the world woke up to a shocker today--North Korea has withdrawn from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, thus ending the charade that it ever complied with that treaty. Actually, no one who has watched the situation is surprised, while anyone who knows anything about it is concerned. In fact, that seems to be the official buzzword--China is "concerned." Australia, Russia, Japan and the Philippines have "expressed deep concern." And the entire world, with the likely exceptions of China, Cuba, Hugo Chavez' Venezuela and perhaps a handful of lesser rogues, will condemn the North's move. France says it's time to take Pyongyang to the principal's office--get the UN Security Council involved. This may in fact complicate matters with respect to Iraq, already at the head of the line for UNSC discipline. North Korea warns that anything anyone does to even attempt to halt its weapons programs will lead to World War III (they apparently missed the fact that that war is already underway), yet says it is willing to talk with the US. About what isn't at all certain--it has lied, cheated, and stolen, and when caught blames everyone else. What is there to talk about, other than repeating all the ways it is endangering itself, South Korea and the world? Well, perhaps North Korea has a new set of goodies to blackmail from us. It reportedly wants to sign a non-aggression pact with the US, and wants more aid, and would certainly want to talk about that. It's nuclear blackmail, the nightmare of the modern age.

This is the moment of truth for the Bush administration in many ways. Unfortunately, it will be a moment of spin for its political opposites in the press and the Democrat party, who will rev up their opinion vortex engines to pin the whole thing on George W. Bush. The Bush administration faces its greatest test yet, yes, probably greater than 9-11, in defusing the North Korean crisis, and will lack the domestic unity that prevailed after 9-11. North Korea is all the modern world's boogey men rolled into one--a terrorist sponsor, with weapons of mass destruction and the programs in place to make and sell more, systems to deliver those weapons long-range in the offing, and a leadership with so few allies that it needn't care a whit for world public opinion. Its economics are closely tied with China, itself a state that veers into rogue territory and which is not yet disposed to make any serious moves to defuse the situation.

The big question before us now is what to do? The US has an exceedingly weak hand in this high-stakes poker game, while North Korea seems to have the wild cards. It has 11,000 artillery pieces within range of Seoul. It has a million man army just north of the DMZ, which though it could not for long sustain any push south could and would do enough damage to keep South Korea cowed for now. And it has one or two untested nuclear weapons. The US has, to be sure, more than enough might to crush North Korea once and for all, but thus far lacks allied support for any military action. Such action is fraught with danger in any case. South Korea knows its situation is dire; Japan likely eyes the situation with dread, and is privately reviewing its pacifist constitution with the aim of amending it to allow a modest military build-up. In the face of this China may yet change its tune and begin to apply the necessary pressure to bring Kim Jong-Il to heel, but the US lacks any serious leverages against China to see that it becomes more cooperative. China's actions are very much up to China.

The aforementioned Democrat spin machine will crank it up a notch, all the way to eleven, to make sure it's the Bush administration that takes the blame here. In doing so, it will as usual be lying and betraying itself and its members and helpers for the self-interested, mindless political robots that they are. The ultimate blame for all of this must obviously rest with North Korea, which has chosen the path of brinksmanship, and secondarily with China for enabling and South Korea for burying its head in the sand since enacting its so-called "sunshine policy." But domestically, the Clinton administration must now be seen for what it did--when George W. Bush took office in January 2001, the Clinton administration handed him a pair of live grenades with the pins pulled, the clock to detonation already ticking. The first grenade, unchecked global terrorism, has already gone off, and we're at war. The second grenade, the leaky and by design unverifiable 1994 Agreed Framework, went off this morning. North Korea is blackmailing us, holding a nuclear knife to South Korea's throat, demanding that we pay up or the hostage will die. As a secondary threat, the destitute Nortk Korean government will likely open up shop as the leading supplier of nuclear material to our enemies, dramatically increasing the possibility that one or more little Saddams will get the bomb within a couple of years. This situation cannot stand, yet was utterly avoidable.

When the 1994 deal was finalized, conservative Republicans howled that the Clinton administration was appeasing North Korea, giving it aid in exchange for promises. The conservatives argued that North Korea's promises had always been empty in the past, and nothing suggested a change in behavior could be expected. The Clinton adminstration entered the deal anyway, expecting that North Korea's famines of the previous two years surely meant a full collapse was imminent. The Clinton team in essence signed the deal expecting that it would never have to live with it.

And here we are. The world is having to live that that deal, and though the Bush administration, the UN and all of our allies will do what they can to ease the situation, it may now be out of control. The tipping point of war in Korea may be upon us.

UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson assesses the situation masterfully.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:44 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 08, 2003

ALMOST FAMOUS

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his own soul? I suspect Joshua Micah Marshall will eventually know the answer to that question. He was on CNN's Crossfire tonight, spinning North Korea like a tornado. He seems intensely interested in the difference between plutonium and uranium--that difference and how it relates to the present circumstances seems to be his new line of attack against the Bush adminstration. That's a sideshow and he knows it--US intelligence estimates have for years now stated that the North already has one or two nuclear weapons, so the difference between the two programs is moot: The weapons are there, thanks in part to the unverifiable 1994 Agreed Framework. Unfortunately, it's obvious that the real questions never get asked on Crossfire, or they'd ask him to answer the following:

On your blog, you claim (second-hand) that several Clinton administration officials are ready to state on the record that they knew about North Korea's clandestine nuclear program, and that they briefed the incoming Bush team about it. When did they learn of North Korea's cheating? Why didn't they confront North Korea at the time? If they knew about Pyongyang's nuclear programs, why did they continue to deliver the aid promised in the 1994 Agreed Framework, which North Korea was violating? A 1999 Congressional study concluded that North Korea was cheating on the '94 deal. That panel was led by conservative Republicans--is that the reason the Clinton adminstration failed to follow up on it? As you state, the Clinton administration knew of the North's cheating but declined to confront it, and continued to deliver the promised aid anyway. Was this a sensible policy? What possible good could come from such a policy?


You'll never see anyone ask him or any other Clinton toady those questions. They get too close to the truth, which is that Clinton's rank partisanship and his foreign policy incompetence have led us directly to the present situation.

For the record, the totality of the Clinton policy is what we conservatives have been labelling "appeasement" for years: Signing unverifiable agreements (as opposed to treaties, which come under Congressional scrutiny), suspecting that the other party is cheating on the agreement but failing to take up the issue, and delivering on our end of the deal anyway. Has there ever been a more craven, self-defeating policy than that one? Also for the record, and you can look this up here and here, the Bush administration's stance has always been that negotiation isn't appeasment. Since the completion of its policy review in June 2001, the Bush team has been willing to talk to the North, but not with the preconditions the North routinely puts on those talks. Falling for the North's demands would be appeasment, and the Bush administration thus far hasn't done that. In short, negotiation isn't appeasment. Giving away the store and getting nothing in return is appeasement.

By the way, if you really want to see a lie straight from Marshall's cyber-mouth, check out his latest post. He says the GOP "abandoned" the freed slaves to Jim Crow after Reconstruction. Ahem--which party enacted Jim Crow? Which party did Dwight Eisenhower belong to? Wasn't he the one who sent troops into Arkansas to force desegregation? Which party's representatives in the House and Senate voted in greater intra-party majorities to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act? Answers: southern Democrats enacted Jim Crow, after successfully driving the "carpetbagger" Republicans out. Eisenhower was a Republican, and yes, he used the National Guard to desegrate schools and colleges in the 50s. And the GOP voted in substantially greater majorities to pass the '64 Civil Rights Act than did Democrats. In that one simple statment about the GOP abandoning the slaves, Marshall is either ignorant or lying--take your pick.

Oh, one other point (yes, that particular post infuriated me, and not even for the anti-Bush nonsense--I expected that). Marshall says the US betrayed the East European states that fell into the USSR's orbit by force after World War II. That is a monstrous lie. The truth is that after the war, the USSR was in a position to do what it wanted to those states, while the US had essentially two options: Start up a second war to free them, or leave them be. The first option was considered, but ultimately turned down out of consideration for all involved. Allied Europe needed rebuilding, Japan still needed defeating, and the American people were sick of war. There was no support for going east from Berlin and liberating the states that became the Eastern Bloc. To suggest that that constitutes a betrayal is a betrayal of its own: It betrays the decency of America's wartime leaders, and ultimately betrays Marshall's narrow, simplistic view of history. In his world, US relations with North Korea began in 2001, and the relationship was entirely botched by George W. Bush. Anything that didn't work out perfectly with Reconstruction or the ending of World War II constitutes an intentional betrayal. Newsflash--the world isn't Pollyanna perfect. Some things don't work out, not because America or Republicans did a bad thing, but simply because there are other factors beyond anyone's control. Marshall in that post has destroyed what was left of his credibility in my eyes.

I do find it fascinating, though, that on the one hand Marshall will libel Democrats long dead for things they didn't do (such as liberating Eastern Europe), while he will leave no falacious argument unused when it comes to defending his boy Bill. It is obvious why after tonight. You can slander the dead and never have to pay for it, while defending Clinton and trashing Republicans gets you a guest spot on CNN.

UPDATE: InstaPundit wades into the North Korea quagmire, comparing South Korea to Theo Huxtable (the son on The Cosby Show). And strange as it may seem, the analogy holds together. He makes some good points, especially regarding South Korean collaboration with the North's horrors. That's actually become an underground issue both in South Korea and Japan in the past year or two, because both governments knew that the North had been kidnapping their citizens for years yet did nothing to a) stop it or b) make an issue of it in talks with the North. That's changing, thanks to a courageous Japanese mother (her name escapes me at the moment) whose daughter was kidnapped by North Korean agents 20 years ago. The mother has written books (one of which my wife read a month or so ago), pestered successive Japanese governments and done anything she can to highlight her plight. Slowly, Tokyo is showing signs here and there that it may make an issue of the kidnappings. So I think Glenn is on to something when he mentions that collaboration is one reason the South Korean government is hesitant to open up the North. Economics play a role here too, as I've discussed before, but it's important to consider these factors when discussing US relations with South Korea. As I've said before, our interests and South Korea's are to some degree in conflict over the short term, though our long-term interests are compatible: A unified, democratic Korea with a healty relationship with the US. That happens to also be a Chinese nightmare, and isn't exactly high on Japanese priorities, which goes far to answer some of the "why isn't so and so cooperating with us better" questions.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:46 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

DANCING WITH THE PARIAH

No, that's not how I'd describe my senior prom, apt though it might be--it's the description of the US, indeed much of the entire world's, relationship with North Korea. North Korea has the annoying, occassionally dangerous, habit of using brinkmanship to extract concessions from its neighbors to the south, from Japan, from us, even from China and Russia. It does this because it knows it can--none of the other players in the region are willing to match its heated rhetoric, but all will react in one way or another to try and mollify it. It also does this because in some ways it understands American domestic politics better than we do ourselves: North Korea knows that no matter what it does, the US political party in power will get grief from the one that's out of power, weakening our resolve to do much about it while we squabble amongst ourselves. It's with that in mind that we must always view North Korean relations, and the South's reactions to events. Most of what the North says is garbage designed to blackmail everyone else. The South knows this, and doesn't always react as strongly as outsiders might expect, while the US gets left to do all the heavy lifting. And thus, the dance moves.

Josh Marshall's latest reactions to events on the Korean Peninsula are laughably predictable. In fact, in a conversation with an expert on the region I had just yesterday, I posed the following question: Why did the Bush administration choose to confront North Korea about its nuclear weapons program in October 2002, especially with a war in the Middle East looming on the horizon? The answer: it didn't. The Bush administration confronted the North in June or July 2002, and spent subsequent months waiting on the North's reaction. It's likely that that confrontation was based on intelligence the Bush team garnered not only after it finished its review of North Korean relations, in June of 2001, but also on intel the Clinton administration claims to have handed the Bush administration when it took office. I'll leave that aside for the moment. I followed up with the expert, again asking about the timing. Why confront one mad regime when war with another is near? His answer: Because the Bush administration had no choice. It had evidently gathered enough information to make the charge, and did so. Had it sat on the information, and the press gotten wind of it, the Democrats would have howled, demanded hearings, accused the Bush team of "appeasment" and worse. So in today's TPM, Marshall floats the (second-hand) idea that several Clinton administration officials are prepared to testify on the subject, in order to demonstrate that the Bush team has mishandled the whole thing. Score one for the Asia expert--his prediction of Democrat reaction was 100% accurate. The Bush team was damned if it did confront North Korea, and damned if it didn't.

One question this brings to my mind, though, is why didn't the Clinton administration ever confront North Korea about its nuclear program? Its former officials claim to have known all about it. They signed off on the deal that was supposed to make things better. Why let it off the hook? There's undoubtedly more to this story, though I doubt Marshall will dig too deeply.

Marshall also launches into a spin job on the recent Bush line vis a vis negotiations: One day it says it will negotiate with the North, one day it says it won't. What he leaves out is that the North demanded preconditions for any talks, namely signing a non-aggression pact with the US and resumption of aid before it would sit down for any talks. The Bush administration rightly refused, only agreeing to talks once the North dropped its outrageous demands. Should the Bush team have been willing to talk under the North's demands? Obviously not, though they'll never get credit for forcing the North to back down from Marshall.

As for the talk Marshall cites of removing our 37,000 troops--it's simply not serious. Won't happen, at least not in the current context. It's a non-starter, because it not only rewards the North for bad behavior, but also destabilizes the region. That force is in place as a trip-wire against North Korean aggression, and will remain in place. You can take that to the bank.
Posted by B. Preston at 02:01 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

A MULTI-DIRECTIONAL FISKING

In the Civil War, Southern soldiers adhered to the belief that any one of them was worth about three Yankees. In the spin wars, Henry Hanks proves that any one sharp blogger is worth more than three lefty gasbags. He takes on Donahue, Mario Cuomo and Al Franken--simultaneously--and smacks them all down.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 07, 2003

POKER VERSUS CHESS

What to do about the North Korean situation? The military option seems too dangerous, given Seoul's proximity to the DMZ and the possibility of a nuclear exchange. Today, Pyongyang said that sanctions would amount to war, and that it would act accordingly. That's fairly typical of the overheated rhetoric we've come to expect from the North--they get to be the wicked, irresponsible party and can say largely whatever they like, while it's up to the rest of the world to react and keep them in check. So if an overt military strike and sanctions both amount to war, what can we do to keep peace and disarm Kim?

Here's an interesting strategy that I've been pondering for a few days, and about which I can't make up my mind. I like the basic outlook of it--that American foreign policy is essentially similar to poker, while our adversaries are typically of the chess mindset, and that this gives us a distinct advantage. But as to the particulars, dropping "smart spears" on the Yongbyon nuclear weapons factory and threatening to annihilate the North's army via neutron bombs before it can strike--I don't know. It seems to me that the North would blame us for anything that happened to its nuke plant whether we'd actually destroyed it or not, so if we happened to hit it there wouldn't be much of a delay between that act and Pyongyang launching an artillery barrage to level Seoul. Anyhow, check out the linked story. It's very interesting, and gives a bit of insight into some of the angles that are probably being discussed down in DC and in Asia nowadays.

And I do like the poker vs chess metaphor. It seems apt, especially with President Bush.
Posted by B. Preston at 03:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

THE RICIN ARRESTS

InstaPundit has the latest. It does seem ominous that these guys had ricin, an agent known to have been in the Iraqi arsenal.

UPDATE: A few members of the group are believed to be still at large in the UK.
Posted by B. Preston at 03:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

CHAVEZ AND AL QAEDA

Former Venezuelan Air Force Maj. Juan Diaz Castillo, who was once Hugo Chavez' personal pilot, alleges that the Caracas Castro donated $1 million to al Qaeda--after 9-11-01. According to Diaz, Chavez wants to make Venezuela the terrorist capital of South America. Chavez apparently admires Osama bin Laden, and supports North Korea against the UN, the IAEA and the US. It looks like the "axis of evil" may be opening a branch office in the Western Hemisphere. Thankfully, the people of Venezuela seem entirely uninterested in following Chavez.

You can read more about Venezuela's troubles here. It's a site put together by the local resistance movement.

UPDATE: Here's a National Review take on the Chavez/al Qaeda connection. This should be a huge story, if only so we can get at its veracity.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:40 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

MICHAEL MOORE: RACIST?

From a Yasmin Alibai-Brown column in The Independent:

I took my son to see Michael Moore live at the Roundhouse, in north London, before Christmas. The US radical and author of the best-selling book Stupid White Men was (mostly) clever, funny, angry, sharp, iconoclastic and sceptical about the lies and humbug processed by the US government and big business. Sure there were some flunked bits – you expect that, the troughs are part of the adventure, an evening with a well-worn rebel.

What we did not expect was to feel so enraged at one point that we almost walked out. It was when Moore went into a rant about how the passengers on the planes on 11 September were scaredy-cats because they were mostly white. If the passengers had included black men, he claimed, those killers, with their puny bodies and unimpressive small knives, would have been crushed by the dudes, who as we all know take no disrespect from anybody. God save us from such stupid white men, especially now, when in the US and the UK, black people's lives are being ripped to shreds by drugs, lawlessness, fear and frightful violence plus the endless circle of racism, exclusion and incarceration. This is not awesome, Mr Moore; it is a calamity, for descendants of slaves unimaginably more so. (italics mine)


The rest is a sad tale of crime in Britain's streets, and an odd brew of solutions, culminating by blaming Thatcherism for much of British crime's philosophical roots and gun control for arming criminals while disarming the law-abiding. Something for everybody, I guess.

UPDATE: Susanna Cornett, freshly soiled from having watched Moore's Bowling for Columbine, says he's evil too.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

HEADLINES FROM THE LOONEY LEFT

Yup, kiddies, the tinfoil hatters over at Democrats.com have done it again. In today's email newsletter, which I've just received in my perpetually clogged Hotmail account, come these dandy headlines:

Saddam is Right Again - UN Weapons Inspectors are being Shadowed by US Spies

11 Years Ago, BushPowell Used a Big Lie About a Baby Milk Factory to Justify
Civilian Bombing of Iraq

How Does Bush Get Away with Iraq 'W'ar and Korean Appeasement?


As Josh Marshall would say, let's unpack this. Headline #1, "Saddam is Right Again"--um, sorry, I must have missed something here. Nope, there it is--"again." When was Saddam right the first time?

Headline #2, the baby milk factory story from Gulf War I. Let's see, that's the factory that allied planes bombed and that Saddam and his henchmen claimed was actually used to produce baby formula (the Pentagon claimed it was a war munitions plant or some such). On the CNN reports hosted if I remember correctly by Peter Arnett (who later admitted that reporters essentially traded in their press freedom for the ability to report from Iraq during the war), that Iraqi factory was handily labelled "Baby Milk Factory"--in English. And that sign had been hand-written, the ink hardly dry before the journalists showed up to dutifully set the record to Saddam's liking. Oh yeah, must've been true then, huh. Baby milk factory my arse.

Headline #3--now it's the Bush administration that's "appeasing" North Korea? Gimme a break. That's so swift a spin it's a wonder Democrats.com's server hasn't drilled itself into the ground. Appeasement took place back in '94, with Democrats Clinton and Carter leading the way. What kind of alternate universe do these people live in, when the guy who calls North Korea part of the "axis of evil" gets accused of appeasement, while the actual appeasers get a pass? All I know is I don't want to live there myself.

Democrats spin, I unspin. Any questions?
Posted by B. Preston at 12:34 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

DOUBTING THOMAS

Finally, a blog as cleverly named as, well, this one. Doubting Thomas is a new (well, new to me--it's been around since September) blog dedicated to questioning the work of columnist Thomas Friedman, whose opinions often shape Middle East discourse and policy. One to watch...
Posted by B. Preston at 12:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

FAKED OUT

Remember that Christmas Eve terror alert? The one about 19 men who'd infiltrated the US, hoping to wreak havoc over the holidays?

Fake. Turns out the informant was trying to get out of some criminal charges against him, so he made the whole thing up.

Whatever he was charged with before, he deserves capital now. And an especially hot place in Hell for making people jumpier than normal during Christmas.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:05 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 06, 2003

FOUND: ONE HONEST LIBERAL

Frank DeFilippo has been a Democrat consultant in Maryland for decades, helping to elect governors, congressmen, senators, mayors and just about everything else. Since Maryland is likely the most Democrat-ic state in the Union, business has been very good for the self-described "yellow dog Democrat." But on January 15th, Bob Ehrlich will take up residence in Maryland's governor's mansion, the first Republican to do so since Spiro Agnew. While DeFilippo probably didn't vote for Ehrlich, his farewell message to outgoing Gov Parris Glendenning is full of things other than regrets. To put it simply, the dyed-in-the-wool Dem DeFilippo detests Glendenning, and isn't afraid to explain why:

AH, THE loneliness of being Gov. Parris N. Glendening. He's spending his final weeks in office in neo-baronial isolation, an outcast within his own party and a reject by more than half of his constituents.

Mr. Glendening will depart the State House the most disliked governor in modern Maryland history, with 58 percent of his constituents disapproving of his job performance and a Democratic Party that is leaderless and lacking a central intelligence. His only influence on politics these days is bad karma.

He leaves behind a deficit of more than a billion dollars and a CliffsNotes sham to fix it, a couple of grand jury investigations, an attempt to rig the Board of Regents for personal gain, a divorce and quickie marriage, a pension scam, a discredited redistricting plan, cheap-shot remarks about the defeat of his understudy and just a general bad feeling that folks are unhappy and glad to see the Glendening era end. Nobody wants the man around.


And Mr. DeFilippo's just getting warmed up:

Mr. Glendening's eight years have simply reinforced the notion that power corrupts. During those years, however, Mr. Glendening successfully depoliticized the Democratic Party as an institution and reconstituted it as the party of Glendening. And he did it like some manic Machiavelli, using state funds as the political equivalent of walk-around money, buying up groups the way political bosses used to buy votes on Election Day.

Begin with labor unions.

Mr. Glendening unionized the state's college campuses by passing out bargaining rights that at some point will have to be settled with tuition increases. And he awarded collective bargaining to state employee unions that will be a future burden to taxpayers, much as they caused Mr. Glendening to leave Prince George's County broke and in debt. Service unions are the new Democratic Party in Maryland.

But there's more than any single deed that has caused Mr. Glendening to be an outcast in his own state. Distrust has been the watchword in the State House. It used to be said that a politician's word is his bond. As applied to Mr. Glendening by legislators, the dictum became: If you go up to visit the governor, make sure you take a witness.

As if to underline Mr. Glendening's mendacity, recall that he pulled the old dipsy-doodle on Kurt Schmoke, then Baltimore mayor, on slot machines. Then, after being trapped by his own lie, he became puritanically anti-slots - after presiding over the biggest gambling operation in Maryland as Prince George's executive.

Add to that Mr. Glendening's subscription to the political dictum "Don't get mad, get even." To wit: In Dundalk, the good burghers can testify to the meaning of getting even on redistricting because of the vote by state Sen. Norman Stone, against Mr. Glendening's gay rights bill. And U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin can explain how considering running against Mr. Glendening cost him half of his familiar congressional district.

Many returning legislators are moaning over having to clean up the mess Mr. Glendening is leaving behind, when, in fact, they were willing accomplices for eight years.

Even idiosyncratic Comptroller William Donald Schaefer managed to turn public sentiment against Mr. Glendening by using the Hilda Mae Snoops fountain as a metaphor for a petty, vengeful governor.

The sum of Mr. Glendening's transgressions adds up to a large constituency of relieved citizens, legislators, lobbyists, state employees, Democrats, Republicans - you fill in the remaining blanks. So from now until Jan. 15, Mr. Glendening is almost a forgotten man - confined largely to ceremonial occasions, walking his pet pooch on the mansion grounds. Whatever budget he presents will be largely undone by his successor, Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who already smells a setup.

Instead of being remembered for Smart Growth, Mr. Glendening will be remembered as a smart aleck. And nobody likes a smart aleck.

Moral: What goes around comes around.


Glendenning has spent the weeks since Ehrlich's stunning victory setting the new gov up for a fall: changing regs here, shifting around budget priorities there, all in an effort to harm the new governor before he's even had a single day in office. DeFilippo's litany of the longer-standing charges against Glendenning should serve as a nice outline for Ehrlich as he drafts his first State of the State address, which he'll deliver in March.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

EGADS!

We've lost it all now, might as well not even fight. Glenn Frazier has gone anti-war on us. Ya gotta see it to believe it...

(strangely enough, it didn't kill me to link to him. hmmm)
Posted by B. Preston at 11:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

IT'S A DARK, WONDERFUL LIFE

The Sarge reviews the Christmas classic, finding it one of the most realistic films around. And he's right--it's hardly the pablum-soaked fare Hollywood treats us to on the side of happy films today, yet not the blood-soaked kind of action picture we get today either. It's real, full of hopes and dreams and loss and pain. Well, as real as a film can get that has angels named Clarence gadding about trying to fix lives in small town America.

I do have one small nit with Sarge's take, though. He mentions the galaxies chatting in the opening scene (they're supposed to be angels). Sarge says they're the Magellanic Clouds, a couple of dwarf galaxies that orbit the Milky Way. They're actually Stephan's Quintet, a group of galaxies interacting and crashing into each other. Don't ask me how I know this--it involves RKO and the $10k they wanted from my employer regarding a video I once produced.

I ended up turning the angels into WWF-style wrestlers, to save the money.
Posted by B. Preston at 04:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

WHITHER SOUTH KOREA?

When Dr. Norbert Vollertsen lived in North Korea as part of the charity group German Emergency Doctors, he witnessed an unending scene of horror: Young men, mysteriously beaten, left for dead by the side of roads the regime's elites travel every day. Hospitals lacking drugs, disinfectant, syringes, even soap. Children by the hundreds left in ramshackle orphanages, their parents dropped down the memory hole for unknown crimes against the state. The notorious Japanese Red Army operating in the open, the wives of two of its most infamous hijackers appearing at events with Kim Jong-Il himself. Workers from international relief agencies turning a blind eye to all of it, living the high life in Pyongyang while the downtrodden North Korean citizens barely subsist.

Upon exiting the North, Dr. Vollertsen began to publicize what he had seen hoping to drive the international community to do something to end the madness north of the DMZ. Soon, the good doctor began to receive threatening phone calls, warning him to stop, trying to shut him up. As he details in his book Diary of a Mad Place, those calls came not at the behest of Pyongyang, which had already revoked the honors it had bestowed on him and declared him an enemy. The threats came from the South Korean government, a government whose soldiers Dr. Vollertsen had seen beating North Korean citizens attempting to cross the DMZ and gain their freedom.

Why would the South Korean government threaten a doctor dedicated to exposing the horrors of North Korea? Why would South Korean troops beat North Koreans trying to escape?

The answer to the second question is easier to discover than the first. South Korea fears, rightly, the intentions of anyone crossing the DMZ from North Korea whatever their stated reason for doing so. In the past, the North has used any and every pretext to gain entry into the South, and it's possible that any "refugees" might in fact be North Korean agents, sent south for nefarious purposes. Additionally, the South wants to discourage refugees from trying to cross the DMZ en masse, for reasons military and economic. A mass of refugees fleeing the North could in fact be a mass of soldiers and spies in disguise, but even if the refugees are legitimate they pose an economic threat to the South. Seoul has studied the reunification of Germany, and come away with a sobering lesson. West Germany was able to absorb East Germany largely because the West was so prosperous at the time. Had reunification come at a more dicey point in its economic life, reunification would have been much more painful, possibly sending the German economy into a depression. South Korea, while prosperous when compared to North Korea, believes it is in no position to absorb the destitute North. So the calculation is that the South will wait it out until the economics improve, or until the Kim regime is replaced with something better. In answering the second question, we have also actually answered the first. South Korea threatened Dr. Vollertsen because his words exposing North Korea could touch off an international push to cripple or even topple North Korea, forcing reunification before the South believes it is ready.

It is on this point that US and South Korean interests diverge, and it's key to understanding the public differences Seoul currently airs with Washington. South Korea wants a go-slow approach with the North because it believes it cannot yet absorb the North; Washington wants to bring Kim to heel, and is interested ultimately in toppling him both as a sponsor of terrorism and a threat to regional stability. Our interests are in conflict.

Add to this the recent case of two US military members who in an auto accident killed two South Korean girls. South Korean notions of justice in such cases are very different from our own. The soldiers were tried and acquitted by American courts-martial, touching off a firestorm of controversy that rages to this day. This set of events is no more the Bush administration's fault than it was the Clinton administration's when several Marines raped a young woman on Okinawa several years ago. Then, as now, the host nation's public opinion temporarily turned against the entire concept of American troops basing on their soil. Okinawan public opinion on the matter is still volatile, while Tokyo seeks to balance things by, on the one hand acknowledging the value of American defense, and on the other hand seeking some solution to Okinawan anger. Seoul, on the other hand, has been less friendly to America's defense and less able to mollify public anger.

And so relations between Washington and Seoul have soured, at the precise moment when conventional wisdom would suggest they should warm. Conflicting regional interests combined with local political realities have had at least as much to do with this turn as have any actions on the part of the Bush administration, and probably more. It doesn't take an insider's knowledge to understand this, nor does it mean I'm carrying anyone's water to point it out. All it takes is an understanding of the situation that looks at the US-South Korean-North Korean relationship through the prism of the past half century, with a special focus on the past decade. By beginning one's understanding of the situation in 2001, one misses most of the relevant facts.
Posted by B. Preston at 02:17 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 05, 2003

THE BLUNDERER

Ronald Reagan opened the Iron Curtain. Richard Nixon opened China. JFK opened the age of high-flying espionage. Franklin Delano Roosevelt opened up a can of whoop on the Nazis and Imperial Japan at the same time, while Harry Truman opened up the nuclear age (he had no choice) and staungh opposition to global Communist expansion, and opened up the military to all races through desegregation. While these presidents, hailing from both parties, did much to open up opportunities in the world of the early 21st century, one American president, more than any other, opened up the Pandora's Box of foreign policy troubles we're living with and combating today. It's not who you might think, though. It's not George W. Bush or his father, and it's not Bill Clinton who really gave us most of the headaches in hot spots around the world.

It's Jimmy Carter.

As President, Carter presided over a staggering set of debacles and disasters, from which we are still suffering. In many important respects, he bequeathed the world of terrorism and nuclear dangers we live in, and from which it may take us a generation to escape. For instance, Taiwain is a major axis of US foreign policy--China wants it, and we're sworn to defend it. American troops were once stationed there to make sure mainland China understood our resolve, but in 1979 President Carter unilaterally pulled those troops out, getting no concessions at all from China in the process. In fact, Carter not only left Taiwan undefended, but gave China full diplomatic recognition, again without extracting any concessions from them. That show of weakness has left Taiwan in the lurch ever since, giving China reason to believe our statement of defense is a bluff.

President Carter also helped usher in the world of global terrorism, first by losing Iran to the mullahs and second by helping shore up Yasser Arafat's international standing. Under Carter's leadership, an Iran which had been a staunch US ally became an implacable enemy, and one that sponsors terrorists against Israel and around the world. After leaving office, in 1996 Carter lent a hand to "monitor" the "election" that gave Arafat the veneer of legitimate rule, in spite of the fact that his election was dubiously carried off and hasn't been repeated since. When claiming that it's the Palestinians who are being wantonly murdered at the hands of Israel, Arafat and his lefty allies in the West can point to that election and say "See--Yasser is just as legitimate a ruler as Ariel Sharon, or even George W. Bush." We have Carter in part to thank for this.

And finally, North Korea. It's the former president who brokered the deal, during a visit to Pyongyang that President Clinton hadn't even authorized, that let North Korea avail itself of a mountain of aid from the South, from Japan and the US, and in exchange got to keep up its clandestine nuclear program. That deal has been exposed for a failure born of naivete and incompetence.

I point all this out without glee--Carter is in the end a decent man, just one who was wholly unqualified to hold the presidency and who has continued to make the world a more dangerous place since leaving office. He was adept at running the White House tennis court schedule, and telling Americans that we're in a malaise, but was an abject failure when it came to dealing with the world at large. And it was to Carter that the Clinton administration repeatedly turned to solve foreign policy difficulties.
Posted by B. Preston at 07:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

SPECTACULARLY WRONG AGAIN

Half of my predicted Super Bowl pairing--which was Oakland vs Green Bay--is already out, so I blew it again. The injury-plagued Packers fell to the unstoppable Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons who happen to surround him. It's tough to imagine just how much better Vick may become with a couple more years of play under his belt, but he'll surely become one of the most amazing and memorable players in NFL history if he stays healthy.
Posted by B. Preston at 07:28 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack