Tuesday, April 26, 2005

There He Goes Again

Nick Kristof is back today ('North Korea, 6, and Bush, 0') and up to his usual tricks again. Once again, Mr. Know-It-All is critical of Bush's North Korean policy. He believes that Bush should be more accomodating to the mass murderer Kim Jong-Il. An excerpt:

Here's a foreign affairs quiz:

(1) How many nuclear weapons did North Korea produce in Bill Clinton's eight years of office?

(2) How many nuclear weapons has it produced so far in President Bush's four years in office?

The answer to the first question, by all accounts, is zero. The answer to the second is fuzzier, but about six.

The total will probably rise in coming months, for North Korea has shut down its Yongbyon reactor and says that it plans to extract the fuel rods from it. That will give it enough plutonium for two or three more weapons.

The single greatest failure of the Bush administration's foreign policy concerns North Korea. Mr. Bush's policies toward North Korea have backfired and led the North to churn out nuclear weapons, and they have also antagonized our allies and diminished America's stature in Asia.
As I have noted earlier in this blog, Kristof is wrong on virtually everything he writes about, and this topic is no exception. Mostly, he glosses over the enormous failures of Bill Clinton's North Korea policy and blames the ensuing mess on his successor, George W. Bush. But thanks to the power of the Internet and Google, we have access to the same source material as Kristof, and we can easily see that his statements are a series of half-truths, misinformation and conjecture.

Kristof: How many nuclear weapons did North Korea produce in Bill Clinton's eight years of office?
We don't know the exact answer. But the plutonium for the six bombs that Kristof refers to in his headline was produced during the 7-year operating cycle of the Yongbyun reactor, from 1987-1994. Bill Clinton was President during the last two calendar years of this cycle, a fact that Kristof conveniently neglects to mention. These nuclear fuel rods that the North Koreans were allowed to keep under the Clinton-negotiated Agreed Framework Treaty (1994) contained an estimated 17 to 40 kg. of weapons-grade plutonium.

Kristof: How many nuclear weapons has it produced so far in President Bush's four years in office?
Again, we don't know the exact answer. Depending on the efficiency of design, the plutonium mentioned earlier could yield anywhere from 2 to 10 bombs (the Nagasaki bomb contained 6 kg). Kristof's figure of 6 lies in the middle. Note here Kristof is inferring the existence of plutonium-based bombs only. He has left out the possibility of uranium-based weapons, about which we have little solid evidence (at least publically). GlobalSecurity.org reports:

As of February 2005 Defense Intelligence Agency analysts were reported to believe that North Korea may already have produced as many as 12 to 15 nuclear weapons. This would imply that by the end of 2004 North Korea had produced somewhere between four and eight uranium bombs [on top of the seven or eight plutonium bombs already on hand]. The DIA's estimate was at the high end of an intelligence community-wide assessment of North Korea's nuclear arsenal completed in early 2005.
Kristof then goes on to state as fact a speculative timeline on the North Korean nuclear program, while downplaying the possibility of a viable uranium-based weapons program.
Kristof: North Korea made one or two nuclear weapons around 1989, during the first Bush administration, but froze its plutonium program under the 1994 "Agreed Framework" with the Clinton administration. North Korea adhered to the freeze on plutonium production, but about 1999, it secretly started on a second nuclear route involving uranium. That was much less worrisome than the plutonium program (it still seems to be years from producing a single uranium weapon), and it probably could have been resolved through negotiation, as past crises had been.
The North Korean nuclear program is shrouded in secrecy and very little human intelligence is available. The CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency believes that they probably have produced nuclear material for one or two bombs sometime prior to 1992, before the first inspection of the Yongbyon reactor by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The real date is known only to a handful of North Koreans, of course, but somehow, Kristof dates the first North Korean nuclear weapons to 1989. Conveniently, this was at the start of Bush Senior's term in office.

As for the uranium-based program, GlobalSecurity.org reports:

Shortly after the signing of the 1994 accord, it is believed that North Korea began another clandestine program to enrich uranium and develop a uranium-based nuclear program. The evidence at first was faint and circumstantial. Western intelligence had "shards of evidence" of the North Korea-Pakistan nuclear relationship going back to 1997. These developed into clear suspicions by 1998, and by 1999 the North Koreans committed to this program.
From the Arms Control Association:

There are various U.S. government sources that provide clues as to when North Korea began its uranium-enrichment program, but disagreement among the sources makes it difficult to determine the exact start of the program. Most information, however, indicates it began between 1997 and 1999. Armitage has provided the earliest estimate of the program’s origin, testifying February 4 that the U.S. government noticed “some anomalies in [North Korean] procurement patterns” starting in 1994.

Secretary of State Colin Powell stated during a March 26 hearing before the House Appropriations Committee that North Korea started the program to enrich uranium “before the ink was dry” on the 1994 Agreed Framework.
So it appears that US intelligence sources can place the start of North Korea's uranium program to as early as 1994--in the middle of Clinton's tenure--and some DIA analysts think that the North Koreans have already produced uranium-based bombs. All of this took place while we were in the process of signing a treaty focusing on the plutonium-based weapons program.

Kristof : Instead, Mr. Bush refused to negotiate bilaterally, so now we have the worst of both worlds: that uranium program is still in place, and the plutonium program is churning out weapons material as well.
When dealing with North Korea, "unilateral" US actions become 'bilateral" if it means negotiating directly with North Korea and leaving out allies Japan and South Korea, as well as next-door neighbors China and Russia. But when the US invades Iraq with our British and Austrailan allies, "multilateral" action becomes "unilateral" because it leaves out the French and the Germans. Ah, the word games of a liberal!
Kristof : Selig Harrison, an American scholar just back from Pyongyang, says North Korean officials told him that in direct negotiations with the U.S., they would be willing to discuss a return to their plutonium freeze. Everything would depend on the details, including verification, but why are we refusing so adamantly even to explore this possibility?
A freeze might make a good story on the CBS Evening News, but it is strategically useless. First of all, the proposed plutonium "freeze" would presumably leave the 6 existing nukes, by Kristof's count, in the hands of North Korea. Conveniently, Kristof has also forgotten about the "one or two nuclear weapons" produced prior to 1994 that he mentions earlier.

Equally as important, the freeze proposed by Kristof and Selig Harrison ignores the possibility that North Korea has the capability to produce uranium-based bombs. Kristof may act like he knows the state of their uranium program ("it still seems to be years from producing a single uranium weapon"), but he's really doesn't know much more than you or me. With a plutonium freeze in place, North Korea still would be free to produce uranium-based bombs ad infinitum. And any of the nukes that North Koreans might have now or build using uranium could be sold to terrorists, even with the resumption of the 1994 Agreed Framework freeze.

It must be recognized that the disarming North Korea of nuclear weapons should be the ultimate goal of US policy. A freeze takes us nowhere near that goal, for it continues to leave us vulnerable to nuclear terrorism and even worse, open to yet another round of blackmail as we pursue eventual disarmament. In the latest developments, North Korea has refused to come back to the multilateral bargaining table since June 2004, and it now appears likely that they will never return.
Kristof : North Korea is the most odious country in the world today. It has been caught counterfeiting U.S. dollars and smuggling drugs, and prisoners have been led along with wire threaded through their collarbones so they can't run away. While some two million North Koreans were starving to death in the late 1990's, Mr. Kim spent $2.6 million on Swiss watches. He's the kind of man who, when he didn't like a haircut once, executed the barber.
I ask you--given what we know about Kim--why we should negotiate with a modern-day Caligula and trust him to keep his promises? Then again, why would anyone with a gram of common sense listen to Nick Kristof?

Monday, April 25, 2005

I'm sick again

I have a cold once again, so its time to lose some more weight. I should drop below 180 pounds this time around. Thank God that Jenny's Mom was around this weekend to help take care of the kids.

Lots of stuff I'd love to blog about, but I can't think straight when I'm sick and all doped up with cold medicine. Wait a few days, then check back.

Pictures of the Day

Grandma holds Punky after lunch Posted by Hello

Russell has fun with Rubber Ducky and the sink Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Stalin Also Had a Five-Year Plan

After failing in his quest to oust President George W. Bush, Billionaire George Soros is taking the long-term approach to destroying the country and system that enabled him to become rich.

George Soros told a carefully vetted gathering of 70 likeminded millionaires and billionaires last weekend that they must be patient if they want to realize long-term political and ideological yields from an expected massive investment in “startup” progressive think tanks.

The Scottsdale, Ariz., meeting, called to start the process of building an ideas production line for liberal politicians, began what organizers hope will be a long dialogue with the “partners,” many from the high-tech industry. Participants have begun to refer to themselves as the Phoenix Group.

Rob Stein, a veteran of President Bill Clinton’s Commerce Department and of New York investment banking, convened the meeting of venture capitalists, left-leaning moneymen and a select few D.C. strategists on how to seed pro-Democratic think tanks, media outlets and leadership schools to compete with such entrenched conservative institutions as the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Leadership Institute.
They call themselves "progressives" so that others will not recognize them for who they really are: Socialists and Marxists. Anyone else ever notice how these wealthy liberals used the advantages of capitalism to earn their fortunes, and now want to promote "progressive" ideas which would place obstrucions in the path of others who would like to do the same?

George Soros' new plan also includes creating 'training camps' for young progressives. Youth training camps? That sounds like something out of a Communist or Nazi Handbook.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

What Drugs We Are Taking in the Chen Household

The past month has been a struggle to stay healthy for everyone in our family. Personally, I've been seeing my physician almost weekly for a magic bullet that will get me on the road to wellness (I haven't found it yet). Here's a list of the drugs what we're currently taking:

James - Advair (asthma), Cipro (bronchitis, tonsillitis)
Jenny - Cipro (pharyngitis)
Russell - Neomycin, Amoxicillin (ear infection)
Punky - none (only had a fever that lasted 2 days)

One side benefit of getting sick has been weight loss: I've lost around 15 pounds since the middle of March. I wouldn't recommend getting sick as a weight-loss strategy, though.

Friday, April 15, 2005

My State Senator is a Crook

I've always suspected something fishy about the poker and card club rooms that dot the area around Alameda. They're everywhere, and yet whenever a group tries to open a real casino in the area, the opposition is enough to stop them cold. Well, it turns out the card clubs have someone very powerful on their side: State Senate Leader Don Perata (D). And now, the FBI is looking into allegations that Perata steered anti-casino lobbying money to his business partner. The local rag SF Chronicle reports:

The FBI has expanded its investigation of state Senate leader Don Perata in recent weeks, interviewing current and former members of his staff as well as lawyers and lobbyists for Bay Area card clubs that hired Perata's business partner at the senator's suggestion, five people with knowledge of the inquiry said.

Federal agents are investigating Perata's financial relationship with the partner, Timothy G. Staples, and whether the Oakland lawmaker received any of the card-club money that went to Staples, according to people familiar with the probe who agreed to speak on the condition they not be identified.

The agents' questions also centered on how and why the four card clubs came to hire Staples, though the card clubs do not appear to be a target of the investigation, these sources said.

The FBI's latest inquiries are just two fronts in a wide-ranging investigation of Perata that was begun in November. The bureau is examining Perata's personal business relationships with a number of relatives and associates, and investigating whether he wielded influence as a top state official in exchange for personal income. Perata has denied wrongdoing.
Congratulations are in order to SF Chronicle "reporter" Christian Berthelsen who made it through the entire article without attaching party affiliation to Perata, who is of course, a Democrat. Liberal bias in the media, anyone?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Sick Again

The primary reason for my light blogging these past two months are all the illnesses that my family keeps passing around to one another. This week is no exception. Russell was first, catching a nasty cold over the weekend--probably at a local Japanese restaurant. Along with the cold, Russell had a sore throat and canker sores that hurt him so much that he refused to eat for two days.

Jenny caught Russell's cold on Monday, then finally passed it on to Punky and me today. I checked my sick days at work for the year, and I have already been out sick for 5 full days. This is unusual for me--typically I am sick only once a year for a day or two. Nowadays, I am a physical wreck. No one told me it would be this tough being a father!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Coming Home

My father comes home from the hospital today, nearly one week after surgery to remove the lower lobe of his right lung. Yesterday, he received a clean bill of health from the pathologist. He found no traces of cancer cells in the outer edge of the lung sample. Yippee!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Pictures of the Day

Just me and the boys Posted by Hello

Russell get distracted on a rainy day Posted by Hello
Punky at his best Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Best Wishes for Peter Jennings

My father and I both have been keeping up on news about ABC News anchor Peter Jennings' lung cancer diagnosis. Since Jennings is starting chemotherapy next week, it appears that his cancer is in the relatively late stages. As much as I disagree with Jennings' news reporting, I wish him the best as he fights this disease. He's in for a very difficult time. Mr. Jennings will be in my prayers.

In a discussion with my father on Jennings, I have come to realize how informed my father is about his own situation, and with lung cancer in general. He has read about all the latest advances in cancer therapy, and is familiar with the prescribed treatment regimens for all stages of lung cancer. I mentioned the names of two new cancer drugs recently approved by the FDA, and he knew about these medicines and the way they work to halt the growth of cancereous cells.

I am thrilled to see my father taking charge of his health and cancer treatment, because only he is capable of making the decisions that have such a huge impact on his life. Throughout this ordeal, he certainly hasn't lost hope and has been on the money with each of the informed decisions made thusfar. I'm really proud of my father, and the Reagan-like manner in which he's getting things done.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

More Good News About Pop

My father underwent successful surgery yesterday to remove the lower lobe of his right lung. Biopsy results should be available next week, according to my sister. So far, my father is recovering nicely from his second major operation within a month. Not bad for an 80-year-old man.

Today, I spoke with my father and he admitted that the past month has been an emotional rollercoaster for him. Not knowing whether you have only months to live, or even if you will wake up from surgery can do that to you. I'm hoping that my frequent phone calls, and planned visit in two months will boost his morale so that his recovery is swift and complete.

More updates on my father's condition to follow soon.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Another Big Day Today

After some hesitation, my father will undergo lung surgery once again. This time, the surgeon will remove the lower lobe of his right lung along with some lymph nodes for testing. Unlike his first operation, this one will involve more cutting along my father's chest, so it's more risky and healing will take longer.

I say "some hesitation" because my father had entertained the thought of not having surgery at all because of the risks involved with the more invasive procedure. Lung cancer is a relatively slow-growing process, and he thought that he might live another 5 years or so even if he had the disease beyond the initial tumor. Our family convinced him to undergo the follow-up surgery because his health is still excellent, and we want him around for at least another 10 years (he's 80 years old now).

Once again, I ask you for your prayers to get my father through this latest crisis. Thank you very much.