Jan. 30th, 2003

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..."I believe the Bush administration is divided on Kofi Annan," says Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "Some people think he's an obstacle to the consensus they're trying to build, and others understand that he's doing his job and he's the best secretary general we've ever had, but he doesn't work for the United States."

The tension, in a way, is natural. Annan must represent the will of the majority within the 191-member General Assembly, which means the developing countries that make up the bulk of the U.N.'s membership. But he must also tend to the interests of the United States and its powerful allies of the wealthier world, as represented on the 15-member Security Council.

"We do understand he has to balance our interests and those of other members of the international community," says a State Department official. "He knows the U.S. is an important player. The U.N. needs the United States. We pay the largest share of dues to the U.N. And he knows that our opinion counts, and he has to be careful not to say something that could complicate issues."

The Iraq crisis has made Annan's balancing act more tricky. He is faced with a seemingly decisive global superpower preparing for war, versus an always-cautious United Nations, where armed intervention is a last resort.

In any situation of potential conflict, Annan says during an interview in his office, "you have to exhaust all possibilities of political and diplomatic settlement. Of course I do not rule out that there may come a time when use of force may be necessary. But you have to really make a genuine effort to resolve it without placing innocent people at risk."

It sounds almost like an apologia as Annan describes this strain.

"The U.S. has tremendous power in the world today and quite a lot of influence. And there are lots of things that it can do and does do. And there are many instances when it believes that it can take action and would want to take action. And the U.N.'s approach is very deliberative. They [U.S. officials] may even find it ponderous. . . .

"Obviously it's much easier if one country was to decide alone. But we live in an interdependent world, in a world where what happens in one country has an impact on others. . . . With that enormous power and capacity to act, the slow deliberative nature of the U.N. can be sometimes frustrating for Washington, and I understand that.

"Our agendas are not always different, but it is different on this particular issue," Annan says of the United States and the Iraq crisis. "There are shades of difference on this particular issue, and emphasis.

"The U.N's agenda is one of disarmament."

He pauses, clearly crafting his words, which he delivers like a gentle blow, his voice soft and even.

"Our agenda is one of disarmament. And the U.N. is not in the business of overthrowing governments."

...
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If George Bush's intensely awaited State of the Union speech had a subtitle, it would be "Dr. Schweitzer reaches for his rifle."

For weeks, a jumpy Capitol has been fretting over two questions: Would the president declare war in the House chamber with Congress and the diplomatic corps present? Or would he finally make the case for going after Saddam Hussein? He did neither.

For the first half of the speech, he painted a self-portrait of an almost stricken humanitarian, one who will confront challenges with "focus and clarity and courage." The economy? It is "recovering." Less-taxed Americans will invest and spend. Prescription drugs? Of course the elderly and poor can expect them. Patients might not like his medicine; they have to join HMOs and maybe give up favorite doctors. But he knows what's best -- for insurance companies and pharmaceutical firms. The social services that he has to slash to pay for his tax cuts? Not to worry: Big-hearted, patriotic volunteers will take up the slack. The environmentalists, who have been yapping at his heels because of his assaults on air and water, should be ashamed of themselves. He's proposing non-polluting hydrogen-powered cars.

His compassion reaches all the way to Africa, where he will take modern medicines to AIDS victims: "This nation can lead the world in sparing innocent people from a plague of nature." Could such a paragon of benevolence lead the world into the plague of war, which would disrupt or end lives and snarl the economies of several continents?

Yes, he could, and he plans to...
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HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER Tom DeLay's latest effort to reach out to African Americans began with a call to Armstrong Williams, conservative commentator and former Senate aide to Strom Thurmond. Mr. Williams describes the arc of the meeting like this: Mr. Williams said, "Enough, we have to do something about this lily white party," at which point everyone turned ashen and silent. Then House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert stepped in and said the party needed to find 200 black Republican staffers within two years. And Mr. Williams added, "Yes, we need black economists! Staff counsels! Heads of committees!" And Mr. DeLay topped it off with a vision of future black delegates at Republican conventions eventually leading to a surge of newly elected black Republican members of Congress.

Excuse us, but isn't this affirmative action? More specifically, isn't this exactly the kind of racial preference the Republican leadership has opposed in the University of Michigan case and, well, everywhere else? "We've always supported hiring the best possible talent regardless of race, gender or creed," said a spokesman for Mr. DeLay. Yes, but? He then explained that these black applicants would not necessarily be guaranteed jobs but would just expand the pool beyond friends of current staffers and that, anyway, no jobs were currently open.

Once again, as in President Bush's position on Michigan, Republicans want it both ways: pretending to be purists of race neutrality when it suits their political needs, but favoring and at times practicing some form of affirmative action when that seems more useful. They may call it "affirmative access" or "opportunities, not results" -- but whatever it's called, it is definitely not race blindness...
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One day after President Bush laid out his far-reaching domestic agenda in a nationwide address, Democrats and a few key Republicans raised serious questions about his vision for lowering taxes, restraining spending and changing the health care system.

Even though the president enjoys GOP control of both houses of Congress, a confluence of Democrats' rising anger and moderate Republicans' wariness is producing some of the biggest obstacles of his presidency. Senate Democratic centrists, who worked with Bush to enact tax cuts and education reforms in the past, are furious with the president's tactics in last year's elections and are refusing to work with him on key policies.

And with deficits soaring, many Republicans are sour on his plan to eliminate the double taxation of dividends and are worried that his Medicare plan could send federal spending to dangerous heights.

"There's no question there's a residue of bitterness [among Democrats], and it's going to be here for a while," said Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.). "There's a price to pay" for the partisan politics Bush often practiced last year.

To be sure, the president won rave bipartisan reviews for his calls for greater funding for programs helping AIDS victims in Africa and the Caribbean and for $1.2 billion to research pollution-free cars powered by hydrogen. He has also shown a remarkable knack throughout his political career for overcoming opposition by picking up enough Democratic votes to pass his policies and declare a bipartisan victory.

But, now, Bush is dealing with a Congress whose inter-party relations seem especially bitter.

He faces stiff and possibly insurmountable resistance to his plans to provide new vouchers for drug treatment by religious groups and to promote greater oil production in Alaska. A war with Iraq would consume precious money and political energy, greatly complicating passage of his domestic agenda, lawmakers say.

Bush burned many of his bridges to Democrats with his aggressive campaign tactics last fall against Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Max Cleland of Georgia. After Landrieu voted with Bush on tax cuts and his war resolution, the president's political team ripped into her record during her tough, but ultimately successful, campaign to win reelection in a December runoff.

More troubling to Democrats was the administration's treatment of Cleland, who lost two legs and an arm in Vietnam. The White House was deeply involved in a campaign that questioned Cleland's patriotism because he supported civil service protections for employees of the new Department of Homeland Security. Cleland lost his race.

"There has definitely been a cooling among moderate Democrats as far as working with the president," said Landrieu. "His call for bipartisanship was just empty words, and he made that crystal clear through his brutal tactics of the elections."


...

good rant.

Jan. 30th, 2003 01:27 pm
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There's a perfectly marvelous rant here, at Lemme 'splain.

edit: Read this and this too.
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The White House said Wednesday it postponed a poetry symposium because of concerns that the event would be politicized. Some poets had said they wanted to protest military action against Iraq.

The symposium on the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman was scheduled for Feb. 12. No future date has been announced.

``While Mrs. Bush respects the right of all Americans to express their opinions, she, too, has opinions and believes it would be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum.'' Noelia Rodriguez, spokeswoman for first lady Laura Bush, said Wednesday.

Mrs. Bush, a former librarian who has made teaching and early childhood development her signature issues, has held a series of White House symposiums to salute America's authors.



and just as soon as Mrs. Bush explains what qualifies her to be the chair of a literary symposium other than her position in the Bush White House and how she as a representative of her husband's administration is going to hold an event in the White House and have it not be in any way political or interpreted as lending the support of the attendees for their hosts, I'd be happy to deal with the "inappropriate" behavior of her guests.

I'd also like to hear how she expected to have a symposium on Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes and not talk about war, but I kind of doubt that's coming.

via his Boggness


*She was blacklisted for talking to Ladybird about the Vietnam war at a White House reception. Miss Manners, on the other hand, was banned from the Nixon White House for talking about Beverly Sills' bra strap.

whimper

Jan. 30th, 2003 03:05 pm
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“Holes in ice threaten to let greenhouse gas escape from the ocean’s depths
New Scientist vol 176 issue 2373 - 14 December 2002, page 17

LARGE areas of the methane-rich ice that covers part of the deep ocean floor are riddled with holes. The discovery means that the huge volumes of greenhouse gas locked up in the ice are in greater danger of being released into the atmosphere, with potentially disastrous consequences for the environment.

Some 10,000 billion tonnes of carbon are thought to be tied up in the underwater ice sheets as compounds called methane hydrates. The hydrates form when water containing natural gas freezes, trapping it inside. Hydrates are stable at the low temperatures and high pressures found in many parts of the deep ocean, but as climate change warms the oceans, scientists fear that the hydrates will eventually melt, releasing the gas and exacerbating global warming (New Scientist, 7 December p 21).


Now Warren Wood of the US Naval Research Laboratory at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and his colleagues have come up with evidence that the hydrate will melt far sooner, releasing the methane more quickly than previously thought. The team examined the structure of hydrates in the Pacific, off the coast of Vancouver Island in Canada, by aiming sound waves at the hydrate layer and listening for the echoes. From this, Wood concludes that the hydrate in the region is peppered with holes up to 100 metres in diameter (Nature, vol 420, p 656).

Because these holes increase the surface area of the hydrate by up to 3 times, the ice is far more likely to melt as the temperature of the sea rises.”


via Altercation

wow.

Jan. 30th, 2003 04:56 pm
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Sean-Paul at the Agonist has some words for the enthusiastic supporters of war.
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These are the words to an irish song, sung to the tune of When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again, about what happens when Johnny can't march any more.

Something to think about.

While goin' the road to sweet Athy, hurroo, hurroo
While goin' the road to sweet Athy, hurroo, hurroo
While goin' the road to sweet Athy
A stick in me hand and a drop in me eye
A doleful damsel I heard cry,
Johnny I hardly knew ye.

With your drums and guns and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo
With your drums and guns and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo
With your drums and guns and drums and guns
The enemy nearly slew ye
Oh my darling dear, Ye look so queer
Johnny I hardly knew ye.

Where are your eyes that were so mild, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your eyes that were so mild, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your eyes that were so mild
When my heart you so beguiled
Why did ye run from me and the child
Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye.

Where are your legs that used to run, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your legs that used to run, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your legs that used to run
When you went for to carry a gun
Indeed your dancing days are done
Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye.

I'm happy for to see ye home, hurroo, hurroo
I'm happy for to see ye home, hurroo, hurroo
I'm happy for to see ye home
All from the island of Sulloon
So low in flesh, so high in bone
Oh Johnny I hardly knew ye.

Ye haven't an arm, ye haven't a leg, hurroo, hurroo
Ye haven't an arm, ye haven't a leg, hurroo, hurroo
Ye haven't an arm, ye haven't a leg
Ye're an armless, boneless, chickenless egg
Ye'll have to put with a bowl out to beg
Oh Johnny I hardly knew ye.

They're rolling out the guns again, hurroo, hurroo
They're rolling out the guns again, hurroo, hurroo
They're rolling out the guns again
But they never will take our sons again
No they never will take our sons again
Johnny I'm swearing to ye.

With your drums and guns and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo
With your drums and guns and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo
With your drums and guns and drums and guns
The enemy nearly slew ye
Oh my darling dear, Ye look so queer
Johnny I hardly knew ye.
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