Ban Ki-Moon's Marie-Antoinette Moment
People around the world may be tightening their belts, but at the United Nations in Geneva it was party time on Tuesday, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on hand to celebrate the new ceiling decor for the chamber now named "the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room" -- meeting place for the UN's so-called Human Rights Council.
The chamber's new ceiling, product of Spanish artist and moneypit maestro Miguel Barcelo, rang up a price tag of -- take a guess:
Yep, if you guessed $23 million, you got it right. For photos of this latest piece of UN self-indulgence, check out Fox News, where you can click through pictures of millions of dollars worth of UN ceiling, including 100 tons of paint. Ban Ki-Moon describes it as "a wonderful addition to the United Nations that will capture the imagination of all who work here." (That would include the imaginations, then, of the toilers on the Libya-chaired preparatory committee for the anti-Israel, anti-U.S. Durban II conference scheduled for next year; the Mercedes and BMW-chauffered diplomats from assorted tyrannies who cover for each other to deflect criticism mainly toward democratic states; the Organization of the Islamic Conference gang now seeking to block free speech worldwide under the label of banning blasphemy...).
The $23 million for the ceiling came from various pockets, some private, and some from the Spanish government -- which has come under fire at home for ladling funds into UN decoration instead of using the money to help the poor. But at a time when Ban Ki-Moon has been moaning and groaning that the UN lacks enough money to feed hungry children, the larger question is why the UN would agree to this lavish gilding, let alone throw itself a party to celebrate. The UN bodies meeting under that ceiling have an abysmal record of serving not the people, but themselves. The price tag evokes echoes of the Russian czars, or the final days of the French court. All that's missing is an inscription over the entrance to the chamber: "Let Them Eat Cake."