Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

Positively Forthright

October 13, 2016

Hooda thunkit?  Little Bobby Zimmerman as Nobel Lit Laureate?  Musta been some fine Owlsley blotter floating in Stockholm’s water supply.

I didn’t even bother to try predicting this year’s winner, much less spend any time rooting for the oddsmakers’ nominal favorite Haruki Murakami.  It has been abundantly clear this year that my few predictive “endorsements” have been far wide of the mark.  Donald Trump is still running for president of the United States.  Danilo Turk is headed home to Slovenia, and is not the world’s choice for Secretary-General of the United Nations.  Instead, Antonio Guterres will be dealing with even-greater numbers of refugees for years to come.  Would this be a good time to say that the Chicago Cubs look unbeatable this year?  Probably not.

So instead of prediction, I’m going to indulge in what might be termed prognostication’s little sister: fervent hope.  For once, readers of Waking the Dragon will find me rooting in favor of a possible FBI sting operation.  Here are the dots I may be straining credulity to connect:

  • September 22 2016: Millionaire real estate developers in Northern New Jersey formally ended their support for a November ballot initiative asking voters to approve casino gambling in the Meadowlands and Jersey City.  Polling data purportedly showed widespread public opposition to expansion of New Jersey’s gambling industry.

Jeff Gural, who owns the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, and Paul Fireman, who is the chairman of Fireman Capital Partners and developer of Jersey City’s Liberty National Golf Course  —two locations where the proposed casinos might be built—  cited a Rutgers-Eagleton poll that showed 58 percent of voters disapprove of the referendum, while 35 percent approve.”

  • September 28 2016: Steve Fulop, mayor of Bergen-by-the-Bay (Jersey City) announced that he would not run for governor in 2017 and urged fellow Democrats to unite behind Phil Murphy, a financier and former ambassador to Germany making his first run for office.

“Fulop told reporters outside city hall in Jersey City that he had seen speculation on the Internet that his reasons for not running included the Bridgegate case as well as his health, other legal issues, or his wife. ‘I’ve read on the Internet all sorts of theories, none of which are true,’ he said. ‘Rather, when I look at the [political] landscape today, understanding how the [New Jersey Democratic] party is fractured and my core beliefs on that, I ultimately don’t see any winners in [what would be] a very, very bloody primary,’ he said.”

  • October 7 2016: New Jersey State Senate President Steve Sweeney announced that he too would no longer seek the nomination of the Democratic Party in the 2017 gubernatorial election.  Sweeney (also an Ironworkers Union official) had been a sponsor of the casino referendum initiative, “arguing that the new casinos would initially create thousands of new construction jobs and would also eventually allow New Jersey to recapture some of the gambling revenue that had been lost when new casinos opened in neighboring states like New York and Pennsylvania.”

What and So What

Here’s the way it works: in New Jersey you can run the same script over and over again … and get the same results, because the illusion of impunity is so pervasive.  So, two nice Jewish boys tired of being shaken down by insatiably ravenous New Jersey politicians pay a visit to Rabbi Fishman, who graciously agrees to help.  Jeff, Paul, and Uncle Sam all ante into the pot to create an operating fund for a casino referendum initiative.  Some of the money inevitably must be spent on renting politicians whose influence is required to get the initiative on the statewide ballot.  Negotiations with those politicians must be duly recorded with miniaturized video/audio devices that Abscam operatives of the 1970s would have regarded with alternating envy and incredulity.  A gloating team of AUSAs at Centre Street and the Rodino Courthouse doggedly check off the boxes on their checklist of evidentiary elements to be included in the eventual (massive) indictment.

Timing is everything.  Including the timing of the tiny strategic leak that seeps out of the investigation to let the marks know that they’ve once again been had.  Because now it’s time to recruit cooperating witnesses, and the last one grasping at the gunwale of DOJ’s lifeboat will be left to swim with the fishes.  Gural-Fireman-Fishman: let’s call it Jerusa-scam.

fourth_street_festivities

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Almost Heaven, West Slovenia

July 29, 2016

Near-term prospects may be improving for Danilo Turk –at least one potential veto voter seems to be hinting at a possible okey-doke:

Russian President Vladimir Putin will be visiting European Union and NATO-member Slovenia this weekend, signaling a bid to maintain ties amid simmering tensions between the Kremlin and the two Western-led blocs.  While in Slovenia –his only third visit to an EU-member country this year– Putin will attend a commemoration of the centenary of a chapel at Kranjska Gora, which was erected in the memory of dozens of Russian World War I prisoners of war who died in an avalanche while building a [road through a] mountain pass in the Julian Alps for the Austrian army.

Kranjska Gora_0

Putin will also unveil a memorial to Russian soldiers who died in World War II at the main cemetery in Ljubljana, and meet Slovenian officials. The memorial is made up of eight pillars symbolizing the eight-year duration of both world wars.  There is a crane atop each of the pillars and the names of 3,000 soldiers are embossed in marble. The memorial has been made by Russian sculptors and financed by Russia.

Russia is Slovenia’s top non-EU trading partner, but the trade between the two has dropped by nearly 30 percent since EU sanctions were imposed [following Russia’s 2014 Ukraine incursion].  Some media reports suggest that the United States had advised Slovenia against inviting Putin given the enduring tensions between Russia and NATO. [However,] Slovenian authorities have been emphasizing the ceremonial nature of Putin’s visit and the absence of formal talks.  Slovenia has supported EU and NATO policies with regard to Russia while also striving to push aside obstacles to relations, which are underpinned not only by trade but in particular by shared Slavic culture.

St_Cyril_chapel

It’s pretty clear that Putin is (and has been) making a blatantly obvious point about the numerous Russian soldiers who have died on European soil during the past 100 years.  This is probably considered diplomatic subtlety by Russian standards of international relations, and people who “share Slavic culture” probably understand the message all too well.

So what might this mean for the Moldovan candidate?  I don’t know.  What does Auntie Sam have to say on this topic?

 

Beethoven, Tell Tchaikovsky The News

April 11, 2016

There’s more than one election campaign underway in New York these days, and curiously, Donald Trump has had absolutely nothing to say about it.  But maybe that’s because he doesn’t want to offend current and future tenants of his luxury Manhattan condo towers. The United Nations General Assembly will elect a new secretary-general later this year, and many of the voters (UN ambassadors from around the world) from wealthier nations are livin’ large on the public payroll in The City That Never Sleeps.

In choosing a successor to Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon, Africans and Asians need not apply: apparently, the fix is in and  the whole world knows that it’s Europe’s turn to be next upon the global throne.  All but one of the declared candidates are European.  The black sheep of the flock?  A Kiwi … but not Maori.

More than half of the candidates are from the Balkans  –four of them hail from nations that didn’t even exist as sovereign states a quarter-century ago (because their homeland was formerly known as Yugoslavia).  These are folks who could be said to have a definite vested interest in UN-sponsored “harmonization” of Europe’s migration policies.

Who’s left?  A Portuguese socialist engineer fresh from a ten-year stint as former UN high commissioner for refugees … and a Moldovan diplomat.

  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Macedonia
  • Moldova
  • Montenegro
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal
  • Slovenia

Balkans
Let’s quickly review some candidate traits that might not be well received among the electorate:

The Bulgarian (Irina Bokova) is assumed to be more or less in Putin’s pocket, and has annoyed the Israel lobby by her gentle treatment of Palestinians while head of UNESCO.  The United States will twist arms to suppress potential swing voters.

The Croatian (Vesna Pusic) has had five years’ experience as foreign minister, but “has been outspoken about gender equality and LGBT rights.”  Big turnoff for Russia, Asia, Africa and Islamic cultures.

The Macedonian (Srgjan Kerim) hasn’t personally tear-gassed any Syrian refugees, but probably won’t win too many votes from Islamic nations.

The Moldovan (Natalia Gherman) may be viewed as less-experienced compared to the rest of the field, and some delegates might suspect she’s Putin’s Plan B candidate if the Bulgarian can’t attract votes.  But that could be a mistake: many Moldovans have no love lost for their erstwhile Russian overlords.

The Montenegran (Igor Luksic) is a technocrat … and poet.  Even if he doesn’t own any Panamanian shell companies, that poetry thing may deter delegates from Asian and African nations.

The Kiwi (Helen Clark) served three terms as prime minister of New Zealand, but is or will be viewed as a stalking horse for the Anglo-American hegemonic powers.

The Portuguese (Antonio Guterres) may have ruffled a few feathers in Africa and Southeast Asia during his 10 years at the helm of UNHCR. On the plus side, he could receive considerable support from Latin American delegates.

The Slovenian (Danilo Turk) is a lawyer with years of prior experience as UN assistant secretary-general for political affairs, and as president of Slovenia.  Slavoj Žižek might be willing to vote for him, but only in a Slovenian election.  Turk may have many old friends among the General Assembly delegates, and on the surface seems a strong candidate.  We’ll see.

Lunghu’s analysis:

OK, so it’s Europe’s turn as UN secretary-general, but half the planet’s population also thinks that it’s long past time to be a woman’s turn as well.  That attitude may narrow the field from eight to four, and potentially open a gap for the dark horse mare.

  1. United States, allies and vassal states block Bulgaria’s Bokova.
  2. Russia, China and “non-aligned” nations in Africa, Middle East and Asia block Kiwi Clark.
  3. Russia, Asia, Africa, Islamic nations (and perhaps Poland!) block Croatia’s Pusic.
  4. Moldova’s Gherman emerges as the compromise female candidate. Or the Slovenian guy wins.

What does Paddy Power say? Their punter clientele favor Clark, currently priced at 3 to 1.  Irina Bokova is second-best, carrying 9 to 2 odds.  But what do these Irish lager louts know about international diplomacy and geopolitics, anyway?  Bugger-all, I say!

 

Construction.Ban

February 2, 2016

Last week UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon created a modest ripple in the world of international diplomacy by using his pint-sized “bully pulpit” to chastise Israeli occupation and colonization policies as an egregious obstacle to that elusive concept fantasy known as peace in the Middle East.  Initially, in remarks to the Security Council, Secretary Ban limited himself to stating the obvious:

Progress towards peace requires a freeze of Israel’s settlement enterprise.  I am deeply troubled by reports that the Israeli Government has approved plans for over 150 new homes in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank … [and has declared] 370 acres in the West Bank, south of Jericho, as so-called “state land.”  … The Bedouin community, in particular, is paying a heavy price.  I call for an immediate end to Israeli plans to forcibly transfer Bedouin communities currently living within the occupied Palestinian territory in the Jerusalem area.

Predictably, Bibi Yahu and his minions rose to the bait, unleashing a torrent of furious invective that (among other things) accused Ban of inciting Palestinian attacks on Israeli citizens.  Undeterred, SG Ban remained on the high road, and chose to respond through an op-ed essay in the New Jork Times –thus directly addressing Israel’s supporters in the United States through their propaganda vehicle of choice.  The medium itself was part of the message :

Polarization showed itself in the halls of the United Nations last week when I pointed out a simple truth: History proves that people will always resist occupation.  Some sought to shoot the messenger — twisting my words into a misguided justification for violence.  But when heartfelt concerns about shortsighted or morally damaging policies emanate from so many sources, including Israel’s closest friends, it cannot be sustainable to keep lashing out at every well-intentioned critic. … The time has come for Israelis, Palestinians and the international community to read the writing on the wall: The status quo is untenable.  Keeping another people under indefinite occupation undermines the security and the future of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Et cetera, so forth, and so on.  On the surface, these statements from SG Ban might well be cynically read as yet another instance of empty words from someone with no real power to actually effect meaningful change in an increasingly dire situation. As long as the United States is obliged to back up Israel during a presidential election year, zionist zealots cannot be restrained and Palestinians are doomed to suffer ever-intensifying oppression.  But there are two aspects of Ban’s remarks that I find interesting and worthy of further reflection.

First, the NYT op-ed piece reads as though it was written by (United States Ambassador to the United Nations) Samantha Power rather than by Ban himself.  It has the flavor, tone, rhythm and style of an American writer of English addressing an American readership –more so than would an essay composed by a Korean yangban fluent in the English language as well as his own.  Sure, there are plenty of Americans working in the UN Secretariat as Ban’s subordinates who could have done the job, but I like the idea that Ambassador Power wrote it herself –to send a message– and that the Israelis know it.  Speaking truth to power, so to speak.

Samantha_Power

Second, let’s reflect on why SG Ban might have been willing to pick a fight with Israel at this particular juncture.  Let’s recall that Ban’s second term as UN Secretary General expires at the end of this year … and that the Republic of Korea will be electing its next president in 2017.  The Saenuri (New Frontier) Party currently holds the presidency and legislative majority in Korea, and last year floated Ban’s name as a potential presidential candidate for 2017.

In order to win a presidential election in Korea (or anywhere else), enormous amounts of money must be spent to “rent” the local and regional powerbrokers who get out the vote on election day.  In Korea (as in the United States) that money comes from the wealthy –the giant family-owned industrial conglomerates (chaebol) that dominate the Korean economy (Hyundai, Samsung, LG, etc.).  The chaebol essentially own Saenuri, much as the Koch brothers own the GOP in the United States.  And where do the chaebol get a significant proportion of their revenue?  I’m glad you asked.

Ulsan

Although China, the United States and Europe are important markets for Korean automobiles and electronics, chaebol subsidiaries in the shipbuilding and heavy construction industries are deeply dependent on customers in the Middle East: specifically, the Gulf states and Arabian peninsula.  Kuwait. Iraq. Qatar. Saudi Arabia. Bahrain. United Arab Emirates.  And now, Iran too.  In Korea, as elsewhere, the customer is always right.  So maybe, just maybe, Candidate Ban is lining up future campaign contributors for a run at the Cheong Wa Dae next year.  After all, if the Saudis are willing to give a $681 million “gift” to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, surely a future President of Korea deserves a little something for his retirement years.

 

However …

None of this imaginative and fanciful speculation should detract from the fundamental truth of Secretary Ban’s stern admonishment:  Israel’s apartheid colonization policies must cease.  Of course, without regime change this is impossible: these are policies which function primarily to enrich Netanyahu’s cronies while securing his political base.  Thus Israelis have inexorably condemned themselves to close confinement in a ghetto of their own making.  Next year, in Jerusalem (and elsewhere).

 

The Long Green … Revolution

March 16, 2011

At the beginning of the month, Lunghu and a colleague shook hands on a sporting proposition in the tradition of Randolph and Mortimer Duke.  As you may recall, the last week in February was not going well for Col. Muammar Gaddafi:  several cities were in the hands of Libyan rebels, and the banner of freedom rippled proudly in the desert wind.  Suddenly it no longer seemed absurd to ask how long Gaddafi could hold on to power.  Could he hang on at all?

More importantly, how could smug American desk jockeys structure a wager that most suitably reduced the complex dynamics of Libyan civil war to a simple binary choice?  A basic yea/nay wasn’t enough —too many variables, and far too open-ended a scenario.   Where would the finish line be?   When would the final buzzer sound?  Revolutions and civil wars aren’t (yet) governed by FIFA, so there are no offside calls, no penalty kicks, and no injury time.   For a wager to work, it had to have a definite expiration date, like a soybean futures contract.  And it had to have some basic parameters that spelled out the conditions of success or failure.

Here’s what we came up with: a 90-day over/under for Gaddafi’s retention of power.   If, after June 1st, Gaddafi wasn’t dead or in exile, and still controlled (most of) Libyan territory, the “over” bet would win.   Otherwise, the “under” wins.

When pirates divide the spoils, one man arranges the portions and the other gets first pick.   Lunghu chose the over.   At the time, it seemed the contrarian choice, and Lunghu added a caveat:  Gaddafi would fail only if the Tunisian and Egyptian militaries sought to curry favor with their restive domestic populations by invading Libya in support of the rebels.   Didn’t seem likely, since they’re plenty busy at home.

Here was the thumbnail analysis behind Lunghu’s pick:

1]   The United States won’t intervene.  At this point (and for the foreseeable future) it would be a huge strategic mistake to attack or invade yet another Islamic country.  Team Obama seems to understand this, and the Joint Chiefs definitely do.  Republicans are trying to goad Obama into making exactly that strategic mistake, but their gambit is unlikely to succeed.

2]   Despite France and Britain’s fervent wishes, the Europeans won’t intervene because they don’t have the financial capacity to sustain the required military operations.  Germany won’t participate and won’t foot the bill.

3]   Arab states won’t intervene because they need their troops to guard their own palaces.

4]   Sanctions won’t work.  Never have.

5]  Libyan rebels are on their own and overmatched.  The endgame won’t be pretty.

Still, it’s early days.   Things could change yet again in the next 2 ½ months.   With diplomatic cover from the UN Security Council, Arab petrodollars  could finance French and British  air operations and Arab troops could act as the mop-up boots on the ground.  We’ll see.

Oh —what were the stakes in this wager?   Just a couple of hundred thousand lives.  This is one bet where there won’t be any winner, because bragging rights won’t be worth bragging about.