I was intrigued by a news item yesterday, concerning Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.). You remember what Harry Reid said about her at a fundraiser in the last election cycle, don’t you? “We in the Senate refer to Senator Gillibrand as the ‘hottest member.’”
Frankly, I thought that was discourteous toward Senators Boxer, Landrieu, Mikulski, and other members of the upper chamber. But I obviously lack the savoir-faire that makes you Majority Leader of the United States Senate.
Anyway, the item said that Gillibrand “proposed making it easier to round up geese from a federal refuge near Kennedy Airport and kill them” — those geese are a menace, colliding with plane engines.
In the current National Review, I have a piece on North Dakota and its oil boom. There are some who would like to kill off the goose that is laying golden eggs. And the main would-be killer is the Obama EPA. Along with the rest of the administration.
Last year, the Justice Department brought suit against several oil companies operating in North Dakota’s Bakken formation. What had they done? Well, a tiny handful of birds had died in “reserve pits.” The companies were prosecuted under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Company officials faced prison.
With dispatch, a sane district-court judge threw out the suit. As he did so, he listed some of the ways in which birds die: including flying into wind turbines. That kills something like 33,000 a year. But the Left never picks on wind power; only oil.
Will the Justice Department ever prosecute airlines, for the death of geese? Anyway . . .
Reading this article, about the Pakistani prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, I was startled to see that he is the longest-serving PM in his country’s history. It seems like just yesterday he became prime minister: It was in March 2008. I met him three months later. I moderated a panel on which he sat. (This was at what I call “Davos in the Middle East,” or more snappily, “Davos in the Desert.”)
As I remarked at the time, he seemed quite mild, even a bit milquetoast: His handshake would not have cracked an egg; his voice was gentle, even sweet. But you cannot survive in Pakistani politics — particularly at that level — without qualities other than sweetness.
I met him on another occasion, I think, and I went back — i.e., have Googled — to see what I wrote. What I wrote in my online journals. I thought I’d reprint a couple of (quick) paragraphs:
. . . Gilani utters another phrase I like very much. He is asked a question about the future — about whether Pakistani politics will be stable or unstable. It is perfectly natural to ask such questions. But Gilani says, “Politics is a day-to-day affair.” Therefore, you can’t be too certain about the future.
“Politics is a day-to-day affair.” Indeed. And that is perhaps especially true in Pakistan.
Did you read this headline? “France warns Syria that UN clock is ticking.” Oh, that’ll make Assad shake in his boots: France, the United Nations . . . Tick, tock, tick, tock, yawn, zzzzzzzz.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a little “conflicted” about Singapore. Terrible modern word: “conflicted.” But I bow to it now and then. Singapore is a success and model, in many ways. Lee Kuan Yew has greatness in him.
But he has ungreatness in him too, and Singapore is not a properly free country. The latest example: The government has refused to allow an opposition leader to travel to Norway next month to participate in the Oslo Freedom Forum.
Is that how the Singaporean government wishes to be? Really? Aren’t they embarrassed at some level, very close to the surface? (To read about this matter, go here.)
We have all heard about Draconian punishments in Singapore — whipping for gum chewing, stuff like that. (I’m exaggerating a little.) But I wonder whether one citizen’s punishment was too light: “Singapore man fined for setting cat on fire.” Story here.
Earlier this week, at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Elie Wiesel introduced President Obama. One Nobel peace laureate introducing another!
Wiesel said, “How is it that Assad is still in power? How is it that the Holocaust’s number-one denier, Ahmadinejad, is still a president? He who threatens to use nuclear weapons — to use nuclear weapons — to destroy the Jewish state. Have we not learned? We must. We must know that when evil has power, it is almost too late.”
Later, addressing Obama directly, he said, “Mr. President, we are here in this place of memory. Israel cannot not remember. And because it remembers, it must be strong, just to defend its own survival and its own destiny.”
Yes. Wiesel has talked frankly to presidents before. In 1985, receiving the Congressional Gold Medal, he admonished Reagan not to go to the Bitburg cemetery (as the president had promised Helmut Kohl he would). Reagan sat there with the most intent, pained expression on his face.
The next year, Wiesel won the peace prize. I have just written a book on this subject — a history of the Nobel Peace Prize — and wish to quote a paragraph:
Did Wiesel’s stance against Reagan help him with the Nobel Committee? It’s hard to say — but it could not have hurt. Reagan was a hated figure among Western European political elites, not least in Scandinavia. And Wiesel was not exactly a darling of the international Left: His staunch anti-Communism, and his general support of the Jewish state, made him suspect. The stance against Reagan may have lent him what we know as “street cred” (credibility in the street).