Archive for October 10th, 2006|Daily archive page

Iggy Pop – Difficult Star?

The Smoking Gun has a copy of Iggy Pop’s concert rider, which is a list of those little things stars and starlets require during tours. Not only do the requirements fit Iggy Pop to a T, the writing style of the individual, Jos Grain, seems to have flopped directly out of an LSD trip.

 Go! Read It! Now! And enjoy.

 It’s not that difficult.

Heads Up: Foreign Policy Bomb

Blue Girl In A Red State has an excellent synopsis of the Korean nuclear issue. Please go read her post.

If you don’t follow these things, it is definitely worth the read. She dots the i’s and crosses the t’s in how the US got into this mess. She also has the bottom line.

The agreement struck in exchange for North Korea entering the NNPT  [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] was known as the Agreed Framework. I wanted to link to the State Department Agreed Framework page, but it has been taken down.

The Agreed Framework was struck in 1994, and held until 2002. It fell because Bush withdrew American support. The first LWR [light water reactor, the US was supposed to build two in NK,] never went on-line. Fuel oil shipments stopped. And North Korea fired up the Plutonium – Graphite Core reactor, kicked the IAEA inspectors out and pulled the spent fuel rods out of the cooling pond where they had been secured and under IAEA seal.

The path Bush chose to pursue was stupid, but it was also deliberate.

What happened in Korea, whether the test was successful or not, was a direct reaction to George W. Bush’s policy mistakes in the last four years.

If Bush ever had a coherent strategy – it bombed.

Pitter-Pander Of Senatorial Feet

Dahlia Lithwick and Richard Schragger have a very good piece up at Slate about unconstitutional laws being passed through congress .

Last week, we watched as several senators voted for a bill redefining the treatment, detention, and trials of enemy combatants, even as they expressed doubts as to its constitutionality. The bill setting up military tribunals for enemy combatants, among other constitutional infirmities, contains a provision stripping courts of their power to review the constitutionality of the detentions. This provision, which suspends the writ of habeas corpus for current and future detainees, was contested by a number of senators, but the amendment that sought to excise it from the final bill failed by a vote of 51-49.

Before that amendment was rejected, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, announced, “I’m not going to support a bill that’s blatantly unconstitutional … that suspends a right that goes back to [the Magna Carta in] 1215.” He added, “I’d be willing, in the interest of party loyalty, to turn the clock back 500 years, but 800 years goes too far.”

Specter’s justification for then voting for a bill he deemed unconstitutional? “Congress could have done it right and didn’t, but the next line of defense is the court, and I think the court will clean it up.”

The piece is both full of information and a thoughtful analysis of the current problems with the democratic process. The elected officials are more interested in keeping and maintaining their positions of power than is using that power appropriately.

This however begs a question. If the elected officials keep stacking the supreme court with justices acceptable to the conservative base, might not this tactic of judicial ping-pong eventually backfire? If George W. Bush manages to place another justice into the Supreme Court and uses this choice to feed the right-wing conservative base (for example during a 2008 presidential election year), might not the court start accepting some of these less than constitutional laws? Could habeas corpus just be a thing of the past, like the knights of the round table, chivalry or honorable public servants? Do lawmakers really care about law or are they just interested in keeping their day job (serving themselves the public)?

My favourite quote from the piece is

That’s why lawmakers who think that legislation banning flag-burning violates the First Amendment regularly trot it out anyhow. It is an easy way to mollify voters, while letting some other branch grapple with what the Constitution actually requires. As an added bonus, lawmakers then can blame the courts for usurping the will of the electorate, turning an ordinary political pander into an Olympics-worthy double-pander.

While I have never actually seen the double-pander during the Olympics, I’m sure Mark Foley could probably do it. Dennis Hastert and Tom Delay are also experts I’m sure.

But pitter-pander aside, doesn’t this mean the system is broken? If you have government officials wasting time and money simply to score points with a disinterested electorate, should you be researching a different system? Disinterested voters want to know.

North Korean Bellyflop

In between all the political fireworks at the moment, the really big news from Southeast Asia this morning is that the ‘nuclear test’ yesterday was at best a ‘mini’ nuke, at worst a dud and at weirdest a fake. Jeffery Lewis, Arms Control Wonk  is saying that the whole thing was a flop, just like the long range missile test this July. (Remember the dong that dropped into the ocean this summer?)

This story is being run on page 12 in the Washington Post (for shame WP, for shame) under the headline ‘Low Yield Of Blast Surprises Analysts.’

The explosion set off by North Korea yesterday appears to have been extremely small for a nuclear blast, complicating U.S. intelligence efforts to determine whether the country’s first such test was successful or signaled that Pyongyang’s capabilities are less advanced than expected, several senior U.S. and foreign government officials and analysts said.

A variety of seismic readings around the world yesterday appear to have resulted from no more than a half-kiloton explosion, three officials said — equivalent to 500 tons of TNT and far smaller than the 21- to 23-kiloton plutonium bomb the U.S. military dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.

A senior intelligence official called it a “sub-kiloton” explosion detonated inside a horizontal mountain tunnel and said its low yield caught analysts by surprise. “For an initial test, a yield of several kilotons has been historically observed,” the official said.

The situation is perhaps more clearly shown in the story by the AFP (those pesky French again! Hat tip again ACW.)

Scientists took a dour wait-and-see attitude after North Korea claimed to have successfully conducted a nuclear test on Monday.

Only careful analysis of data returned by seismic or atmospheric sensors will say whether the blast was a success or a damp squib, they said.

Nor could they rule out the possibility of a scam, in which North Korea blew up a huge stock of conventional explosives to bolster its claim to have joined the nuclear club.

James Acton of Vertic, an independent non-governmental organisation (NGO) in London that specialises in verification research, noted enormous discrepancies in the estimated size of the blast. [my emphasis]

But remember my prediction yesterday that they really don’t need to test the science. There was a reason for that comment. The mechanics of a simple nuclear device aren’t that difficult. It’s not like rocket science and we know how the Koreans are with that branch of engineering. I quote a rather smug Jeffery Lewis.

A plutonium device should produce a yield in the range of the 20 kilotons, like the one we dropped on Nagasaki. No one has ever dudded their first test of a simple fission device. North Korean nuclear scientists are now officially the worst ever.

Away from the physicists feeding frenzy and moving to the political front, Donald Gregg has a post in the PostGlobal blog again at the Washington Post explaining the current situation and problems with North Korea. Gregg is the former NSA under G. H. W. Bush and was the US ambassador to South Korea from 1989 to 1993 so he should have some perspective on this issue. As he explains, even if the test was a success, North Korea isn’t about to start tossing nukes around but is trying to force the US to the bargaining table. The problem is on both sides with the Bush administration unwilling to talk to regimes that don’t toe the line.

Hit, miss or fake, this act by North Korea shows that the government is up against a wall, is not willing to back down and is willing to do just about anything to stay in power. Ever try to broker a truce between two fighting children? At some point it doesn’t matter whose fault anything is, you just want them to shake hands and get along. Pity the American president doesn’t have the moral strength of a five year old.

I just wonder if, after this flop, Kim is feeling a bit ill right now.