Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Time to Talk? [North Korea Throwdown]

North Korea still remains skeptical of
US diplomatic attempts.
               After dominating headlines for the last month, North Korea has hinted that it may be willing to bring an end to its nuclear brinkmanship and begin a new round of talks with the United States. Pyongyang issued a detailed statement this past week outlining its terms for the dialogue, including demands that the US cease its “nuclear war practice” and annual war games with South Korea and rescind the stringent sanctions against North Korea’s economy.
               “They should take measures of retracting the U.N. Security Council’s ‘resolutions on sanctions’ cooked up under absurd pretexts,” the Policy Department of the National Defense Commission, North Korea’s highest governing body, said in a statement carried by its official Korean Central News Agency. “They should give formal assurances before the world that they would not stage again such nuclear war drills to threaten or blackmail [the North].”
                In response, a South Korean defense ministry official requesting anonymity stated “The tensions should gradually decrease from here, but we cannot lose ourselves to complacency. We do still have to be prepared for any provocations.” Nevertheless, as US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said during his recent visit to the peninsula, “...our preference would be to get to talks.”

                The only question remaining is what will the talks focus on?

Diplomatic Disasters
                World diplomacy with North Korea has a long and troubled past, plagued by the fact that US and international officials are completely unsure of the nation’s political status. Forced to use a fuzzy interpretation of state propaganda and gathered intelligence as a barometer, US diplomats have often missed key opportunities to get through to either of the Kim Jong’s. In the past, the US mantra has been to stop the North Korean nuclear program and to guarantee South Korea protection should Northern threats be actualized. However, if the US enters this new set of talks with the same mindset, the only item that will be guaranteed is a continuation of the vicious cycle of threats and provocation.
                Now that North Korea has a nuclear weapon, as well as the ability to launch such warheads globally coming in the near future, the US cannot afford to continue to treat North Korea as a misbehaving child but instead must look upon them as a viable threat. With that in mind, US diplomats need to recognize the fact that the current diplomatic stance only makes Kim Jong Un feel more threatened than reassured.

Ready for Reform
                Were Kim Jong Un reassured, the world might begin to see North Korea open up to more western thought and technology. Kim Jong Un has discussed improving North Korea’s dying economy and has hinted that the nation may move in the direction of reforms [however slight]. This fact was evidenced by the recent visit of Google CEO Eric Schmidt to Pyongyang, showing that Un may be ready to allow new development in North Korea.
                However, Charles Armstrong, Director of Korean Research at Columbia University, believes that any hope of change will be stifled by the current US approach to North Korean relations. “The dilemma, though, is that North Korea can only embark on serious reform from a condition of what it considers absolute security,” Armstrong notes in an op-ed for CNN. “Unfortunately, the quest for security and the desire for economic improvement have been in contradiction for some time. A genuine opening could unleash political and social changes...while the path of security through nuclear deterrence and missiles have led time and again to confrontation and renewed isolation.”

                The old adage states “Do not attempt to reason with a fool. He will only drag you down to his level and beat you over the head with his ignorance.” Call it nationalistic, but North Korea has been foolhardy in its recent provocation of the US. As history has shown, you cannot beat the ignorance of out of the communist political system, but instead, you can speak a language that they do understand: money. Only by providing  strong incentives instead of punishments, obtainable rewards instead of sanctions, and deliberate reassurance instead of threats in kind, will the US and the rest of the world slowly lure North Korea down the path of peace.


-Charles Armstrong, “Why Sticks don’t work with North Korea,” January 25, 2013,

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Under Pressure...

Found this article online, and thought it was brilliant.



By Noah Lotte

                For the politicians on Capitol Hill, I have yet another issue to bring to the table. I realize that you are extremely busy debating immigration and soundly arguing over gun control, however, recent events beg your attention elsewhere. To my fellow Americans, I recognize that we all struggle to meet our mortgage payments, much less figure out how much in taxes we actually do owe the government, but the time has come for us to recognize the newest threat to our liberties and freedoms.
                I have been deeply saddened the last week, praying for the families of those killed and maimed by the dual explosions at the Boston Marathon.  I dearly hope that this atrocity will never be forgotten and shall never be repeated. We must do our utmost to prevent such a bombing from ever occurring in the future. Examining the sequence of events that brought about the attack, it is clear what course of action we must take.
                For the sake of our liberties and our national security, I believe that legislation must be passed to ban the use and sale of pressure cookers. It was these everyday items that were used in the bombings, and had the terrorists been unable to access the cookers, these attacks could have well been prevented.  We must remove these tools of destruction from our homes and from our society. There will always be groups opposed to such legislation, but we cannot afford to let our political opinion stand in the way of safety. At the very least, we must require extensive background checks for anyone attempting to purchase a pressure cooker. Allowing a pressure cooker to fall into the wrong hands will only have the same consequences as those in Boston. It is our added civic duty to ensure that crazy aunt Matilda cannot unrestrictedly use pressure cookers as well.  Recognize we have just as much a duty to protect that nation as the government.
                In addition to background checks, we must also work to limit the amount of atmospheres pressure cookers can withstand. Currently, the average pressure cooker allows the user to build the pressure up to dangerous levels, as evidenced by the numerous pressure cooker accidents that have occurred in the last decade. Were we to limit the amount of pressure per cooker, we will reduce the potential devastation wreaked by accidental and purposeful explosions.
                My fellow countrymen, if I were the president and I knew this legislation would save one life, I would pass it. If I knew it would save a hundred lives, I would pass it.  But simply knowing the enormous danger that the unregulated use and purchase of pressure cookers poses to our society’s safety is enough.  We cannot afford to live in the past where these so-called “useful” items are freely accessible to anyone—if we are unsafe now, we may never have a future.
                Let us all put our signatures to this legislation and with our pressure protect the nation for our children.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wanted: Mars Settlers...


     How is that midlife crisis treating you? Highschoolers--tired of school? Well, the good news is that there might be a way to escape from it all. The bad news? It will take the rest of your life.
      Not-for-profit Netherlands organization, Mars One, sent out a casting call last Monday for any and all volunteers for a decades long trip to Mars. Participants will also star in the consequent reality tv show, "Stars on a Planet." Mars One is looking for truly anyone: no prior experience as an astronaut or a degree in science required. Simply make a video stating why you should be shipped to Mars, and send it in. Great stuff, right?
      As of so far, the organization has received over 10,000 entries, from out of which the board of directors hopes to select 24 lucky [or unlucky depending how you see it] individuals. Mars One hopes to launch the first crew of four by 2023, with subsequent launches of four man teams every two years after.
       Money could be a problem though. Sending stuff into space has never exactly been cheap, much less getting humanity to Mars. Director and co-founder Bas Landsorp says he hopes the $25 application fee will waive some of that cost, though he notes that there is still much more fundraising to do. The accounting department estimates that final costs will be upwards of $6 billion. [sounds great. I'll send in the billion I found in the gutter the other day.]
      Props to private organizations [SpaceOne included] for showing explorative initiative. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Physics tonight. And a poem.

What are you fleeing?
Running as if the Devil was right behind.
Kicking up little spurts of gravel,
In the recess of your mind.

Starburst, fireworks
Your breath comes heavy and hot.
Always looking for that finish tape
But never able to stop.

Going in circles
I can't seem to keep a straight line.
Running through the dark
Chasing the setting sun.
Twisting through the violent maze
God, when can I be done?

Colors burst, fireworks
Dead ends again and again.
The tar bubbles in the heat as I flee
My feet are black with stain.

Throw me down on the headshrink's couch
Drug me out with gin.
I'll still keep running, pounding on.
Flying forward, but I'll never win.

Blood burst, fireworks
Voices tell me to carry on
Gasping out my fleeting breath,
God, let me see the dawn.

Yes, to God I cry out my soul--
How dare He answer me not.
If He truly cared, loved at all,
He'd grant me peace to stop.

Rain burst, fireworks
Washes away the blood from my eyes
All this time, running the wrong way--
"It is finished," the dying man sighs

I take a step, and then I stop
Hope pouring into my veins.
Oh, this is peace, this is rest--
Letting go in my last death strains.

Lifeburst, fireworks
In death there's life I've found.
Not a grave but true paradise,
Now unchains me from the ground.

I began to walk, and then I run
Not from a fear but joy.
I've learned now its not a race
Not to a point, but to a grace
Not through a line, but through a grave
Now all a celebration of joy.

Starburst. Firework.
Breathe in. Love. Breathe out.
Sunrise, sunset--I see it all.
Fear? Its what I live without.

[all the times you ran away, love pursued you even more]