Monday, May 17, 2004

How 'moral clarity' got North Korea nuclear weapons... 

In a recent piece in the Washington Monthly, Fred Kaplan argues that while Iraq is a US foreign policy problem, the real problem may well be North Korea. The key here is that the North Korean problem (their probably possesion of nuclear weapons and willingness to use them as a diplomatic tool) was largely avoidable.

During the later part of the Clinton administration a package of dimplomatic concession and economic incentives convinced the North Koreans to keep spent fuel rods under lock and key (subject to international inspection) and abstain from any attempt to refine the fuel rods into weapons grade plutonium.

Kaplan argues that this all changed when the Bush administration entered office and that, within 18 months, all evidence suggests that Kim Jong-il now has enough weapons grade Plutonium to build several bombs...

The pattern of decision making that led to this debacle--as described to me in recent interviews with key former administration officials who participated in the events--will sound familiar to anyone who has watched Bush and his cabinet in action. It is a pattern of wishful thinking, blinding moral outrage, willful ignorance of foreign cultures, a naive faith in American triumphalism, a contempt for the messy compromises of diplomacy, and a knee-jerk refusal to do anything the way the Clinton administration did it.

The key point, Kaplan contends, is that the Bush administration refused to negotiation with the North Koreans. In refusing (and indeed in refusing to uphold the parameters of the agreement signed by Clinton) the Bush administration made a tense and difficult situation much, much, much more difficult. It is reasonable to ask, then, why the administration refused to negotiate or, put another way, why, when we finally return to negotiating table do we want the North Koreans to have nuclear weapons?

...Bush had no desire to negotiate with North Korea over its nuclear weapons, much less its energy needs. To Bush and those who agreed with him, this refusal was a matter of principle. Pritchard recalls reading an NSC memo early on in the Bush administration, stating this no-negotiations policy explicitly. The rationale for the policy, according to the memo: to preserve "moral clarity."

Saturday, May 15, 2004

One place outsourcing could make a real difference... 

Holly Sklar argues (only partly tongue in cheek) that significant corporate savings could accrue if only companies outsourced their CEOs. After all...

European and Japanese CEOs run many of the world's leading companies for a lot less pay than Americans. U.S. CEOs make five times as much as CEOs in Japan, four times as much as CEOs in Spain, three times as much as CEOs in the United Kingdom, France, Italy and the Netherlands, and twice as much as CEOs in Germany and Switzerland.

(via Brian Leiter)

When you absolutely, positively have to write, where do you go? 

For the screen writer, although I suspect here you can also just substitute graduate student (at least in the humanities, the answer is a coffee shop (perferably one with good pies, big tables and a power outlet close by for the laptop). Which of course raises lots of really interesting work place health questions - aren't screen writers who spend their days typing on a lap top at a coffee shop just crying out for carpal tunnel?

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Negroponte homework... 

This has been done all over other blogs, but for anyone who doubts that, particularly in light of the Abu Ghraib abuses, appointing John Negroponte as the ambassador to Iraq is a phenomenally, massively, galactically bad idea should just read this piece by Stephen Kinzer (from 2001 - but still very, very, very relevant).

And a Happy Mother's Day... 

To my mom and all others out there. In honor of the occasion the Washington Post has a photo gallery of all sorts of mothers (via Oxblog).

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Bush as the willful fool... 

Jacob Weisberg makes an argument in Slate from a few days ago that to me just feels right. The most troubling thing about Bush, he maintains, is not the particular content of the policies he supports (although these may be troubling as well) but rather his utter disdain for all contemplation. This self-conscious avoidance of thought, the ability to never, ever meet a decision with which he truly had to wrestle, seems (and has proven to be) a pathway to inefficient policy making, poorly formulated policy and an inability to make policy decisions match the facts on the ground.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Neat and Frightening in a Star Trek Sort of Way... 

A recent paper in Nature (here's the article - for which you will probably rtequire a subscription - and here's a news account for which you will not) describes the work of Yaakov Beenenson and others towards a DNA computer which accepts biological input and gives biological output. These bio-in/bio-out computers are important because they fortell a world in which drugs can be treated by small molecules already circulating in the body. The basic idea is that a strand of DNA can be synthesized which reponds uniquely to a particular type of messenger RNA (perhaps those endemic to certain types of cancer). The presence of the target mRNA will trigger the DNA to respond in some tailorable way, perhaps by releasing a particular drug molecule, and thus leading to nearly the minimal dose of drugs necessary to achieve therapeutic effects.

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