I see that Victor Davis Hanson is blogging about the miseries of modern air travel. I’ll chime in to say that I’ve just been in Paris to cover a meeting of Iranian dissidents (more on that below) and the trip from New York felt longer than the three-day meeting itself. What was supposed to be an 8 hour 10 minute route, with a quick connection in Zurich, turned into a 19 hour extravaganza — plus the two-hour advance check-in time to wait in the snaking line (airlines operate as if perpetually surprised that customers would show up at all; in delicatessens, by contrast, they at least let you take a number and browse during rush hours) and then go to security and start hopping around on one foot while shucking gear into those little tubs (where are the ergonomists of America? surely there’s a better way). All-in-all, including a hopelessly missed connection, and further delays, the trip was about 24-hours door-to-door.
But the enduring memory — and in the event it did seem to last forever — was the delay at JFK after we had boarded the plane and left the gate for an early evening takeoff. A 10 minute delay became an hour. Then that turned into another hour. Then the pilot announced he was waiting to hear from the control tower, and had no idea when we would go. He turned off the seatbelt sign and the crew — hallelujah — began passing out snack packets of Soletti Happy Mix. The plane was still sitting on the apron. There was no bad weather. There was no mechanical problem. There was just an amazing airplane jam at JFK. Another hour went by. The plane rolled into a queue that stretched as far as we could see. Another hour went by. Finally, a bit after 10 PM, we took off. Crew members said this has become routine at JFK. One steward said that out of 17 flights he had worked in previous weeks, only one had made the trip on time — the problem being that JFK just can’t deal with the traffic.
Iranians for Regime Change, and a Note on North Korea
In Paris, the news was all about the French legislative elections (and the Hamas coup in Gaza), but my main interest — along with a few other items — was in the 200 or so Iranian-born exiled dissidents meeting in a nondescript basement conference hall to launch a movement they are calling Solidarity Iran. I filed an article about it last night, and have already heard from other Iranian dissidents, saying this group can’t get anywhere, is full of has-beens, some of whom helped bring the Islamic Republic to power in the first place, and isn’t worth listening to. Possibly, but even if they get nothing else right, these folks have an aim that our own government seems to have dropped — they want an end to the Islamic regime in Tehran. Not negotiations, not Condi Rice meeting with bagmen for the mullahs, not a Libya solution focused on the nuclear program while giving the tyrants a pass. The Iranian exiles in that Paris basement had plenty to say about why the only real answer in Iran is to bring down the regime. That’s a message worth paying attention to. If Jimmy Carter himself were to utter it, I’d listen.
The same message applies to North Korea. We have now allowed Kim Jong Il to extort help in his money laundering from what is arguably the most powerful institution on earth after the U.S. mililtary: the Federal Reserve. We will pay dearly for that.
And Yes, In the Oil-for-Food Sludge, Another Mercedes Bobs to the Surface
Just when you thought you’d heard it all, the same United Nations Oil-for-Food scandal which led to investigations that outed Kojo Annan’s tax-free and duty-free Mercedes (bought in Europe and shipped to Ghana under false use of Kofi Annan’s UN Secretary-General status) has now led to allegations in India about another Mercedes, this one allegedly connected to kickbacks via a New Delhi connection with UN relief activities in Iraq. Here’s a link to the story, complete with photos of the alleged documentation, found in a pen drive.
And of course we have recently heard the proposal from a former member of Paul Volcker’s inquiry into Oil-for-Food, Richard Goldstone, to set up a UN Oil-for-Food program in Sudan. Goldstone’s assumption, I guess, is that based on the lessons of Oil-for-Food, this could now be well run. Not a chance. But I suppose it could be more efficiently run. Instead of pretending to manage a relief program, the UN could cut the middlemen, ship luxury cars in bulk to whomever, and oversee the direct deposit of kickbacks into private accounts. If it’s too much for the UN to handle, maybe the Fed can help out?