Political Animal

AIRPLANE STORIES….Martin Devon says:Last year

AIRPLANE STORIES….Martin Devon says:

Last year I was a 1K flier on United. That meant that in theory I got treated as well as they could possibly treat anyone. In practice all it meant was that I wondered how much they must mistreat everyone else if they treated me so shabbily.

Well, I guess that’s why they’re bankrupt.

Martin highly recommends JetBlue. I was planning to try them a few months ago based on a friend’s recommendation, but the trip got cancelled and I haven’t been called to New York since. Sounds like they’re worth a try, especially since I don’t like airplane food anyway.


FUNNY CONSERVATIVES….To give him his due, John Derbyshire can be funny at times:

I get lost in this TV talk because I hardly watch TV. How do you guys find the time? I have a book review due for Roger Kimball tomorrow, and I haven’t even read the friggin book yet. I did, though, accidentally catch part of an episode of that reality TV show about the bachelor who’s posing as a millionaire in a French chateau. Oy oy oy. Things are bad. Modest proposal: If the Romans had had this technology, they’d have kitted out the girls in leather bikinis, given them swords, nets, and tridents, and let ’em fight it out. Now that would be worth watching.

NORTH KOREAN TIMELINE….I’ve been struggling

NORTH KOREAN TIMELINE….I’ve been struggling to figure out the basic timeline for the whole North Korean mess. No conclusions or policy recommendations, just the basic facts, and I think I have it:

  • 1994: North Korea is about to start production of plutonium. The result is a treaty that shuts down their plutonium reactor in exchange for a light water reactor provided by the U.S., plus some interim shipments of food and oil.

  • 1998: North Korea purchases uranium enrichment technology from Pakistan.

  • October 2002: The U.S. presses North Korea about its uranium program, and Korea presses back by revealing that back in 1994 it already had enough plutonium for two bombs. We just didn’t know it (and they didn’t tell us).

  • December 2002: North Korea throws out the IAEA inspectors and restarts their plutonium reactor. However, they are still years away from successfully enriching uranium.

The reason I’m curious about this is that I’m trying to figure out whether or not North Korea actually broke their treaty with us. The relevant document is the 1994 Agreed Framework, which has specific language about shutting down the plutonium reactors but only very general language about “denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula: both parties will “take steps,” they will “work together,” and they will “create an atmosphere.” In other words, nothing.

Then there’s the non-nuclear part of the agreement:

II. The two sides will move toward full normalization of political and economic relations.

1) Within three months of the date of this Document, both sides will reduce barriers to trade and investment, including restrictions on telecommunications services and financial transactions.

2) Each side will open a liaison office in the other’s capital following resolution of consular and other technical issues through expert level discussions.

3) As progress is made on issues of concern to each side, the U.S. and DPRK will upgrade bilateral relations to the Ambassadorial level.

In the end, none of this stuff happened. Both sides blame the other.

So what’s the deal here? I’m no more eager for the North Koreans to have nuclear bombs than anyone, which is why I favor negotiation with them. Overall, I think the chance of negotiating away their nuclear capability is worth the risk of setting a bad example.

But my real question is this: do we have a leg to stand on when we claim that they “violated our trust”? This is a rather nebulous charge, after all, and a more pointed question is whether the North Koreans actually broke any treaties with us prior to the U.S. visit in October. A “plain text” reading of the Agreed Framework suggests that they didn’t.

I’m open to comments about this.

UPDATE: Sebastian Holsclaw writes that by building nuclear bombs the North Koreans violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty (which was also mentioned in the Agreed Framework). Thus, they have violated their treaty agreements with us.

On another subject, Kevin Batcho points me to a post on his blog Beyond the Wasteland where he quotes a report showing that the original plutonium production was done between 1987-1991. In other words, during the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations. Nothing was done at the time and Clinton inherited the problem in 1994.

More later.


SKEPTICAL ENVIRONMENTALISM….The Danish Research Agency released a report on Tuesday denouncing Danish author Bjorn Lomborg for the presentation of facts in his book The Skeptical Environmentalist. Australian economist John Quiggin, who is quite knowledgable on the subject, summarizes the situation like this:

There’s a sense in which Bjorn Lomborg is entitled to feel aggrieved about the finding of scientific dishonesty made against him. His book is no more or less dishonest than the average book on this topic coming out of the thinktanks on both sides.

Not exactly a stirring defense, but it’s about the best he’s going to get. As Quiggin put it in another post, “Lomborg is free to believe the most optimistic estimates on every environmental issue, and the most pessimistic estimates of the cost of doing anything. But he shouldn’t call himself ‘skeptical’ or an ‘environmentalist’.”

It’s really too bad that Lomborg took the approach he did. A lot of environmentalists these days really have slid all the way down a slippery slope in which they oppose any environmental damage regardless of the cost of doing so. The proper approach is honest cost-benefit analysis, a necessary first step in prioritizing scarce resources, and Lomborg could have made a good case for this. As it is, Lomborg slid all the way to the bottom of the opposite slope and ended up making a case for nothing. Pity.