Tuesday, July 31

New Haven Mayor Pissed that Feds Followed his Immigration Enforcement Advice

On 6 June, Immigration and Customs Enforcement rounded up a number of illegal aliens living in New Haven, CT. This truly pissed off the Mayor, which in a normal city would be difficult to understand, since they were targeting illegal aliens who had criminal warrants issued against them. As it so happens in a city where one in ten residents is an illegal alien, they came across some that they were not looking for and they too were arrested. (Just like a policement would arrest a criminal he runs across, even if nobody reported it.) Normally, public officials are quick to compliment the actions of law enforcement. Not so the mayor of New Haven, CT.

ICE made no attempt to work in collaboration with local police, DeStefano charged: The city was notified of the raids by a phone call to the police headquarters on the general 911 line at 7:20 a.m., an hour and a half after the raids had begun.

ICE agents were working to serve 20 outstanding fugitive warrants on specific individuals, according to city officials. Instead of asking local police's help to track down those individuals, ICE "terrorized" the neighborhood, DeStefano charged. - New Haven Independent

The mayor sounds like he has a legitimate complaint, right. You would expect that the Feds work with the local authorities. However, perhaps the Feds read New Haven's document 'A City to Model' posted on the City's official website, which has as one of six proposals:

3. Developing a New Haven Police Department policy of non-enforcement of federal immigration laws.

While our national security matters to cities, certain matters are best handled by federal agencies. The U.S. Department of Justice is attempting to convince local authorities that they too, should be involved in enforcing immigration laws by, for example, loading immigrant records into the databases that police officers use. Yet cities nationwide are resisting this attempt to divert their law enforcement resources.

The New Haven Police Department should join this trend and develop a formal policy that will keep its officers focused on the mission of combating local crime and leave immigration enforcement to the federal government, which is best suited for such work. - Guide "A City to Model" (Six Proposals for Protecting Public Safety and Improving Relationships Between Immigrant Communities and the City of New Haven) posted on New Have Mayor's website (PDF Link)

The thinking of the Mayor and the illegal immigration group that created the guide is that the local police will not be trusted by the local illegal immigrant population if they arrest people for being in the country illegally, or even ask people about their immigration status. (In other words, they want to be sure that the illegal aliens have no reason to fear being arrested by the police.) This is seen as harmful to the community as it is believed that local illegals will not report crimes for fears of being arrested themselves. (Forget that they would not have been targets had they not come here illegally.)

The proposal for police to ignore a person's immigration status was turned into official policy by police executive order in December, 2006:

• Officers shall not make arrests based on administrative warrants for arrest or removal entered by ICE into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, including administrative immigration warrants for persons with outstanding removal, deportation or exclusion orders. Enforcement of the civil provisions of U.S. immigration law is the responsibility of federal immigration officials. - City of New Haven

One could simply dismiss this clown if he wasn't already mayor of a large city. That makes him dangerous, especially considering that this order above instructs the police to ignore arrest warrants issued by Immigration Authorities to detain known criminal illegal aliens. These are illegal aliens who have been involved in criminal activity after arriving here (as compared to the others who seem to think that entering the country illegally is not a crime.)

Is there any doubt why ICE did not warn New Haven officials about their plans? Now ICE most likely targeted New Haven as a result of its decision to issue illegal aliens resident cards. This was another of the proposals suggested by the local illegal immigrant rights group, JUNATA for Progressive Action, which has also been approved by the City. (To tell you the truth, it is hard to see where the Mayor's office ends and the rights group begins.)

Targeting New Haven for enforcement of immigration laws and rounding up illegal aliens makes sense. After all, New Haven is one place where the illegals are.

The mayor just figured that he could take advantage of past Federal inaction to act on his own, and then blame the Federal Government's inaction as the reason why he needed to act as he did. Unfortunately for him, they have now acted and he has clearly shown whose side he is on.

At least he can now claim that New Haven police are not involved in enforcing immigration law, as was his goal.

More info:
DeStefano: Feds "Terrorized" Fair Haven; Matos: This Won't Stop Us - New Haven Independent

John DeStefano linked to Mexico collaborators (CT governor race) - Lone Wacko

UN Considers Policy to Ignore / Ban Bloggers as Media

Were you aware that there is only one accredited blogger at the UN?

It is news to me, especially considering that I have a half-completed media accreditation application sitting on my desktop. (Here is the Media Accreditation & Liaison Unit homepage.)

There are specific requirements for any application by online media:

- The web publication must belong to a registered company, such as a media organization, and have a specific, verifiable non-web address and a telephone number.

- The online journal requesting accreditation for its correspondent must have a substantial amount of original news content or commentary or analysis on international issues.

- If the web site is new, the applicant seeking accreditation must provide the latest data on the site's visitors or other relevant material (press citations, etc.) about the outlet's audience. The applicant must have an established record of having written extensively on international issues. - UN

I have been too lazy to register FFI as an entity, which has held up completing my application. (Not to mention the lack of web traffic. Seems that they only want popular media to apply.)

The one 'lucky' blogger is Inner City Press. Their website is full of reporting on all the monkey business that goes on within UN Headquarters. Lately, they have been hounding the leadership of the UN Development Programme, UNDP, over the lack of accountability in North Korea, and elsewhere. They appear to be the only organization providing daily coverage of UN scandals and suspected scandals. As they mention, many times they are the only one asking questions about a subject. So it is not like they are 'getting in the way' of 'real' traditional reporters.

Their access, and the possibility of access for others, might be about to change as the UN debates how to handle bloggers.

As Inner City Press reports:

NEW YORK, July 29 -- The United Nations says it wants to engage with bloggers, but only if it can control them. Those it cannot control, it wants to exclude, meeting minutes obtained by Inner City Press reveal.

At least three UN agencies have in the interim adopted policies of not answering questions from bloggers, no matter how widely they're read. From the top of the UN's headquarters building, it's a world of paranoia, a desire to turn back the clock of a type that usually proves fruitless.

In late June in Madrid, the spokespeople for 37 UN agencies met and, according to internal minutes leaked to Inner City Press, agreed that it is "important for the United Nations family to engage with all forms of new media, but that some, such as blogs, present particular challenges for accreditation." - Inner City Press

Like this sort of policy is going to make the problem go away. Tell that to the US Congress which has been on the receiving end of coverage by Blogs who somehow manage to do their jobs without press passes providing access to Capital Hill.

If anything, this is yet another indication that the problems at the UN are much worse than anyone realizes. Amazingly, this story appears to confirm that not only can the media be controlled, as if there was any doubt, but that controlling the media is policy at the UN. Of course to do so, you need the threat of removal, which the UN has the following right:

The Department of Public Information reserves the right to deny or withdraw accreditation of journalists from media organizations whose activities run counter to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, or who abuse the privileges so extended or put the accreditation to improper use or act in a way not consistent with the principles of the Organization. - UN

Too bad this standard does not apply to member states, a number of which whose activities run counter to the UN's Human Rights Principles, nor does it seem to apply to employees of the UN either, who rarely are made to account for poor and even criminal behavior. In some cases when they do leave, they are extended Diplomatic Immunity by way of $1 per year shame jobs.

I had tried to contact the US Mission to the UN in the past, and they too seem to have a policy (official or not) of ignoring queries from Bloggers. My query concerned North Korea. I guess that was not important enough a subject for them.

So go read the rest of the story at Inner City Press here. Then go read the other stories posted on his site. Just be warned, that they might piss you off.

For a summary of UN Activities that I have been keeping track of, check out the following two posts:

Really Damaging the UN's Image, Respectability and Credibility
Really Damaging the UN's Image, Respectability and Credibility - II

Then click on the UN tag below for even more stories.

Note: The UN is welcome to contact me concerning this issue through my email address located in the sidebar. I am most willing to publish any statement they wish to provide.

Monday, July 30

Maritime Monday 69

Welcome to this Weeks edition of Maritime Monday.

You can find Maritime Monday 19 here. (Published 24 July 2006)

This Weeks Photo:
The attention is always on the biggest. However, those big monsters will only get the cargo into megaports, which is fine if you located near one. However, for everyone else, the cargo needs to be transshipped. This is when the small feeder ships (and barges) come into play.

Here is a photo of the Mann Lines operated container vessel BARBARA:

This Weeks Items:

Fairplay Daily News has:
ITF softens FOC stance - SINGAPORE 24 July – The ITF has apparently softened its stand against the flags of convenience system. “Just because the vessel is registered in Panama or Liberia does not mean that it is a substandard vessel,” the federation's maritime co-ordinator Stephen Cotton told the Singapore Organisation of Seamen yesterday. “I know I will be unpopular, but our policies will have to be in line with the fact that the world is changing,” Cotton told Fairplay.

The ITF, which represents more than 4.5M workers in 148 countries, is reviewing its FOC campaign, which was launched in 1948. During this period ITF has vociferously demanded the elimination of the FOC system and has demanded a regulatory framework for the shipping industry. There remain fundamental objections to the FOC system, which is said to provide a means of avoiding labour regulation in the country of ownership. Issues such as low wages, long hours and unsafe working conditions for seafarers employed on FOC ships are still cause for concern, Cotton said. - Fairplay Homepage (Used with Permission)

About time.

Eagle Speak has the mysterious disappearance of the M/V INFINITY MARINE I which has been missing for over three weeks off Somalia.

EagleSpeak also has his weekly series "Sunday Ship History: Beachmasters"

American Shipper has International Shipholding Corp's announcement that it will be canceling it's Forest Line's Lighter Aboard Ship (LASH) vessel service. According to the story, this end the era of LASH transport as no other shipping lines operate LASH vessels.

Gates of Vienna has "The Danica White: Eight Weeks and Counting". This is from a week ago. It is now 9 weeks and counting. There has been no new developments over the last week, as far as we know.

Two accidents covered at gCaptain. First, there is the cargo vessel VICTUS demolishing a holiday house when it runs aground in the Netherlands. Then, there is the amazing collision in the Gulf of Japan between the bulk carrier M/V ALPHA ACTION and the containership M/V WAN HAI 307. Photos at each of the posts.

Maritime Accident Casebook has the story of the loss of the bulk carrier COOP VENTURE in a typhoon in Japan.

Sailors, Mariners & Warriors League has the discovery of radioactive material on the cruiseship BLUE LADY, ex SS NORWAY, along with a list of other hazardous waste. Of note, is that this vessel is looking for a location to be scrapped.

Maritime Links Editor's Blog thinks it is a little crazy of the New Zealand authorities to fine a Captain for not reporting a 'near-accident'. (Sometimes shipping is not much more than a managed near accident. But managed very well. No need to disect my comment.)

Gulf News has the must-read "Duty of care - not just question of compliance" commenting on the Al-SALAM BOCCACCIO 98 sinking and comments on why the potential for more tragic accidents exists in the Persian Gulf, Africa and Asian. (Partly due to a lack of a safety culture.)

Alaska Report has "Dutch Harbor, Alaska remains top U.S. fishing port for 2006"

Shipping Times (UK) has the launch of Korea's first 10,000 TEU vessel, the COSCO ASIA.

MarEx Newsletter has the EU's threat to force Poland to close the Gdańsk Shipyard if they do not meet EU requirements to reduce production capacity by the end of this summer. (This yard was the home of the Solidarity Trade Union. I bet they did not see this unintended consequence of their fight to get out from under the Soviet Union's grip.)

Lech Walesa comments on this issue on the BBC. You can guess how he feels.

Rigzone has Venezuela's takeover of the operating contracts for two Maersk Oil drilling rigs. The question is, do they have enough domestic competence to operate them and the other rigs they have.

Bellona has a ballast tank explosion onboard a Russian submarine undergoing repairs at the Naval Repair yard Zvezdochka, in Severodivnsk, Russia.

Molten Eagle examines the photo in the Bellona article, claiming that is has been altered. The question is, for what purpose?

Space War has North Korea's refusal to recognize the sea border with (South) Korea during talks. Instead, they are demanding that the UN-drawn line be pushed south.

Hengineer posts, after a three-month hiatus, that he is serving as Third-Assistant (Fourth) Engineer onboard the USNS KANAWHA as it gets ready for Shipyard.

Tigerhawk has how Texan oilmen were responsible for the search for North Sea oil.

Ocean Navigator Blog has the ban on commercial shipping in Lake Michigan harbor, in Waukegan, Illinois in favor catering to recreational boating only.

The Pilot Boat has "Corvo arrival at Azores" (Portuguese built, Portuguese owned, Portuguese manned, Portuguese operated)

Marine Log has posted it's July Edition online:

The Australian:

"The master and Singaporean owners of the tanker Siteam Anja were charged today with depositing a pollutant and creating an environmental nuisance"

Cruise Bruise has Alaska State Legislator Jay Ramras (R) withdrawing a bill that would have benefited the cruise industry while benefiting him as a side-benefit creating a conflict of interest.

Never Sea Land has a photo and commentary of a superyacht accident literally seconds after leaving the Baglietto ship yard, in Varazze, Italy.

"thyztwizta" has posted to You Tube "Winter - North Sea"



Haight's Maritime Items has:

Andrea Doria – Stockholm collision - On July 25, 1956, the Italian ocean liner ANDREA DORIA and the Swedish ocean liner STOCKHOLM collided in fog off Nantucket Island. The ANDREA DORIA sank, with a loss of 51 lives (46 passengers on the Andrea Doria and five crewmembers on the Stockholm). Subsequent investigation, while not fully conclusive, revealed navigation faults and improper use of radar by personnel on both ships. (7/25/07). - Dennis Bryant Holland & Knight homepage (Used with Permission)


Legislation to require 100% container scanning approved by Congress - The Senate and the House of Representatives have approved legislation that will, among other things, require radiation scanning of 100% of the shipping containers bound for the United States prior to loading on ships in foreign ports. The requirement will come into effect in five years after the bill is signed by the President, but it apparently includes a provision allowing the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive the requirement in two-year increments under certain circumstances. Final text of the agreed version of the Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007 (H.R. 1) is not yet available. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a press release summarizing how the legislation will make the American people safer. Representative Thompson (D-MS) issued a press release stating that the bill implements the recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States.

Commentary: The legislation is lengthy and complex, and includes many salutary measures. I will limit my comments, though, to the container scanning provision, which is both unnecessary and misguided. As I noted in a previous edition of this newsletter, the technology upon which this provision relies does not work with sufficient accuracy as to be meaningful. The House Committee on Homeland Security released a Report to demonstrate how the legislation is justified by the various recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. It should be noted that when it comes to justifying the 100% container scanning requirement, the report, on page 5, refers only to a vague sentence (which was not part of any recommendation) on page 393 of the Report about the need to “appropriately screen potentially dangerous cargo”. The report omits the specific recommendation on page 391 stating: “Hard choices must be made in allocating limited resources. The U.S. government should identify and evaluate the transportation assets that need to be protected, set risk-based priorities for defending them, select the most practical and cost-effective ways of doing so, and then develop a plan, budget, and funding to implement the effort.” As the Congress well knows, scanning of all cargo is a quantum leap from screening of potentially dangerous cargo. The best that can be said for this far-reaching and potentially disruptive requirement is that it will not be pouring money down a rat-hole – it is merely advocating that future Homeland Security appropriations bills pour the money. Now that the political points have been scored, we will await the long term follow-through. (7/27/07). - Dennis Bryant Holland & Knight homepage

See Last Week's Maritime Monday for his first commentary on this issue.

Fairplay Daily News (also) has:

Bush signs Foreign Investment Act - WASHINGTON, DC 27 July – President Bush yesterday signed the Foreign Investment and National Security Act of 2007 – a law that could have been called the “DPW not welcome here Act”. The White House says the law will “ensure a thorough and high-level review of acquisitions of US companies by foreign firms that may present security considerations.” The bill, which is now law, was born of hearings held in the wake of the Dubai Ports World debacle, where electioneering politicians in Congress made the DPW-P&O Ports deal the centrepiece of their pre-election strategy. For his part, Bush maintains that “a climate conducive to foreign investment strengthens our national security ... This Administration is committed to maintaining that climate at home, and will continue to seek it abroad.” He then went on to commend members of Congress of both parties whose leadership enabled the passage of this legislation. “The legislation also demonstrates that America can meet the challenges of the post-9/11 world while continuing to welcome foreign investment that provides well-paying jobs and economic opportunity for our citizens,” the White House said in a statement. - Fairplay Homepage (Used with Permission)

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Sunday, July 29

Spain and Finland: Different Beds in the Same House?

One part of international Politics that American's don't normally see is the issue of when a country's leader gets an invitation to the White House. Sure, we see the nice photo ops when they do visit. But what we miss is the discussion when a country does not get an invitation. Let's forget that it is President Bush they are coming to visit, and that many of these leaders don't like him and would rather see a liberal/socialist handing out the invitations. At the end of the day, an invitation validates the importance of the leader receiving the invitation, and of the continued good relations between the two countries.

With that in mind, there has been lots of talk in Finland over possible reasons why President Tarja Halonen has not received an invitation since her last visit in 2002.

(Presidents Tarja Halonen and George W. Bush met at the White House in 2002.
Photo: RON EDMONDS / AP - Helsingin Sanomat)

Maybe it has something to do with her declaring that Iraq War illegal while visiting the United Nations in September, 2004:
In her address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Finnish President Tarja Halonen expressed the view that the War in Iraq was illegal.

Speaking on the opening day of the General Assembly, President Halonen said that the international community had failed before the war in Iraq began. "Conflicting national interests prevailed over common will", she said.

"There was not enough commitment to act within the boundaries of Security Council resolutions. Some countries resorted to use of force which was not compatible with international law."

At a press conference held before her speech, Halonen said that some kind of an international court would be needed to give a formal decision on the legality of the war.

"However, it is my own impression that the requirements of international law were not met", the President said. - Helsingin Sanomat
This was not the first time Finland had interjected itself into the whole Iraq issue and may have even effected the results of an election against members of the Government accused of signing up to the US's war on terror.
In a televised debate in the run-up to the 2003 general election, Ms Jäätteenmäki said Mr Lipponen had, during a visit to Washington in December 2002, signed up Finland to the US-led coalition that was to invade Iraq in March. Ms Jäätteenmäki's Centre party won the election and was appointed the country's first ever woman head of government in April. She was forced to resign in late June after it transpired that she had used secret government documents about Mr Lipponen's Washington visit as a weapon against her SDP opposite number. - uutiset
The Helsingin Sanomat (HS) has a good evaluation of how Finland's lack of visits compares with that of other Nordic and European countries. In effect they are near the bottom-end of the group. When President Halonen was in the US earlier this year, a request was made to meet with President Bush, and was politely declined:
The United States has declined a Finnish request for a meeting between President Tarja Halonen and US President George W. Bush this week. At the same time, a meeting was arranged with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who is scheduled to meet Bush today, Tuesday. According to the office of the President, Finland had asked about the possibility of a meeting with the US President during Halonen’s visit to the United States. The request was turned down for scheduling reasons. Scheduling problems are routinely invoked in international diplomacy to turn down a proposed meeting. - Finland For Thought
However, all is not lost for Finland, as Finland's newest Foreign Minister just visited Washington, DC and may soon get the honor of hosting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Helsinki.

Not mentioned in the HS article linked above is another European leader who is looking for his first invitation. That would be Spain's Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. He was elected in March, 2004 and shortly thereafter pulled all Spanish forces out of Iraq.

That is not the only reason for a lack of an invitation as Mr. Zapatero has also decided to back Cuba, acting on it's behalf in pushing the EU to relax it's stand against Cuba over some recent human rights abuses. In addition to Cuba, Spain has also gotten friendly with Venezuela's lunatic President Huga Chavez. Unlike Finland, Spain has had a recent visit by Secretary of State Rice. However, they are probably now wishing that they didn't:
All this came only a few weeks after a 1 June trip to Madrid by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (which the Socialist government had hoped would finally pave the way for Zapatero to receive a much-coveted invitation to visit the White House) ended in what the local press afterwards dubbed a "humiliating" public relations disaster for Spain.

Indeed, Rice, much to the dismay of her Spanish hosts, refused to play the game of pretending that US-Spain relations are back to normal. (In fact, bilateral relations have never recovered since Zapatero abruptly withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq in 2004, a problem that has been compounded by a steady stream of anti-American rhetoric spewing forth from the prime minister and his senior ministers.)

Instead, Rice used her visit to Madrid to publicly chide stone-faced Spanish officials for not doing more to support dissidents in Cuba. Referring to a controversial visit to Cuba in April by the hapless Spanish foreign minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, who publicly boasted about his refusal to meet with members of the Cuban opposition, Rice said that: "Democratic states have an obligation to act democratically, meaning to support opposition in Cuba, not to give the regime the idea that they can transition from one dictatorship to another." - Spero News
Both Finland and Spain have a good deal of anti-American sentiment. (Yes, there is the very pro-American contingents as well.) However, Spain's actions are in a completely different category than Finland, to some extent even acting against US foreign policy, including areas of concern shared by the European Union, such as human rights in Cuba and ensuring that Cuba does not transition to a new communist leader once Castro finally does die. There is concern that Spain's actions are solely for gaining access to Cuba's oil. That's fine as long as you don't mind screwing over Cuba's population for it. It's even worse when you try to proclaim that you are doing this for their benefit!

I however think that Spain's actions are simply the result of an anti-American view held by those currently in power, including that of Mr. Zapetero. You only need look as far as this post, where in 2003, he refused to stand up as the American honor guard passed during Spain's National Holiday Parade. (Once he become Prime Minister he just saw to it that the US not be invited, replacing them with honor guards from Cuba and Venezuela.) This is just silly behavior, that you would only expect from someone like Chavez. Even Castro would have stood up.

Well, every country is welcome to choose the friends that they keep. However, they should not expect us to want to come around and play with them.

Surely, Finland-US relations are on the mend. I can't say the same for US-Spain relations.


Note: Fred is married to a Finnish National and has lived in Finland from 1997-2001.

Norway's Smuggling Problem

When you hear the word smuggling, you tend to think of drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or even people being moved into a country illegally.

Many countries have to deal with smuggling to a certain degree. The United States has to deal with huge drug smuggling operations. This has resulted in a large prison population consisting mostly of end-users. Europe's 'cultured' opinion has been that this problem is of America's own creation; the result of 'draconian' drug laws. A problem that would simply go away if the US legalized drug use.

The same can be said for similar problems in Europe. While they mostly go soft on drug users and the illegal activities that go on to supply them, they are pretty determined to hunt those who try to get around the high taxes they have imposed on all things legal. Lets just call it revenue-based law enforcement. They have their job cut out for them since Europe's high taxes combined with an elimination of tax-free sales had spurred one huge continent-wide smuggling operation.

The high taxes are levied on the population in order to provide world-famous, 'cradle-to-grave' social welfare. The populations of these high-tax countries are all in favor of it, so they say. However, they also take advantage of any opportunity to buy something tax-free when overseas or at a discount in another EU country if it is cheaper than in their own. By doing so, they are cheating the system that they approve of. In effect, reducing the amount of taxes that they pay, and forcing others to make up the difference. This may result in even higher taxes, or a reduction in services provided. (Sometimes it results in both!)

For example, there is a ferry route from Helsinki to Stockholm. There are at least two departures each evening from each city. These connections are sustainable only because the ships are able to offer tax-free shopping, thanks to a quick pitstop in Mariehamn. (Just long enough to lower and raise the stern ramp and handle the couple pieces of rolling cargo.) The large number of ferries plying this route, is largely due to the attraction of tax-free shopping while on the vessel and the high prices ashore. It is easy to spot those who have returned from a cruise in the morning, as they are the ones downtown with cases of beer strapped to their luggage trolleys.

Sometimes, there is no legal alternative to get around the high taxes. This leads us to criminal activity; turning people into criminals. Take the case of Norway and it's high taxes. The taxes have created a truly idiotic crime; Meat Smuggling:

Police are seizing more smuggled meat than ever before, and border patrols suspect organized smuggling gangs that are supplying a market keen on dodging Norway's high meat prices.

Customs authorities have seized 34 tons of meat smuggled into Norway so far this year. That's three times the amount seized in the same period last year - Aftenposten
So how expensive is meat in Norway?
A study released Tuesday confirmed that meat prices in Norway are high, 82 percent above the European average.
Of course the excuse for high taxes is maintaining of the Social-Welfare State. But you have to wonder, if you are getting a good deal having the State provide for you when everything costs twice as much.

So what to do about this problem?

The American way would be to go after the end users. Make possession of smuggled meat a crime and jail meat smugglers and their customers for long periods of time. However, since this is happening in Europe, perhaps the right approach would be to decriminalize possession of smuggled meat or better yet, legalize it.

Meat smuggling breaks record - Aftenposten

One issue I keep bringing up with my friends who say the solution for 'the drug problem' is to legalize pot, is that it is idiotic to believe that legalized pot in Finland would be 'cheap'. Legalization would only increase whatever smuggling there already is. (Just don't do drugs....)

Anyway, why do prices have to be so high in Norway? They have this huge North Sea oil windfall that can take care of everyone.

Also, just image how much all this Europe-wide smuggling is contributing to global warming.

Friday, July 27

Really Damaging the UN's Image, Respectability and Credibility - II

Here is an update our earlier post "Really Damaging the UN's Image, Respectability and Credibility" with a new crop of UN related persons who have clearly damaged the Image, Respectability and Credibility of the UN:

UN in Lebanon - Verification of Syria's "complete withdrawal" from Lebanon, including the border areas was a lie.

Mr. Ban's report is notable for its clarity and seriousness. Taken together with the border report, it paints an alarming picture. Though the land grabs are small affairs individually, they collectively add up to an area amounting to about 4% of Lebanese soil--in U.S. terms, the proportional equivalent of Arizona. Of particular note is that the area of Syrian conquest dwarves that of the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms. The farms, which Israel seized from Syria in 1967 and which amount to an area of about 12 square miles, are claimed by Hezbollah as belonging to Lebanon--a useful pretext for it to continue its "resistance" against an Israeli occupation that ended seven years ago. - (Syria Occupies Lebanon. Again. - Opinion Journal)

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon - Collaboration with Hezbollah

A troubling consequence of this heightened threat to UNIFIL by radical jihadi groups is that some of the troop-contributing countries have begun turning to Hezbollah, hoping to enlist the cooperation of the Shia group in protecting their soldiers. UNIFIL contingents are not supposed to have any direct contact with Hezbollah – or any other Lebanese political groups – as their official channel of communication is through the Lebanese army.

"It's highly forbidden," said Major General Claudio Graziano, UNIFIL's commander. "I have a relationship with the [Lebanese] government through the Lebanese army. I have no relations with Hezbollah in terms of security."

Still, three months ago, intelligence agents from France, Italy and Spain met with Hezbollah representatives in Saida. As a result of that meeting, some Spanish UNIFIL patrols are now "escorted" by Hezbollah militants in cars. Following last month's bombing, Spanish UNIFIL officers met with local Hezbollah officials, according to a South Lebanon-based party official. - Quoted at Barcepundit

UN Peacekeepers from Pakistan - Illegal Arms Sales

Pakistani UN peacekeeping troops have traded in gold and sold weapons to Congolese militia groups they were meant to disarm, the BBC has learnt.

These militia groups were guilty of some of the worst human rights abuses during the Democratic Republic of Congo's long civil war.

The trading went on in 2005. A UN investigative team sent to gather evidence was obstructed and threatened.

The team's report was buried by the UN itself to "avoid political fallout". - BBC

UN Peacekeepers from Morocco - 'widespread sexual abuse'

The United Nations is investigating allegations of widespread sexual abuse by hundreds of Moroccan peacekeepers serving in Ivory Coast and has summoned Rabat's diplomats to respond, UN officials said on Friday.

UN officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the investigation involved Moroccan soldiers having sex with a large number of underage girls. The world body took the highly unusual step of confining the entire battalion of 800 troops to barracks.

"An internal investigation by the United Nations Mission in Cote D'Ivoire has revealed serious allegations of widespread sexual exploitation and abuse by a UN military contingent serving in Bouake," a UN statement said. - TV NZ

UN targets wrong peacekeepers over sexual allegations.

UNITED NATIONS, July 25 -- When the UN announced on July 20 that it was confining over 700 Moroccan peacekeepers to their base in Bouake in Cote d'Ivoire, due to allegations of sexual exploitation, it was portrayed as the UN finally getting tough on abuse by peacekeepers.

Wednesday it emerged that the 700 confined peacekeepers had only been in Cote d'Ivoire for less than two months. The wrongdoers were already transferred out of the country. If the past is any guide, they will not face meaningful discipline back in Morocco. The rotated-in 706 soldiers are fall guys, essentially, for those who came before them. It is the UN getting tough -- but on the wrong individuals. The UN, which condemns both hostage-taking and collective punishment, appears to be engaged in a little bit of both. - Inner City Press
There is nothing to suggest that the new peacekeepers will behave any differently from their fellow soldiers that they replaced, so maybe they should remain 'confined' to their barracks.

UN Human Rights Council - Declares consensus, Ignoring Canada's Declaration it Never Gave it.

Consensus Declared - Whether Canada Consented Or Not - For possibly the first time in the history of the United Nations, one of its major bodies has ruled that a consensus vote was achieved even though one of its members—one with a particular reputation for honesty—insists it never gave consent, much less even saw the text that was voted upon.

In its most aggressive Orwellian move to date, the UN Human Rights Council declared that this week’s package of new procedures was adopted by consensus, on the night of June 18. (In fact, the rushed declaration of council president Luis Alfonso de Alba was made past the legal midnight deadline, already in the early moments of June 19, but that’s another story.) Canada’s challenge to this interpretation was then overruled by the Council, 46 members to 1, the lone vote being Canada’s. Sure enough, speeches by Council members today and yesterday are crowing about the fact that the newly formed body was born in the purity of consensus. And so the official record will reflect. - UN Watch

UN Mideast Envoy - Misdirected efforts

UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Mideast envoy warned Wednesday of impending economic collapse in the Gaza Strip unless Israel reopens the Hamas-led territory’s main commercial crossing to the outside world to ease international isolation. - LGF

This is kind of amusing. HAMAS violently takes control of the Gaza Strip. They refuse to recognize Israel. They kidnap Israeli Soldier Gilad Shalit, killing two other soldiers in the process and have held him hostage for over a year. Yet none of this is a problem for the UN. There is no reason why Israel should reopen the border crossings without some sort of outreach emanating from HAMAS. Maybe the Israelis are waiting to get their soldier back. Maybe they are waiting for a statement confirming their recognition of Israel. The UN's Envoy should perhaps be spending his time talking to HAMAS, pointing out that Israel is prepared to starve them all out. After all, HAMAS thinks that they are capable of doing this. Might as well take advantage of it. One problem, since when has HAMAS been concerned with economic collapse in the Gaza Strip? Not that they have to. They have the UN to be concerned for them.

UN Audit on UNDP Program in North Korea - Audit still incomplete

UNITED NATIONS, July 23 -- When Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon went to Washington last week, he was asked about his call, made six months ago, for a detailed external audit of the operations of the UN Development Program, to be conducted first in North Korea than elsewhere. The UN Board of Auditors still has not been allowed in to North, and it appears that no action has been taken on the Secretariat's second call, in late June, to begin a second phase of audit. - Inner City Press

Malloch Brown, Former UNDP Administrator - Ignored Critical reports of North Korea Program Violations
On at least three occasions, in 1999, 2001 and 2004, the KPMG auditors filed reports that brought troubling aspects of the situation to the attention of UNDP headquarters, recommending “timely corrective action.” There is no evidence that any such action took place. - Fox News

UNDP - Illegal Transfer of Dual-Use Technology to North Korea

Since January, when the U.S. concerns were made public, the UNDP has pulled out of North Korea and the U.N. audit has confirmed extensive violations of U.N. rules regarding hiring practices, the use of foreign currency and site inspections. The latest U.S. revelations raise far more serious questions about the UNDP's oversight. Under the most generous interpretation, the agency was negligent of its legal responsibilities to keep dual-use technology out of a country that is on the U.S. list of terror-sponsoring states. At worst, it deliberately transferred the technology, knowing it was breaking U.S. law and helping to strengthen Kim Jong Il's military dictatorship. - Opinion Journal

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Nominee to Head the International Monetary Fund - "'insistent' womaniser "
The French media and political world has been thrown into ferment by an allegation that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the European candidate to be the next head of the IMF, is an "insistent" womaniser.

The allegation was made in a blog written by the Brussels correspondent of the newspaper Libération, Jean Quatremer. He said there was a risk that the former French finance minister's behaviour towards women might cause a scandal at the International Monetary Fund headquarters in Washington.

"The only real problem with Strauss-Kahn is his attitude to women." He is "too insistent," M. Quatremer wrote. "The IMF is an international institution with Anglo-Saxon morals. One inappropriate gesture, one unfortunate comment, and there will be a media hue and cry." - Independent, UK
- My problem with his is that he is a Socialist.

UN Member States - Demanding the Closure of Gitmo
- These same states refuse to accept former detainees that the US would like to release from there. One problem is that some detainees approved for release cannot be returned to their own countries as they would certainly face a fate much worse than Gitmo. They cannot be released into the US either. So a third-country is required.

“We suffered very much at Guantánamo, but we continue to suffer here,” Mr. Basit said. “The other prisoners had their countries, but we are like orphans: we have no place to go.”

Mr. Basit and four other men here, who spent time at a hamlet in Afghanistan run by Uighur separatists, are still considered terrorist suspects by China’s Communist government. Only Albania’s pro-American government would give them asylum, but Albanian officials have since told the men they cannot afford to give them much else.

Things could be worse, the former prisoners note. At least 15 of the 17 Uighurs who remain at Guantánamo have also been cleared for release, but not even Albania will accept them — and neither will the United States. Instead, American diplomats say they have asked nearly 100 countries to provide asylum to the detainees, only to find that Chinese officials have warned some of the same countries not to accept them. - NY Times

The US should not have to accept them. They were either terrorists or chose to associate with terrorists. (Over 30 that have been released have since gone back to being terrorists.) Maybe they should be sent back to China and then the world can protest the abuse of their rights after they are executed.

-- Don't worry. There is more coming in future updates. --

-- --

Wednesday, July 25

Try these 'Foreign Check' Bank Fees on for Size

Congress (mainly the Democrats in Congress) keeps claiming that the oil companies are price gouging through the high price of gas. Of course gasoline prices are mainly controlled by both taxes and the laws of supply and demand. While there have been claims of gouging, there has been a distinct lack of evidence to support the claims.

A while back I had documented that it is the Government who are the price gougers. On everything from taxes on tourists to Alaska, Taxes on the oil companies (ExxonMobil paid $25.8 billion in taxes the first quarter of 2006 resulting in $8.4 billion in net revenue.), to the State of Delaware that gouges every traveler driving up and down I-95.

If the Government wants to investigate an industry for gouging, then I suggest they take a look at the Banking Industry. They have to be the poster-children for gouging. I had already posted how the banks skim wire transfers through 'Intermediary Bank Fees' which of course are not disclosed to the senders and are not included in the fee when the senders pays for all charges associated with the transfer. (See: Are Banks Skimming International Money 'Wire Transfers'?)

Now lets take a look at what happens when you deposit an International Bank Draft/check at a typical US Bank:

So, out of a $100 check, you receive back less than half. This of course did not include the fee to issue the check, if any, as well as any fee to exchange the local currency into dollars for the check. At least, the fees would have been the same regardless of the amount of the check. So in effect the small clients are the ones being screwed.

The most interesting part in all of this is that the 'foreign bank' is charging a fee to cash it's own check. Pretty slick isn't it. These fees could have been avoided if the check had been payable in the US. That means that a US bank is listed on the check as the payable address. This would eliminate the local (our) bank fees and shift the foreign bank fee to the purchaser of the check/bank draft.

One problem that we have had with foreign bank drafts payable in the US is that occasionally the bank will lose the check and not credit our account. Of course the payer provides us with a copy of the front and back of the check cashed by the bank. I have yet to get a decent explanation how a bank can lose an electronic copy of a check. (They claim the chek cannot be cashed as they have misplaced the orignal. And no, that does not make this their fault.) You see, they scan these things and toss the originals. Which is a real joke explaining to a foreign customer that the yellow piece of paper is the check that he sent us that the bank will not cash for any number of reasons, the biggest being a mistake in one of the US banks, resulting in a refusal to cash the check. (I wonder if the system is flooded with fraudulent checks that results in this steady stream of valid checks being kicked out of the system.)

Amazingly, this foreign check is still cheaper than the total cost of sending a wire transfer.

You have to wonder why the international banking system is so incompetent when it comes to moving money around the planet. There is too much manual input at mid-locations. Too many errors. Lost payment details. Lost payments. Even double payments. (The bank sends the same payment twice.) Clearly it can be much better.

Take credit cards. I can travel to most countries and there at the airport is a cash machine. Pop in the credit card and out comes local cash. In most cases the fee, if any, is minimal. Then you have Western Union and Paypal, which are also valid options for making small payments.

I hope the banks clean up their act. It seems that they think that there is more profit in it for them if they keep the system slow and screwed up. That is great, as long as there are no alternate ways of making a payment. The internet is quickly changing that. Until they change, people's impression of banks is just going to stay in line with the theme of the commercial below.



Are Banks Skimming International Money 'Wire Transfers'? - 6 April 2007


It seems that "The 'Rose Household Textiles' Nigeria Scam" is still alive and finding willing victims to give their money away to scammers.

It is nice to see that at least one scammer will not be seeing a payoff this week, thanks in part to my previous post on this subject:


Talk about a lucky close call. But I guess all that matters is the end result, which in this case was good. Unfortunately, at least one of the others who posted a comment was not so lucky.

I am currently a victim of the current internet scam. I live in the state of Georgia. I was arrested on June 15th 2006 for 1st Degree Forgery. I personally presented the check inside of a SunTrust Bank in Georgia. I did not endorse the back of the check nor received funds from it. The teller advised me that the signatures did not match on the check and she contacted her Branch Supervisor. Approximately 10 minutes later, I was approached and intimated by two police officers in which I was questioned. I gave the officers the fed ex package it came in as well as the emailed instructions to the officers. They claimed to arrested me because I fumbled over my story due to the fact that I have NEVER in my life been in trouble with the law as well as I was threatened by way of harm by these individuals. I face a Calendar Call with Gwinnett County Court on February 20th 2006 which in turn I will plead "not guilty." If this happens to face a jury trial, I am willing to go all the way due to the fact that I was scammed and I have found that people get screwed really bad just thinking to fall for something too good to be true such as I did. I cannot afford to have my future messed up.

I will take the information given on this website and present as evidence. I do as well have contacts that still email me to tell me that they have been scammed as well. I also filed a complaint with the FBI Internet Crimes Unit, and the Federal Trade Commission. - Link to comment

As it was said above, nobody just gives money away. It does not take a great deal of thought to understand this, but at least some level of thought is required. So there we are.

Email Offer Checking Service:
If for some reason you think you have a genuine Nigeria/Africa/check cashing plea for help/job offer, feel free to send it to me for proofing. I will investigate and tell you if it is real or not. The fee for the service is $50. If it turns out that you have a genuine offer, I will front 100% of the funds requested for a fee of 10% of the total that they are promising to you. Your risk is limited to the $50 fee. Considering how willing people are to send thousands to strangers in other countries, $50 is cheap insurance against being scammed.

Monday, July 23

Maritime Monday 68

Welcome to this Weeks edition to Maritime Monday.

You can find Maritime Monday 18 here. (Published 17 July 2006)

Tell a friend about this post.

This Weeks Photo:

070718-N-0890S-008 PERSIAN GULF (July 18, 2007) - Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Susan Holt mans the starboard bow .50-caliber watch on nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) during replenishment at sea with Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Rainier (T-AOE 7). Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 are deployed to the 5th Fleet area of operations conducting maritime operations and supporting the global war on terrorism. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman David L. Smart (RELEASED) - Navy Newsstand

More on the Fast Combat Support Ship USNS RAINIER here.

This Weeks Items:
I cover the disclosure that the Dubai Ports World deal would have been an intelligence bonanza, had the US Congress not scuppered it.

Eagle Speak has an update on the plot by ETA Terrorists to blow up UK ferries departing Spain indicating that this was an active plot. Then there is the Syrian vessel LADY AZZA caught attempting to smuggle explosive materials into Lebanon.

Finally, EagleSpeak also has his weekly series "Sunday Ship History: "The Unbeatable Ship"" Covering the US Light Cruiser USS SAN DIEGO.

The BBC has "Fifty migrants lost off Canaries"

Pacific Daily News has an interview with the Captain and some Surviving members of the crew of the Chinese-Flag cargo ship HAI TONG NO.7 after they were rescued from two days floating in the Pacific.

Truth about Trade & Technology has posted the Wall Street Journal's must-read story "Activists Choke Growth Of European Shipping". Activists should pick and choose their fights. Trying to save the 'town' of Doel is just idiotic. Nobody in their right mind wants to live next to a nuclear power plant, while surrounded by a container terminal. (From May, 2007.)

Maritime Accident Casebook tells the story of a lifeboat accident on the CAPE KESTREL, noting that the lifeboat is the most dangerous place on a ship. Unfortunate but true.

Sailors, Mariners & Warriors League has Spain's release of the Odyssey treasure ship and troubles for P&O PACIFIC STAR cruiseship which was damaged in a recent storm and has had to discharge its passengers in Vanuatu.

gCaptain has both a bubble chart illustrating the size in number of ships (not the size of the ships) of shipping nations, noting that the open registers (a.k.a. 'Flags of Convenience') are more often than not the big players as well as a graph of ship detentions sorted by flag.

The Globe and Mail has an update on lawsuits filed as a result of the BC Ferry QUEEN OF THE NORTH sinking.

CDR Salamander has France's announcement that they intend to build a second aircraft carrier as part of their attempt to "revive the defenses massacred by the Socialists".

Space War has India's $1.5 billion purchase and renovation of Russia's leftover Soviet-era Aircraft Carrier, the ADMIRAL GORSHKOV.

MarEx Newsletter has news of ongoing delays at the Port of Newcastle with ships laying at anchor for a month waiting to load coal.

Maritime Links Editor's Blog discuses the ever-increasing manning shortage in the Maritime Industry.

Nepunus Lex has the US Navy's Aircraft Carrier "distinguished visitor" program. Hmmm. Norfolk is not far away.

Steeljaw Scribe has "DoD Official: “China Pursues U.S. Military Ties More Slowly Than Hoped”"

TCS Daily has "White House LOST at Sea" (LOST is how detractors refer to the UN's Law of the Sea Treaty, UNCLOS. MY problem with the treaty is that it was created under Soviet influence and as a result contains BS that does not belong in there.)

Fogonazos has a presentation about the Soviet Union's global fleet of spaceflight tracking ships.

BarcePundit has news that ocean levels are not raising as global warmists proclaim. Be sure to click through to the interview with the world's leading sea-level scientist for an explanation why sea levels appear to be rising in certain areas and why there is the bias to blame global warming. (How much do all these new ships being launched contribute to a rise in sea levels?)

A poster on the Maritime Links Discussion Board describes a nighttime encounter with a sailboat and it's sleeping Captain near the Straits of Gibraltar.

The New Zealand Herald has Maersk's confirmation that the NORA MAERSK is not sinking in Waitemata Harbor. It is merely ballasted to permit repair work to the bow thruster in response to many calls from onlookers fearful that the vessel was sinking.

China Economic Review has the Port of Shanghai's 12.5 million TEU throughput for the first half of 2007. That is a lot of crap headed our way.

Shipping Times (UK) confirms that "Latest developments mean UK flag is no flag of convenience" - "UK Ships Register back in Qualship 21 and is top of the Paris MOU 'White List'" Sorry to burst their bubble, but the ITF's definition of a Flag of Convenience has nothing to do with safety:

In defining an FOC the ITF takes as its most important criterion whether the nationality of the shipowner is the same as the nationality of the flag. In 1974 the ITF defined an FOC as:

Where beneficial ownership and control of a vessel is found to lie elsewhere than in the country of the flag the vessel is flying, the vessel is considered as sailing under a flag of convenience. - ITF

The UK is not on the ITF FOC list, yet, but Bermuda and Gibraltar (a "Category 1" Red Ensign Group Register) are and they are part of the same family. More on the Red Ensign Group here.

Aftenposten (Norway) give us this story:
Dead whale causes a stink: The rotting cadaver of a dead whale was floating in a west coast fjord on Wednesday, sending a foul odor over the area while officials worried it could explode at any time.
There has been lots in the news about the impending invasion of rubber ducks to the UK and The Sun has the possible first find of one.

LiveLeak has video of a NATO UNREP Operation:



Never Sea Land has the story of three ladies making a crossing in the sea of Japan in bathtubs.

Mr. Boat Blog has what appears to be a squid attacking an unlucky fisherman who happened to catch it.

Haight's Maritime Items has:

Conference committee agrees to 100% container scanning - Senator Lieberman (D-CT) issued a press release stating that the conference committee on the 9/11 Commission legislation resolved several outstanding issues between the House and Senate versions of the bill intended to implement unfulfilled recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and strengthen the nation’s security against terrorism. With respect to the most contentious issue, the committee agreed to an amendment by Representative Thompson (D-MS) that would establish a five-year deadline for 100% scanning of all containers before they are loaded on ships bound for the United States, but would allow the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive that deadline as necessary. Text of the amended version of the Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007 (H.R. 1) is not yet available.

Commentary: (Dennis Bryant) While I am pleased that Congress is devoting some attention to maritime security, I remain troubled that politics has overtaken reality. The 9/11 Commission never recommended that 100% of containers bound for US ports be scanned prior to loading. Rather, it stated with regard to transportation security: “Hard choices must be made in allocating limited resources. The U.S. government should identify and evaluate the transportation assets that need to be protected, set risk-based priorities for defending them, select the most practical and cost-effective ways of doing so, and then develop a plan, budget, and funding to implement the effort.”

Congress has skipped over the risk-based evaluation, budgeting, and funding. It has proceeded straight to the politically expedient method of directing federal agencies to accomplish an impossible mission, while omitting the funding. Further, it is becoming increasing obvious that the technology behind the scanning effort does not work. Alice in Wonderland had a more coherent story line. (7/19/07). - Dennis Bryant Holland & Knight homepage (Used with Permission)

This is simply an idiotic idea. Keep in mind that not all cargo arrives into the US in containers. Not all of it arrives by ship either.

Fairplay Daily News has:

Cancelled leave led to suicide - DELHI 13 July – Indian ship owners are reported to be deeply concerned by news that senior managers at Shipping Corp of India have been implicated in the suicide of a ship's officer. The officer, Vivek Singh Bisht, is reported to have jumped from his ship in February this year. According to a complaint filed by one of his colleagues, Bisht committed suicide because he had been refused leave from October 2006 to July 2007. The issue has added a new twist to the debate about the worrying shortage of seagoing officers in India. As owners face an unprecedented shortage of officers, crews are denied leave to go home, creating tension among officers. India's National Shipowners' Association has expressed deep concern and says it fears the incident could set a precedent. INSA secretary general SS Kulkarni said the development has deeply troubled member companies. An SCI spokesman said denial of leave is quite common in the industry because of the looming shortage. - Fairplay Homepage (Used with Permission)


Arrests for fraud in rig repair scandal - BRASILIA 13 July – Federal police in Brazil are reported to have arrested 13 people suspected of fraud involving the contracts for the repair of two Petrobras oil platforms, the P-14 and the P-16. Among those arrested under Operation Deepwater are several staff from Petrobras itself as well as executives from the Maua Jurong shipyard. Carlos Alberto Aguiar, the federal prosecutor, says 26 people are, allegedly, involved in passing insider information on to prospective Petrobras contractors. Aguiar said his investigation centres on irregular payments to ghost companies, involved in repairing and constructing the state-owned oil company’s oil platforms. The two contracts under the investigator’s eye were for Reais60M ($32M) and Reais89M. Managers at Maua Jurong and oil-rig equipment maker Iesa allegedly received insider information about Petrobras through contractor Angraporto Offshore Logistica, said the prosecutor. Singapore-based SembCorp Marine, the world’s second biggest oil-rig builder, owns 35% of Niteroi-based Maua Jurong. It is not known what effect, if any, the police raids and arrests will have on the Reais564.5M contract given to Maua Jurong by Transpetro for the building of four product carriers. Yard directors have not responded to Fairplay's questions. The lawyer for four executives at Angraporto Offshore2003 said his clients “deny all the accusations".

Submissions for future editions:
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Sunday, July 22

Let Taiwan Join the UN

I have written about Taiwan's de-facto independence in the post "Taiwan is an independent Nation". However, it is truly independent in that it is not even a member of the United Nations, nor does it have official country-level relations with more than a handful of countries. This is entirely due to Communist China's demand that you can either have diplomatic relations with Taiwan or them along with their veto of Taiwan's attempts to apply for UN membership.

Reality forces most countries to choose China, including the US. One side effect of all this is that Taiwan is a place where almost nothing can be found to have been 'Made in China'. None of the politics however has stopped Taiwan from developing into a model first-world country. That says volumes about how beneficial UN Membership really is. The benefit seems to be in not having that International body chained around your country's neck.

Despite this, Taiwan has once again decided that it would like to apply for UN Membership.
Taiwan has submitted its first formal application to join the United Nations, a government spokesman has said.

He said an application signed by President Chen Shui-bian had been delivered to the UN Secretary General.

The Chinese foreign ministry immediately dismissed the move, saying it was "doomed to failure".

Taiwan has long campaigned to join the UN but all such attempts have been blocked by China which regards the island as a breakaway province. - BBC
Traditionally, the excuse to deny Taiwan's application has been China's demand that Taiwan is part of China. The UN and the Member States has gone along with this line of thought. The US has worked to protect against a Communist takeover of Taiwan going as far as selling substantial military equipment to the island along with pledges to provide equipment to defend it. However, it too has masked it's official relations with Taiwan. This is how the US apparently views the situation.
Our policy is based on the principle that there must be no use of force by China against Taiwan. We deny the right of Beijing to impose its rule on the free Taiwanese people. All issues regarding Taiwan's future must be resolved peacefully and must be agreeable to the people of Taiwan. If China violates these principles and attacks Taiwan, then the United States will respond appropriately in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act. America will help Taiwan defend itself. - Heritage Foundation
Why can't we just end this charade. While it is possible for Taiwan to join with Communist China, as China wants, that will only happen with the approval of the Taiwanese people. So why should those people be isolated for no reason other than Communist China's bullying and goal of eventual domination of the island-nation. Part of attaining that goal is keeping Taiwan isolated internationally.

The UN is not going to approve this application as the Chinese will veto it. So the driving force will have to come from the US or EU. The EU probably would not be able to get all it's member countries to agree to such an act, at least not as the first mover. That leaves the US. China-US relations are primarily driven by the US trying not to upset the Chinese while pushing for reforms. As a result, the Taiwan issue has been set aside as counterproductive. Since there has not been a payoff of any sort of substantial reforms in China, why not upset the apple cart?

What could the Chinese do in response?
  • Invade Taiwan? - Not likely as it would result in 1 billion unemployed Chinese. (or however many would be left it the shooting got serious.)

  • Undervalue their currency? - Well they are doing that now and despite pressure by the US to let their currency float they still manipulate it. Look at this post from last year where I graph that the Yuan-Euro exchange rate is mirroring the Dollar-Euro exchange rate.

  • Cuttoff exports to the US? - That would most likely hurt China much more than the US. They need the US market for their products, plain and simple. (I think that we will quickly manage to cope not having access to cheap crap. This might be the biggest reason for pissing off the Chinese.)
So maybe the US should have some behind-the-scene discussions with China asking them to think long and hard about what they consider really important. There is another factor that makes now an ideal time to sort out the Taiwan issue. That is the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. You see, while China might not be able to pressure the US to undue any formal recognition of Taiwan, it can however, move to punish other nations that do. But with the Olympics being hosted in China, that would quickly lead to a Chinese 'loss of face' if those nations boycott the Olympics in return. The Chinese are desperate to avoid any issue upsetting the Olympics.

Lets face it, if the Chinese had things stacked in their favor, they would take advantage of the opportunity. Darfur is a perfect example of that. Actually, now might be a good time to confront China on a number of issues besides Taiwan. How about Their defense of Sudan's actions in Darfur, Tibet and questionable weapons exports for starters. Then there is the whole issue of human Rights, pollution and even global warming.

The simple fact is that the 2008 Olympics will be a huge propaganda present for China. It will be impossible to obtain any concessions from them after the Olympics. So now is the time to right some longstanding wrongs. Taiwan is one of them.

So what are we waiting for?

Update: 26 July
I suspect that we will be seeing more people doing this over the next year:
Steven Spielberg, under pressure from Darfur activists, may quit his post as artistic adviser to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, unless China takes a harder line against Sudan, a representative of the film director told ABC News.

China, Sudan's largest oil customer and perennial defender, has come under renewed scrutiny in the lead up to the Olympics, as the country juggles its need for cheap energy with its desire to host a trouble-free games. - ABC News
Sudan is just one of many pressure points the Chinese are going to be pressed about by governments and activists alike.

Taiwan applies for UN membership - BBC

Taiwan is an independent Nation - 21 April 2005
Taiwan is an independent Nation: Update - 4 Oct 2005