Having just posted yet more depressing news of our time — this one on Syria’s biological weapons program — it seems fitting to offer something genuinely uplifting as counterpoint. In case you have not already seen it, 60 Minutes earlier this month had a wonderful segment, heart-warming, inspiring and thoroughly worth watching; a tale of human character at its best. It’s the story of how an American banker, John Riordan, working in Saigon during the Vietnam War, risked his life in the days just before the 1975 fall of Saigon to smuggle 105 Vietnamese out of the country. For those he saved, and for Riordan himself, a story with a happy ending. Here’s the link.
[Update: On the question of whether the video described below is a hoax, or the real North Korean McCoy -- it looks like it's a hoax. Which means what we're looking at here is a fake, done neatly enough to pass at first glance for an authentic collection of North Korean lies. A fitting window, in its way, on the Hall of Mirrors within which dwells the totalitarian regime of Kim Jong Un.]
Hat tip to Ron Radosh, who just sent me a note flagging a video now making the rounds, purported to be a North Korean propaganda film about poverty in America. It shows footage of people wrapped in rags, huddled together in the cold, living in tents and collapsed homes, or sleeping on the streets. An English-language voice-over of the strident Korean soundtrack describes an America in which desperate hungry people have been eating birds, making coffee out of snow, and buying guns to kill each other, and especially to kill children.
The obvious wisecrack is that someone in Pyongyang has been paying too much attention to President Obama’s scare rhetoric last month about the U.S. budget sequester. But what’s really going on here? Is this video a hoax? Or is it a genuine piece of North Korean propaganda?
At first glance, hard to say. North Korean propaganda is routinely occupied with the chore of inverting the known universe, a project that usually entails taking a minuscule grain of truth and swaddling it so thickly in lies that the entire exercise looks like self-parody — unless you happen to live in North Korea, and on pain of exile to a slave labor camp, together with your parents and your children, had better bow down and at least pretend to believe. For instance, here’s a line about America, from an Oct. 20, 2011 dispatch from North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency, pegged to the Occupy Wall Street Movement then in the news: “In this society 1% of privileged class is granted all preferential treatment while 99% of working masses are forced into poverty and death.”
Sounds a lot like the the style of the newly-circulating video (here’s that link again), in which the English voiceover says that material for the tents of impoverished Americans is provided courtesy of North Korea. That still doesn’t tell us whether the video is a spoof, or a piece of authentic North Korean propaganda. But, while pondering the ways of a North Korean regime so ringed in lies that it’s hard to pinpoint where satire ends and propaganda begins, let us note that according to a Jan. 4, 2013 report of the Congressional Research Service, U.S. food and fuel aid to North Korea since 1995 has totaled more than $1.2 billion. (I suspect that’s actually a low-ball estimate). In the impoverished world of North Korea’s propaganda machine, or the capers of anyone satirizing the same, that bit of truth about American largesse flowing even to America’s enemies might well lead to the vision of an America in which — but of course!– there is nothing left to eat but birds, and nothing left to drink but coffee made from snow.
When President Obama spoke Tuesday to the United Nations, he made a point of denouncing, yet again, as “an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well” the “crude and disgusting video” — a.k.a. the brief clip produced by a private individual exercising the right to free speech. But Obama made no mention whatsoever of the gross official insult to all decent people involved in the UN not only welcoming Iran’s anti-semitic pro-genocide President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yet again to the UN General Assembly in New York, but scheduling Ahmadinejad’s speech on the Jewish high holy day of Yom Kippur.
On Yom Kippur itself, the U.S. Mission to the UN finally got around to mentioning the matter, putting out a two-sentence statement noting that Ahmadinejad has once again been using his trip to the UN to “spout paranoid theories and repulsive slurs against Israel.” The U.S. statement goes on to say “It’s particularly unfortunate that Mr. Ahmadinejad will have the platform of the UN General Assembly on Yom Kippur, which is why the United States has decided not to attend.”
Talk about too little, too late. What a pity that Obama couldn’t have shoehorned that statement into his UN address, or at least wedged it into his chat with Whoopi Goldberg, Barbara Walters et al, while bringing his White House gift basket of napkins and golf balls to The View.
Why China, of course. China’s Xinhua state news agency can’t get enough of it. They’ve got a photo spread of the preparations for the convention; never mind the people, the politics, or even the stormy skies. Five out of the seven photos are all about security: the police, on horse and on foot; the National Guard; a fetching cameo of road barriers and squad cars… Looks almost like home.
I wouldn’t take this as a reflection on the Republicans. Like Roger Kimball, who has filed from the scene on “Perimeter Access,” I don’t know who gave the immediate orders for this setup. But I think this kind of thing starts to feel ever more familiar not just to China’s state news agency, but to Americans who have been living for years now with everything from airport security checks to the threat of lightbulb police. I’d take it as another sign of upside down times, in which our leaders defer to Russia, kow-tow to China, embrace the Muslim Brotherhood and bear witness to Iran’s terrorist-spawning regime pursuing nuclear weapons — and then propose to achieve security by patrolling every inch of American life.
(Thumbnail on Tatler homepage assembled from multiple Shutterstock.com images.)
Somehow, the worst regimes seem perpetually to enjoy the greatest benefit of the doubt, with outside observers repeatedly hanging hopes of reform on any hint of a human face at the top. For years, this has been the rule with North Korea, which goes through cycles in which shifts in the propaganda are reported with excitement in the Western press as hints of potential opening and change, or at least as entertaining kitsch. Meanwhile, North Korea’s regime carries on with its monstrous repression, slave labor camps, massive military and illicit weapons programs.
Here we go again, as reports emerge about the sprightly tastes of Kim Jong Un, third-generation heir to North Korea’s totalitarian state — a lively and smiling young tyrant, who turns out to have a mysterious young wife, and a taste for Disney characters.
What to make of this? Former Washington Post reporter Blaine Harden, author of “Escape From Camp 14,” had a terrific piece in Foreign Policy, July 26: “North Korea’s Extreme Makeover.” Harden warns, “Before we allow ourselves to get too hopeful or amused, it is worth noting that North Korea remains uniquely repressive. Indeed, after seven months under Kim Jong Un, the entire country seems to have become even more of a prison than it was under his father, Kim Jong Il, not less.”
Now comes a dispatch from The Wall Street Journal, “North Korea: We’re Not Changing!” reporting that North Korea itself is refuting speculation that it might be changing in any fundamental way. The source of this claim? North Korea’s own state mouthpiece, the Korean Central News Agency, which refers to western optimists as “idiots,” and writes: “To expect ‘policy change’ and ‘reform opening’ from the DPRK is nothing but a foolish and silly dream just like wanting the sun to rise in the west.” Yep.
Crossposted from the Rosette Report.
Well, that was quick…
June 30, 2012:
- “Annan: Major powers back Syria transition plan leaving question of Assad open” — MSNBC.
July 1, 2012:
- “Transition Plan for Syria Falters” — The Wall Street Journal.
Worried about the deteriorating state of human rights around the world? Have no fear! The United Nations is on the job … in Canada
Last year the United Nations held a contest inviting anyone over the age of 18 to submit a 30-second pitch via YouTube to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for an idea “that could change the world.” On the theory that it might be salutary for the secretary-general to get a few submissions pitching ideas as radical as actually reforming the UN itself, or even shutting down the UN and replacing it with an institution less likely to install North Korea as chair of the Disarmament Committee, I posted a link to the contest on the The PJ Tatler, under the caption, “Don’t Tempt Us.”
If Ban received any pitches that deviated from the usual UN program, it appears they didn’t win. He made do with a pitch to end poverty (great idea; wrong venue — the UN has a track record of legitimizing and even subsidizing despotic regimes that produce sustainable poverty), plus a pitch to recycle more plastic bottles. There was a third winner, but for reasons not explained by the UN, that video is marked “private.”
But here’s another chance, at least for the youth contingent, to pitch to Ban Ki-moon. The UN is holding an “Essay Writing Contest for University Students: Write a Speech for the Secretary-General.” The caption is slightly misleading, because there is no guarantee that Ban will actually deliver the speech. But he might at least have to read it. Students are invited to “imagine,” by way of drafting in up to 1,500 words, “a speech that would be made by the Secretary-General at the opening of the next session of the General Assembly.” Three winners will be chosen, and invited to New York to meet with Ban (as well as to Washington, to meet with the Brookings Institution, which is co-hosting this contest).
University students have a serious stake in this sort of thing. They are going to be living for a long time with the world the UN is now trying to shape. There’s no reason they have to stick to the usual UN cant. It is quite possible to “imagine” a speech to the 2012 General Assembly opening this September in which the secretary-general begins by listing the actual failings of the UN — for instance, the secrecy, the abuse of immunities, the thug-heavy executive boards, the oversight failures, the perversion of a Human Rights Council, the annual platform for Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York — and apologize for accepting these as the norm. It’s even possible to imagine the secretary-general declaring that he plans to go ahead, at long last, with an independent, external system-wide audit of all UN activities — something he promised during his first month in office, in 2007, but has never delivered.
In sum, it is possible to “imagine,” and to draft, a truly great speech for the secretary-general, a speech including two elements surpassingly rare in the UN General Assembly hall: integrity and truth. The deadline is June 15. So, all you students, leaders of the next generation, here’s that link again. It’s your future they’re planning — Write a Speech for the Secretary-General. Over to you.
Today, while the Supreme Court was hearing day 3 of arguments on the Affordable Healthcare Act, the East-West Institute was holding a conference in Washington on “Affordable World Security.” That unfortunate echo of name doesn’t mean one should write off the conference out of hand. But this thrifty crowd included, along with former CIA chief Michael Hayden, such personalities as Chas Freeman (the Israel-bashing Saudi-flacking former U.S. diplomat who praised the “overly cautious” behavior of China’s government in crushing the 1989 Tiananmen uprising), Oscar Arias Sanchez (peacenik Nobelist ex-president of Costa Rica, which freeloads off Western defense while priding itself on having constitutionally abolished its army), and Earth Policy Institute President Lester Brown (saving the world with wind and vegetarianism, Keystone Pipeline not wanted).
Out of the discussion floated a line from Washington Post reporter Dana Priest, included in the conference press release, that deserves a prize for Neville Chamberlain Quote of the Day:
“In a very politicized system,” Priest said, “cutting defense…can so easily be called ‘soft on defense.’”
Yep. It sure can.
Roger Simon sums up the shock and loss over the death of Andrew Breitbart. Now come the questions, and one of them is whether we will still see the videos that Breitbart was promising to release about President Barack Obama’s earlier days. Breitbart spoke about this shortly after his surreal encounter just a few weeks ago, on Feb. 5, with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohn, at a gourmet dinner prepared by Ayers and Dohrn at a ritzy Chicago apartment, after the Daily Caller’s Tucker Carlson won the meal by paying $2,500 in an auction. Carlson invited along Matt Labash and Andrew Breitbart. That experience had Breitbart reflecting on the silver-ponytailed radicals and their earlier days — as he discussed in this radio interview from Chicago’s Drake Hotel, just after the dinner. Will we still see those videos he was promising?
The United Nations and Syria have now jointly appointed former Secretary-General Kofi Annan as their joint special envoy “to deal with the crisis in Syria.” There are many reasons why Annan is the wrong man for the job, including his abominable record of mismanaging the vastly corrupt 1996-2003 Oil-for-Food program in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in which Syria was one of the major transgressors. But memories are short.
How short? I read with astonishment an article this morning by Adrian Blomfield, a Middle East correspondent for the Telegraph, in which he ponders the question, “Kofi Annan: is he the right trouble shooter for Syria?” In it, Blomfield says that Annan’s record is “mixed,” and goes on to review Annan’s record — reminding us that “In 2008, he persuaded Saddam to re-admit UN weapons inspectors… . ”
2008? A neat trick, because Saddam was hanged two years before that, on Dec. 30, 2006. But never mind, thought I. Surely it was just a typo, and the correspondent meant to write 1998.
Except, reading further, one learns that “four years earlier” Annan “persuaded President Bashir to rein in his Janjaweed militiamen” in Darfur. Four years earlier than what? That would presumably be four years before the miraculous return of Saddam, complete with weapons inspectors, in 2008?
Lower down in the same article, one learns of Annan that “In 2004, as head of UN peacekeeping operations, he was accused of ignoring repeated warnings from Romeo Dallaire” — that is clearly a reference to Annan’s job not in 2004, but in 1994, when as head of UN peacekeeping he ignored warnings from his man in the field about the impending genocide in Rwanda.
If the only way to avoid the mistakes of the past is to learn from them, I’d say in defense of this correspondent that he is at least trying to remember Kofi Annan’s record . If he hasn’t quite mastered the job, he’s still way ahead of the folks at the UN and Arab League, whose apparent total amnesia is about the only reasonable excuse for ignoring Annan’s sorry record, and choosing him as their envoy for dealing with Syria.
Come in, Washington…? What’s the plan? Iran’s PressTV is boasting that two Iranian warships, a destroyer and a supply ship, have just passed through Suez and docked in Syria.
No matter how you look at this, it’s bad news. Were the ships carrying weapons to re-supply the Syrian regime’s attacks on its own people? Weapons for attacks on Israel? Even if the ships were carrying no weapons for Syria, the precedent is being set that Iranian warships may with impunity pass through Suez into the Mediterranean, and, unchallenged, be allowed to dock in Syria. What now follows? Having borne witness to the “arc of history” in Iran, does the Obama administration propose to deal with these latest developments by bearing witness as Iranian warships make themselves at home in the Mediterranean and call on Bashar Assad? If that’s the case, we could soon be bearing witness to much more terrible carnage, courtesy of Iran, than anything seen yet.
Come in, Washington. What’s the plan?
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani has his ups and downs, but when he’s good he’s really really good — and in this recent interview on Fox, warning about Iran and the bomb, he is great. Clear-eyed warnings from a man who knows firsthand what it’s like when faraway threats materialize as mass murder in the streets of America. Tune in here.
The European Union has run into a lot of foreign resistance to its scheme to impose a “carbon tax” on airline passengers traveling to and from Europe. The EU solution? The New American web site reports that in the interest of averting a “trade war” in the skies, the EU is open to making an already terrible tax even worse. Reportedly the EU is open to a “UN-brokered” arrangement in which the EU would drop its regional carbon tax in exchange for haveing it replaced by — guess what — a global carbon tax on air travel. This has the makings of yet another UN run at direct global taxes — a precedent that would effectively bypass even the minimal oversight of UN member states, and in the spirit of taxation-without-representation open a spigot direct from your wallet to the UN coffers, quite likely requiring you to bankroll, among other things, the concoction of yet more global taxes.
“We’re ready to negotiate within our framework,” the articles quotes the EU transport commissioner as saying; “We aren’t trying to dominate the world.”
Thanks, guys, but there’s a better way. How about sparing a moment amid the riots and bailouts to just drop the EU’s carbon tax on the skies?
“The tide of war is receding.”
— President Barack Obama, Jan. 5, 2012, announcing cuts in the U.S. military
“Hezbollah uses Lebanese villages as military bases“ – Israel Defense Forces, Jan. 8, 2012
“Ahmadinejad: Acquiring the nuclear know-how is outcome of Iran’s resistance” – Iran’s English Radio IRIB World Service
“Iran holds military exercise near Afghan border“ – Reuters, Jan. 7, 2012
“Iran tests long-range missile near Hormuz“ – Lebanon’s Daily Star, Jan. 3, 2012
“Global Terror: Potential Flash Points in 2012“ – BBC News, Jan. 3, 2012
“Missile tech. boosts Iran military might” – Iran’s PressTV, Jan. 2, 2012
“North Korea vows a ‘sea of fire’ for South“ – Reuters, Jan. 1, 2012
“China To Target 1,800 Missiles at Taiwan In 2012“ – DefenseNews, May 20, 2011
Believing anything that North Korean news reports is a dangerous game, but this one appears to be true: Kim Jong Il, monstrous ruler of North Korea, has died. Maybe yesterday. Maybe on a train.
Big question now, what happens next with the totalitarian regime that Kim inherited from his father, and was apparently trying to pass on to one of his sons? And will U.S. diplomats now rush in, as they did during North Korea’s last succession, in 1994, with aid and deals that help shore up the regime during the vulnerable stage of transition? Or will they do the right thing, and look for ways to finally bring down the horrific system which since the late 1940s has enslaved North Koreans and threatened the Free World?
When Rick Perry had his oops moment in the debate, ticking off two of the three federal agencies he’d eliminate — Commerce and Education — and fumbling for the third, this leapt to mind. Why of course!
You’ve been reading the leaked previews, now you can read it for yourself. With thanks to the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), here’s a link to the text of the IAEA’s new report on Iran.
The United Nations hasn’t even finished the $2 billion renovation of its New York headquarters (cost over-runs currrently 225% above the UN’s original estimate), and already it’s lobbying member states for another $3 billion for another big building in New York, and an overhaul of its palatial offices in Geneva. George Russell of Fox News has put himself through the torment of reading the relevant UN documents, and has the story.
U.S. taxpayers would of course be expected to pony up America’s usual 22% or more of the cost. But the worst of it is, these billions in buildings are all meant to accommodate UN plans for an ever-expanding staff. And if the UN builds it, you can bet that they will come. Where does this end?
But the UN is a serious place, led by serious people, such as UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, who was seriously concerned a few years ago about the execution of Saddam Hussein. Now she’s upset over the killing of Qaddafi. Apparently the Russian government, with its serious interest in law, is concerned as well.
Seems like before all these serious folks pour their energies (plus U.S. taxpayer dollars) into probing the demise of Qaddafi, they ought to launch a probe into how it happened that during the past few years the UN gave Qaddafi’s Libya a seat on the Security Council, made one of his envoys president of the General Assembly, elected Libya to the Human Rights Council, made Qaddafi’s daughter a UN Goodwill Ambassador and picked Libya to chair the preparations for the Durban II conference, starring Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, held in 2009 at the UN offices in Geneva.
Surely they’re joking. Right? Iranian state news services are reporting that the commander of the Iranian Army’s ground forces, Brig. Gen Pourdastan, is offering to dispatch Iranian troops to serve as United Nations peacekeepers. Apparently the General believes this will “indicate the power and strength of Iran’s Armed Forces.”
Tehran-based PressTV says that according to Pourdastan, “Iran’s Foreign Ministry is negotiating to send Iranian peacekeepers to regions designated by the UN.”
Negotiating with whom???
In matters of the Middle East, peace is something the UN can’t even manage on its own premises. As the PLO’s Mahmoud Abbas began his speech to the General Assembly in New York last Friday, Turkish and UN security were brawling in the halls. Reporter Colum Lynch has the latest.
At the UN’s Durban III bigoted conference on bigotry,going on today as I write this, the representative country to speak for the African Group has just turned out to be… Sudan. Up soon, at the “high-level” round tables, Iran. For an antidote, turn to the counter-conference on Perils of Global Intolerance, now being streamed live on PJTV.
… and the wahhabi indoctrination continues today. Here’s the latest report from the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom: Ten Years On, Saudi Arabia’s Textbook Still Promote Religious Violence.
Writing on NRO, the Center’s director, Nina Shea, provides examples of what the Saudis, as of the 10th anniversary of September 11, continue to teach their children. To take just two, of many:
This from a textbook for eight graders: “The apes are the people of the Sabbath, the Jews; and the swine are the infidels of the communion of Jesus, the Christians.”
For 10th grade: ”Apostates and blasphemers should be punished by death.”
…and so on. This ain’t over.
Who can blame him? It gets ever harder to draw a line between the growing government and the withering economy — Hat tip to RealClear Politics.
Don’t know if this is real or photo-shopped, but it’s laugh-or-weep funny.
Perfect embellishment for the ethos in which the reporter — make that, the breathless reporter – becomes the story.
The UN is soliciting suggestions for Ban Ki-Moon: “You have 30 seconds to pitch an idea to the Secretary-General that could change the world.”
“To date, in my view, no Republican candidate has persuasively argued that our economic recovery and long-term prosperity are completely intertwined with a strong national security posture. If no one else is prepared to make that case, I will.” Here’s his full article, in Human Events.
Could he win? I wouldn’t bet on it. By stepping up to the plate, could he nonetheless instill some desperately needed sanity and genuine strategic thinking into the debates of an America where those intertwined matters of prosperity and security are both increasingly at risk? Here’s hoping.
With American sovereign credit under fire, world markets in a spin, China and Russia chastising the U.S. and Iran enroute to the bomb, the new fad on the horizon might just be… boredom. Bombarded as we are with 24/7 news of crises, wired as we are, around the clock, it’s human nature to yearn for that which eludes us. Both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have just run articles on the joys of tedium; odes, respectively, to “The Heady Thrill of Having Nothing to Do” and “The Thrill of Boredom.” Were boredom a commodity, looks like it would be a buy.
Except, once again, as the United Nations cooks up more trouble, America’s UN ambassador wasn’t even “present” — Ric Grenell has the story, “Susan Rice Fails To Show Up For Crucial UN Middle East Debate.”
There’s an ever more Soviet flavor to the impending U.S. ban on incandescent lightbulbs, which congress just failed to repeal. Given the multi-trillion dollar U.S. government spending and debt blowout, with its ugly implications for the value of the U.S. dollar itself, it’s not merely a joke these days to wonder whether investing in a hoard of lightbulbs — while it’s still legal to do so — might prove a better store of value than, say, a dollar savings account. This would be a sort of poor man’s version of hoarding gold against the battered greenback, with the proviso that the stash could not legally be sold — the future value would come in the form of leaving the hoarder free to choose how to light his or her own home.
All of which can become oddly interesting in calculating the tradeoffs among money spent upfront, the falling dollar, the value of the storage space occupied, the freedom retained, and the overall potential benefits of a lightbulb hedge against the dollar. At least, it’s an amusing mental exercise until you step back and ask what on earth kind of crazy scene is this? — In which ordinary Americans, like retread Soviet subjects treasuring private stockpiles of black-market soap and toilet paper, are now squirreling away incandescent bulbs.
A big part of Washington’s rationale is that forcing American individual consumers to forego incandescents will help them save money — though even that argument grows ever more dim. What really seems to be at work here is not thrift, but crony capitalism. There have been a lot of good articles on this — Jeff Jacoby has one of the latest. In a free-market society, lightbulb policing is just plain wrong to begin with. The great virtue of free markets is that they yield wealthy societies by allowing individuals to choose their own tradeoffs. What America has right now is a government that’s over-spending by trillions and coddling its chosen pals, while ordaining how ordinary Americans should handle their household budgets and bulbs. Government of, by and for… the government.
The United Nations has a new report advocating ways for the governments of the world to spend that staggering sum over the next 40 years, “greening” the planet. Over at the Heritage Foundation’s web site, Nicolas Loris explains why this is not a good approach to improving human life on earth. If many of his points seem obvious, the next question is how to bring home those simple yet immense cost-benefit realities to the UN. That may be one of the real challenges now confronting mankind.
… the Myanmar Times is lamenting its plunge against the Burmese kyat.
If there’s a silver lining to North Korea holding the presidency this month of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament, it is that this outrage is focusing some attention on the truth that apart from managing to dignify one of the worst rogue states on the planet, this UN outfit has accomplished virtually nothing in years — except to spend millions in taxpayer money. Over at National Review, the Heritage Foundation’s Brett Schaefer looks at the $4.64 million slated to sustain this Conference for 2012-2013, and draws the reasonable conclusion: It’s time to just scrap the entire outfit.
Of course, the UN being a vast bureaucracy sustained by collective appropriation of other people’s money, shutting down UN gravy trains is no easy job. But one place to start is with truth in advertising. The U.S. Mission to the UN has a new ambassador for UN Management and Reform, Joseph Torsella. If he wants to make do right by his responsibilities, there’s a wide open opportunity for him here: Why not make a pitch to rename the Conference on Disarmament to reflect is real function? — The UN Conference on Dignifying North Korea.
On Gateway Pundit, a good point: “LA Times Won’t Release Obama-Khalidi Tape But Posts 24,000 Sarah Palin Emails.” You remember the veil thrown over the Obama-Khalidi tape, which the LA Times mentioned during the 2008 presidential campaign, but declined to release. With the growing controversy over where Obama really stands in his life-and-death dealings with Israel and the Middle East, you might suppose that the hidden tape of his communing with Khalidi would be of even greater importance (if possible) than Sarah Palin’s correspondence in Alaska. You’d be right. Obama is president of the United States. Palin is a former governor with no official say right now about anything. So where’s the Obama-Khalidi tape?