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Monthly Archives: December 2009

Crossing Into North Korea

December 27th, 2009 - 1:15 am

What could a free man hope to accomplish by crossing without permission into North Korea, to ask its rulers to repent, close the prison camps and free the people? Robert Park, a young American of Korean descent made exactly that crossing on Christmas day, walking from China into North Korea across the frozen Tumen River. There are reports that as he crossed, he called out, ”I came here to proclaim God’s love.”

A manifesto attributed to Park, leader of a Christian group advocating human rights for North Koreans, includes the statement: “All we are asking is for all North Koreans to be free, safe and have life.”

Chances are nil that North Korea’s regime will receive Park in that spirit. North Korea-watcher Joshua Stanton, who includes the full text of the above manifesto on his well-informed One Free Korea blog, worries with good reason that Park will become yet another pawn in the endless extortion rackets and depravities of North Korean “diplomacy.”  Park reportedly said before he went in to North Korea that he did not want to be ransomed by the U.S. government. But based on dismal experience — recall Bill Clinton’s Pyongyang trip in August to pick up the detained Laura Ling and Euna Lee –  Stanton fears that already “junior and has-been diplomats all along the Eastern Seaboard are imagining themselves escorting Robert Park up the steps of a charter flight at Sunan Airport, having left behind enough ransom aid to run a small concentration camp for years.”

That sounds sadly accurate. And yet… there are powerful reasons why a man who cares deeply about human rights for North Koreans might feel impelled to set out across that frozen river. For years, the monstrous miseries inside North Korea have been known, detailed, attested to before congressional committees, documented by carefully cross-correlated reports, deplored by human rights groups and chronicled by defectors. For a sample, you can browse the atrocities documented by the Washington-based U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea — and if you want to look further, you can amass a large collection of books, movies, news reports and graphic findings about the brutalities North Korea’s government systematically inflicts on its people.  

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Browsing the White House Christmas Catalog

December 24th, 2009 - 1:03 pm

We all have our holiday habits, and one of mine is to have some fun writing the occasional spoof  — a habit I was alarmed to learn I share with Sen. Roland Burris, who this week in his prosodically-challenged healthcare rendition of Clement Clark Moore’s famous Christmas poem saw fit to rhyme “leader Reid” with “our hour of need.” That’s pretty much the tenor of an era in which politics is right now exalting self-parody into the law of the land, not to mention the direction of U.S. foreign policy. With Mao Tse-tung’s visage bedecking an ornament on the White House Christmas tree, what’s left to say?

I tried anyway, first drafting a tale of Santa’s rounds. But gone are the halcyon days when free-market types like myself could still imagine St. Nick hooking up with Adam Smith for such pipsqueak stuff as stopping airline bailouts. (Blast from the past — you could still have fun with that in 2001 ). Today, it’s obvious, for instance, that Santa some years out will not be delivering presents at all. As an overweight, self-employed globe-trotter, with a workshop pushing out carbon dioxide at the North Pole, he’ll spend all his time dickering with the IRS, hiding from the Environmental Protection Agency and waiting in line for state-required end-of-life healthcare counseling. Presents will be selected and distributed by a White House Shopping Czar, in tandem with breathing rights, as a function of how craftily your senator sold his vote in the latest DC power grab. It was all so gloomy that I threw it out.

Instead, I settled for writing up an alternative Christmas gift catalog, offering some gems of recent times — United Nations Sanctions on Iran (the Boxed Set); the Complete Copenhagen Climate Collection (with polar bear suits). Here’s a link if you’re in mood to browse the rest. As always with Pandora’s Christmas Hamper, there is some light (let’s skip the “hope” for now) at the bottom of the box, as in the Rescue Kit at the end. Merry Christmas to all!

Iran and the Wailing of the Copenhagen Choir

December 18th, 2009 - 12:09 am

From the shores of what was once capitalist America, I’ve been trying to follow on webcast the highlights of of the United Nations climate con — I mean conference  — in Copenhagen, featuring eco-messages from some of the world’s top celebrity tyrants. As Roger Simon so neatly put it in a post and PJTV webcast from the scene, “So many despots, so little time!”

Thursday alone, the UNFCCC “high-level” speaking lineup included officials of Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Cuba, Laos, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Belarus and the man himself, fixture of any major UN shindig, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.

But where are the UN’s promised archived webcasts of the Thursday high-level lineup, despots and all? The UNFCCC says on its web site that all live webcasts will be saved and posted at the close of each meeting. Scores of press conferences turn up promptly. Trolling the site, I came across a whole raft of Thursday events readily available as “on-demand” webcast. Among them were a Bangladesh climate report; Britain’s Gordon Brown presenting an eco award to the president of Mexico; and a press conference starring Nancy Pelosi, dewy with lip gloss and bundled up in a tangerine outfit, with Charlie Rangel  and a string of other U.S. lawmakers in tow.

But if Ahmadinejad & comrades are available to be viewed right now “on-demand,” I have yet to find the links on the UNFCCC site. That could be my clumsiness with the internet, or perhaps a delay while they hunt down excess hot-air offsets in Copenhagen. But in my experience, when it’s hard or impossible to find something this germane on a UN web site, it’s usually because the UN doesn’t want you to. Is it possible that while waiting for President Obama to descend Friday in a cloud of American money, the UN organizers would like to minimize the embarrassments just showcased on their own stage? — and one way to do that is to delay posting a simple and obvious link that would let the likes of bloggers play, post and replay Ahmadinejad & Co.

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While we wait for the Copenhagen climate climax on Thursday, featuring Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe among those who would lead us to a low-carbon world, there’s time to peruse some of the tid-bits offered up by the UN to the little folk looking in online. Thus, on the UNFCCC main page, do we find such items as the tonnage of food being consumed by the thousands of delegates at Denmark’s Bella Center conference facilities. The UN description omits the caviar, and probably a few other items enjoyed in the stratosphere around “Seal-the-Deal” Ban Ki-Moon and the other loftiest eminences. But we do learn that by the time they finish their labors amid the snows of Denmark, the global uberlords of eco-everything will have consumed:

10,000 organic chickens, 50 tons of potatoes, two tons of couscous and five ton[s] of fish, prepared by 100 chefs and served by 400 waitressing staff.

OK, let’s state the obvious. It might seem that if these folks had the integrity to practice what they preach, they’d be back home, with the lights low, videoconferencing in, while eating only vegetables. But I guess that would leave 100 unemployed Danish chefs and 400 workless waitresses. Anything for the cause.

Yes, Virginia, despite United Nations sanctions forbidding any such activity, North Korea’s government is still supplying weapons hither and yon. The latest sanctions busting shipment turned up aboard a cargo plane that stopped Friday for refueling in Bangkok — you can peruse some of the details on Hot Air. Thai authorities found some 35 tons of North Korean armaments aboard the plane, including rocket-propelled grenades and surface-to-air missiles.

As usual with North Korea’s in-your-face clandestine weapons shipments, the more we hear, the more curious it all becomes. The plane was an Ilyushin-76, previously owned by a Kazakh airline, reportedly sold to a small freight carrier operating out of Georgia (the former Soviet state, not the home of Jimmy Carter’s peanut farm) — and The Wall Street Journal reports no luck in getting this outfit to answer the number it has listed in the Moscow phone book. Four Kazakhs and a Belarusian were aboard the flight, which according to Thai authorities was bound for Sri Lanka. Except Sri Lankan authorities deny any knowledge that this North Korean weapons delivery was enroute to their turf.

But you want the really incredible part? Yes, it involves the U.S. State Department, still trying to corral North Korea’s nuclear program by tossing carrots to Kim Jong Il.

While Thai authorities have been exhuming North Korean weapons from the cargo bay of this airplane, the U.S. State Department has been forging serenely ahead with plans for yet another round of nuclear talks with North Korea. Never mind that North Korea has an unbroken record of lying, cheating and subverting every deal it has made under both presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush. Never mind that North Korea’s regime has no more regard for any deal it strikes at the diplomatic bargaining table than it does for UN sanctions.

On Monday, more than a full day after this sanctions-violating shipment had hit the world news, U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth — fresh from a visit to Pyongyang – was delivering to the press this sound bite, featured on the State Department web site:

“We came away from our talks in Pyongyang encouraged by the atmosphere, which was very reasonable and businesslike, exchanges of views with candor…” etc. Bosworth is “encouraged” that North Korean officials “reiterated their view of the importance of the six party talks…” You can read it in full here

Memo to Ambassador Bosworth: Of course the North Koreans are interested in more talks. It’s part of the nuclear shakedown racket that helps sustain the “reasonable and businesslike” regime of Kim Jong Il, while Kim builds nuclear weapons and sells arms to buyers such as Iran (which has been cultivating ties to Sri Lanka in recent years, though the end destination of the cargo seized in Bangkok is not yet clear… Iran? Pakistan? Afghanistan? Wherever these weapons were bound, the shipment was a violation of UN sanctions, and the likely buyer list is not — how to put it? — encouraging).

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Rumbles in North Korea

December 11th, 2009 - 11:01 pm

With the climate crowd wrangling in Copenhagen over how best to wreck the economy of the planet, President Obama again busy bearing witness while state thugs assault protestors in Iran, and Tiger Woods imploding 24/7, small wonder North Korea has dropped off the A-list of current crises.

After all, North Korea hasn’t conducted a nuclear test in more than six months, and it’s now more than four months since North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il posed for photos with former president Bill Clinton, when Clinton flew all the way to Pyongyang to pick up two jailed employees of Al Gore. Apart from the odd intercepted arms shipments to Iran and whatnot, North Korea just can’t compete with the thrills of the day.

But spare a moment for North Korea, where repression is so brutal and pervasive that you never hear a dissenting voice. Reports are trickling out right now of open dissent, of people cursing the authorities in public.

What’s made them so angry is a currency “reform” imposed Dec. 1 by the North Korean government. It amounts to a sudden and sweeping confiscation of much of the money saved in the form of the local currency, the won, by North Koreans who have found ways to do business inside Kim’s totalitarian state. North Koreans were given a week to trade in their old won for redeminated new won, and the state imposed limits on how much currency each person could trade in. Basically, the government has overnight attacked the country’s meager markets, turning the hard-earned savings of some of its miserably impoverished people into worthless paper.

Any government that does that is playing with dynamite. In my column this week for Forbes.com, I’ve run through the effects of similar moves  in Burma, China and Indonesia. Under despotic regimes, people may suffer incredible horrors without rising up. But there is something particularly combustible about a scene in which repressed and hungry people find ways to earn some cash, to stash away a bit of money to feed their families, and hope for a better life — and the state then snatches it away.

This being North Korea, the state will undoubtedly try to crush the dissent with its usual arsenal of security forces and prison camps. But for these rumbles to be coming from inside North Korea suggests a degree of fury, and courage, which deserves whatever support the democratic world can provide to these people. At the very least, with Kim now looking for his next round of U.S. payoffs at the nuclear bargaining table, Washington’s over-eager diplomats should find some courage of their own — to just walk away. The only real answer to the nightmare of North Korea is for Kim’s regime to fall, and if there is any chance at all that his brutal currency grab has lit that fuse, it would be monstrous for Washington to do anything that might help Kim stamp it out.

The United Nations ”climate” summit is upon us, already qualifying as the world’s biggest emitter of hypocrisy –with the Telegraph reporting on the convergence in Copenhagen of ”1,200 limos, 140 private planes and caviar wedges.

And here’s the beauty of this grand scam. Not only is it based on unsound ”findings” with the UN claiming a “consensus” that never was, based on “science” that was something other than scientific. Beyond that, if anyone cares to venture further, lie boundless vistas of bad economics.

After all, when the UN wizards got done tailoring their conclusions about climate cause and effect, their work was far from over. They went on to produce stacks of calculations about the economy of the planet over the next 10, 20, 30 or 40 years or more. Thus, for instance, do we find such hocus-pocus as the UNFCCC providing estimates that in the year 2030, climate “mitigation” will require “$200 to $210 billion” in order to “return greenhouse gas emissions to current levels.” This is accompanied by a slew of estimates involving such stuff as percentages of global GDP needed for “climate” projects, flows of resources to developing countries two decades from now and prompts for governments to direct what is laughably referred to in this context as ”private investment.” Here’s a sample of this kind of blithe projection about the economy of the planet, gravely informing us of such gobbledygook as the conclusion that if the UNFCCC investment scheme is adopted, and trillions are redirected over the years as the UN prefers, then in 2030 –  the emissions reductions of developing countries will account for 68% of all global emissions reductions.

Let’s get real. We can’t even predict with certainty which countries, or how many, will qualify 21 years from now as “developing,” or what, by the year 2030, that term might mean. (There are dynamic processes at work. If America signs on to this climate deal, for instance, that alone could swell the ranks of impoverished nations, and greatly change the ratio of developed to developing countries). We don’t know what technologies might be invented; we don’t know what inventions might never come to be — because they will be choked off by the same state planning which, in the name of “climate mitigation,” would regulate a lot of productivity and initiative out of existence.

It’s hard enough trying to get a handle on where the economies of the U.S., or the European Union, or China might be in another year or two. These things depend on a multitude of factors for which there are no sure oracles: the upheavals of politics, the trends of taxes, the complexities of money, exchange rates and discount rates, not to mention such potential events as large-scale wars. Whatever causes climate to change — whether carbon, sunspots or Zeus having an off-day on Mount Olympus — the economy of the planet, two or three or four decades from now, depends on many things, and climate may be the least of it.

For UN planners to presume that they can reliably calculate the economic future around the planet and across decades is absurd. To pretend to calculate the economic future in neat correlation with potential variations in climate is ridiculous. For UN planners, and politicians jetting into Copenhagen to further pretend they can better organize our lives based on this confetti of calculations is beyond inane. This is the global version of the old Soviet planners sitting down to command the economy of the USSR — and enforcing it would similarly require repression and coercion. Welcome to a world where you wait in line for toilet paper. Unless, of course, you are one of the climate-klatura, entitled to your caviar, limo and private jet, high above the queuing proles.

Behind Door #1 of the Copenhagen summit’s rigged game was Climategate. UN economics is the howler waiting behind Door #2.

Behold! Your Future UN Overlords of the Internet

December 2nd, 2009 - 10:17 pm

Yes, even the United Nations has its comic moments. We have the video …

But first a quick bit of background:

While the climate commissars of the UN have been sand-bagging science, the better to tax and regulate your life, another branch of the UN keeps looking for ways get its claws on the worldwide web.  Headquartered in the UN’s Palais des Nations in Geneva, this gang goes under the label of the Internet Governance Forum, or IGF, which takes its inspiration from a summit convened in 2005 in Tunis — just one of many IGF member states specializing in online censorship. Since then, this “forum for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue” has been meeting in various places around the globe.

Last month, these wannabe worldwide web commissars met in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt — a meeting attended by more than 1,800 participants from 112 countries. Out of this came a video-clip, now making the rounds, of Beijing’s man at the podium, UN Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang, head of the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, trying to open a session after a bit of a security snafu.

The clip is 2 minutes, 46 seconds long — all of it illuminating. But if you want to skip to where Sha really swings into action, start about 1 minute 4o seconds in. Behold, oh bloggers: Your future UN lords of the internet, at work.

(Oh, and if you want to see a clip of UN security guards at the same summit confiscating a poster protesting censorship of the internet by Sha’s home country, China, here it is).