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Monthly Archives: April 2011

Jimmy Carter’s Mystery Gift for Kim Jong Il

April 30th, 2011 - 10:43 pm

Way back in 1991, when I availed myself of a chance to visit North Korea, the stridently guided tour included a look at gifts given by visiting delegations to the Kim regime — displayed as the trophies the North Korean government evidently perceived them to be. Since then, the American portion of the collection must have swelled considerably. In 2000, when then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright went to Pyongyang, she brought Kim Jong Il a basketball autographed by Michael Jordan. In 2008, a group of congressional staffers brought Kim a plate with the congressional seal. How many more such gifts have been delivered by Americans and received by Kim as tribute, I don’t know, though one might suspect that plates, if not the basketballs, have been stacking up.

Whatever the grand total by now, it’s a good bet that few Americans have offered up as many gifts as has Jimmy Carter, himself a gift to North Korea that just keeps on giving. Carter reportedly brought a gift to Kim when he visited North Korea last year, and brought Kim another gift when he dropped by Pyongyang last week. Presumably Carter also brought a gift to Kim’s father, Kim Il Sung, when he visited North Korea in 1994.

But what are these gifts that Carter has been bringing? North Korea’s state news agency reported only the following snippet:

Gift to Kim Jong Il from Elders’ Delegation
Pyongyang, April 27 (KCNA) — General Secretary Kim Jong Il received a gift from the visiting elders’ delegation.
The gift was handed to Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, by head of the delegation Jimmy Carter, ex-president of the U.S., on Wednesday.

Carter, in his fawning blog from Pyongyang, mentioned nothing of this. Even China’s state news agency, Xinhua, is apparently in the dark, reduced to citing the KCNA report, and noting that no further details of the gift were provided. All that’s clear is that since Kim did not bother to meet personally with Carter, either last year or last week, Carter further abased himself by handing over the gift not to Kim himself, but to one of Kim’s senior minions.

Such personal tribute from Carter may be small potatoes compared to the latest, lavish handout of $200 million worth of free food that the United Nations World Food Program on Friday promised Pyongyang — immediately following Carter’s rant in which he accused South Korea and America of violating human rights if they failed to send yet more free food to North Korea. Nonetheless, gifts from envoys — even self-styled envoys, if they happen to be former American presidents — are tokens of respect.

I can think of a few things that might have been appropriate. Maybe a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or The Black Book of Communism, or — on a lighter note — a video clip from Team America. Somehow, I doubt any of these were even considered. So, we’re left with a small mystery here, and yet I’d like to know: What did Jimmy tote along to North Korea last week as his latest tribute to the Dear Leader?

(And don’t miss “Carter bombs in Pyongyang”at the Tatler.)

Jimmy Carter, Guest-Blogging for Pyongyang

April 27th, 2011 - 11:58 pm

Like some horror movie that just won’t end, Jimmy Carter’s love affair with North Korea keeps rolling along. Now on his third pilgrimage to the Kim dynasty’s totalitarian state, Carter arrived Tuesday in Pyongyang, with a trio of fellow ex-leaders in tow, from Finland, Ireland and Norway. From Pyongyang, he’s now blogging away, under the down-home caption, “Jimmy Carter’s blog from North Korea.

At least, I assume it’s really Jimmy Carter writing this cant, though it reads like copy fresh out of Pyongyang’s own propaganda mill. There’s an attempt at cracker-barrel diplomacy, in which Carter enthuses about the “warm and friendly” reception that he and Rosalynn received in 1994 from North Korea’s late Stalin-installed tyrant Kim Il Sung, and calls it “a privilege” to visit again today. North Korea, he says, is “a place that is quite mysterious to most people.”

Apparently North Korea is especially mysterious to Carter, who seems not to have acquainted himself with the North Korean regime’s long record of running a racketeering, nuclear-extortionist slave state. Among the mind-bending prattle in his blog piece is this statement: “My country, the United States, is South Korea’s guarantor, which creates enormous anxiety among the North Korean people and drains their political energy and resources.” In other words, the problem here is not the tyranny in North Korea, but the good ol’ United States. For Carter to be writing this might be defensible if Kim Jong Il were threatening to keep him in in North Korea for the rest of his days, and maybe pack him to the North Korean gulag. But no such luck. This is Jimmy Carter as usual — taking careful notes on the propaganda presented to him by totalitarian butchers, packaging this toxic twaddle as his own insights, and purveying it as treasure picked up during his adventure-tours of faraway places.

He goes on to lament that “[n]either the US nor South Korea is at this time willing to assist with the desperate food shortage in North Korea.” One might suppose that the North Korean government itself could do plenty to ease this food shortage, were Kim to stop pouring resources into missiles and nuclear weapons development, and permit the North Koreans enough freedom to live normal lives. But that’s not where Carter’s going with his message.

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With the Assad regime murdering hundreds of protesters, it’s patently grotesque that Syria might get a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.  And yet, when the General Assembly votes on May 20th on candidates for the Human Rights Council. it looks like Syria will be a shoe-in.

How can that be? At the UN, process trumps human rights, and despots are too often adept at playing that fundamental flaw like a fiddle. Syria’s regime is no exception. Seats on the 47 member Human Rights Council are doled out mainly on the basis of geography, rather than decency. Various geographic groups enjoy specific allocations of seats, and nominate members to rotate through as the seats come open. This year, four of the 13 seats apportioned to the Asian group are up for grabs, and the Asian group has nominated exactly four candidates to fill them — India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Syria. With four candidates for four seats, all Syria needs is a simple majority of 97 votes in the 192-member General Assembly. Are there that many members of the General Assembly willing to vote aye in this Orwellian exercise? Quite likely. When Libya ran for a seat in 2010 (from which it was only recently suspended), it got 155 votes. In 2009. Saudi Arabia got 154 votes, Cuba got 163, and China got the same number as the U.S. — 167.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon — loquacious in such matters as his defense of terrorist-run Gaza, or his desire to see democracies in dialogue with North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il — has declined to opine on Syria’s bid for the Human Rights Council. Ban’s spokesman told Fox News that this is not Ban’s bailiwick, but a matter to be left to UN member states. The U.S. State Department opposes Syria’s bid, but does not yet seem to have any clear strategy for blocking Syria, and evidently has not yet managed to persuade a fifth and preferably benign member of the Asian group to enter the running — which would dim Syria’s chances by introducing at least some real competition.

So, what to do? Even before Syria’s bid for a seat, this same Human Rights Council was already busy grossly discrediting itself. Back in 2003, its precursor, the Human Rights Commission, became an emblem of UN farce by electing Libya as its chair. The Commission was “reformed” in 2006, into the current Human Rights Council — which the Bush administration refused to join, on grounds that its structure was skewed toward capture by the usual gang of despots. President Barack Obama over-rode that policy, and in 2009 the U.S. joined the Council, arguing that it would be easier to work for change from within. That did nothing to stop the Council from indulging in such bigotries as the Goldstone Report; or its continuing engagement with 9/11 conspiracy theorist Richard Falk, its special rapporteur on human rights for the Palestinian territories; or Libya’s Najat Al-Hajjaji, whose chairwomanship of the old Human Rights Commission in 2003 did so much to discredit that precursor of the current Council. Russia, China, Cuba and Cameroon are all active current members of the Council. Now, here comes Syria.

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Yes, Happy Easter — and Seize the Day

April 24th, 2011 - 10:18 am

Chiming in here with my fellow Pajamas bloggers — A Happy Easter. It’s spring, in what is already shaping up as a momentous year. Whether for better or worse –perhaps a good deal of both –is harder than usual to predict. A thought, quite obvious, but one I repeat at times to myself. The political and cultural scenes are a source right now of endless frustration and argument. That won’t go away, and it may be a long time before it even begins to diminish. So, in your own life, seize the day. By all means, enter the fray. But keep for yourself some private place in which you enjoy what’s good in the here and now. I have been watching the struggles in recent years of a number of those near and dear hit with illness, in some cases much too young — though at any age that’s hard. And, sure we all know this, but it bears repeating. To be alive, especially if you are feeling well enough to take a stroll, do a dance, climb a mountain — that is a magnificent thing.

It would be an act of mercy for the planet were Jimmy Carter to hang up his carry-on bag and devote the rest of his days to annotating his post-presidential grocery lists, or maybe sign up for Dancing With the Stars — anything where he might at least do no more harm. Instead, in some eternal quest to live out that second presidential term which American voters in their belated wisdom snatched from him in 1980, Carter goes on and on, glad-handing thugs and hugging terrorists, from Caracas to Gaza to Havana. According to recent news reports, he’s now planning another trip to North Korea — possibly as soon as next week.

Not that North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il seems to regard a visit from Carter as much of a trophy these days. In 2009, when Pyongyang was haggling over terms for the release of two Al Gore employees who had moseyed onto North Korean turf, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, North Korean officials turned down a potential rescue mission by Jimmy Carter. In a memoir about her months as a prisoner in North Korea, Ling records that North Korean officials were infuriated by her suggestion that Carter be enlisted as the high-profile American to come retrieve her. They viewed Carter as washed-up and out of office for too long — a retread unfit to grace a photo-op dignifying Kim Jong Il. “Carter, Carter, Carter!” one official told her. “You have upset many people by asking for Carter.” They held out instead for the bigger prize of a visit by Bill Clinton.

Last summer, having captured another American, Aijalon Gomes, North Korea did agree to let Jimmy Carter come get him. But Kim Jong Il didn’t bother to stick around for the visit. Carter had to make do with a reception by North Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-Gwan.

This time around, with North Korea reportedly holding yet another American in custody, there’s speculation that this latest prisoner will be released to Carter — as part of what’s becoming a hostage-politics routine in which North Korea’s regime turns over American detainees, like door prizes, to visiting American ex-presidents.

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Since Richard Goldstone published his semi-apology for the United Nations Goldstone Report on Gaza, there have been lots of suggestions about what ought to happen next with Goldstone and his voluminous, pro-terrorist, anti-Israel 2009 report. The UN ought to retract it, but won’t. Goldstone wrote that if he’d known then what he knows now, “The Goldstone Report would have been a different document” — but it isn’t. And in testimony last week to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, professed a desire to just have the whole thing go away: “We would, frankly, as I said, like to see this entire Goldstone proposition disappear.”

But it’s not disappearing. In the court of world opinion, the Goldstone Report gave a big boost to the Iranian-backed rocket-launching Palestinian terrorists who rule Gaza, and did tremendous harm to the UN’s favorite target — Israel. When Goldstone presented his findings to the UN Human Rights Council, publicly denigrating as “pusillanimous” the Israeli conduct that with hindsight he now finds reasonable, he set in motion various UN follow-ups configured to hammer away yet further at Israel. Three of his former fellow UN panelists are now clamoring for that hammering to continue.

Goldstone did not create the bigotry, rigged inquiry processes, and double standards that bedevil the UN. But he led the Gaza inquiry and give his name to a report that amplifies some of the most vile aspects of the world’s leading multilateral institution (even he refers to his Gaza product as the Goldstone Report, though its official title is “Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict”).

What’s to be done? Well, Goldstone has, in his way, set a standard so abysmal that it might actually be turned to good use. If he really wants to make amends, perhaps he’d be willing to lend his name to establish a rating system for bigotry at the UN? It could be called the Goldstone Standard, employed as a sort of reverse Michelin Guide to UN bias (no offense meant here to the Michelin Guide).

How could this work? Instead of the usual hunt for adjectives to describe the UN’s outpouring of anti-democratic, anti-American, and, especially, anti-Semitic reports, resolutions, statements, conference programs, and so forth, how about quantifying this prejudice into units, called Goldstones. From there, just assign any relevant UN product a Goldstone rating, say, from one Goldstone to five — with one being relatively run-of-the-mill UN anti-Semitism, and five being such paragons of prejudice as the Goldstone Report itself.

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$6,347,415,000 and What It Bought

April 9th, 2011 - 4:51 pm

That’s the amount of money America gave to the United Nations in fiscal 2009, according to President Barack Obama’s White House budget office. What did it help pay for?

Why, lots of things. Among them, the General Assembly that elected Libya’s envoy as its 2009-2010 president, and molded the “reformed” Human Rights Council that brought us the now famous —  make that infamous — Goldstone report on Gaza, hosted Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Durban Review conference in Geneva, and gave seats to Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Cameroon and Libya (before suspending Libya but now entertaining the candidacy of Syria).

Those American dollars helped maintain and service the grand General Assembly Hall which in September 2009 provided a global stage for Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Iran’s Ahmadinejad, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and their despotic brethren — and was pressed into service more recently as a theatrical venue for the celebrity-studded U.S. premiere of an Israel-trashing commercial movie. They helped provide tax-exempt “post-adjusted” take-home lucre topping U.S. congressional take-home pay for hundreds of UN senior officials who worked on such projects as jetting around the globe preparing for the December, 2009 climate bacchanal in Copenhagen.  And they helped bankroll the activities of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who has been bragging up a UN financial “disclosure program” in which senior UN officials are not required to disclose anything, and who made a trip to Washington in the spring of 2009, during which he referred to America — by far the UN’s biggest donor – as “deadbeat.”

With reason, Congress is now looking at ways to try — yet again — to reform the UN, and require accountability and maybe even decency in how American tax dollars get spent there. This starts with getting a handle on how much money the U.S. actually provides and where the money goes. To that end, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing this past Thursday, April 7, at which the sole witness was the person one might assume would know more than anyone else about U.S. dealings with the UN — Obama’s ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice. During that hearing, against the backdrop of America’s runaway budget and soaring debt, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher tried to get some straight answers about how much money the administration is now proposing to pour into the UN.

Somehow, in the course of answering that question, Rice came up not with a total, but with a subtotal that sounds oddly short — by a couple of billion — of what the U.S. has actually been spending. Has there been some dramatic cut in funding that neither the UN nor the U.S. has noticed? Or was there a disclosure malfunction of majestic proportions?… more in my column on “Magic With U.S. Money for the United Nations.”

Why Don’t We Work for the UN?

April 8th, 2011 - 3:43 am

OK, so the United Nations may be an outfit rigged by bloc votes of despotic governments, steeped in anti-Semitism, freighted with projects for ruling the planet, and accountable to no one, including its sugar-daddies in Washington. But when it comes to the top-level international public servants who keep the place humming, at least they work cheap. Right?

Wrong. Fox News’s executive editor, George Russell, has a must-read piece out on the salaries of senior UN officials.  Some of them enjoy significantly higher take-home pay than members of the U.S. Cabinet, in which the Secretary of State makes $199,700 per year, before taxes.

At the UN, reports Russell, an under secretary general working in New York, with one dependent, ends up taking home about $234,000, tax-free. The base salary is listed as $145,854, but the UN then adds a “post adjustment,” to compensate for cost of living. For an assistant secretary general in New York, with one dependent, the post adjustment transforms the $133,776 salary into $215,781. Again, all exempt from taxes. And there are a lot of these senior official types at the UN, though the UN itself does not share any organized list of such details with the public. Russell got hold of confidential UN personnel records and discovered that the UN at the end of last year was employing 489 top-ranking executives: “That is slightly more than the number of equivalent positions – 484 — on the top-ranking payroll schedule of the U.S. government’s executive branch.”

With deep-in-debt America being by far the largest donor to the UN, financially strapped American taxpayers might find it interesting to peruse the salary tables and post adjustment charts linked in Russell’s article. If the UN can’t be drastically reformed, and the administration insists on bankrolling its budgets to the full, then your average American taxpayer has really only two choices — keep paying for this stuff, or go get a job there.

Out of extremely thin air, the Obama administration is now conjuring the narrative that Congress actually did approve a Libyan no-fly zone before President Barack Obama signed onto the project with the United Nations. Speaking last Sunday on ABC’s This Week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned (though she wasn’t quite sure of the date): “The United States Senate called for a no-fly zone in the resolution that it passed, um, I think on March the first.”

ABC News, under the headline “Fact Check: Senate Did Favor No-Fly Zone,” is now reporting:

Some lawmakers are grousing loudly that President Barack Obama sent the nation’s military to Libya without Congress’ blessing. They’re ignoring a key fact: The Senate a month ago voted to support imposing a no-fly zone to protect civilians from attacks by Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.

With no objections, the Senate on March 1 backed a resolution strongly condemning “the gross and systematic violations of human rights in Libya” and urging the U.N. Security Council to take action, “including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory.”

ABC goes on to quote Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s testimony yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, in which Gates said: “In its own way, the Congress consulted with the president and particularly with this body that unanimously in a resolution called for the imposition of a no-fly zone.”

Lower in the article, ABC then touches on the many and large qualifiers. For an articulate account of what those are, you’ll do better to skip the ABC backing and filling, and go straight to Andy McCarthy’s post on NRO’s Corner: “How the most transparent administration in history gets a transparent congressional debate on the war in Libya.” As Andy notes, this resolution — Senate Resolution 85 — was nonbinding. It has no force of law. Nor is the Senate the same as the full Congress. And, as Andy notes in another post, this nonbinding resolution was “hotlined” through the Senate with no debate and no vote, receiving “the same amount of consideration as a bill to rename a post office.” It neither authorizes nor endorses American use of force.

Among my own sources, a congressional aide says the resolution was passed late in the day, with few members around, and the no-fly zone slipped quietly into the final version.

To this I’ll add my own observation. When this resolution passed, on March 1, the Obama administration to all appearances couldn’t have cared less. Obama did not at that point issue a clarion public call for a no-fly zone, or rush to the Security Council brandishing Resolution 85 and demanding action. Nor did the administration turn to Congress for anything of genuine heft. For almost two more weeks — during which Muammar Gaddafi’s forces were regaining the advantage and slaughtering Libyans — President Obama waited and dithered. On March 11, he held a press conference in which he talked about organizing “conversations” with NATO and consulting with the “international community” on Libya. He made not a single reference to the March 1 Senate resolution. He made precisely three mentions of the Senate. None of these had anything to do with Libya; they were strictly about the U.S. budget.

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