Sunday, March 08, 2009

Shootdown of a North Korean Missile

North Korea's expected launch of a missile or satellite has drawn comments from various quarters about the possibility of shooting it down, if it should pose a threat to the US or Japan.

Since the US says it wants "dialog" with North Korea, the terms under which we would shoot down their missile should be made clear to them, either publicly or privately. But "dialog" has been ongoing for years. Kim Jong Il lied to Madeleine Albright about their nukes and missiles in 2000. And if anyone is going to get out-talked in any discussions, I think I know who that would be. Dialog is a two-edged sword and doesn't necessarily help your own cause. And as John Bolton has pointed out, North Korea will not be talked out of its nuclear program. And beware of "North Korea experts" bearing appeasement.

Hillary Clinton wants dialog with the North. Stephen Bosworth, special rep to North Korea says he wants to do some talking as well, yet he has no current plans to travel to North Korea. Some other time, perhaps. Hillary said he "wasn't invited," raising the question of how you dialog when all you have is a monologue.

North Korea's nukes are for deterrence, international prestige and coercive diplomacy rather than for warfighting--so says Clinton and the latest annual threat assessment of the intelligence community. So then why is Japan so fearful of the impending missile launch? Why are we threatening to shoot it down?

Meanwhile, North Korea counseled against anyone invading "even 0.001mm into our territory" lest they face retaliation. Perhaps this leaves an opening for dialog: can someone invade 0.0001 of their territory with impunity?

The North Koreans view Obama as an "articulate Jimmy Carter," which must be the most terrible insult to be hurled at any president. Pleas for "dialog" and responding to the North's belligerent rhetoric with the use of the laconic mantra "unhelpful" can't possibly change that assessment in their minds.

Barnes & Noble Can't Escape the Ebook Revolution

Barnes & Noble has entered the ebook market once again, joining Amazon and Sony. Ebook sales have jumped recently while print book sales are flat. Apparently B&N will offer its own reader, just as Amazon and Sony have their own. Kindle sales have been on fire lately, even with a steep price tag.

It still boggles how so many librarians, in particular, are naysayers to the ebook future, and American Libraries, the flagship publication of the American Library Association, promotes and fuels this attitude.

Surely it should be clear to all by now that ebooks aren't going away and some of its detractors (not to mention any names) should be publicly eating their words.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Push the Reset Button on the State Department

Hillary Clinton's short tenure as Secretary of State has been remarkable for its uninterrupted string of gaffes--the latest is the mistranslation of the word "reset" into Russian--and Romanized Russian at that. Luckily whoever made that reset button didn't attempt to print the word in the Cyrillic alphabet or we'd probably be exchanging nukes with Russia right now.

Every interaction with a foreign government reveals the lack of thought and seriousness of the policies of this administration.

Hillary's "reset" button is really a "panic" button, but it won't remove her or us from the problems we face with Putin and the Russians.

Wouldn't it be lovely if we could just press a button and erase all our problems? Would the American public like to use such a button right now?

Obama's Psychological Demons

President Obama this week finally had something to say about the stock market that has been crashing since he was sworn into office. He gave the country an investment tip: now is the time to buy stocks, since they have become so cheap lately.

Already, just one month into his presidency, it is painfully clear that Obama knows little about the market and doesn't like the people of Wall Street. He seems completely detached from the economic crisis around him, refusing, or unable to do anything serious to calm the market. The equivalent of voting Present?

One can only wonder who gave him that investment tidbit he offered as a tonic for our troubles: his friend Warren Buffet, or perhaps the CIA, since we know the intelligence agency is providing Obama with a daily economic intelligence document about the economic crisis around the world.

Obama's behavior is causing concern not just at home but around the globe, particularly in Europe. Are Obama's psychological demons greater than Nixon's or Clinton's?