Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Houston Steve gave me a lift to the Sommelier Guild event yesterday evening. It was a pleasant enough drive: the sun was shining, the sky was blue with a few puffy cumulus adrift, and the day’s warmth was beginning to diminish with the approaching dusk.

Besides all that, we were in Houston Steve’s sporty little Honda S2000. It’s a sweet ride.

Both of us suffered a pang of envy as we passed a guy driving a vintage Austin-Healey. Now, that is a roadster. Temperamental and expensive, it’s nevertheless the picture of the British sports car, with a grille that almost appears to be grinning at you, fairly dripping with Poon-Attractant. I reminisced about my Snot-Nose Days, when one of our neighbors had purchased one. I still remember the awe with which we, the neighborhood Rug-Rats, gazed upon that car. As young as we were, we all knew that there was one hot little car.

Austin-Healey 3000 Mk II, 1962 model. Hoo, boy.

On the way, we talked - among many things - about the day’s events, which included Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to the U.N. By doing so, we risked spoiling our appetites...but we took that chance.

Ahh, the United Nations. It’s pretty much an irrelevant institution, given that every tinhorn idiot strongman with a country has a voice in the General Assembly. Viz: Mr. Ahmadinejad.

It’s useful to remember that the United Nations has several components. In addition to the General Assembly, there are the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council (including the IMF and the World Bank), the Secretariat, and the International Court of Justice. And, as Steve pointed out, some of those components are more useless than others.

The Security Council, with five permanent members (The United States, the U.K., France, Russia, and China) plus ten other members holding temporary seats. It’s really the part that matters, with the power to make decisions that member governments must carry out under the United Nations Charter. Given that the permanent members hold veto power and that there are typically no real consequences for violating resolutions, the Security Council never seems to be able to act decisively. Probably a good thing, on balance.

George Bush would love to see Japan added to the Security Council as a new permanent member, but it’s doubtful this will ever happen. India would be a much more likely candidate for an expanded Permanent Member roster, being the most populous democracy in the world. We’ll see what happens.

And then you have the General Assembly, composed of 192 member states as of this writing. With each state, no matter how thinly populated or stupidly governed, having the same one vote, it’s easy to see how useless this organization can become. Since resolutions of the General Assembly aren’t binding on the member states, it’s mostly a harmless echo chamber. “What about restricting membership to states with a democratically elected form of government?” I suggested. Steve responded that there would be little purpose in having a United Democratic Nations in which everybody would pretty much agree with one another...and I had to concede that he had a point.

The U.N. Human Rights Council? Now, there’s a joke for you. Never mind that the membership includes a number of states with (ahem) less-than-stellar human rights records - Cuba and Saudi Arabia leap to mind - the real joke is that only resolutions condemning Israel ever seem to emanate from the Council. That’s right: the only country in the Middle East offering any semblance of human rights. Never a single word about, say, North Korea. Or Afghanistan under the Taliban. Or Sudan. What a bunch of fucking hypocrites.

Houston Steve may have said it best. With the United Nations, as with any other prophylactic, the only way to test its effectiveness is to count its failures.

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