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Monthly Archives: November 2011

In a must-read editorial, the Wall Street Journal corrects its brethren MSM on the identity of the thugs who just stormed the British embassy in Tehran — breaking windows, burning the British flag, ransacking offices, trashing a portrait of the Queen, and terrorizing the staff.  The Journal notes that the attack was not impromptu. “Police stood by, and Iranian state television broadcast events live.”

But, continues the editorial, “By some strange reflex, Western media insisted the attackers were ‘students.’ To Iranians who know better, they were the basij militia, the regime’s first line of defense. These thugs were called out to brutally put down the 2009 Green Revolution, a genuine student-led uprising.”

Exactly. So what was this strange reflex that caused so many members of the Western media — including CNN, CBS, ABC, the BBC, USA Today, the NY Daily News and even Fox — to describe them as “students”? I’m no mind reader, but I’m skeptical that in this case it was anything as deliberate as some sort of multicultural, values-neutral bias. More likely it was something at least as bad, and maybe worse. My guess is that they let Iranian propagandists do their thinking for them, pulling the “student” label straight off the Iranian broadcasts of the event.

Courtesy of the web site of Iran’s embassy in the UK., no less, one can find right now a link to an account of the mob assault on the British embassy in Tehran. It’s a writeup by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting service (IRIB News), in which the main point seems to be, quite specifically, to cast the basij as students — starting with the headline: “Angry IRI students enter British embassy.” Every single one of the six short paragraphs in this brief account then features the label “students.” Here’s the text (boldface mine):

A group of Iranian students, indignant by Britain’s hostile policies towards the Islamic Republic entered its embassy compound in Tehran Tuesday evening.

The students forced their way through the police forces into the embassy.

The students hurled Molotov Cocktails and stones into the embassy compound in Tehran and broke the building’s windows.

Other students removed the British flag and hoisted IRI flag in its place.

The students were chanting slogans including Labbeik Ya Hussein (O, Hussein, we are ready to answer your call for assistance), in reference to the second Shii Imam’s call for assistance in Ashura events.Scores of students were in the embassy compound while many more were gathering in front of the embassy. They were installing flags, designated with ‘Ya Hussein’ over the walls of the embassy.

Subtle, it ain’t.

Also read: Obama’s Pathetic Statement on the Iranian Storming of the UK Embassy

Confessions of a Light Bulb Addict

November 27th, 2011 - 2:37 am

Please don’t think this is easy for me. I’m one of those crazed Americans who can’t walk into Home Depot, Target or my local grocery store right now without wanting to grab one of those king-sized shopping carts and stuff it to the gunwales with 100-watt incandescent light bulbs.

Maybe it’s the sheer thrill of buying bulbs that in just over a month, as of Jan. 1, 2012, will be banned for sale in America. What fun, in this incandescent twilight, to acquire legally what the federal government will soon treat as contraband, should it appear in any American marketplace. Or maybe it’s that gut sense that with the dollar teetering toward an abyss of unfathomable and inflationary government spending, those beloved old 100 watt bulbs will at least provide a decent store of value, even if all I do is use them to read by for the rest of my life — meticulously taking care never to violate federal law by offering even a single bulb for sale to some fellow citizen willing to pay for it.

Or, just possibly, this urge to stockpile incandescents is the product of simmering outrage. For decades, I have written about America as the world’s beacon of freedom, which it has been. Yet here we are, wards of the nanny state, with politicians dictating that even that prime symbol of American ingenuity, Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb, shall be regulated into oblivion. All this has been ably exposed as an act of crony capitalism, designed to enrich manufacturers who prefer to sell pricier light bulbs that a lot of Americans, if free to choose, prefer not to buy. And the actual mechanics of this ban have been greatly blurred, Washington-style, by framing this fix not as an outright prohibition, but merely as a phase-out of light bulbs that do not meet standards set by Washington in the name of “energy efficiency.” First the 100-watt incandescents vanish from the shelves. Then the 75-watt, the 60-watt and 40-watt. It is, in its way, a bipartisan dimming of choice, tacked onto an energy bill signed into law in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and –despite an attempt at repeal this past July — upheld by Democrats in Congress under President Barack Obama.

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5-1/2 Great Minutes of Thanksgiving

November 23rd, 2011 - 6:55 pm

What to say, this Thanksgiving? I’ve been mucking around in UN news (Syria has been reappointed to the committee that oversees human rights matters at UNESCO), and world news (stacks of reports on Iran and its nuclear bomb program) and national news (Obamacare, debt, spending, more spending, and the soaring price of turkey). It’s a gloomy scene, and I was starting to figure I’d have to default to such private matters as the old family recipe for pecan pie, which my mother actually swiped from someone else’s family a few decades back (it calls for a 25 cent package of pecans).

And then, a friend sent the most marvelous video, and it is of course brilliantly obvious. Profound thanks to America’s magnificent armed forces. Thank you to the men and women who have served, and who are serving right now. We will toast you around the table, and we thank you every day, not only for protecting this country, but for embodying the courage and determination that has always been a vital element of American freedom and — you bet — American greatness.

Here it is, a lift for Thanksgiving, or any other time, 5-1/2 minutes well worth your time. A salute from the marching band of West Virginia University, to our armed forces — all five of them.

I can’t resist the wicked suggestion that if an American president, at the next UN General Assembly opening, were to devote 5-1/2 minutes of his allotted speech-making slot to showing the world worthies this video — a message from the American people — it might send the likes of the Iranian, Cuban, Chinese, Russian and Venezuelan delegations into fits. But I promise you, long after the spluttering died down, it would do wonders for that hallowed old cause of world peace.

“The Elders” are at it again — carrying water for North Korea, trying to arrange an inter-Korean summit at Kim Jong Il’s behest, whether South Korea likes it or not. Or so reports the Korea Herald,N.K. proposes inter-Korean summit in Jan.

Who are “The Elders”? The Korea Herald politely describes them as a “group of retired world leaders.” There’s an “Elders” web site on which they describe themselves less modestly, and rather inaccurately, as “Independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights.” This is not just any old collection of potentate-seniors. The Elders is a small group front-loaded with ex-leaders whose greatest contribution to peace and human rights would be to stay home and work on their shuffleboard. The active Elder list includes former president Jimmy Carter; former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan; former Arab League and UN poobah Lakhdar Brahimi; former Irish president, UN human rights commissioner and godmother of the 2001 anti-Semitic Durban conference, Mary Robinson; and that inevitable fixture of half the crackpot diplomatic conclaves of the past 40 years, former Norwegian prime minister Gro Brundtland.

In their efforts to remain relevant, the Elders meet twice a year to discuss how they can meddle in prospects for world peace, and whatnot. This past April, this brand of semi-retirement produced an Elders trip to North Korea, led by Jimmy Carter (Gro Brundtland and Mary Robinson in tow), full of plans to bring Kim Jong Il’s regime back to the bargaining table. Of course, Kim doesn’t necessarily mind going to the bargaining table. Since Jimmy Carter’s first post-retirement trip to North Korea, in 1994, Kim has exploited assorted deals to shake down the West and then cheat. Kim’s totalitarian government has done quite well out of such arrangements, pocketing a bonanza of aid, gifts and concessions, while starving his own people and building and testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. But this past April, North Korea apparently judged that the time was not ripe for the next negotiated shakedown. Carter got no joy — Kim Jong Il wasn’t even around to meet with him. The Elders returned from that Pyongyang pilgrimage looking like the has-beens they are trying not to be.

Now, it seems, the Elders are making another run at organizing a grand bargain with North Korea. The best that can be said about this, at least for this round, is that we may be spared the spectacle of Jimmy Carter serving, yet again, as a mouthpiece for Pyongyang. It seems it’s not only Kim Jong Il who’s had more than enough of Carter. According to the Korea Herald, the Elders themselves have decided that North-Korea-wise they’d rather do their world-leading without him.

But the real problem is that they are approaching Pyongyang at all — reportedly over the objections of South Korean officials, who would prefer to choose their own time, place and methods for dealing with Kim Jong Il. That leaves the Elders operating as the errand-boys for North Korea, ferrying to South Korea the terms on which North Korea prefers to haggle. The Korea Herald reports that the Elders will be sending “working level staff to Seoul Monday to convey Pyongyang’s message and then to North Korea.” Enough, already. They may call themselves “The Elders.” But what we actually have here is the sorry sight of ex-leaders trying to transform themselves into elder statesmen by way of serving, in effect, as honorary consuls of North Korea.


What To Do With ElBaradei’s Nobel Peace Prize?

November 13th, 2011 - 12:21 am

Since Mohamed ElBaradei retired from leadership of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at the end of 2009, the IAEA has made great strides toward an honest assessment of an Iranian nuclear program that is obviously hell bent on developing nuclear weapons. On Nov. 8, ElBaradei’s successor, Japan’s Yukiya Amano, delivered a devastating report to the IAEA board of governors. It details abundant signs that for years Iran has been working not only toward a supply of enriched uranium that could fuel nuclear warheads, but also on detonators, on missiles to deliver them, and on preparations for a nuclear test — in sum, widely sourced and credible information gathered by the IAEA “indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”

All of which ought to be mortally embarrassing to ElBaradei, who, together with the IAEA that he ran, collected a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for “their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way.” Even in 2005, this was a farce. In the face of alarming signs that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons, ElBaradei down-played information he evidently had, leading to an official farewell in 2009, in which he visited Iran and –speaking from Iran — stressed that the IAEA had “no concrete proof that there is an ongoing weapons program in Iran,” and reassured Iran’s rulers that the IAEA did not view their missile program as “nuclear-related.”  He added that in his post-IAEA capacity as a private citizen, he hoped to return often to Iran: “I would be very happy to come here as many times as I can.”

Perhaps the Nobel Peace Prize Committee had its own well-meant  – albeit idiotic — reasons for awarding its prize in 2005 to a man whose chief accomplishment vis-a-vis nuclear proliferation was to help cover it up. But it sure looked like the Nobel judges were seeking some way to give a boost to a United Nations beleaguered that same year by massive evidence that its Iraq Oil-for-Food had been monstrously corrupt, that its procurement department had become home to a Russian kickback scheme, and that some of its peacekeepers in Africa had been raping children. At that stage, then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan was hardly a candidate for the prize. His 38th floor executive suite had been exposed as a nest of mismanagement, evasion, obfuscation and paper-shredding, presiding over assorted alleged bribe-takers and — to be generous — incompetents. Besides, Annan had already won a Nobel Peace Prize, in 2000. (Some of his brethren prize-winners are troubling enough to raise questions about whether the Nobel should be seen as any kind of honor at all — Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, etc. But there have also been some good winners. Let us assume, for the moment, that a Nobel still counts as a plus on a resume).

Anyway, whatever the reasons, ElBaradei emerged with a Nobel prize that increasingly looks like a very sick joke. What might be done about this? Italian journalist Fiamma Nirenstein writes in Il Giornale that in light of the latest IAEA report, the Nobel Committee ought to take back its prize from ElBaradei. Wishful thinking, but a great idea. And as long as we’re indulging in wishful thinking, I’d add one more suggestion. Were the Norwegian Nobel Committee worth its salt, it would take back its prize from ElBaradei, and re-award it jointly to the only two actors who during ElBaradei’s tenure at the IAEA made serious inroads against the proliferation of nuclear weapons: the U.S. military and the Israeli Air Force. The U.S. military for leading the force that overthrew Iraq’s mass-murdering tyrant Saddam Hussein and scared Libya’s mass-murdering tyrant Moammar Qaddafi in late 2003 into rendering up his A.Q. Khan nuclear kit; and the Israeli Air Force for its destruction in 2007 of a clandestine nuclear reactor which the Syrian government was building with North Korean help on the Euphrates River. Granted, that would be rough on ElBaradei. But maybe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be willing to give him a well-earned consolation prize, next time he makes one of his happy trips to Iran.

UNRWA Workers Strike For Hamas

November 10th, 2011 - 1:36 am

Yes, it finally happened — over the past month, the United Nations Palestinian relief agency, UNRWA, became the direct target of massive strikes in Gaza. But it wasn’t Israelis who did the striking; it was thousands of Palestinian employees of UNRWA itself.

As the AFP recently reported, “UNRWA’s Gaza schools stage massive walkout.”   At more than 240 Gaza schools run by UNRWA, some 7,500 teachers and other staffers walked off the job, taking more than 200,000 students with them. The reason? UNRWA had suspended one of its employees, Suheil al-Hindi, head of the agency’s Arab Workers’ Union, for “alleged political activities,” which the AFP described as “a union activity which was attended by a large number of officials of the Islamist movement Hamas.” Apparently the problem was not consorting with Hamas per se, but — to quote the AFP story further — Hindi’s alleged violation of UNRWA rules that “ban staff involvement in extra-curricular political activities without prior approval of the agency’s management.”

Hamas is, of course, the terrorist organization ruling Gaza, whose not-so-extracurricular activities include receiving weapons and terrorist training from Iran, launching attacks on Israel, calling for the obliteration of the Israeli state, wishing death to America, and, just last month, extorting the release of a parade of Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons, in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Evidently, thousands of UNRWA teachers are outraged by the idea that their union boss should be discouraged from arranging union activities where UNRWA staffers can rub shoulders with a gang of Hamas officials.

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American engagement just isn’t going well these days at UNESCO, the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. On Monday, despite U.S. objections, UNESCO’s General Conference voted to give a seat to the Palestinians, thus making UNESCO the first UN outfit to grant the Palestinians full membership. On the part of the Palestinian Authority, the bid to join UNESCO was a violation of their own past agreements, and a betrayal of the trust with which the U.S. has been bankrolling Palestinian development in exchange for Palestinians pledges of peace that can only come by way of good faith dealings with Israel, not by UN fiat. On the part of a majority of UNESCO’s member states, the vote was a festival of derision toward the U.S. and prejudice against Israel, as the “yes” votes for Palestinian membership were greeted in the chamber with cheers and applause. The tally was a slap-happy 107 states in favor, and 14 states against (including the U.S.), with 52 abstaining.

UNESCO’s seating of the Palestinians has triggered American laws that require the U.S. administration to cut funding to any part of the UN that gives membership to the Palestinians before they  have actually met the qualifications for functional statehood (such as scrapping plans to terrorize and obliterate their neighbors). Cutting funding is a good start for a fitting U.S. retort to UNESCO, where the loss of U.S. lucre ought to provoke some serious second thoughts. U.S. taxpayers have been bankrolling 22% of UNESCO’s budget, plus extras — meaning UNESCO now faces a funding cut of about $80 million per year. Whether UNESCO, faced with this shortfall, will choose to sacrifice programs in the field or dinners in Paris remains to be seen.

Except, to judge by the statements of U.S. diplomats, the Obama administration is looking for ways to save UNESCO from making any sacrifice at all. In tones less of anger than of apology, administration officials have been hinting that they are looking for some way to work around current U.S. law, or maybe get it changed, so America can go right on supporting UNESCO. A State Department spokeswoman said the administration will be consulting with Congress about the funding cut-off. America’s ambassador to UNESCO, David Killion, in the aftermath of the UNESCO assembly’s derisive and reckless vote, abased himself before the other delegates, saying “We pledge to continue our efforts to find ways to support and strengthen the important work of this vital organization.”

What are these U.S. officials talking about? UNESCO is not vital. It is a mischief-prone UN body from which the U.S. withdrew entirely in 1984, under President Ronald Reagan, and did not return until 2003, under President George W. Bush. The world survived. Indeed, in many ways the world did a lot better than it has lately.

And why, in the face of in UNESCO’s contempt for U.S. policy and values, would the U.S. administration hustle so hard to assure UNESCO that — to quote Ambassador Killion again — “President Obama has made strong multilateral engagement across the UN system — including at UNESCO — a top priority and a core aspect of  U.S. policy.” That statement came after  UNESCO’s members had collectively delivered America a kick in the face.

Not that everyone in Washington subscribes to the practice of abasement as a pillar of U.S. foreign policy. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, is already seeking UN reform by way of a bill that would link U.S. funding to UN performance. On Tuesday, she released a statement on the UNESCO train wreck, warning that:

 Already, the Administration appears to be seeking loopholes, and the UN’s apologists are out in full force with doomsday rhetoric urging a change to the law that would allow payments to continue to flow to UN entities that admit ‘Palestine.’ Congress’s response must be a resounding ‘No.’

For more on this latest UN madness, here’s a link to my column on Forbes.com, UNESCO Fiasco.