How Did I Miss That? North West Diamonds, North Korea Demands

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Kanye West gave his baby girl only two holiday gifts in addition to her name, North West. She got a $62,000 diamond tiara and a $12,000 replica of dad’s SUV. North “Nori” West has some very expensive toys, but no middle name.

“According to the tabloids,” my cousin Ray Sixkiller mused, “Nori was born in June of 2013. That’s makes her just about a year and a half old. She’ll have to save that tiara to wear to kindergarten in three or four years. Can you imagine what she’ll get for her quinceañera?”

When I reminded Ray that fiesta de quinceañera comes to us from the Aztecs, so it’s not likely little North West can look forward to having one, he snarked back: “That’s about all she can’t look forward to having.”

Moving from where babies get diamonds to where babies still starve to death, U.S. government sources confirmed the probability that the Sony Pictures hacking was ordered by the North Korean government of the boy dictator Kim Jong-Un.

The hackers then threatened violence in any theater that showed The Interview, a goofy comedy about a plot to assassinate Mr. Kim. After one theater chain after another folded, so did Sony.

Newt Gingrich called the Sony hack “an act of war,” a meme that quickly spread though the right-wing echo chamber and proved Gingrich can be an opinion leader in some circles without Sheldon Adelson’s money.

The most disturbing voice in the “act of war” chorus was Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who demanded that the U.S. get tougher with North Korea, as he previously demanded about Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, Libya, Syria, and bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.

My Republican Cousin Ray was puzzled. “So the U.S. should go to war over an attack on a Japanese corporation?” He also pointed out that the first use of “act of war” was in a letter from North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the White House, and it referred to the U. S. government allowing the film to be made.

A couple of days after President Obama referred to the attack on Sony as “cyber-vandalism” and promised a “proportional” response, North Korea’s entire Internet went dark, all thousand and something IP addresses. Experts said the outage was consistent with a distributed denial of service attack on North Korean routers. “Sheer coincidence,” Cousin Ray deadpanned.

Another country labeled terrorist made news when U.S. partisan politics was in full cry over President Obama’s reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. Most Democrats backed the POTUS and most Republicans went on the attack. My Republican cousin Ray Sixkiller was an exception. “I’m a Dwight Eisenhower Republican,” Ray said, “and President Eisenhower was in the one who broke diplomatic relations in the first place. He would have enough sense to change a policy still not working after 54 years, even if he started it.”

Cousin Ray impressed me again, and I said it out loud: “Most people think JFK closed the U.S. embassy in Cuba.”

Ray schooled me: “The U.S. broke diplomatic relations on January 3, 1960. JFK was not sworn in until January 20.” I pointed out that the GOP’s moderate hope, Jeb Bush, was against normal relations until “all political prisoners in Cuba are free.”

“How does Jeb expect to see all the political prisoners in Cuba free,” Cousin Ray snickered, “when the U.S. holds so many people at Guantánamo Bay who have never been charged with a crime other than bad politics?”

How did President Obama break fifty years of diplomatic ice? It’s often an odd story like the U.S. rivalry with China beginning to thaw over “ping pong diplomacy.” The thaw in U.S. relations with Cuba has given international politics another new phrase, “humanitarian insemination.”

Gerardo Hernández, a Cuban spy serving two life sentences who was released in the complex deal that brought Alan Gross home from a Cuban hoosegow, got out just before his wife Adriana Pérez, was due to give birth to their first child.

In an apparent quid pro quo for Ms. Pérez’ artificial insemination with her husband’s sperm at age 44, Mr. Gross got the lights in his Cuban cell turned off at night and access to a computer. Cousin Ray sympathized with the diplomat given the task of collecting and delivering sperm, noting that it was “quite a bit harder than playing ping pong.” It takes creativity to bridge the divide opened up by calling another country “terrorist.”

Ordinary criminals, unlike nations, sometimes find it convenient to pretend to be terrorists. The Police News reported that Gregory Schrader of Jay, Oklahoma was sentenced to seven years in the crossbar hotel for mailing a bomb to controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaiowith his ex-business partner’s return address. The bomb contained gunpowder but lacked an effective detonator. Evidence showed the intent was not to harm the Sheriff but to frame Schrader’s ex-business partner. Nobody ever claimed criminals are smart.

When I first started as a criminal court judge, I was highly amused by the first case I saw of an individual who left his driver’s license at the scene of a robbery and was caught as a result. Years later, I knew those cases are common as dirt. A method of stalling while other customers leave is to prepare to submit a check, and part of the drill is getting out your ID. When the other customers leave, the robbery begins, the adrenaline kicks in, and the ID gets left on the counter.

Similarly, Digital Trends reported that Alvin Cross, Jr., was in custody after texting “You have some weed?” to his probation officer. This case is from Georgia. I had hardly quit laughing when I read on to discover similar behavior in New York, Connecticut, and Indiana.

In other criminal activity, the prosecutor who abused the grand jury process in Ferguson, Missouri, in his first interview since the no-bill, admitted to having called witnesses in front of the grand jury he knew were lying, claiming the grand jury is “in a perfect position to assess the credibility, which is what juries do.”

He neglects to mention that juries normally assess credibility after vigorous cross-examination by both sides, which he avoided by using grand jury secrecy for political ends. Where I come from, we call knowingly putting on a lying witness “suborning perjury.”

“Maybe we should convene a grand jury to determine whether this prosecutor suborned perjury,” Cousin Ray snorted. Noting that I had not mentioned Bob McCulloch’s name in this report, he suggested we start calling McCulloch “Ham Sandwich.”

President Obama’s last press conference for the year was notable for the fact that he only called on women reporters. Imagine. All those years, so many press conferences with so many presidents calling only on male reporters. Nobody said a word. Now, the world is having kittens. “I got two words for people who don’t remember how hard it’s been for women in the White House press pool,” grumbled Cousin Ray. “Helen Thomas.”

Perhaps in mourning over Michelle Bachmann’s exit from Congress, GQ has gone out on a limb to name “America’s 20 Craziest Politicians.” From the Florida Republican who considers a tax on tanning beds “racist” to the Georgia Democrat who warned that stationing too many GIs on Guam could cause it to capsize, GQ has demonstrated the American principle that crazy people deserve representation, too.

Bloomberg reported that the cost to date of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars is about $1.6 trillion. Amount of that paid by increased taxes, zero. The cost estimates do not include lifetime medical care for disabled veterans, imputed interest on the deficit caused by not paying for either war, or increases in the base defense budget as a consequence of the wars. Adding those factors, the cost would be closer to $4.4 trillion. This report is about the money costs, not the human costs. “Maybe so,” Cousin Ray said with his tongue in both cheeks, “but look at all we gained from those two wars.”

Nature Geoscience published a paleogeology study by Gabriel Bowen and eight others based on a high-resolution C isotope record in the Bighorn Basin. That would be Wyoming, if it made sense to speak of states in geological time. The study reads like a cosmic good news/bad news joke.

The good news is that the Earth warmed abruptly about 55.5 million years ago to a point roughly comparable to what we face today and most animal species survived. The bad news is that the CO2 spike associated with the heat was about a tenth of what humans are generating today and it took 200,000 years to return to a baseline we would consider normal.

Not addressed is the fact that while humans gush CO2 into the air, volcanoes still erupt. Some day, the “super volcano” under the Yellowstone Caldera will erupt. In addition to heating the earth, the eruption could be really inconvenient to the Shoshone and Arapaho people on the Wind River Reservation.