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Monthly Archives: June 2008

UN World Food Program Hearts Robert Mugabe

June 30th, 2008 - 1:09 pm

No matter how bad you think the UN is, there’s always something worse. This morning the UN came out with a press release about the UN’s World Food Program hustling more food to Kim Jong Il’s North Korea (despite the long record of food aid to North Korea effectively beefing up not the people who are actually starving, but nuclear-extortionist Kim Jong Il and his over-sized military). Just on a hunch, I checked out which countries right now enjoy seats on the WFP’s 36-member executive board — which is its governing body, shaping policy and, at least in theory, providing oversight for the billions worth of food the WFP receives every year from countries such as the U.S., and doles out largely to feed the captive populations of the world’s dictators.

There on the WFP board, seated alongside the likes of the U.S., U.K. and Japan, is the government of — you guessed it — Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. And he has interesting company. Also on the WFP board are Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Cuba and Sudan. Is this really a good idea?

Even the control freaks who ran the Soviet Union never got around to trying to regulate every breath exhaled by their fellow citizens. But that’s where America seems to be heading, as one set of would-be regulators after another gloms on to the tax-and-dictate potential of controlling carbon dioxide emissions (that’s what we all exhale in order to stay alive). Scarcely has cap-and-trade died in the Senate than we start seeing reports that the Environmental Protection Agency wants to produce a blueprint for, in effect, regulating every act of combustion in the United States. In the MSM, this is playing right now as a case of — shock! horror! — the White House trying to squelch the EPA (here, with important correction at the top, noting the EPA rules would apply not just to cars, but to “all sources of greenhouse gases,” is a Washington Post story on this).

Before the EPA gets its hooks into regulating not simply crud, but the air itself, it’s time to dust off the 1984 movie, ”Ghostbusters,” in which the EPA (set up in 1970 under President Nixon) had already become such an intrusive, officious, bureaucratic joke that even Hollywood was willing to ridicule it.

Climate madness goes well beyond the EPA, of course. The same UN bureaucracy that brought us Oil-for-Food is now twitching to supervise Carbon-for-Cash. As ever, the chief beneficiaries are not likely to be the poor, the polluted, or the taxpayers and fee-payers who foot the bills, but UN and government officials and their cronies, who get to set up entire new domains of patronage and power.   

And what’s it all for, anyway? UN claims to the contrary, there is no scientific “consensus” on global warming.  Even among the scientists consulted by the Nobel-prize festooned IPCC, there is dissent (although the UN and the carbon-credit vendors prefer not to advertise that inconvenient fact). On the matter of which way the world’s ever-changing climate might now be heading, and why, there is still mystery enough so that trying to meter and regulate every carbon dioxide emission on earth is, ultimately, likely to go down in history as the most expensive, wasteful, dictatorial and  pseudo-scientific experiment since the Marx-Lenin-Stalin crusade to re-make human nature. (For some background on the climate front, scroll through the compilation on Senator James Inhofe’s environmental blog; and for a sample of the hypocrisy of the IPCC’s co-Nobelist, Al Gore, see this entry from my fellow Pajamas blogger Roger Kimball).

North Korea Blows Up Wrong Symbol

June 27th, 2008 - 9:03 am

kim-jong-il-statue.jpg   North Korea’s government invites TV crews to come film the demolition of a cooling tower at its aging Yongbyon nuclear plant (note: there is no invitation for them to freely roam the rest of North Korea), and this is hailed in the news and lauded by the State Department as a big symbol of nuclear disarmament.

Wrong symbol. For years Kim Jong Il’s nuclear proliferation schemes have spread way beyond Yongbyon. We’ll know North Korea is serious about peace and disarmament when we start seeing TV broadcasts of North Koreans blowing up and knocking down those giant statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.  

While the State Department and White House are whooping it up over Pyongyang diplomacy and removing North Korea from the terror list (see post below), Kim Jong Il’s state propaganda agencies are cranking out items such as today’s “Cloud of War Hangs Over Korea.”

It needs the talents of Stanley Kubrick to do justice to the complete Cuckoo’s Nest that American policy on North Korea has become.

The State Department wants a nuclear deal, President Bush wants a North Korea peace legacy. And like the hellbent bomber pilot played by Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove, undeterred by any last whisper of sanity, oblivious to the realities of the situation, and apparently beyond the reach of any recall code, Condi Rice just keeps barreling on, homing in on that bull’s-eye moment, yeeee-hah! — oh, criminy, that ended in mushroom clouds. Well, this could too.

Condi, of course, is on a mission not to bomb Kim Jong Il, but to befriend him — although the diplomatic lingo of the State Department leans toward such group-hug oxymorons as “We expect North Korea to cooperate with us … .” In a Wall Street Journal Op-ed, “Diplomacy is Working on North Korea,” Condi has just made the announcement (much-telegraphed, and much-delayed by Pyongyang’s complete disregard for a previously announced deadline of Dec. 31, 2007) that North Korea “will soon make a declaration of its nuclear programs, facilities and materials.” When that happens, presto! President Bush will lift wartime trade restrictions on North Korea, and notify Congress that in 45 days he will remove North Korea from the list of terrorist-sponsoring states.

For a cherry on top, we can also expect later this week the televised demolition of a cooling tower at North Korea’s aging Yongbyon reactor complex. (How much is Kim Jong Il charging the visiting media and dignitaries for tickets to this event? Will anyone tell us?) This is to be the choreographed Kodak moment, peddled by State as the diplomatic triumph of North Korea’s nuclear facilities crumbling without a shot fired.

Except, what we’re really about to get is a Potemkin party, a charade for the evening news. The aging Yongbyon complex is crumbling in any event. This hoopla over the cooling tower is North Korea’s latest diversion from its real and alarming weapons drama and proliferation networks behind the scenes — entwined as convenient during Kim Jong Il’s reign with Pakistan, Libya, Iran, Syria and who-knows-what-else. For years already, Kim Jong Il has been busy diversifying his nuclear projects, including a uranium enrichment program (when confronted over this by the U.S. in 2002, North Korea confirmed it; then later denied it — go figure), and such outrages as the clandestine copy-Yongbyon nuclear reactor built with North Korean collaboration in Syria (destroyed by an Israeli air strike last September, but still secretly under construction as recently as last summer, when Kim’s government was making a big show of shutting down the original Yongbyon in North Korea).

And Condi, in her zeal to push her North Korean deal, managed to write her entire diplomacy-is-working Op-ed on the subject without any explicit mention of the mind-bending report that on the paper records of Yongbyon’s activity, turned over recently to the U.S. by North Korea, American analysts found, according to the Washington Post, traces of highly enriched uranium. Talk about gilding the plutonium — there seems to be so much weapons-related radioactive material wafting around North Korea that the North Koreans themselves can’t keep track of it.

Rice, presumably with a straight face, elides right past this awkward feature of North Korea’s filing system to posit that “Because of our current policy, we now know more about North Korea’s uranium-enrichment efforts than before, and we are learning more still — much of it troubling.” Hmmm… and with North Korea’s record of nuclear extortion, lies, deceit, cheating on every deal and chronic withholding of highly relevant information, how are “we” learning… well, whatever it is we’re learning? Is that because American analysts found themselves licking highly enriched uranium off their fingers as they flipped through North Korean paperwork? (Not least, one has to wonder, is this safe for the researchers? Just to pursue a little thought experiment here – if, for instance, detainees at Guantanamo Bay were asked to flip through these same North Korean documents, wouldn’t we hear an international outcry over the inhumane risks of such exposure?)

Condi argues that in the wheeling and dealing to date, America has given up nothing of significance. Uh-huh. Nothing, that is, except the spectacle of the world’s superpower dignifying Kim Jong Il by stooping to appease him; sending him 134,000 tons of free fuel; welcoming his negotiators for bilateral talks in New York; shrugging off his missed deadlines; watering down the conditions for a satisfactory nuclear declaration; hushing up for more than seven months the information that North Korea even while promising to come clean had continued helping Syria build a secret nuclear reactor; dismissing as a back-burner consideration Kim’s domestic slave labor gulag, and totalitarian rule; and promising in exchange for the radioactive tokens described above that America will lead the way in welcoming Kim’s regime of the Juche idea to the tables (and banking systems?) of the civilized world.

Oh, and let’s not forget the cash for Kim. To satisfy Kim’s demands (in which Pyongyang immediately upped the ante after agreeing to the February, 2007 nuclear disarmament deal), the U.S. arranged the transfer to North Korea last year of some $25 million in allegedly crime-tainted funds frozen at Banco Delta Asia in Macau — a transfer in which, as State Department envoy Chris Hill became increasingly insistent that Kim Jong Il get the money, the U.S. enlisted the Federal Reserve to move the cash to Kim. This was striking, not least, because North Korea, according to the U.S. Treasury, has been counterfeiting U.S. currency for years. Kim Jong Il appears to understand the depth of this kow-tow he exacted from the U.S. — for all the world to see – in getting that money. Condi, Chris Hill and President Bush apparently remain clueless.

Condi concludes her op-ed by trying to cover the bases: “It may be the case that North Korea does not want to give up its nuclear weapons and programs. This is a real possibility. But we should test it… We believe that the six-party framework is the best way to learn more about the threat…,” etc. etc.

Test it? Secretary Rice thinks we should test whether Kim is really willing to be diplomatically inveigled out of his nuclear extortion and proliferation rackets. President Clinton, with Jimmy Carter as his muse, already tried that test – in that case as part of a four-way deal. Clinton threw into that pot a $5 billion plan under which an international consortium began building Kim two turnkey nuclear reactors, plus free fuel, plus a visit in 2000 from then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, wearing her best red dress. Kim cheated. Of course he cheated. Kim’s rule — and lavish lifestyle athwart his starving subjects — depends on maintaining his militarized state and nuclear extortion racket. If he loosened up enough to allow the serious beginnings of a normal economy and even moderately open society, there’s a good chance his own trampled and famished countrymen would seize the opening to hang him from the nearest Tower of the Juche Idea. 

It’s not just North Korea’s behavior that’s at issue here. It is also U.S. policy that’s being put to the test, in the eyes of every would-be nuclear-weapons proliferator on the planet — starting with Iran. The lesson to date is that America, faced with nuclear blackmail, will bow down, dignify and fortify tyrants, fork over loot, and celebrate the process as a victory for diplomacy. Were North Korea to detonate a nuclear bomb over Los Angeles tomorrow, I start to wonder if Condi Rice and Chris Hill would describe the cataclysm as “troubling” and then re-cast it as a candid and informative addendum to North Korea’s promised declaration of its nuclear program.  

In case anyone’s lost track of Kofi Annan, it’s time for a reality check. During his final year as self-styled “Chief Diplomat of the World” at the UN, he kept intimating that he aspired to a humble retirement tutoring young girls in farming techniques in rural Africa. It hasn’t worked out that way.

Fresh from collecting yet another prize spun off by a UN-centric universe in which one of the chief activities seems to be giving each other awards (this one from the Central European University in Budapest, founded by Mark Malloch Brown’s former landlord, George Soros, who was on hand June 19 to share the stage) Kofi Annan will be hosting a “high-level” forum this Tuesday and Wednesday in Geneva. The theme is ”Climate Justice.” The guest list features the usual roster of “leaders from all sectors of society and from around the globe” — all, that is, except anyone who might vigorously disagree with the endless redistributionist schemes in which Kofi Annan & pals figure as the sacred arbiters of who gets what. (And, due to the vicissitudes of fate and that Oil-for-Food indictment issued last year in the U.S. Southern District, Benon Sevan — whom Kofi Annan once hand-picked as a natural for this sort of exercise — is unlikely to leave his native Cyprus to attend the Geneva festivities).

The event will include an evening “boat cruise and cocktail dinatoire on Lake Leman,” , courtesy of the Swiss government — the same Swiss government that has made available to Kofi’s foundation a deluxe villa next door to the UN’s palatial complex in Geneva (and the same Swiss government which enjoys quite a job mill on the back of the ever-expanding UN empire, retiree projects and affiliates). Perhaps such amenities are necessary to offset the heavy labors of fashioning rationing schemes for the planet — especially as ordinary taxpayers wake up here and there (check out the astounding graphic linked in this June 9 Wall Street Journal online piece by Pete Du Pont) to the reality that such schemes would cost trillions, and are far less likely to tame the world’s weather than to crash the global economy. That is a scenario in which the poorest people of the world would be well and truly and — yes – sustainably devastated, while Kofi & Co., gazing at the Swiss sunset over cocktails while cruising Lac Leman and crafting “Climate Justice,” would be among the least vulnerable. Nice work, if you can get it.

Well, It Was Almost Worth Watching…

June 23rd, 2008 - 2:49 am

Having now seen the full CBS “60 Minutes” segment on Al Hurra that I recommended in the post below, I am contemplating the perils of praising anything on TV based on previews. It was so encouraging to see CBS express concern over an anti-Israel rant that I assumed the entire broadcast would be as lucid as the teasers.

No such luck. What came across was such a muddle of priorities that the only real salvation may be to look to the blogosphere to sort this out. CBS is disturbed– and rightly so –by Al Hurra’s record of broadcasting the kind of propaganda it is meant to counter. But CBS is also disturbed – and wrongly so — by the notion that having created a taxpayer-funded Arabic TV channel to broadcast into the Middle East, the administration might actually want it to broadcast an American government line. So which is it? Is Al Hurra supposed to be an exercise in faithfully reflecting a U.S. government message — and let the audience make of it what they will? Or an exercise, never mind the resulting message, in wholesale subsidizing of select reporters to explore the frontiers of free speech?

On the tangle of personalities and allegations shown in this broadcast, I’ll defer to Joel Mowbray, who has invested considerable time in exploring this state-broadcasting labyrinth. In an article in The Wall Street Journal last year, he described as one of the chief villains in the subverting of Al Hurra’s original mission the same man, Larry Register, who unexpectedly popped up in the full-length “60 Minutes” piece as one of the saints. (Update: On Powerline, this morning, Mowbray — who knows in detail the who’s-who of this Washington turf war — slams CBS and says that Al Hurra since getting rid of Register has largely cleaned up its act. Good, but if anti-Israel rants like that aired last month are still slipping by under the U.S. government label and on the U.S. taxpayer dime, still not good enough).

Where I end up is much worried that until Washington does a better job of sorting out what interests Al Hurra is meant to loyally serve, and how, we would all be safer to unplug the taxpayer-funded broadcasting. I can see good reasons for a TV station that would beam into the Middle East, unapologetically, such illuminating material as Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” (over and over), and investigative pieces on the lavish living styles, London and Paris townhouses, and fat Swiss bank accounts of the Middle Eastern potentates who control so much of the Middle Eastern media. It’s a good bet that in-depth, well-documented reporting on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Tyrannical” would be watched with deep interest in the Middle East. I’m not hopeful that’s what lies ahead. In the real world, the question is what’s going to be going out over Al Hurra after the next U.S. election?

In World War II, when Tokyo Rose broadcast enemy propaganda, at least the enemy had to foot the bills for it. Times change, and now there’s Al Hurra.   

Set up four years ago by the Bush administration to help fight the information wars in the Middle East, Al Hurra is an Arabic-language TV station, based in Virginia, which keeps getting caught out broadcasting exactly the kind of enemy propaganda it is supposed to counter. At one point, Al Hurra aired live an hour-long speech by Hezbollah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah. As recently as last month — despite multiple bouts of congressional criticism, reshuffles, promises of change, and almost half a billion taxpayer dollars spent — Al Hurra has again been discovered subverting its own mandate by airing this anti-Israel diatribe , in which a Palestinian guest, Hani El-Masri, in Arabic, on Al Hurra’s flagship show, “Free Hour,” slanders Israel, unchallenged.

That clip was unearthed as part of a joint investigation by CBS’s “60 Minutes” and the newly formed investigative journalism outfit Pro Publica, run by former Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Paul Steiger. Their expose, scheduled to air this evening on “60 Minutes,” with related materials to be posted on the Pro Publica web site, digs into the story of “U.S.-Funded Arab TV Channel Slams Israel.”

I haven’t yet seen the segment in full, but what’s striking in the material posted on the CBS site is not only the appalling material broadcast by Al Hurra, but the utter rejection by its top executive, Brian Conniff, of any criticism about this. He told CBS it is “absolutely wrong” that Al Hurra is anti-Israel, and that behind the clip linked above, he sees “absolutely no pattern.” (For more background, see the compilation of articles put out by Senator Tom Coburn, and here’s a link to Al Hurra , which falls under the purview of the Broadcasting Board of Governers). Actually, there does seem to be a pattern, and it is that every time this kind of incident is unearthed, the executives in charge want to dismiss it as trivial, irrelevant, and not part of a pattern. … Your tax dollars at work.

Mohamed El Baradei, head of the UN’s IAEA, says if there’s a military strike on Iran, he’ll resign.

On the road to a safer world, what a two-fer!

According to this Reuters dispatch, “U.N. atom watchdog chief says to quit if Iran attacked,” El Baradei in an interview with Al-Arabiya TV on Friday said that a strike on Iran would “make me unable to continue my work.” What work? While Iran’s rulers have been prancing across the world stage, bragging up their nuclear program, brandishing their uranium enrichment projects, praising mushroom clouds and whipping up chants of ”Death to Israel! Death to America,” El Baradei has busied himself pondering and dithering over Iran as if it were a matter of deepest metaphysical mystery what the mullahs might possibly want out of the nuclear cycle. Only after Washington obliged with that absurdly misleading National Intelligence Estimate last year, which seemed to have written any military action against Iran right out of the script, did El Baradei work around to a more explicit warning this spring.

What else has this “watch-dog” accomplished? Remember that episode in 2004, just before the U.S. presidential election? That’s when El Baradei’s IAEA apparently leaked highly critical material on the U.S. in Iraq — sparking speculation that in violation of the UN charter he was trying to meddle with the American vote. In 2005, at a UN rife with chummy connections to the Nobel Prize committee, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Why he won is an interesting question, and it’s hard to connect it with any success at the IAEA, since on El Baradei’s watch nuclear proliferation has been going gangbusters in North Korea and Iran (and, as we now know, Syria) — but the prize was exquisitely timed to provide some distraction from the sleaze still oozing out of the UN Oil-for-Food program, as Kofi Annan set about scripting a legacy for himself during his final year at the UN.

As for El Baradei today, in the Reuters article linked above he is quoted as saying (highlighting is mine): “If you do a military strike, it will mean that Iran, if it is not already making nuclear weapons, will launch a crash course to build nuclear weapons with the blessing of all Iranians, even those in the West.”

Come again? Who is El Baradei actually speaking for?

How does it happen that El Baradei, an Egyptian who works for the UN in Vienna, now fancies himself a spokesman for “all Iranians” –? How does it happen that El Baradei — whose job is not to run the world, but to inspect, monitor and report to the decision-makers — believes himself entitled to dictate policy to U.N. member states? And what about the obviously high probability that with or without the blessing of all Iranians, Tehran’s terror-addicted regime is already precisely in the process of making nuclear weapons? — What else is one to make of Iran’s threats, illicitly whirling centrifuges and web of connections to nuclear proliferators, past or present, in North Korea, Pakistan, Syria and China, as well as its nuclear partnership over the years with Russia?

It’s high time for a house-cleaning at the IAEA. If a military strike on Iran would bring the end of the reign of El Baradei, what are we waiting for?

Three cheers for the University of Chicago’s President Robert Zimmer and Provost Thomas Rosenbaum, for sticking to their plans to name a new research center after the late Milton Friedman — who for many years graced the U of C economics faculty, and spent his life making the case that free markets are vital to both prosperity and liberty. (Here’s a link to his marvelous 1980 TV series, “Free to Choose”).

Individual freedom is, of course, an idea that drives some academics — actually, a lot of post-modernist, deconstructionist, uniformly diverse academics –right up the wall. So, according to the Chicago Tribune, 101 U of C professors have signed a letter to the university president protesting plans to put Milton Friedman’s name on this new institute.

Why? Because, they say, they fear this might “reinforce among the public a perception that the university’s faculty lacks intellectual and ideological diversity.”

 That’s just fascinating. So — let’s replay that tape – the way these academics propose to ensure a perception of diversity is by scrubbing the name of a scholar who for decades made the University of Chicago stand out as a home of original thought.