Jim Marshall

In Praise of Jim Marshall:

Here's to one of the last of the Jacksonian Democrats, fellow Georgian Jim Marshall, of Georgia's 8th District. He was one of only two Democrats to vote against this nonbinding resolution.

Good for you, Jim. I'm glad there are still a few of us left.

Thai-Malay Summit

Thailand-Malaysia Summit:

The prime minister of Malaysia, his coup-appointed counterpart from Thailand, met to talk about the Islamic insurgency on their shared border. China's Xinhua news service has a brief account, while Germany's DPA has a better one.

Malaysia and China both belong to the "high government" school -- I borrow the metaphor from Christian denominations, which tend to be either "high church" or "low church." Both of these nations try to play up the glory and majesty of government in general and the ruling party in particular, resolving sticky disputes behind closed doors. In the open, their discussions and press portray the government as a worthy vessel for popular confidence, boldly attacking and solving the problems of the day. It is normally necessary to resort to open censorship to maintain even the illusion that this is true.

"Low government" nations, like Thailand or our own, are structured so that a lot of the petty infighting and political ugliness is out in the open. As a result, the public tends to despise politicians, and that large part of the citizenry that is willing to be led like sheep. Such nations normally enjoy some measure of freedom of the press.

In any event, it is always interesting to watch a HG and LG nation interact. Thailand's deposed Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, used to get into open brawls with the Malaysian government by telling the press that he knew there were insurgent camps on the Malay side of the border. This was embarrassing for Malaysia, who wanted any such information to be conveyed privately rather than through the press where everyone could see it. (It was also embarrassing for Thaksin, when he proved on at least two occasions to be flat wrong... but hey, intelligence is a gamble).

The coup government in Thailand seems to be playing by Malaysia's rules, as the news articles about their meeting are very structured and depend on official sources. But the German article shows that they made one momentous decision:

Badawi added that his government would cooperate with Thailand in ending dual citizenship among the Thais living in the kingdom's three southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala along the border with Malaysia.

"They must choose," Badawi told a press conference. Widespread dual citizenship in the border area has allowed many militants wanted by Thai authorities for terror or criminal acts to flee to Malaysia.
The execution will be at least as important as the decision, but this points to an interest between the governments to start controlling that border. It also suggests that they are likely to adopt some method of verifying your choice -- once you've chosen, you are apt to be issued papers and expected to carry them.

I find that an interesting turn of events. Apparently the new Thai government is moving slowly but purposefully on the insurgency, and they've managed to get an assist out of Malaysia.

Victory Caucus

The Victory Caucus:

The new website-based organization called the Victory Caucus has pulled down some big names, including BlackFive and Jed Babbin. Have a look at them.

Zion Consp.

Zionist Conspiracy Theories #4,342,671-2:

Kim du Toit points to another major media outlet falling to the Joos.

Meanwhile, a confession is made.

Happy Valentines

Happy Valentines Day:

JarHeadDad suggests the following touching card for those of you still looking for a date tonight:

Those of you who are married will, of course, already have your cards picked out, ready for a quick exchange before a romantic evening of doing the dishes and folding laundry. What a wonderful holiday, with something for everyone. :)

UPDATE: Another option for married men: your wife calls to thank you for the kind gift she picked out for her. Poor Doc.

Valentine's Day

So far, the day has been good. I was given the obligatory Reese's peanut butter heart as well as an unexpected surprise, a new hat.

I'm not, ordinarily, a hat wearer. Yes, I wore cowboy hats as a young boy, and as a young man I had a nice felt Stetson that I would occasionally wear... but as a man my hat wearing has predominantly been limited to military service.

Now I own a very nice fedora in the "Indiana Jones" style (and my wife was dead-on with my hat size!).

Thanks to Grim, and reader comments, I know much more about the care and choosing of a good hat. I'm also becoming convinced that the daily wearing of a hat style, beyond baseball cap, is not a goofy thing. So, can anyone offer up some good etiquette tips?



Some Songs, Boys:

JHD apparently went to the trouble of watching the Grammies last night, which shows more dedication than I have. He sent this link to the best performance of the night, a very good rendition of "San Antonio Rose" including the original fiddler.

Good stuff. I'm glad to see the old Western Swing getting a respectful hearing. Nothing like a fiddle and a steel guitar.

I'm also going to recommend The Pine Box Boys to those of you around here with hand-to-hand/CQB training. They're not for everyone, but if you're a rockabilly/bluegrass fellow who would enjoy "the sound of a loud, angry acoustic band bent on killing," this may be for you. Click on the "Play All Songs" link, and sit through a couple of them.


DPRK Nuclear Deal: Good, Bad, or Ugly?

We notice today that the six-party talks, ongoing lo these several years, have produced a deal with North Korea to stand down somewhat from its nuclear ambitions. I'd like to examine the deal, look at where it is deficient, how it contrasts with the Clinton-era deal.

First, the details. I've highlighted the parts I think are important:

U.S. officials on Tuesday defended the Bush administration's policy shift on North Korea, which coincided with an agreement by Pyongyang to begin to close down its nuclear program.

North Korea now has 60 days to shut down its Yongbyon nuclear complex and readmit nuclear inspectors. In return, it will get 50,000 tons of fuel oil or financial aid of an equal amount.

Once Pyongyang takes additional steps to disable its nuclear program, including taking inventory of its plutonium stockpile, it will qualify for another 950,000 tons of fuel oil or equivalent aid, according to the terms of the deal. The aid package is worth $300 million.

North Korean state media reported that the agreement called only for a "temporary suspension" of Pyongyang's nuclear program, according to wire reports.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice drew a distinction between the first 60-day period, when she said nuclear activities will be suspended, and the later "disablement phase."

"The disabling of these facilities is a sign that the North Koreans may, in fact, be ready to make a strategic choice," she said at a briefing in Washington. "I will not take it as a complete sign until we've seen that disablement, but obviously disablement is an important step forward."
OK, let's dispense with the easiest of these first: North Korean state media's analysis is of no interest at all. Insofar as they differ from everyone else, it's just because they're lying to their own people. That's the usual system for the DPRK, so it's no surprise; it has no relevance to the actual deal.

Now, a more important matter: plutonium. As China E-Lobby points out, we've seen no public mention of the highly enriched uranium project -- the one that the DPRK hid from Clinton-administration officials. Insofar as this was the form of cheating they used before, it's odd that it's not prominently addressed. One might almost think that we were intentionally leaving them a loophole.

That's the main thing to watch going forward. These "nuclear inspectors" -- are they going to have access to the HEU sites, or just Yongbyon? That site depends on unenriched uranium, which can be reprocessed into plutonium. But the HEU can be used for nukes too.

If we don't see an answer to that question in the press ASAP, we'll want to start pressing our representatives to get an answer.

I'll take a moment to address John Bolton's objection.
"It sends exactly the wrong signal to would-be proliferators around the world: If you hold out long enough and wear down the State Department negotiators, eventually you get rewarded," said Bolton, who was also involved with North Korea earlier as the State Department's undersecretary for arms control.

"It makes the [Bush] administration look very weak at a time in Iraq and dealing with Iran it needs to look strong," he said.
I see his point, which isn't without merit. On the other hand, it also sends a signal to Iran that we're not going to have our attention divided. The DPRK matter will be set aside for the moment: that means we are free to focus our attention on Iraq and Iran. That ought to be somewhat intimidating.

Next: how does this compare with the Clinton-era deal? The answer is that it compares favorably, for one reason. Unlike the Clinton-era deal, this one is brokered by China. You are not required to believe in Chinese good-faith to see the value in this. The Chinese want to be taken seriously as a world power. They have considerable "face" invested in this deal. For the DPRK, cheating against the US is one thing, a thing that in fact has no real downside. Cheating against the US and China both is another.

That is not to say they won't do it. The DPRK is right up against the wall, and desperate people do desperate things. What I am saying is, when they break faith with the deal, we will be in a position to manage their downfall more effectively. Because China will be embarrassed by their bad faith, they will offer less support to the regime when the time for confrontation arises.

Where does all this leave us? The DPRK is off the "Axis of Evil" list for a few years. They will be salvaged from the collapse they so richly deserve; in return, we don't have to devote resources to managing that collapse until we've had time to deal with Iraq and Iran, and China will be forced into a more supportive position when the time comes that we do have to manage the collapse. Iran has to deal with our undivided attention for the next period.

I'd call it a deal that borders on good and ugly, if the HEU issue is considered in a form not yet in the press. If that issue is not considered, it's just ugly -- although there are a few good points to be had from it, it's mostly about pushing the problems down the road to let us deal with other problems now.


More Spitting on Soldiers:

With an arrest, this time. This case will be one to watch.

Kids OK

The Kids are All Right:

Fuzzybear Lioness has a story from a waiting room filled with military children.

Four 5-and-6-year-old boys were playing with the giant, interlocking plastic tiles. They had created very-impressive plane-like structures, which some boys were obviously riding. Others were carefully placing large numbers of dinosaur figures into enclosed portions of the structures. I asked what they were doing, and received the following community reply as several boys pitched in to flesh out the story for me...
Those kids are going to turn out all right.
Video Blogging:

The rich media tools are not something I'll claim to understand. But all the same, here are two links you won't want to miss.

I'm still not going to vote for him, but this is the funniest thing I've seen in ages.

And this is the best thing to come from France since... Napoleon? Depends on your point of view, I guess. Dumas? Well, it's cool. Roman style, eh? Try it with six.


The French Bluff:

Ahem. An article on a new French bestseller:

A distinguished French literary professor has become a surprise bestselling author by writing a book explaining how to wax intellectual about tomes that you have never actually read.

Pierre Baynard, 52, specialises in the link between literature and psychoanalysis, and says it is perfectly possible to bluff your way through a book that you have never read — especially if that conversation happens to be taking place with someone else who also hasn’t read it. All of which just goes to confirm what I’ve always thought about French academics, which is that mostly they are oversubsidised frauds.

Obviously I haven’t read Mr Baynard’s book; but it is in the spirit of his oeuvre that I shall proceed to write about it anyway.
And write he does, very well. I love the comment on Ulysses.

Open Letter Ladybug

An Open Letter on Border Security:

A Texas border schoolteacher who blogs under the name "Miss Ladybug" has composed an open letter to George Bush. She is alarmed by the lack of effort to secure the border, and mystified as well. You may wish to read her thoughts.