December 2011, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Christmas Music:  Some lovely young ladies dance through a mall singing "Home for the Holidays".

And in another mall, Lutherans go wild — as wild as Lutherans ever go — singing "Joy to the World".
- 2:20 PM, 24 December 2011   [link]

Ron Paul And Timothy Leary:  The Texas congressman has had many fringe allies over the years.
I first met Ron Paul in 1988 at the Beverly Hills home of Dr. Timothy Leary, the one-time "turn on, tune in, drop out" LSD guru.  Leary talked to me about how he was going to have his head frozen cryogenically when he died — it happened eight years later — and why he was hosting a fundraiser for Paul.  The event showed that there is such a thing as being so far to the right, or left, that you bond with the fringe left or fringe right.
But Leary is one I hadn't known about.

(Much more on Leary here.)
- 7:27 AM, 23 December 2011   [link]

The Patriot Missile Mystery:  Here's the BBC story.
The Finnish authorities have impounded an Isle of Man-flagged ship bound for China with undeclared missiles and explosives, officials say.

Police are questioning the crew of the MS Thor Liberty after what were described as 69 Patriot anti-missile missiles were found aboard.
(Other versions of the story that I've seen are not entirely consistent with this one.  I'll be looking for updates and corrections, as we learn more.)

The most obvious explanation for this mystery is that China bought these missiles from a corrupt American or, possibly, a corrupt ally.

I assume our authorities already know where they were supposed to be shipped, and are trying to find out how and where they were diverted.
- 8:45 AM, 22 December 2011
More: According to a German official, the missiles are a legitimate shipment to South Korea.

It seems a bit careless to put top-secret missiles on an ordinary freighter, especially one headed for China.
- 10:54 AM, 22 December 2011   [link]

Jimmy Carter Sent Condolences To North Korea?  That's what the North Korean news agency is saying.
Former President Jimmy Carter has sent North Korea a message of condolence over the death of Kim Jong-il and wished "every success" to the man expected to take over as dictator, according to the communist country's state-run news agency.
Like Elliot Abrams, I hope this story is false.  (A quick search found no denials from Carter.)
- 8:17 AM, 22 December 2011   [link]

Hugo Chávez Is partly wrong, as usual.
Hugo Chávez blasted President Barack Obama as a “clown” and an “embarrassment” who has turned the United States into a “disaster” after Obama criticized Venezuela’s ties with Iran and Cuba, according to a report Tuesday.

Chávez’s comments came in the wake of Obama’s Monday written interview with the Caracas paper El Universal, where the U.S. president questioned Venezuela’s connections to those countries. Chávez hit back strongly at Obama on state TV Monday, according to The Guardian, saying the president gave the interview only to “win votes” in the 2012 election.
An embarrassment yes, a clown, no.  Chávez, on the other hand, would have made an excellent clown.  Unfortunately for Venezuela, he chose another career.

One thing I have to give Obama credit for is that some of the world's nastiest regimes now see him as an enemy.

(Here's the interview, if you are curious.)
- 6:27 AM, 22 December 2011   [link]

Goodbye To Fall:  

fallen leaves

- 3:35 PM, 21 December 2011   [link]

Another Consequence Of Global Warming:   Man-eating lions.

(Anyone who takes this seriously is invited to find a time when a few big cats, in Africa and Asia, did not eat people, or our remote ancestors.)
- 9:47 AM, 21 December 2011   [link]

If The United States Doesn't Buy Canada's Ethical Oil, Canadians will sell it to someone else, for example, the Chinese.
Canada could sell its oil to China and other overseas markets with or without approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline in the United States, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In a year-end television interview, Harper indicated he had doubts the $7-billion pipeline would receive political approval from U.S. President Barack Obama, and that Canada should be looking outside the United States for markets.
By stalling on the Keystone pipeline, President Obama's has offended our Canadian friends, at the very least postponed badly-needed jobs and access to energy from a friendly, stable, democratic nation, and managed to make some environmentalists suspect that he will betray them, after the election.

Satisfying, even temporarily, the adherents to the Green religion can be expensive.

(In case you missed it, here's a map showing other commercial pipelines.   As you can see, the Keystone pipeline would be joining many others.)
- 8:27 AM, 21 December 2011   [link]

Was That North Korean Grief Over The Death Of The Dictator Genuine?  Mostly, in my opinion.  One of the horrific facts about totalitarian states is that their subjects often swallow much of the propaganda they are fed.

And North Korea's control over what its people see and hear is close to absolute.

Solzhenitsyn tells us about the grief over Stalin's death, most of it real, at his place of exile, after his stay in the Gulag.

His landlady, another exile, tells him to go listen to the radio.
Something told me to do what she said:  I went over to the central square.   A crowd of perhaps two hundred people — a lot for Kok-Terek — huddled around the post under the loudspeaker and the sullen sky.  There were many Kazakhs, most of them old men, among the crowd.  Their bald heads were bare, and they held their red-brown muskrat-fur hats in their hands.  They were grief-stricken.  The younger people seemed less concerned.  Two or three tractor drivers had not removed their caps.  Nor, of course, would I.  Before I could make out what the announcer was saying (he spoke with a histrionic catch in his voice), understanding dawned on me.

This was the moment my friends and I had looked forward to, even in our student days.  The moment for which every zek in the Gulag (except the orthodox Communists) had prayed!  He's dead, the Asiatic dictator is dead!  The villain has curled up and died!  What unconcealed rejoicing there would be in the Special Camp!   But where I was, Russian girls, schoolteachers, stood sobbing their hearts out.  "What is to become of us now?"  They had lost a beloved parent . . . . I wanted to yell at them across the square:  "Nothing will become of you now!  Your fathers will not be shot.!  Your husbands-to-be will not be jailed!  And you will never be stigmatized as relatives of prisoners!" (p. 423)
But of course Solzhenitsyn could not say that publicly, could not even hint at the truth, even in exile.

(It's a horrific fact, but it's one that many Americans do not understand.  I don't want to put much weight on a single Internet poll, but it is sad to see that only 15 percent in this Althouse poll understand that.)
- 7:17 AM, 20 December 2011   [link]

Is The Two-Month Payroll Tax Holiday Impractical?   Probably, according to those who would have to implement it.
Officials from the policy-neutral National Payroll Reporting Consortium, Inc. have expressed concern to members of Congress that the two-month payroll tax holiday passed by the Senate and supported by President Obama cannot be implemented properly.

Pete Isberg, president of the NPRC today wrote to the key leaders of the relevant committees of the House and Senate, telling them that “insufficient lead time” to implement the complicated change mandated by the legislation means the two-month payroll tax holiday “could create substantial problems, confusion and costs affecting a significant percentage of U.S. employers and employees.”
Isberg's objection doesn't surprise me.  Companies, even large companies, often outsource payroll processing because of the complexity of our tax laws — and the penalties, legal and otherwise, for mistakes.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should have known this, or should have paid attention to those who do.
- 6:20 AM, 20 December 2011   [link]

Worth Reading:  James Kirchick's examination of some of Ron Paul's dirty laundry.   Some of the dirty laundry is old, and some is quite recent.
In a March 2009 interview, Paul entertained [conspiracy-monger Alex] Jones’s claim that NORTHCOM, the U.S. military’s combatant command for North America, is “taking over” the country.  “The average member of Congress probably isn’t a participant in the grand conspiracy,” Paul reassured the fevered host, essentially acknowledging that such a conspiracy exists.  “We need to take out the CIA.”  On Paul’s latest appearance on the Jones show, just last week, he called allegations that Iran had attempted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States a “propaganda stunt” of the Obama administration.  In a January 2010 speech, Paul announced, “There’s been a coup, have you heard?  It’s the CIA coup” against the American government.  “They’re in businesses, in drug businesses,” the congressman added.
Some, because there is more dirty laundry not covered in this article.

Kirchick argues — and I agree — that Paul has not been vetted by our "mainstream" journalists because they like to portray him as a 'truth-telling, antiwar Republican standing up to the “hawkish” conservative establishment'.  And if they are going to do that, they have to ignore his dirty laundry.
- 2:42 PM, 19 December 2011   [link]

Is President Obama Trying To Work With Republicans?   Judge for yourself, using this bit from the Chris Wallace Romney interview.
WALLACE: I saw the other day that President Obama has not met with Republican congressional leaders in five months while he is at the same time made 34 campaign speeches.
I think most people will agree that, if Obama wanted to work with Republicans, he could put a little more effort into it.  He could, for example, meet with them once for ten campaign speeches.
- 9:16 AM, 19 December 2011   [link]

"Top 10 Crazy Facts About Kim Jong Il"  You can find them here.

It's hard to choose a single favorite.  Here's one that shows something about the man, and his regime.
The Fact: He had disabled and short people deported from his capital

In preparation for the World Festival of Youth and Students in 1989, Kim Jong Il had disabled residents removed from Pyongyang.  The government also distributed pamphlets advertising a wonder drug that would increase the height of short people.  Those who responded to the pamphlets were sent away to different uninhabited islands along with the disabled in an attempt to rid the next generation of their supposedly substandard genes.
What makes that especially great is that Kim himself was rather short.

By way of Tim Blair, who has more.
- 8:59 AM, 19 December 2011   [link]

Jonah Goldberg Makes the (tentative) case for Newt Gingrich.
That remains a stretch.  Mitt Romney is still the sensible choice if you believe these are rough, but generally sensible, times.  If, however, you think these are crazy and extraordinary times, then perhaps they call for a crazy, extraordinary — very high-risk, very high-reward — figure like Gingrich.
As you can tell, Goldberg makes the case only to reject it.

And I have to add — for those who think labels are important — that choosing a crazy leader is not usually considered a conservative decision.
- 8:13 AM, 19 December 2011   [link]

Kim Jong-il Is Dead:  And for that, we can all be grateful, though the evil that he did will live for decades.

The New York Times is straightforward in its account.
SEOUL, South Korea — Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader who realized his family’s dream of turning his starving country into a minor nuclear-weapons power even as the isolated nation sank further into despotism, died on Saturday of a heart attack, according to the country’s state-run media.

Within hours of the announcement, the South Korean news agency reported that North Korea tested an unspecified number of short-range missiles on Monday morning.
. . .
The North had kept news of the death of its leader secret for roughly two days, perhaps a sign that the leadership was struggling to position itself for what many believe could be a particularly perilous transition.
Perhaps too straightforward, since their article does not capture just how bizarre and cruel his regime is.

CBN does a little better in capturing the flavor of the regime, with a little help from Congressman Peter King.
While Kim lived up the lavish lifestyle, his countrymen suffered. North Korea's economy has been devastated since the early 1990s and millions of people live with famine.

He regularly spent North Korea's money on fleets of luxury cars, expensive watches, rockets, and built himself a nuclear program with enough plutonium for six nuclear bombs.

"I think it's important to keep in mind that North Korea is basically an organized crime family posing as a government," King said. "Kim Jong Il was a madman and a tyrant."
But even that doesn't capture the bizarre aspects of the regime, which you can find in books like this one, or this one.

I have, from time to time, described the regime as a Communist monarchy, but I don't believe that I have mentioned the racist elements in its ideology.  Those elements are important, so perhaps we should call it a racist Communist monarchy.
- 6:34 AM, 19 December 2011   [link]

Snakes Are A Bigger Health Hazard than I would have guessed.
Officially, the W.H.O. estimates that snakebites kill between 20,000 and 94,000 people a year.  Some experts consider this estimate too low, because many deaths of peasant farmers and fishermen go unreported.  Snakebites also cause up to 400,000 amputations yearly.

Few neglected diseases do so much damage.  Even cholera has not officially killed 25,000 since 1973.
Though that range of estimates — 20,000 to 94,000 — has to make you wonder about the numbers.

(Incidentally, Wikipedia has much higher estimates for the death toll from cholera.)
- 7:17 PM, 18 December 2011   [link]

By Way Of Contrast, here's the transcript of Chris Wallace's interview of Mitt Romney.  On the whole, I was impresed by Romney's performance, especially since Wallace was not a friendly interviewer.  Romney came across as confident, but not arrogant.

(Pure speculation, but I have been wondering, recently, whether one of the things that bugs people about Romney is that he doesn't have a normal family, he has a "super normal" family.  Very few people have the kind of marriage and children that he and Ann have, and that is bound to annoy some.)
- 5:13 PM, 18 December 2011   [link]

Obama Is One Of The Top Four Presidents:  According to Obama, anyway.

Here's what he told 60 Minutes — though 60 Minutes chose not to broadcast it.
KROFT:  Tell me, what do you consider your major accomplishments?  If this is your last speech.  What have you accomplished?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, we're not done yet.  I've got five more years of stuff to do.  But not only saving this country from a great depression.  Not only saving the auto industry.  But putting in place a system in which we're gonna start lowering health care costs and you're never gonna go bankrupt because you get sick or somebody in your family gets sick.  Making sure that we have reformed the financial system, so we never again have taxpayer-funded bailouts, and the system is more stable and secure.  Making sure that we've got millions of kids out here who are able to go to college because we've expanded student loans and made college more affordable.   Ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  Decimating al Qaeda, including Bin Laden being taken off the field.  Restoring America's respect around the world.

The issue here is not gonna be a list of accomplishments.  As you said yourself, Steve, you know, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president -- with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln -- just in terms of what we've gotten done in modern history.   But, you know, but when it comes to the economy, we've got a lot more work to do.  And we're gonna keep on at it.
Note, by the way, that those are only possible exceptions.  Obama isn't saying that Lincoln, FDR, and Johnson accomplished more legislatively, and in foreign policy, than he has, but that they might have.

To be fair, we have to note that Obama does not give himself quite as high a grade on the economy, instead settling for an incomplete.

Sometimes, Obama's modesty is breathtaking.

(Incidentally, that question shows why Obama chose Steve Kroft for the interview — and why 60 Minutes should consider replacing Kroft with a journalist.

I watched that part of the interview and saw Obama react to the question with a great big grin.  The video cuts off right after that answer, but I saw no reaction from Kroft in the second or two after Obama's absurd claim.)
- 4:24 PM, 18 December 2011   [link]

Our Three-Million-Calorie-A-Day Visitors:  Nine days ago, scientists spotted six blue whales off the Washington coast — which is probably not a place they visit often.
On 8 December 2011, six blue whales were sighted feeding off the Washington coast intermixed with humpback and fin whales.  Blue whales are the largest animal that has ever lived and still endangered due to whaling.  This is the most blue whales we know of ever being sighted off Washington and only the third confirmed sighting in the last 50 years.  One of the previous sightings was also in winter (see 2009 report).  The other sightings in 2009 were of single animals.  Blue whales are more commonly seen off California in summer and fall.  This lack of sightings off Washington could in part be because of the lack of survey effort in winter months off the Washington coast, a period where poor weather makes surveys difficult.
(Being scientists, they naturally have to say that more research is needed.)

You can find some mind-boggling statistics on blue whales here and here.  The Wikipedia article also has some recordings of their songs, frequency shifted so we can hear them.

According to the Wikipedia article, the blue whale populations have probably been recovering, since the ban on blue whale hunting.  This visit to the Washington coast might show that the growth in numbers is causing them to expand their range.   But I am not now, nor have I ever been, a cetologist, so you should take my suggestion with a grain of salt.

(Blue whales eat krill, as you probably know, in very large amounts.)
- 2:53 PM, 17 December 2011   [link]