Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hermeneutics Munster

What the heck does that mean? Besides further proof that Mr. Dilettante is fond of really obscure puns, that is. Well, first, let's talk about hermeneutics.

The definition of hermeneutics is "the theory and methodology of interpretation." Hermeneutics was, at least initially, a word that connoted interpreting Scripture. These days some of my more unhinged English major colleagues have appropriated the term and use it as part of the impenetrable academic fog that surrounds "texts," i.e., any written thing that they want to interpret. It could be "Hamlet," it could be Che Guevara's 1962 shopping list, it could be the Star Tribune's editorial page. Hell, let's make it the Star Tribune's editorial page.

Yesterday the Strib ran an especially funny editorial entitled "Sack Bolton, Or at Least Muzzle Him." Turns out that they don't like U.N. Ambassador John Bolton's tendency to make intemperate remarks about the U.N. and its inner workings. Bolton had the temerity to suggest that, because the member nations of the U.N. seem unwilling to reform their behaviors within the organization, and feel free to reject Kofi Annan's calls for reform, that the U.S. and others who bankroll the organization should have the right to withhold funds until better behavior is forthcoming. So, how to interpret this? Let's take a shot.

Bolton can be criticized, but Bolton cannot criticize. Stop it, Ambassador Bolton.
The U.S. can ask for reform, but if reform is not forthcoming, it should still pay up.
Bolton should shut up.
Diplomacy means "taking one for the team."
The team is not your employer (the Bush administration), but the U.N.
Shut up, Bolton!

See how easy it is? And anyone can play. Except John Bolton. He can just shut up.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Luap says, Awesome comments, sir! We must all remember not to speak evil about the U.N., because that is WRONG!! :o)

Anonymous said...

The Utter Dysfunction of the United Nations

It will take five minutes to read this and another five minutes to take action, proposed below. Please don’t ignore this, and please send it to friends and family. Your action could literally change the world.

Recently Mark Malloch Brown, deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, said that "Middle America" did not know how the US is constructively engaged with the UN because of UN detractors and too much unchecked UN-bashing and stereotyping over too many years. Friends, the UN deserves to be bashed and bashed hard.

Please allow us to give you a glimpse into how the United Nations is run:

Hirings and promotions routinely violate UN rules (and are illegal under most national laws) and revolve around patronage and whom one knows rather than professional qualifications. Poorly performing managers are simply moved into different management slots while others are placed in senior positions solely because of their nationality, or because of favors owed to them by their supervisors or colleagues.

Salaries for UN employees are free of taxes and come with six weeks vacation, 11 holidays, 10 sick days that are often used as vacation, plus 4 weeks of “home leave”, rental and housing grants to supplement an already generous salary (we all make an average of $7,000-$10,000 a month tax free), a pension at 8% of salary times years of service that can be cashed out tax free at any time, and educational subsidies for children of UN employees. Many also participate in an "alternative work schedule" in which they get every other Friday off. But don't even try to apply. Your application will not be acknowledged nor will you ever get invited for a job interview. You must know someone to work at the UN (or worse, sleep with them).

Several of us have advanced degrees in management and have been trained to manage large public organizations, yet we are blocked from advancing by bureaucrats in their 50s with no management training, education, or experience - only sitting in their chairs because they are friends with someone in a higher position. We threaten them because they know they are there based only on their connections.

And there is a profound lack of accountability within the UN regarding budget and resource allocation, resulting in loss of millions upon millions each year through skimming, graft and corruption. Simple procurement that would normally take five minutes using modern technology systems takes 2-3 months in the UN. And many United Nations Development Program country offices pay "local experts" outrageously high sums of money for products of dubious quality. Such contracts would never be made by other international aid agencies such as USAID that have much stronger internal controls and oversight.

We are all familiar with outrageous examples of scandals within the UN system, and yet time and again the scandal is covered up. In fact, a recent article on internal management in the Financial Times cited a UN-commissioned report released in 1994 that was remarkably damning and yet, as the article noted, nothing has changed which has led to this present crisis of credibility at the UN.

Despite its dysfunction, if the UN were actually making a difference, many would mutter to themselves but the UN deserves its strongest bashing because of its profound inability to respond to genocide, war, famine, natural disasters, and corruption.

Kofi Annan, current head of the United Nations who ironically lives in a mansion in New York worth about $10 million, was head of peacekeeping operations in 1994 in Rwanda when 800,000 people died. In 2004, he said "I believed at that time that I was doing my best" despite the fact that he held back UN troops from intervening to settle the conflict and declined to provide more logistic and material support to stop the slaughter.

And don't forget that ten years ago thousands of Bosnian Muslims were murdered by the Serb militias who were in a UN protected “safe haven” with hundreds of UN soldiers assigned to defend them. Yet the UN stood by while the entire adult and teenage male population was systematically butchered.

Kofi Annan was unable to stop mismanagement of the Oil-for-Food Program that allowed Saddam Hussein's regime to embezzle $4.4 billion through pricing irregularities and an additional $5.7 billion through illegal oil smuggling. And for several years Kofi's son Kojo received payments from the Swiss company Cotecna (while not even working there!), which won a lucrative contract under the UN Oil for Food program.

Kofi Annan protected Ruud Lubbers, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, against a report that found him guilty of sexual harassment by declaring him innocent. This created a global protest against Annan, resulting in Lubbers being eventually forced to resign, not because of his own egregious actions, but because he was starting to adversely impact Annan’s public image. By the way, Annan’s image is propped up around the world thanks to an $85 million dollar annual “communications” budget. What other modern corporation has two directors of communication like the UN doe - one for the UN “Secretariat” and one for the Secretary General.

Kofi Annan accepted a $500,000 prize from the ruler of Dubai, courtesy of a judges' panel full of U.N. cronies, one member of which Annan then appointed to a high U.N. job! By the way, Annan was advised to take the prize money by Malloch Brown who rents a home in Westchester County from his friend George Soros for $12,000 a month with a $287,087 annual salary.

Kofi Annan remains in power despite continuing sexual abuse scandals by UN peacekeepers. A 2005 internal UN investigation found that sexual abuse and forced pregnancies has been reported in at least five countries where UN peacekeepers have been deployed including the Congo, Haiti, Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire, and Liberia.

And Kofi Annan remains in power while genocide continues in Darfur, while Zimbabwe tailspins into despotism, while up to a third of the population of some African countries will die from AIDS, while government corruption keeps the poorest countries in starkest poverty, and while the U.N. Human Rights Council includes repressive non-democratic states such as Cuba, China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

Kofi Annan and Mark Malloch Brown arrogantly ignore the fact that the quality of life of several of us has come close to being destroyed because of the mismanagement, abuse, fraud and corruption.

Most who work for the UN are so used to its dysfunctionality that they have NO idea how sick the organization is or they are unwilling to come forward because UN labor laws and protections are abysmal. Coming forward to a kangaroo court will only result in firing or worse. Please refer to the recent report prepared by UK Barrister and Human Rights QC Geoffrey Robertson on behalf of UN Staff, which highlights the gross deficiencies of worker protections at the UN at www.iowatch.org - and read about so many more abuses at www.iowatch.org.

Adding insult to injury, the newly created OIOS (the new "independent" internal oversight panel established to "reform" the UN) has been strong-armed by Malloch Brown and is not independent because its meager budget comes directly from the UN, equal to about one-half of Annan’s annual PR budget! Thus all are dissuaded from within the UN from coming forward.

And what really happened at UNDP, the organization that Malloch Brown used to “lead”? Why would Malloch Brown leave his influential post as head of UNDP to spend a year defending the scandals swirling around Kofi Annan and then announce that he would resign when Kofi leaves at the end of this year? Because he royally mismanaged UNDP. Everyone at UNDP knows this but is too scared to share the details of what happened for fear of retaliation by Brown. But ask UNDP Country Directors and UNDP Practice Managers what happened under King Mark's reign and you will get a completely different picture of his mismanagement skills and bombastic ways.

Another example, in order to uphold their political neutrality, UN employees are expressly barred from political participation and yet UNDP employee Justin Leites was allowed to campaign for U.S. Presidential candidate John Kerry - with MMB's approval!

As the walls literally crumble down around them, those who work for the UN and citizens who believe in the founding principles of the UN have no understanding how bad it really is. Unfortunately, we encourage young people who are seeking a career in international affairs to avoid the United Nations at all costs. We wish there would come a day when we would no longer make this recommendation.

Of course the senior leadership of the UN try to hide the profound problems of the UN but shame on them for saying that Americans don't know or understand how the US is engaged with the UN. If you and everyone in Middle America truly understood what ails the UN, the US, which funds $3.3 billion annually or 22% of the entire UN budget, would shut off the money spigot yesterday.

And remember - the talk of “reforming the UN” has gone on for over a DECADE. In sum, the UN should be shuttered, allowing a brand new organization to emerge because the current UN is broken beyond repair.

Not much has changed since the UN was founded 60 years ago. The UN could have done much, much better in making the word a better place.

Make no mistake. This is about the future of YOUR world – a world of some 191 countries desperate for a better life for all their citizens. Don't let self-interested, incompetent middle-aged bureaucrat hacks – most raised and educated under dictatorships - determine the future of OUR world.

Please contact your two Senators and your representative to the House of Representatives by clicking here: http://www.house.gov/writerep/. Ask your Senators and Congressman to stop discussing "reform" of the UN. Ask your Senators and Congressman to create a NEW organization that can lead the world well into the 21st Century.

This is NOT a Democrats vs. Republicans debate. All Democrats and all Republicans should be able to easily agree that if deep, deep reform is not possible, the UN should be closed and a new organization should be created to truly make the world a better place.

This is a non-partisan issue! Please share this with family and friends and post it on your favorite blogs.

For more information, please contact Edward Patrick Flaherty at info@iowatch.org who represents UN employees including our views here.

Written by a concerned group of current and former UN employees.

Stinger said...

Wow, the 2nd entry here sure looks familiar. So, I Googled the headline to that entry, and I saw it word for word on a few different sites.

You know, even if one were to agree with the sentiment, that doesn't change the basic fact that plagiarism sucks. Write your own words, for crying out loud!! Stop spamming people!! I wonder if Kofi would stand for that?

As for the Strib's editorial, I brush it off. That paper is by and for liberal Minneapolitans, so editorials like this are like the sun rising in the east every morning...not a shock at all. The Red Star would rather have Michael Bolton than this Bolton being our ambassador. Think about it, he could croon Motown ballads at the General Assembly...badly, I might add, and the Strib would love it compared to anyone who might actually want to call the UN to task for anything.