Saturday, April 19, 2008

Failure Defined as Success

The occupied White House is saying 'uncle' to N. Korea. With all the news focused on il Papa and 'bitter' quotes, this is getting very little play. Having fumbled entirely in trying to threaten the 'dear Leader' into making concessions, the cretin in chief has decided to proceed without them. No report will be forthcoming about existing nuclear facilities, a condition that N.Korea had agreed to but has not kept, due at the end of 2007. The U.S., however, will remove N.Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and exempted from the Trading With The Enemy Act.

Washington says it is easing demands on North Korea to try to resolve an impasse over a disarmament deal.

The US indicated the North's required declaration of its nuclear activities may not contain everything about past programmes and may not be made public.

But a top US adviser on the issue, Dennis Wilder, insisted that "no-one has let them off the hook".

The declaration is a key part of a deal, stalled since late 2007, to end Pyongyang's nuclear programme.
Mr Wilder admitted proliferation issues would be "handled in a different manner".

Saying there was still room for "caution and scepticism", US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: "This is a diplomatic matter and not everything in diplomacy is public."

Aha! the secret plan is working if you clap hard enough. The usual suspects have totally failed at diplomacy, from a beginning that saw our leader calling N.Korea part of his 'axis of evil'. Now we are declaring a victory that contradicts the terms we set for such a victory.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared this week to promise that U.S. officials would reimpose sanctions if they found that North Korea had not been truthful about its activities under the agreement.

"There is still reason for caution and skepticism," Rice told reporters Thursday. "We are at the beginning of a very complex process, not the end."

The flurry of activity points to just how little progress has been made, despite an enormous commitment of U.S. time and effort, since a six-nation deal on denuclearization was signed Feb. 17, 2007.

U.S. officials have said the process would lead to Pyongyang's surrender of its nuclear facilities and materials produced since a deal reached under former President Clinton fell apart in 2002.

So far, however, neither side has risked much on the deal.

The North Koreans have frozen their plutonium production program, centered at a dilapidated reactor at Yongbyon. The United States agreed to reward the impoverished regime with fuel oil.

But the 50,000 tons included in the deal is a relatively small amount and has been provided by other countries.

The nuclear proliferation that was allowed for India but forbidden for N.Korea proceeds apace. Our agents of the version of diplomacy practiced in the worst administration ever - just say fine, that works for me, and move on. What's important? seemingly getting out of the White House and leaving yet another mess to the next occupant.


Other items avoiding much play in the press this week while they followed candidates about collecting trivia are:

Since 2004, the Pentagon has spent roughly $16 billion annually to maintain and modernize the military's business systems, but most are as unreliable as ever—even as the surge in defense spending is creating more room for error. The basic defense budget for 2007 was $439.3 billion, up 48 percent from 2001, excluding the vast additional sums appropriated for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to federal regulators and current and former Pentagon officials, the accounting process is so obsolete and error prone that it's virtually impossible to tell where much of this money ends up. While the department's brass has made a few patchwork improvements, billions are still unaccounted for. The problem is so deeply rooted that, 18 years after Congress required major federal agencies to be audited, the Pentagon still can't be.


Right now, the world has plenty of oil. Inventories are strong and industrial activity in the U.S. is slackening. Yet the price has risen, pushed up by the decline of the dollar and the eagerness of investors or speculators--hedge funds, pension funds and every other type of fund.

The Dow Jones industrial average is 1,700 points below its 2007 peak and the stock market remains nervous and volatile. The real estate downturn and the problems with mortgage-backed securities have scared off investors. The "smart money" is now moving into oil--just as it has done with gold.
My first suggestion is that we first straighten out our own financial house. I propose the old cure: that we stop spending more than we take in, and that we balance the budget. Our national debt is now $9 trillion and the annual interest payments are more than $400 billion.

If this means drastic spending cuts and higher taxes, so be it. This is an economic crisis. Heck, President Clinton was able to balance the budget.

Next, we need to do something about the speculation in oil. Many experts tell us that we should do nothing, and that whatever steps we take will make things worse. They could be correct. We are in uncharted territory.

A stiff tax on oil profits from speculation sounds leftist, but I think it is something we should consider. Another option is a high margin requirement on the purchase of oil futures.


The Bush administration violated federal law last year when it restricted states' ability to provide health insurance to children of middle-income families, and its new policy is therefore unenforceable, lawyers from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said Friday.

The ruling strengthens the hand of at least 22 states, including Washington, that provide such coverage or want to do so. It also significantly reduces the chance that the new policy can be put into effect before President Bush leaves office in nine months.

The schools, health programs and infrastructure crumble, but no one called them 'bitter' so no attention from the press. Perhaps they'll become elitist and get some needed attention.

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