Saturday, December 24, 2005

Kofi's Nine Year Milk Cow

“The most effective ambassadors I have known in this building are the ones who’ve been able to sit across the table, reach out to their colleagues and persuade them to take a course of action. And I would suggest to all ambassadors who want to make progress to go that route.”

This is what Kofi Annan said as he criticized U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton’s tough negotiating style read.

Of course what Mr. Bolton wants is to see progress made on the long promised UN reforms and he is urging the United States to withhold the 22% it contributes to this organization.

But of course no one would expect Annan to ‘want’ to institute reforms in an institution that has been a milk cow for many members for the past nine years. Another not too widely noted incident among the many “incidents” (read scandals) that have plagued Annan’s tenure at the UN occurred a few days ago. It seems that Annan was very touchy about a certain question that UN correspondent for The Times, James Bone asked. Again it had to do with Annan’s son Kojo who bought a Mercedes Benz and shipped it to Ghana with the benefit of UN tax exemptions. Well Annan got furious with the reporter and instead of answering the question lashed out in a purple rage attacking Mr. Bone thus: “"You are an embarrassment to your colleagues and to your profession...Please stop misbehaving, and please let's move on to a more serious subject."

What could be more serious than being accused of using UN connections inappropriately? Remember the UN administered Iraqi “food for oil” scandal? So many countries were involved in that and there has yet to be any punishments meted out.

The UN is a conglomeration of nations led by evil and corrupt governments. It is time to either clean it up or let it rot in the ash heap of other good for nothing bureaucratic organizations.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Reviewing What Clinton Said Eight Years Ago About Iraq

Remember when Clinton initiated military attacks on Sadam Hussein? Of course he didn't finish the job (neither did the first President Bush) and so it goes that the piper must be paid. I thought it would be interesting to refresh our memories regarding what then President Clinton said to the American people in his justification for attacking Sadam almost eight years ago. I'm sure it will all sound familiar. Just goes to show if you don't treat the tumor properly it will grow and be more difficult to eradicate.

Portions of President Clinton's address to Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pentagon staff on Feb 17, 1998

Now, let me say to all of you here as all of you know the weightiest decision any president ever has to make is to send our troops into harm's way. And force can never be the first answer. But sometimes, it's the only answer.

Saddam Hussein's Iraq reminds us of what we learned in the 20th century and warns us of what we must know about the 21st. In this century, we learned through harsh experience that the only answer to aggression and illegal behavior is firmness, determination, and when necessary action.

In the next century, the community of nations may see more and more the very kind of threat Iraq poses now a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction ready to use them or provide them to terrorists, drug traffickers or organized criminals who travel the world among us unnoticed.

If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow by the knowledge that they can act with impunity, even in the face of a clear message from the United Nations Security Council and clear evidence of a weapons of mass destruction program.

Portions of President Clinton’s address to the nation from the Oval Office on December 16, 1998

Saddam (Hussein) must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons.

Earlier today I ordered America's armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces."

Their mission is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.

Along with Prime Minister (Tony) Blair of Great Britain, I made it equally clear that if Saddam failed to cooperate fully we would be prepared to act without delay, diplomacy or warning.

Instead of inspectors disarming Saddam, Saddam has disarmed the inspectors. If Saddam can cripple the weapons inspections system and get away with it, he would conclude the international community, led by the United States, has simply lost its will. He would surmise that he has free rein to rebuild his arsenal of destruction.

The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government -- a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people.

Saddam Hussein and the other enemies of peace may have thought that the serious debate currently before the House of Representatives would distract Americans or weaken our resolve to face him down, but once more, the United States has proven that although we are never eager to use force, when we must act in America's vital interests, we will do so.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Che Chic and the Ladies in White

It is fashionable to wear T-shirts with Che’s mug plastered across it. From teens in small villages in northern Italy to those Hollywood intellectuals on the Left coast, Che is chic.

But who champions the Ladies in White of Cuba – wives, mothers and sisters and daughters of prisoners rotting in Fidel Castro’s prisons for a variety of crimes from expressing “forbidden opinions” to attempting to flee the hell hole of Cuban dictatorship.

A piece by Mary Anatasia O’Grady (read) describes how in 2003 Castro “ordered the lockup of 75 journalists, librarians and democracy advocates” calculating that after an initial outcry by the outside world all would be forgotten. After all, isn’t that how Castro has maintained his grip on power for fifty years? Well these women had had enough of repression and so for two years there have been weekly gatherings and processions in white in a kind of defiant, silent protest.

This has caused Castro’s heavenly worker’s paradise to be catapulted into the news – again - because these brave and persistent women were awarded the European Parliament’s Sakhorov Prize which honors freedom of thought.

And what about the Left coast Idol? Castro excels in taking political prisoners (estimated at 500,000 since 1959) and executing thousands of these. What are crimes according to the gospel of Fidelito? Meeting to discuss the economy, writing letters to the government, “to report on political developments, to speak to international reporters, to advocate human rights or to visit friends or relatives outside your local area of residence without government permission” (read).

As for Che, well he was just an evil and incompetent fool. “Che excelled in one thing: mass murder of defenseless men. In anything like a fair fight Che was consistently routed, stomped and humiliated” (read).

Will the world turn a blind eye again to Castro’s virtual imprisonment of 11 million Cubans after mumbling a few words of indignation? But daaahling, it’s so much more chic to wear Che and fawn all over the strongman of Cuba - Fidel Castro.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Budding Barbarians Among Us

George Melloan writes in the December 13 issue of the Wall Street Journal (There are Always Barbarians at the Gates read) that predators have walked among us since the dawn of man. In the twentieth century alone there was an endless gang of them including Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, Arafat, Sadam Hussein, the numerous African varieties and now the thug from Iran - what's his name.

Man has free will so there will always be those who would lust after wealth and power and use force to do it. But it is very difficult to understand this thuggery in the world we live in versus the world of the Inquisition for example. Prior to the Modern era the majority of the people spent their lives barely above that of the animals they lived with and death was always around the corner. But today we have the unimaginable wealth created by the freer countries of the world such as Hong Kong and the United States.

The shining examples of what man can accomplish when he is free to use his mind in production instead of destruction is there for everyone to see and study. It is not a secret. And still we allow and often times condone these mindless thugs their ascent to power. Why don't we nip these neer do wells in the bud before they blossom into their murderous reign? Isn't that why we have governments to protect us from those that would initiate force?

Mellon writes: "There is so much work left to do. The U.S. effort to convert Afghanistan and Iraq from failed tyrannies into thriving democracies needs an ingredient not always understood by bureaucrats and politicians, including some Americans. Energizing a society requires economic as well as political freedom. That means property rights, minimum bureaucratic obstacles to business formation and a legal system that can enforce laws and contracts. Iraq's leaders say they understand this, but one wonders if that understanding will overcome the usual temptations of power.

"There is also the question of whether the U.S. left and its organs of opinion -- not to mention some who would normally be regarded as holding right-wing views -- understand America's post-World War II history. The cries for disengagement from Iraq, and even from world politics, are dispiriting in light of what American engagement has accomplished in the last 65 years. They reflect not only a failure to understand U.S. history but a broader failure to understand the entirety of world history.

"That history tells us that rich nations will always be envied by the political leaders of have-not states. Rather than try to learn how America became rich and free up their own societies to follow the same road to riches, too many will do the opposite and plot to get those riches through theft. There's always a barbarian out there somewhere."

Every nation can become productive and enjoy the rewards of that productivity but first they have to recognize the barbarian when he is a small fry and then treat the cancer before it grows too powerful.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Wealthiest Nation In History

I'm reading a remarkable book called "The Capitalist Manifesto" by Andrew Bernstein. In it he tackles the task of explaining what it takes for countries to be wealthy and why political and economic freedom are requirements. He delves into the philosophical basis for the wealth of the capitalist nations and the utter poverty and destruction in lives and property of the socialist nations. Here is an example of what Mr. Berstein writes:

"Imagine the horror of the anti-capitalist, socialist mentalities if it was said to them: what if there were a country in which the government stays out of the economy? One with no tariffs or other legal restrictions on international trade - with no regulatory agencies, no minimum wage laws, no price or wage controls. Imagine, it is said to them, that the government limits neither investment coming in nor profit going out. There's no capital gains tax, no interest tax, no sales tax and a pittance in corporate bailout for companies that fail to compete on a free market. This imaginary country has a 15 percent flat tax, enabling its citizens to retain the preponderance of their earnings. Further, it extends no unemployment benefits, enacts no labor legislation and provides no Social Security, no national health insurance and scarcely any welfare. The welfare statist would recoil in horror from such a proposal; he would drown his interlocutor with dire warnings regarding the misery of the numberless poor and exploited who would be the inevitable victims of such a heartless, callous system. But in fact, that country exists, it is real; it's Hong Kong, one of the wealthiest nations of history." ( Read)

If you want to understand, finally, the dismal economic failure of the Soviet Union, China, North Korea and Cuba, to name just the biggies, read this book. The writing is clear, organized and exciting, if you are interested in history and ideas. With an extensive notes section with references at the end of book it's a treasure trove of information. Berstein organizes a vast array of facts from different sources and makes them accessible to the layman. While many of these facts are known kind of hodge podge by most educated people, Bernstein gives us the philosophical analysis for the differences among nations in the past and today - in other words the "why".

If we as a nation want to avoid going down the path of self destruction this is a must read book.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Ethics of Honor Killing

There is a quaint tribal tradition in the world of Islam called “Honor Killing” that was brought to our attention yesterday by a report on National Public Radio. This is how it works. If a male family member of tribe X is abducted and he is returned alive to his family – “a sheep is killed to celebrate”. If a female member is abducted and even possibly raped and returned alive to her family – “it’s a disgrace”. There is no celebration. Instead she is killed by a brother, a father or a cousin because she has brought dishonor to the tribe, to the family.

How do these men explain this perfidy? In the words of one who had murdered his 16 year old female cousin after being returned from an abduction “It’s in the blood – it’s tradition. How can it change?” The cousin did it because the father and brother couldn’t bring themselves to do it. They didn’t see anything wrong in it just that they couldn’t do it. The women don’t intervene because they are afraid for their own lives and many of them receive regular beatings with rubber hoses by their husbands.

Thousands of girls and women are murdered by male family members world wide but mostly in the Middle East. These honor killings are an ancient patriarchal custom used to control the family structure and hierarchy. So how can we understand this ancient, evil custom today? Why are honor killings based on the primitive concept of tribe being condoned by governments in the 21st century. Tribalism is a subset of a wider phenomenon called collectivism which is the idea that the individual is nothing – the tribe, the race, society is all.

The politics of collectivism are buoyed by the ethics of altruism be it via religion (Islamists) or mother earth (environmentalism) or the race (Nazi Germany). It is the idea that individuals must sacrifice for the greater good of “fill in the blank”. In the Middle East, besides being infected with the commandments of the Muslim religion, there are the mandates of the tribe. All must bow down to the dictates of tribal customs thousands of years old. So a girl is molested by her father – well she has dishonored the family so the child must be murdered.

Observe that there is no concept here of the individual only the tribe. The individual is nothing – the tribe is all. What drives these people to continue such a barbaric custom – the sacrifice of their daughters, sisters and wives? Irrationality or the anti-mind - the “act of unfocusing his mind, the suspension of his consciousness…the refusal to know” (The Objectivist Ethics by Ayn Rand).

When reason is not your guide to action or your means to knowledge then you are left with using emotion, tribal dictate, and whim as your guide. The results of irrationality are strewn throughout the centuries. From Honor Killings to suicide bombers to the killing fields of Cambodia to millions slaughtered by the Nazis and the Chinese Communist Party leaders, irrationality results in only death and destruction.

Is there an antidote to all this misery? Yes. Reason and individualism. The mind as a means to life and the individual as the benefactor of his use of reason.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Mallau Bridge - Poetry In The Skies

I was getting ready to write something about our failing public education system when I caught a program called Extreme Engineering on the Discovery Channel. My mood went from disgust and anxiety over the state of our education system to admiration and excitement over man's accomplishments over nature.

A case in point is the amazing Mallau Viaduct a bridge over the river Tarn in the Massif Central Mountain range which opened on December 17, 2004. This marvel of the 21st century forms the final link in the A75 highway from Paris to Barcelona. It is 2.4 km long and stands 270 meters above the river at its highest point.
French and Spanish technicians and engineers were involved in the building of the bridge. The architect in charge of design was Norman Foster from England. His goal was to create an image of delicate transparency the "delicacy of a butterfly". If these pictures do it any justice he accomplished what he set out to do.

An amazing fact (go to is that construction began in October 2001! Think about it. Three years to construct a bridge of this magnitude? Unbelievable.

No cranes were used to hoist sections of the deck because of the 900 m height above the valley floor (at its tallest point). Instead new engineering techniques were used. The seven graceful towers were built first with steel reinforced concrete and then the road way (pre-constructed of high-grade steel instead of concrete in 2,000 pieces at the factory) was put together starting at both ends of the valley until "it met at the center with precision" thanks to GPS alignement, 60 cm at a time.

There is an 18-lane toll station that accommodates technical and administrative services as well and the trip across the bridge costs 5.60 dollars. What a bargain for a shorter and easier drive from Paris to the Mediterranean while experiencing the results of man's daring, technological ingenuity and can-d0 attitude.

The bridge cost was $524 million dollars (all private funds) and 500 men worked permanently at the site.

"A work of man must fuse with nature. The pillars had to look almost organic, like they had grown from the earth" (Norman Foster).

This is what happens when nations (France and Britain in this case) cooperate to achieve a common goal that advances the interests of the individual and of the nation. I can't help and compare this feat to its antithesis. The utter destructiveness and nihilistic results of the Jihadist-terrorists from the Middle East.

Maybe the West should send the people of the Middle East DVDs from the Discovery Channel to show them what the mind of man can create when he seeks to live his life by reason and achievement rather than live his life by death and destruction.