Payback For The Zimmerman Note, At Last!

Mexico’s ambassador in Berlin has launched a protest over what it perceives as a finger in the eye from a German novelty-song performer — or perhaps a poke somewhere further south. Mickey Krause, who has such timeless masterpieces as “Go Home You Old S**t” and “10 Naked Hairdressers” in his repertoire, recently hit the charts with another classy entry in his natural oeuvre:

A German song that is riding high in the country’s charts has ruffled diplomatic feathers as a result of its mixing of geographic and scatological issues. But the singer of “Finger in the Butt, Mexico” is unrepentant.
Mexico’s ambassador to Germany has voiced his displeasure over a popular German song that allegedly disparages the North American country.
The song, which has been on the German charts for 10 weeks, features as its chorus the charming refrain “Finger in the butt, Mexico.” (The German version, “Finger im Po, Mexiko,” rhymes.)
Germany’s mass-circulation daily Bild reported Thursday that Ambassador Jorge Castro-Valle Kuehne has written a letter of complaint to EMI, the record company which publishes the song.

I’m just guessing here, but I don’t see this replacing the Macarena at sporting events. It sounds like one of those silly, nonsense songs that strings together a hook and some cheap rhyming chants and manages to hit at just the right moment to capture attention. Ambassador Kuehne should get a grip and ignore it. Otherwise, he may wind up promoting the record for Krause and really turning it into a classic.
Really — how many people remember “Shadduppa You Face”? Or “Rock Me Amadeus”?
And it could have been worse. Krause includes a version in his live performance about Bosnia-Herzegovina, and I won’t tell you where Krause wants the finger going in that verse.

The Bali Compromise

The US has agreed to a policy statement in Bali that commits the nation to funding emissions-control efforts in developing nations while leaving targets ambiguous for our own reductions. The agreement came after our previous allies on emissions-control negotiations left the US isolated when developing nations agreed to enter the strictures of the policy:

The landmark global warming document agreed to on Saturday at a United Nations climate conference here was weakened in furious last-minute negotiations, but still made important progress in two key areas.
Under pressure from the United States, the document abandoned setting any firm goal for worldwide emissions reductions and left open the possibility that industrialized countries could avoid individual caps on their emissions.
Nonetheless, for the first time, it enrolled the developing world in efforts to reduce global emissions and pushed those nations to consider ways to limit their output of greenhouse gases.
More important, the agreement kept the United States — long considered the biggest roadblock to unified action in curbing global warming — at the negotiating table and offered hints that the country might finally be willing to join international efforts.

At least the LA Times got Kyoto history correct — something the AP still hasn’t done. They noted that the previous international effort never got ratified because Bill Clinton never submitted it to the Senate. They emphasize that the Senate was controlled by Republicans and fail to mention that the Senate unanimously passed a resolution opposing Kyoto, but at least they didn’t blame its failure on George Bush, who wouldn’t be president for another three years.
This agreement will likely have more support for ratification. The unanimity in opposition to Kyoto came from the lack of mandates on India and China, who have rapidly expanded their own emissions in their attempt to grow their economies, at the expense of our own in the case of China. If Bali forces all nations to reduce emissions at the same rate with the same restrictions, it will have overcome the one point on which all Americans agreed with Kyoto.
Will it win ratification? It depends on the overall cost of the package. While anthropogenic global warming still remains a theory in search of definitive proof, and a handy sock puppet for statist economic policies, no one can seriously doubt the wisdom of reducing emissions. Even if it has no effect on temperature, hydrocarbon emissions create health issues, especially in urban areas like Los Angeles, where the brown blanket of smog has covered the megalopolis for decades.
The question will be how these emission reductions will take place. If Bali requires us to effectively nationalize the energy-production industry and to fund nationalization in other countries, it has no chance of passage in the US. If it requires us to force our economy into recession for the next several years, it won’t have a prayer. If it forces the government to start licensing nuclear reactors, clean-coal refineries, and invest in long-term energy independence, it might be worth it.

A Nervous Interlude

The Lebanese Army has taken control of the nation as an impasse over Lebanon’s presidency continues. Emile Lahoud, the Syrian-backed president until his term ran out yesterday, announced a state of emergency, which Prime Minister Fouad Siniora immediately repudiated. The Army, meanwhile, has taken a low-key approach to control, and Lebanon has mostly held its collective breath:

Lebanese factions failed to reach agreement on replacing President Emile Lahoud, whose term expired at midnight Friday, leaving Lebanon without a head of state for the first time since its 1975-90 civil war. Hours before stepping down, Lahoud ordered the already mobilized army to take control of security in the country.
Despite fears of strife between the country’s camps — divided over ideology, foreign patrons and their share of power — the deadline for replacing Lahoud, a 71-year-old former general, passed peacefully, with the army deployed across the uneasy capital since morning in jeeps and armored personnel carriers. The missed deadline appeared more of a symbolic moment for a faltering state, marking yet another institution paralyzed by the year-long crisis that has already circumscribed the work of the cabinet and parliament.
Lawmakers predicted the post could remain empty for as little as a week, until the 128-member parliament meets again, or until 2009, when parliamentary elections are scheduled. “What are we waiting for now?” asked Ayyoub Hummayed, an opposition lawmaker. “Nothing too difficult. The Holy Spirit, I guess, to inspire us with a solution.”

The uncertainty got amplified by the declaration of emergency. Lahoud insisted that the country would operate under those circumstances, but Siniora countermanded the order, arguing that the parliamentary government — his office — would run Lebanon until a president was elected. The US supported that position, and it is noted in the Lebanese constitution. Article 62 reads: “Should the Presidency become vacant for any reason whatsoever, the Council of Ministers exercises the powers of the President by delegation.”
So far, however, no one wants to challenge the delicate status quo. Any move to impose one view over the other would likely result in hundreds of thousands of protestors going into the street — and perhaps the outbreak of a new civil war. The Army and the Council of Ministers want anything but that, and they will likely cooperate for as long as it takes to elect a new president. Neither side has an interest in Lebanon falling apart, as a Hezbollah MP told the Washington Post.
How long will this impasse take? It could be as short as a week, or it could take until 2009, when new parliamentary elections are scheduled. If the impasse cannot be resolved, those two years will be a very long time indeed for all parties to the standoff to retain their reasonableness. With Hezbollah creating its own internal tension and Syria, Israel, France, and the US hovering on the outside, Lebanon could easily spin into chaos and war all over again if no resolution to the present political crisis is found.

Thank You, John Howard

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has conceded defeat in the national election as the Labour Party assumes control of Parliament. Perhaps America’s staunchest defender of the global war on terror among world leaders, Howard now gives way to Kevin Rudd, and may find himself out of government altogether. Howard may be the first PM to lose his own seat in almost 80 years:

Australian prime minister John Howard’s 11 year reign has ended with a landslide election victory for the opposition Labour Party.
Kevin Rudd, the former diplomat, was set to become Australia’s 26th prime minister, less than a year after rising to the top of an opposition party which has been in the political wilderness for more than a decade.
Mr Rudd accepted victory and addressed supporters in Brisbane after Mr Howard telephoned the Labour leader to concede defeat.
Mr Rudd vowed to write a new page in Australia’s history and “govern for all Australians”.

Americans owe a large debt of gratitude to John Howard. Faced with the Bali bombings and a short distance between his nation and the radicals in Indonesia, Howard adopted the same forward strategy against radical Islamists as the US. He spoke eloquently and often on the need to face down the terrorists and not to surrender to extortion and threats. Australians manned the barricades along with Americans. Brits, Poles, and troops from a multitude of nations, and remain on the job in Afghanistan.
What can we expect from Mr. Rudd? Apparently, more of the same on foreign affairs, albeit perhaps with less public enthusiasm. Rudd has worked as the shadow Foreign Minister since 2001. His campaign got criticized for its “me-tooism” when Rudd failed to differentiate himself much from Howard on a wide range of issues. He is seen as a determined policy wonk rather than the usual Australian style of gregarious politico, and the main differences will be style and domestic policy, where Labour can expect to push for a larger social-service establishment.
The important point to remember is that Australian-American friendship goes back much further than any one administration in either nation. It is a friendship of the peoples, not the leaders, and that relationship and our mutual interests in freedom and liberty will remain long past any one election. Just as our alliance with Britain did not rely on Tony Blair alone, our ties to Australia will continue with Kevin Rudd — and perhaps even grow stronger.
Still, we will miss John Howard. It’s impossible not to regret the retirement of a man who stood tall and firm against the murderous onslaught and told the world exactly what was at stake in the conflict. Thank you, Mr. Howard, and the best of luck to you in the future.
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has more, including a stunt that probably cost Liberals the election or at least guaranteed its wide margin, and a YouTube of Rudd’s infamous earwax-eating incident. The geeks shall inherit the earth, it seems….

US Navy Protects All Shipping From Piracy, Even Our Enemies’

While the Senate debates the Law of the Sea Treaty that could wind up hamstringing our Navy, the men and women at sea now continue their mission to protect trade routes. In one recent instance, they rescued shipping that belongs to a nation not exactly enamored of American naval power:

Sailors from the Norfolk-based destroyer James E. Williams boarded a North Korean merchant ship that had been hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia, while two other Navy vessels tailed a pirated Japanese ship in the same region.
The Williams, which left Norfolk in July , was about 50 nautical miles from the ship Dai Hong Dan in the Arabian Sea when it received word of the pirate attack, said Lt. John Gay , a spokesman for the Navy’s Central Command in Manama, Bahrain.
The Williams dispatched a helicopter and ordered the pirates to give up their weapons via a bridge-to-bridge radio. The North Korean crew, which had retained control of the steering and engineering spaces, then confronted the pirates and gained back control of the bridge, according to a Navy news release. ….
Hundreds of miles away in the same region, two other Navy ships were tracking a Japanese-owned ship seized by pirates over the weekend, Gay said.
The spokesman said that two “coalition” ships from Combined Task Force 150 had responded to the hijacking of the Golden Mori , a Japanese-owned ship registered in Panama.

The US Navy helps protect shipping around the world, for a variety of reasons. For one, it protects American trade abroad and ensures that vital resources (such as petroleum) reach our shores as intended. A global economy requires security for all such transactions, and the stability of global markets remains a vital American interest. We also want to stop terrorists from pirating ships that could be used to stage massive attacks on American ports, and that requires constant vigilance and quick response.
National security requires a robust American presence in international waters. Whatever LOST does to limit that can and probably will result in unpleasant consequences, and not just for the US. Even our putative enemies such as North Korea will wind up losing from a constrained US Navy in the long run.

Harry Potter And The Challenge Document

A guest editorial in Roll Call proposes a new mechanism in diplomacy that evokes the idealism of Woodrow Wilson, along with a healthy dose of his naiveté. John Connolly, the Executive Director of the Institute for Public Dialogue, wants nations to establish a series of white papers in order to conduct public diplomacy, especially when traditional diplomacy has failed. Called “challenge documents”, these position papers would somehow transcend national interests and bring a new era of peaceful resolution to real conflict.
The idea has a certain charm, but one that runs threadbare by the end of the proposal. At Heading Right, I point out that an attempt to use Harry Potter as an argument doesn’t build much credibility. Like so many other earnest but essentially naive proposals, it fails to consider the very real differences between free societies and oppressive governments in how information gets disseminated. There is a reason that liberal democracies do not go to war with each other, and it’s because this process already exists in those nations — and won’t ever exist in tyrannies.
Also, I have to add that placing this call for free debate and dialog in Roll Call — which charges a hefty subscription fee to access the material — seems just a little off-message. Readers can access a PDF version for free here.

Another Elian?

It appears that another custody case has started moving down the same path once trod by Elian Gonzales and Janet Reno. A Cuban father has demanded the return of his child after the mother emigrated to the US and no longer can provide care, but the Cuban expatriate community has aligned against the father in his custody battle:

A Cuban father allowed his young daughter to emigrate legally to the United States with her mother to find a better life. But months later, the mother has become incapable of caring for the girl and the father wants to take the child home.
It would seem a simple case, especially since the mother agrees her daughter should return to Cuba.
Yet on the eve of the trial, a judge has warned that it could “inflame the community,” where the battle over Elian Gonzalez nearly eight years ago divided the city and became an international incident.
Testimony is to begin Monday over whether 32-year-old Cuban farmer Rafael Izquierdo can regain custody of his 4-year-old daughter whose name is being kept secret or whether she should remain with a wealthy Cuban-American and his wife who want to adopt her.

This case has some significant differences from the Elian case of eight years ago. Mainly, the mother is alive — and she wants the girl to go to Cuba with her father. She tried to commit suicide almost two years ago, and her daughter went into foster care. She has remained with the Cubas family since then.
Joe Cubas is a sports agent who represents many athletes who have defected from Cuba over the years. His client list includes Orlando Hernandez, the Mets pitcher known as El Duque, among others. Cubas has been accused of enticing Cuban athletes to defect and in one case was accused of extorting an athlete by refusing to turn over his immigration documents. Cubas insists that the girl does not want to return to Cuba. Complicating matters, the mother also brought a son from a different father, and Cubas has both in his care and argues that the siblings should not be separated.
It’s a difficult case, and the presiding judge is correct to predict that it will shortly become sensational. Should the US insist on sending a small child back into an impoverished dictatorship? Should the courts disregard the desire of both parents in this case to take custody away and give it to a non-relation foster parent? What happens if we do that, and an American mother wants to get a child out of a country like Iran?
If both parents want the child to return to her father, then the courts really have little choice but to honor that request. Let’s just hope they don’t storm the house with automatic weapons to do so this time.

Did George Bush Become A Climate-Change Convert?

The London Telegraph headlines the agreement of George Bush to significantly reduce greenhouse-gas emissions as part of a global effort. They hail his “dramatic” shift on the issue of global warming. Did Bush change American policy — or did he change the ground conditions for the climate-change debate? At Heading Right, I explain that the only dramatic change came from the rest of the G-8 nations. They decided to stop short of economic suicide, and Bush pulled the gun away from their temples.
UPDATE: Kimberly Strassel at The Wall Street Journal agrees (h/t: CQ commenter onlineanalyst):

Under the vaunted Kyoto, from 2000 to 2004, Europe managed to increase its emissions by 2.3 percentage points over 1995 to 2000. Only two countries are on track to meet targets. There’s rampant cheating, and endless stories of how select players are self-enriching off the government “market” in C02 credits. Meanwhile, in the U.S., under the president’s oh-so-unserious plan, U.S. emissions from 2000 to 2004 were eight percentage points lower than in the prior period.
Europeans may be slow, but they aren’t silly, and they’ve quietly come around to some of Mr. Bush’s views. Tony Blair has been a leader here, and give him credit for caring enough about his signature issue to evolve. He began picking up Mr. Bush’s pro-tech themes years ago, as it became clear just how much damage a Kyoto would do to his country’s competitiveness. By the end of 2005, he admitted at a conference in New York that Kyoto was a problem. “I would say probably I’m changing my thinking about this in the past two or three years,” he said. “The truth is, no country is going to cut its growth or consumption substantially in the light of a long-term environmental problem.” He doubted there would be successor to Kyoto, which expires in 2012, and said an alternative might be “incentives” for businesses. Mr. Bush couldn’t have said it better.

The other big difference is the inclusion of India and China in the parameters of the deal. That also came straight from Bush, who held fast on that demand — a bipartisan demand from Congress.

Carbon Credits Lead To Increased Greenhouse-Gas Emissions

Do you like your irony so thick that it drips? The Guardian has a nice, juicy slice of it for you today. The main organization used by Europe to trade carbon credits has mismanaged the process so badly that they have created an increase in greenhouse-gas emissions as a result:

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is supposed to offset greenhouse gases emitted in the developed world by selling carbon credits from elsewhere, has been contaminated by gross incompetence, rule-breaking and possible fraud by companies in the developing world, according to UN paperwork, an unpublished expert report and alarming feedback from projects on the ground.

Possible fraud in the developing world? Who’d have ever thought that might happen? It gets better:

One senior figure suggested there may be faults with up to 20% of the carbon credits – known as certified emissions reductions – already sold. Since these are used by European governments and corporations to justify increases in emissions, the effect is that in some cases malpractice at the CDM has added to the net amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. …
There are only 17 of these validating and verifying companies. Most of them have a clean track record and will have approved reliable emissions reductions, but three of them have been performing so poorly that the CDM’s executive board ordered spot checks – and all three companies failed on multiple grounds. The findings on one company, which is believed to have validated dozens of projects and verified millions of tonnes of carbon reductions, were so bad that the board considered suspending its right to work.

The entire system rests on a couple of major assumptions. The first and most laughable is that the system of carbon trades can be reliable based on spot audits. Billions of dollars are at stake in this enterprise. Without constant monitoring and checking, firms will cheat all day long — especially since the metering of greenhouse-gas emissions relies on estimates more than precise measurements.
The second is that one can improve the environment by trading carbon credits. All that does is penalize the efficient and enable the inefficient. For instance, in this situation, companies that invested in efficiencies expected to recoup that investment by selling their carbon credits. If others cheat the system, the reliability of those credits gets damaged, and they will find that the credits are worth considerably less than they imagined. On the other hand, purchasers of credits will find it less expensive in that market to continue to emit the gases and pay less for the cut-rate credits. Eventually, no one will seriously consider investing in technology that actually reduces emissions.
If environmental improvement is desired, one has to move away from systems that support a status quo, which is what the credit market does, even when it works correctly. That means technological innovation and a realistic expectation of time and investment.

Desperation Of The Left

Yesterday I linked to an EJ Dionne column which analyzed the loss of Segolene Royal in France as an indicator of an overall problem with the Left among Western nations. Dionne correctly linked the rightward move in France with similar shifts in eastern Europe, Sweden, Germany, and even Britain, where the Tories won in local elections. He advised the international Left that the movement needed to recast its vision rather than just rely on tactical changes in the future.
The Left isn’t listening to Dionne — in fact, they don’t even acknowledge a problem exists. In today’s Guardian, Jonathan Freedland tells readers to disregard the Royal debacle, because the Left is experiencing a “global awakening”:

Europeans speak of the Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-American model as a synonym for turbo-charged, take-no-prisoners capitalism. Yet there are some signs, tentative for now but noticeable all the same, that movement is under way even in the US, inside the belly of the capitalist beast. They come partly in reaction to the ever worsening state of inequality in that country. You can pick your stat, ranging from the claim that just two men – Bill Gates and Warren Buffett – have as much money between them as 30% of the entire American people, to the findings by a federal reserve study that the top 10% of Americans now own 70% of the country’s wealth, while the top 5% own more than everyone else put together. …
America’s politicians have begun to notice. The Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards speaks of the “two Americas”. Barack Obama tells audiences that not only is caring for the poor an American tradition, but that “those with money, those with influence, those with control over how resources are allocated in our society, are very protective of their interests, and they can rationalise infinitely the reasons why they should have more money and power than anyone else”. Most striking was the Democrats’ response to Bush’s last state of the union address, given by Senator Jim Webb. He invoked the early years of the last century. “America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines,” he said, deploying the c-word that is now all but barred from British political discourse. Recalling the robber barons who were “unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth”, Webb gave this charged warning from history: “The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.”

I hate to break it to Freedland, but the Democrats have used class warfare for decades — at least since Lyndon Johnson, and more accurately back to FDR. They have long championed the reallocation of wealth by force of government in the guise of entitlement programs. That strategy stopped working for them at the end of the Carter administration, and played a large part of why they lost the Congressional majority in 1994. They didn’t win it back on the promise of more entitlement programs, but on the Iraq war and the fact that Republicans couldn’t restrain themselves from being just as avaricious as Democrats.
The only Democratic president since Carter made the mistake in his first term of taking this nonsense from Freedland seriously. Bill Clinton, with the campaign song “Dont Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” still ringing in his ears, decided to nationalize health care and put Hillary in charge of it. That lost the Democrats control of Congress, and that lesson still resonates today.
Freedland makes a number of dubious assumptions in this article. First off, he give John Edwards far more weight than he deserves. The Two Americas talk didn’t do him any good in 2004, and it’s not getting him much farther in 2008, especially after he built the huge mansion in between campaigns. Barack Obama has given some lip service to Edwards’ class warfare ideals, but has mostly tried to remain focused on traditional liberal themes rather than the kind of Leftist populism Freedland describes. In one passage, he describes Zbigniew Brzezinski as a “cold war hawk” who is “no leftist”, both of which would come as a huge surprise to anyone who recalls the feckless foreign policy of the Carter administration, which Brzezinksi helped author.
It’s a classic case of spin, or perhaps an even better example of self-delusion. Socialism and the Left have run Europe for decades, and the Europeans have finally discovered that societies which build nanny states and obsess over multiculturalism wind up like — well, like France. Balkanization and economic stagnation are the inevitable result of Leftist policies, which is why the Left is in retreat, even as its apologists claim victory from defeat.