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Monthly Archives: March 2010

Misallocation of Resources

March 30th, 2010 - 5:50 pm

Life is full of them … but here’s a teaser for global strategists. In The Wall Street Journal, foreign policy expert Danielle Pletka worries that U.S. plans for sanctions to isolate Iranian air and shipping transport are going no where.

But it’s not as if Iranian shipping goes on entirely unhindered. This past weekend brought news reports out of Iran that Somali pirates off the coast of Yemen had hijacked an Iranian cargo ship carrying $4 million worth of oranges. 

Assuming that cargo really did consist of oranges, seems like there’s a deal to be done here. Not that there’s a future for the idea of providing Somali pirates with the gainful employment of keeping their hands off Iranian orange shipments, and instead patrolling Iranian weapons traffic. But would it be any crazier than what’s going on now?

For all you folks out there who take an interest in the doings of George Soros, here’s one I missed a few weeks ago — but just came across while catching up on some UN press releases. On March 4, the UN announced that Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had picked a panel of “high-level experts” to form a UN “Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing.” Their assignment is to help “mobilize” the funding promised at the Copenhagen Climate Carnival this past December.

Here’s the list. It includes an interesting mix of public and private officials, ranging from the prime minister of Ethiopia, the president of Guyana, and Larry Summers of the Obama administration; to a vice-chairman of Deutsche Bank and financier George Soros.

According to the UN press release, this group will hold its first meeting this Monday, March 29, in London. One might hope that their discussion would take into account the cratering of any scientific “consensus” on the UN’s sweeping pronouncements about climate change. But since this movement is ever more clearly about money, not science, my bet is that this will amount to yet another bid to scavenge yet more money out of your low-level pocket — and funnel it to wherever these “high-level” folks think it should go. Just one more sign of the times.

While Obamacare has been completing its incubation this past week and emerging as a full-blown, pre-existing condition designed to cripple America, I’ve been in Turkey — making the rounds in Ankara, Istanbul and slightly further afield. This is one of the few countries in the world where I actually enjoy traveling by bus. They serve coffee, tea and snacks enroute, usually with a lot more courtesy and a greater variety of offerings than most long haul flights on American airlines.

As an American I find it’s much more pleasant to become absorbed in Turkish bus trips, or even Turkish politics, than to sit watching, with a sense of helpless horror while Barack Obama triumphantly destroys U.S. medical care — apparently in a gesture of tribute to his deceased mother.

But there are obligations back home. This evening, fortified by an Efes Pilsen, I had to come fully back online to survey the scene. And, not for the first time, it gets tempting to weigh the options. There’s the wonderful old American way, in which you fight for freedom, celebrate it, do whatever you can to protect it; you work hard, take risks, take responsibility for what you choose to do with your life –and glory in the rewards. And then there’s the growing heap of incentives to just try to tune it all out, cash in what you can, and walk away (or run) — and maybe just ride that Turkish bus forever; anything, as long as there is no need to ever again listen to the ruinous nonsense coming out of Washington.

This is fanciful thinking, of course. I’ll be back at work in the morning, and so will most folks who find it unbearable to tune in right now to the news. But it sure is tempting to escape into daydreams these days … though back to our usually scheduled programming with the next post…

.Or sooner …  Let’s note in passing that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon just made his second trip to Gaza in 14 months, and managed yet again (someone please correct me if I’m wrong — but I fear I’m not) to parade and pontificate for the cameras without once uttering the word “terrorism.” In Ban’s scheme of the world, it seems, the problem with Gaza is not that it is run by Hamas terrorists, but that any effort to try to block them from killing people is ”unacceptable” and “unsustainable.”

Another Casualty of Climategate?

March 20th, 2010 - 2:40 am

Could it be yet another knock-on effect of the crumbling of the United Nations ‘climate consensus” facade? One of Kofi Annan’s old-boy clubs appears to be in trouble.

Since retiring from the United Nations, Kofi Annan — among his other activities — has been serving as president of a Geneva-based foundation,  the Global Humanitarian Forum, headquartered in a delightful villa smack near the front gates of the UN’s palatial Geneva office complex — and especially fond of promoting “climate justice.” The foundation fields a board crammed with UN retreads from Kofi Annan’s days as UN Secretary-General, and is supposed to be devoted to “exemplary” programs in humanitarian assistance (something that can hardly be said of the UN itself under Annan’s 1997-2006 management). Among the board members are Annan’s former special adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi; former head of the UN’s world Food Program, Catherine Bertini; former UN humanitarian coordinator, Jan Egeland; former head of the discredited old Human Rights Commission, Mary Robinson; and former heads of the IMF and World Bank – Michel Camdessus and James Wolfensohn… you get the idea. Also on the board is a name that climategate buffs will recognize – head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri.

If that sounds like a recipe for success, apparently this mix is less appealing than when all these folks were empowered to tap directly into torrents of tax dollars (especially U.S. tax dollars) — though this foundation does seem to have received plenty from assorted governments. But not enough, it now seems. The foundation’s web site is reporting that due to “disappointing receipts from donors,” the board is “urgently considering options for the future direction of the organization.”

I don’t have details at this point on why, exactly, donors have been losing interest. Could it possibly be that this climate-crusading crew has become somewhat less enticing a bet?

Kimjongilia Comes to NY

March 18th, 2010 - 3:19 pm

Movies about North Korea are rare enough so that when one turns up in the theaters, it’s worth knowing about.

The movie at hand is one I first heard about in 2004, at a conference in Warsaw on human rights (or, rather, the utter lack thereof) in North Korea. There were North Korean defectors there, telling their stories; and policy types looking for ways to do something about it all. And there was an American woman there named NC Heikin, who said she wanted to make a film about the horrors of North Korea, and the stories told by some of the defectors — many of whom had endured incredible rigors and sacrifice to escape to the free world.

Heikin made that movie. Titled Kimjongilia, it is opening tomorrow in New York City. As she notes on the movie’s web site, one of the difficulties of chronicling the abuses inside North Korea is that apart from official propaganda, there is so little footage available from inside the country — and the North Korean regime is not about to allow film-makers to show the truth. So Heikin weaves together interviews with defectors, official North Korean footage, and interpretive dance, to tell the story.

Someday, North Korea’s regime will go – and the TV news and talks shows will be packed with people talking about the horrors that went on within, and they will be asking how the world let this go on for so long. NC Heikin is raising that question now.  So, a heads up if you happen to be in Manhattan — you should be able check on locations here. And if you are not in Manhattan, but want to sample some of the film, here, again, is the site.

What Now for Nowruz?

March 14th, 2010 - 2:18 pm

Call it a litmus moment. The ancient Persian New Year, Nowruz, approacheth — this coming Saturday, March 2oth.

What will President Obama do?

Last year, he extended a hand – or more like both arms – putting out a video message from the White House — remember this? — wishing Happy Nowruz to “you, the people and leaders of Iran.” It was a greeting full of talk about “shared hopes…common dreams…mutual respect” and “this precious humanity we all share.”

Iran’s rulers bit the extended hand (or arms), thumbed their noses at a series of proposed nuclear climbdown deals and deadlines, continued funding and training terrorists dedicated to the destruction first of Israel and ultimately of Western democracy, and stepped up the imprisonment, torture and murder of dissidents to new and widely visible levels — a process that underscored the importance of distinguishing between the people of Iran and their rulers, rather than lumping them all together in one big happy new year’s greeting.

Here we are, as the second Nowruz rolls around, and the tussle continues in Washington, and at the United Nations, over whether or how or when to impose more sanctions on Iran – as the ayatollahs, with their terror-based, predatory regime move ever closer to becoming a nuclear power in the heart of the Middle East. If Obama, the newly laureled Nobel peace-prize winner, is going to say anything at all this year to mark Nowruz, he’d do well to skip any salutation to Iran’s “leaders,” and address only the people of Iran, with the wish that this might be the year they finally achieve the freedoms, and begin the transition to the kind of benign democracy they have been so brutally denied. With Washington absorbed in Obama’s manufactured “crisis” over ”healthcare,” there are real crises out there that the White House just keeps letting slide — especially Iran’s nuclear program.  But Nowruz is coming round again. How will Obama handle it this time?

Bush Was Right About That Democracy Thing

March 11th, 2010 - 7:38 pm

What’s the most e-mailed article right now on Al-Jazeera’s English language web site?

It’s an opinion piece about Iraq’s elections, headlined “Iraq: An example for the region.”

Someone out there is very interested in that proposition — actually, a great many someones are so interested that this article (which conveys praise of Bush, and a faith in democracy, that are both much at odds with a lot of Al-Jazeera’s usual coverage) has been the #1 most emailed article on Al-Jazeera for five straight days.

True, this is Al-Jazeera’s English language web site, not the Arabic — nonetheless, folks inclined to log on to Al-Jazeera (this will give you an idea of its huge TV footprint) are clearly taking a good look at this piece, and sending it around.

The author is Richard Grenell, who served during the George W. Bush presidency as spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations –working under four ambassadors, including John Bolton. Grenell makes no apologies for Bush’s 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein. Rather, he celebrates it as ushering in an era of “free and fair elections” in Iraq, and says that while Iraq’s young democracy is “messy, incomplete and imperfect,” it is also “currently the envy of the Arab world.” He argues that Iraqis are lucky they had the backing of Bush, and that if Obama had become president earlier, with his wish to cut and run, it would have been a disaster for Iraq.

Today, writes Grenell, Iraq’s March 7 election reminds us that “Bush’s vision for democracy in the Middle East is beginning to unfold with the consecutive democratic elections in Iraq and Afghanistan.” He closes with the questions: “Which Arab country will be next? Who will start the long, expensive and bloody process of bringing freedom and democracy to their people?”

If Al-Jazeera’s web site readers find that commentary and those questions interesting enough to make them the most emailed on the site for five straight days, sounds like one more sign that Bush was right about that craving for democracy –yes, even in Al Jazeera’s main stomping grounds of the Middle East.

There are times in life, and especially in politics, when it helps to step back and take a bemused look at the long view. Just such a moment has arrived for the residents (and I am one) of New York’s 29th congressional district — represented, at least until today, by former Rep. Eric Massa.

Effective as of today, March 9, as the monstrous health care plan crawls toward consummation, our district has no representative in Congress. Google Massa’s congressional web site, and you get a page headed “Current Vacancies.” If you want to see Eric Massa, you can tune in to replays of today’s Glenn Beck Show, where Massa just regaled the TV audience with locker room tales of a nude confrontation with presidential chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and a romper-room birthday tickling fight with a male staffer — text messages, perhaps, to follow? (Credit Glenn Beck, at least he apologized to his audience for Massa’s performance).

Massa, child of a political era in which the only word more important than “is” is “I,” made the obligatory show of taking responsibility, saying “I own this behavior.”

Sorry, Mr. Massa, but you were elected not to serve yourself — but to serve your constituents. Your assessment of Rahm Emanuel – as someone who would tie your kids to the railroad tracks — may be right on target. Your stand against the “healthcare” horror was commendable. But did you have to “own” behavior that made it so easy to eject you from a seat that belongs not to you, but to your district? Not everyone in the 29th District voted for you, but this is a democracy, and once you won that seat, they were all depending on you. There are a lot of decent folks in your former district, working hard to make a living, working harder all the time to pay the sky-high taxes, watching one big-government grab after another, and very worried about where this is all going. There’s quite a mutter going on in the town meetings. Now what?

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“Son of Hamas” — Check Out the Book

March 5th, 2010 - 5:07 pm

You’ve probably come across him in the news this week: Mosab Hassan Yousef, eldest son and heir-apparent for years of one of the founders and leaders of the terrorist group known as Hamas — a strict Islamic organization, backed these days by Iran; dedicated to the destruction of Israel; now controlling Gaza; and a font over the years of suicide bombers and rocket attacks.

The bombshell news last week was that for years Yousef worked secretly, inside Hamas, from the West Bank, as an informant for the Israeli domestic security service, Shin Bet. That followed the bombshell news in 2008 that Yousef  had converted to Christianity.

Yousef, who left the West Bank and moved to the U.S. in 2007, has just published a memoir, “Son of Hamas” (as I write this, it had not yet appeared on the NY Times best seller list, but had already jumped to #8 on Amazon). In his book, he explains how he made his “unlikely journey.” It began when he realized at the age of 18 that Hamas itself was the cruelest oppressor of its own people. He began asking himself questions that must have taken incredible fortitude to dare think at all — in a setting where people suspected of collaborating with Israel have been horribly murdered and strung up in public by their own brethren. Yousef concluded that the best way to help his own people, the Palestinians, was to help the Israelis curb the terror and the violence. More on that in my column this week on Scion of Hamas, based on interviewing Yousef by phone, and reading his book.

For Yousef to speak out now, and tell his story — as he is doing, at risk of his life – must take incredible courage. He’s been interviewed on a number of TV news shows this week, and you can find a good sample here, in an interview he did Wednesday evening with David Asman on Foxbusiness News. Whether you are inclined to agree or disagree with Yousef’s conclusions about terror, religion, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and hopes for peace in the Middle East, he is worth paying attention to. Above all, it is worth reading his book. In realms where too often any trace of common sense or decency is subordinated to geopolitical jargon and hot-house diplo-acadamic absurdities, Yousef cuts through it to talk about some very real issues, and what he himself saw, experienced and understood. He’s a brave man to offer us his story. His book ought to be required reading in the State Department. And if President Barack Obama wants to better understand the quicksands of the Middle East, “Son of Hamas” is what belongs right now on his bedside table.