March 20, 2004

More Minion Mailbag.

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been very pleased to read the great posts from his various ministers this week. Alas, your Maximum Leader has been quite preoccupied by other things. He's been on the phone with his buddy Pervez almost all week. We'll see if he takes your Maximum Leader's advice and just starts carpet bombing...


A few notes... To loyal minion, Kilgore Trout, if you are out there. Your Maximum Leader hasn't forgotten you my friend. That introduction we talked about a few weeks ago... Well, your Maximum Leader is really really slack sometimes. He's been unable to get his friend on the phone for more than 30 seconds. He's going to try again this weekend... Perhaps good will come of it. Your Maximum Leader will tell her to bring you some Hot Pockets, courtesy of your Maximum Leader.

Do my loyal minion readers go and read Anna on Primal Purge on a regular basis? Your Maximum Leader would hope so. Just today Anna strung together a great post from the most unlikely sources. Allow him to add that when he read this post a few weeks ago he both spewed hot tea (Mighty Leaf Hojicha in fact) through his nose, and fell out of his very comfy leather computer throne. Indeed, your Maximum Leader recommended it to the Poet Laureate, who also thought it was good.

Well... Let's move on to the Minion Mailbag shall we?

A reader named "G." from "some European Nation that hates Bush" writes:
Subj:The Foreign Minister is the Best!

Wow that guy is incredible!

I love to read his stuff.
Your Maximum Leader responds: Well "G," your Maximum Leader thinks that the Foreign Minister is pretty cool too. Indeed, we scored so similarly on the Libertarian Purity Test, how could your Maximum Leader not think he was pretty good? Your Maximum Leader doesn't think there will be any demotions or changes to his Ministerial lineup in the near future. Besides, he knows that the firepower needed to overcome the Foreign Minister is considerable, and resources would be better used elsewhere.

You know... Upon closer examination of that last message... It might have come from... The Foreign Minister himself! Humm... Your Maximum Leader senses some jealousy, no? Well, my friend fear not. Your Maximum Leader knows of at least one person (other than Mrs. Foreign Minister) who thinks you are the bee's knees.

And in a second message in one week, "Powermfm" writes:
weak weaker, weakest . . . they all fluctuate in a heartbeat. If it's Tuesday, one country will purge its weapons of mass destruction programs. And yet again, if its Wednesday, well . . . Yes, they all have the capability of falling like a house of cards with the only possible exception being Saudia where Islam started and Mecca and Medina reside. That simply could cause resistance. Yet it really isn't the institutional governments that would be the real and total problem. Its those petilential cowardly cells. And, oh ML, so many people cannot differentiate political will from psychosis (Hitler, Stalin, et al.). When it comes to China, they are still on the brink of mass famine and starvation as seen about 40 years ago when 600,000 died in such circumstances and the gravity of it all was covered up by Mao. It aint their technology or their sudden craving for a consumer society; its the arable land situation. I am still trying to find anything in China remotely like our midwestern plains full of waving grain. Keep running into those mountains and extraordinarily narrow cuts through them often containing a river perversely given to massive flooding in a light mist. Please also note in recent chinese history things such as SARS and bird flu, neither of which were handled well and they paid the highest price. By the way, I thought it was North Korea currently in the running for the prize of asking us how many of our cities were were willing to sacrifice.
Your Maximum Leader responds: First, of all of the middle eastern nations capable of falling like a house of cards, Saudi Arabia is much further up the list than you give them credit for. The current Saudi Royal Family rules that nation through a combination of strong-arm police tactics, bribery, Sharia, and good old fashion autocracy. See here, here, here, and here for more. Surely Mecca and Medina are in Saudi Arabia, and the current Royal Family is very particular about their role as defender and custodian of these sites. But that fact didn't keep Ibn Saud from overthrowing the Hashemites in 1925. (Who it can be argued were the rightful rulers of that region and had the stronger historical claim of being custodians of the holy sites.) And that fact will not deter some future person or group from overthrowing the House of Saud.

And moving on to Asia... Your Maximum Leader is perfectly capable of differentiating "political will" from "psychosis." If you believe that the current leadership of China is psychotic in the Hitler and Stalin vein, your Maximum Leader suggests you pull out a DSM IV and re-evaluate your asessment of psychotic. While they certainly aren't likely to win any congeniality awards, neither do they bear a resemblance to the Hitler model of leadership. If your Maximum Leader might parapharase Monty Python, Hu Jintao may be short, and fat, and pushy; but at least he's not insane.

As for China being on the brink of mass starvation... It could happen. If the planets align and plagues of locusts stream in from Mongolia and the Russian Steppes. The starvations you are talking about by your own admission happened 40 years ago. Your Maximum Leader commends for your review this profile from our very own Department of State. To quote a salient passage:
During the 1980s, these reforms led to average annual rates of growth of 10% in agricultural and industrial output. Rural per capita real income doubled. China became self-sufficient in grain production; rural industries accounted for 23% of agricultural output, helping absorb surplus labor in the countryside. The variety of light industrial and consumer goods increased. Reforms began in the fiscal, financial, banking, price-setting, and labor systems.
Roughly half of China's labor force is engaged in agriculture, even though only 10% of the land is suitable for cultivation. China is among the world's largest producers of rice, potatoes, sorghum, millet, barley, peanuts, tea, and pork. Major non-food crops include cotton, other fibers, and oilseeds. Yields are high because of intensive cultivation, but China hopes to further increase agricultural production through improved plant stocks, fertilizers, and technology. Incomes for Chinese farmers are stagnating, leading to an increasing wealth gap between the cities and countryside. Government policies that continue to emphasize grain self-sufficiency and the fact that farmers do not own--and cannot buy or sell--the land they work have contributed to this situation. In addition, inadequate port facilities and lack of warehousing and cold storage facilities impede both domestic and international agricultural trade.
While they don't have amber waves of grain in the Yang'tze river valley, they are not malnurished and on the verge of starvation. Your Maximum Leader suspects that the Chinese will continue to increase their agricultural output as they apply technology to their already staggering labour force in agriculture. Ditto their industrial output.

As for SARS and Bird Flu. Your Maximum Leader is afraid that you over-estimate the full extent of these attacks. While your Maximum Leader concurs that the Chinese Government didn't deal well with these outbreaks, he hardly thinks that China suffered the "highest price." According to the World Health Organization, the total number of fatalities due to SARS after the high-point of the outbreak last year was 648. Our own CDC estimates the total deaths worldwide to be 780. As for Bird Flu, the WHO attributes 23 deaths to the most recent outbreak. None of those deaths are in China.

Your Maximum Leader will stand by his comments on China. While he does not believe they are a great threat to the US at this time, the day might come very soon when they will make us choose between Los Angeles or Taipei.

As for North Korea being more likely to threaten us with nuclear weapons. Your Maximum Leader agrees that if they could deliver a nuclear device to the US they would. At this point your Maximum Leader would more expect that North Korean nuclear weapon to be targeted at South Korea or Japan. (Afterall, NK recently shot a missile towards Japan.) The situation in North Korea is of much concern to your Maximum Leader and to many others. He commends a host of Koreabloggers to read to keep an eye on North Korea. Those Koreabloggers include, our own Big Hominid, Robert at the Marmot's Hole, and Kevin at Incestuous Amplification. These are the Koreablogs your Maximum Leader checks out regularly.

Carry on.


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