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September 05, 2003
War and other problems

Ahhh...the pleasures of business. From time to time, you get to go spend the morning talking "collaboration concepts" over a restaurant breakfast with clients instead of, you know, coming to the office and slogging through the unloved work on your desk. It's a nice way to spend the first three or four hours of a Friday morning.

In many parts of this country, the word "reconstructon" is still a four-letter word. I think Iraq is going to have some sympathy with that position before long.

Other than that, I feel a moment of extreme annoyance at the repetition? confirmation? of the previously announced news that we allowed family members of one of the world's most famous terrorists to fly out of the country in the wake of 9/11 at the same time we were forbidding law-abiding citizens of this country to get near an airplane. (I know I first read this report a month or more ago...wish I could remember where.)

France is right. After spitting in "old Europe's" eyes before the invasion, this Administration is, indeed, now trying to jump-start Bush's re-election on the backs of those same countries.

The Administration as much as admits that they want to bail out on the unsatisfactory aftermath of their invasion before it becomes a campaign issue. Especially since, among the other issues, it's just possible that someone might ask them point-blank how they expected to fund the occupation of Iraq with one hand while handing out multi-million dollar tax-rebate gifts to wealthy friends with the other.

I mean, I doubt that any reporter lives who has the guts to ask that question in front of an open mike and certainly if the government suspects it might happen, we all know they'll refuse to be interviewed by that person, but it's not completely outside the realm of possibility that the situation might arise.

I'm absolutely in favor of access to health care for all citizens, but exactly how are we going to define "health care"? Is access to expensive in vitro fertilization (scroll down to NICE paragraphs) procedures a legitimate "health care" service? Is there some kind of fundamental right to reproduce that we should be protecting? Can someone who cannot afford the cost of getting pregnant afford to raise six children? (Multiple live births are such a common side-effect of in vitro fertilization that such questions have to be considered, I think.)

I find myself seriously wondering who the customers of the Italian winery are who find Hitler's picture on the label an inducement to buy.

I oppose this. I oppose most "pre-kindergarten" programs. I have an intense dislike for this trend of regimenting toddler education so that these wee ones walk into kindergarten reading, writing, and 'rithmaticking like fifth-graders. What's wrong with letting tiny children just be children? Is it not enough that from the age of six to sixty-six, they're going to be part of the production-oriented machine of society? Is it really necessary to start indoctrinating them at the age of three?

And, speaking of stupid ideas, who is it in the White House who's got the rest of them sold on the power of positive speech? They actually seem to believe that if they just keep saying everything is getting better all the time, things will, in fact, get better without any other action being taken. (And is there anyone left in Washington who's going to buy into the magical rejuvenation powers of a third round of massive tax cuts at a moment when tens of billions of dollars worth of unfounded debts are piling up in front of them.)

600,000+ since the first of the year. That's pretty much what August's layoffs bring us to. Over half a million jobs lost since Bush started "improving" economy.

2.7 million jobs lost in the manufacturing sector since mid-2000. 2,700,000

One "war" supposedly won and subsequently being lost inch by inch for lack of proper attention.

Another "war" being lost in full view of the voting public as report after report proves that the Administration never had a half-way decent idea of what they were going to with the country once they'd signed the Halliburton contracts after the initial invasion was over.

Corporate scandals. Enron, Andersen, Worldcom, Global Crossing, and others. Everything from careleless stupidity to outright criminal fraud.

Do you ever have days when you wonder if the Frat Boy In Office regrets calling in Daddy's Supreme Court markers to get himself appointed president?

And just how far to the Right has this country shifted, anyhow? So far that, as this article points out. our Left wing is now sitting somewhere to the right of Nixon on some issues. (No wonder that studies show that a disproportionate percentage of the millions of non-voting citizens are liberals.)

Posted by AnneZook at 01:01 PM | Comments (7)
September 04, 2003
The United Nations

Is the UN a failure?

UN fails to rally Sierra Leone force
U.N. Fails to Censure Sudan's slavery
United Nations fails in Angola
UN fails to guarantee justice and human rights in East Timor
Un Fails To Agree With Taliban On Bread For Poor
UN fails to wrap up genocide trials deal
UN fails to protect the displaced in Angola
UN fails to resolve Kashmir dispute
U.N. Fails to Condemn Rights Abuses
UN fails to agree on date to tackle North Korea
UN fails to secure border
UN Fails To Act On Gay Rights Proposal

I've been among those complaining that we should work with the U.N. instead of, you know, unilaterally invading other countries and stirring up a hornet's nest of hate against the USofA

It's hard to find details of the inner workings of the U.N., but I've been looking into their recent history.

Human Rights Abuses Rampant at United Nations-Run Mental Health Facilities in Kosovo, Finds New Report

Rape and sexual assault, physical violence, gross neglect and other human rights abuses are widespread in United Nations-run institutions for people with mental disabilities in Kosovo, according to a new report by Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI), "Not On the Agenda: Human Rights of People with Mental Disabilities in Kosovo" will be released at a news conference...

Kosovo has dropped out of the news headlines but there was a time, not that long ago, when the USofA public seemed to care about what happened there.

A Miasmia of Corruption: The United Nations at 50

by Stefan Halper, a former White House and State Department official, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

>Executive Summary

The United Nations is under increasing attack by critics in the United States and other countries. At the heart of the organization's mounting problems is an almost total lack of accountability, which gives rise to suspicions of wholesale corruption. Existing evidence indicates that corruption and mismanagement go beyond the routine fraud, waste, and abuse of resources that mark all public-sector enterprises.

UN budgets are shrouded in secrecy, and the actual performance of the myriad bureaucracies is translucent, if not opaque. There is no reliable way to determine whether the various and often competing specialized agencies (at least two dozen UN agencies are involved in food and agricultural policy) are doing their jobs, and many UN activities, even if they are of some value, can be carried out better and more efficiently by other groups. Other activities should not be undertaken at all. Available evidence coupled with the United Nations' unwillingness to undergo a thorough audit raise serious questions about its mission and the means used to carry it out. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's rationale that the world body is accountable to all its 185 member-states is meaningless. Such an amorphous standard of accountability is akin to saying no one is responsible.

The United Nations is in dire need of reform, starting with a comprehensive, independent audit. Even if a complete audit were performed, however, there is no guarantee anything would be done about the problems identified. And radical change may not be possible, no matter how obvious the need. Given all the earlier, failed attempts to put things right, even on a limited basis, optimism about meaningful reform may be an exercise in wishful thinking.

I think it's unquestionable that this organization needs to be changed if, indeed, and as I've heard from more than one source, the money paid by each nation is simply...spent. With no accountability, no requirement to produce anything in the way of results and, in fact, little in the way of definite outcomes actually defined most of the time.


Large forests must have been chopped down to make enough newspapers for the stories about the UN conference on racism in Durban S Africa. The journalists wrote about the Middle East, Israel, slavery and the US-Israel pullout from the conference. The real story behind these stories was not covered. Maybe it was not politically correct. It is a story of how the UN itself came to organize this conference. What motivated the UN to organize a conference that was clearly designed to agitate hatred towards the US, Israel and other western countries and then to extort $billions from many of these countries because of slavery that occurred 200 years ago?

There is no parliament or opposition at the UN and they cloak their ambitions in the guise of human rights -- which to those living in dictatorships means exactly nothing.

The general assembly has 53 voting members from Africa compared to 3 voting members from North America. Therefore not only can these developing countries claim the moral high ground but they can also dictate the schedule of UN events -- conferences on racism, millennium assembly, the Earth Charter, the International Criminal Court. They also want the UN peacekeepers to solve their political problems and be involved in the various civil wars in Africa -- 30 wars in 30 years. They are not pleased that the Americans, the Canadians and other peacekeeping countries have pulled out of Africa. This displeasure and hatred is displayed continually in a hundred ways at the UN but is seldom if ever published in the media. It is not politically correct. It was on full display at Durban.

This UN conference demonstrated once again that the United Nations has now evolved into an organization of pressure groups and rogue nations with a clear mandate to disturb and agitate global events. These groups and countries claim the righteous moral high ground because they are mostly dictatorships where a loud dictator can distract people from their real issues of poverty, AIDS, famine, disease and hunger. These Third World dictatorships by themselves are insignificant but organized as a group at the UN, they may influence unknown future global events. It could be compared to playing poker with a mafia kingpin. You just don't know what is going to happen but you know it will not be good. If you are politically correct you will let him win everything.

If, as it appears, the General Assembly of the UN has turned into a rogue organization, then this organization should be curtailed before it is allowed to upset peaceful global events. Democracy should be a requirement for membership in the UN.

I'm not way impressed with the hatemongering here but there are a few nuggets worth considering.

Like the USofA, the UN is a representative body.

Unlike the USofA, there's no system of checks and balances. Aside from the Permanent Security Council members, I'm unaware of any attempt to construct an actual, workable political body out of the UN members. Purely population-based (or country-based) membership does, in fact, give a larger voice to those small countries who choose to band together. That wouldn't be as bad if they were banding together to demand that the UN do good in the world, but is that what happens?


The concept of the United Nations was initially sold to the world as an assembly that would act as a goodwill ambassador in the resolution of conflict between sovereign states. Unfortunately nowadays, despite the platitudes and words, the UN seems inclined to dominate the world and extort billions from developed countries.

There is no parliament or opposition at the UN and they cloak their ambitions in the guise of human rights -- never individual rights. They want the UN peacekeepers to be involved in the various civil wars in Africa -- 30 wars in 30 years. Even though they want these UN soldiers to be called peacekeepers, they want them armed to the teeth with the most modern weapons -- even tanks.

Developed nations began scaling back their participation in UN peace missions following UN failures in Somalia and Rwanda in the early 1990s. This has caused bad feelings within the UN.

My memory is letting me down. I just don't know enough about the history of these conflicts to make a judgment. I do know that USofA involvement in African countries has far too often developed as the actions of private corporations seeking profit. Overthrowing governments, repressing rebellion, and other charming pasttimes, you know, but the UN's involvement is something I don't know the specifics of.

Choosing Engagement - Uniting the U.N. with U.S. Interests. William H. Luers.


First, however, the United Nations must honestly assess its own strengths and weaknesses. Limits on its efficiency partly stem from its multinational character. The 188 member states reduce General Assembly activities to interminable speech-making, while their demands for a quota of U.N. jobs hamper the secretary-general and other agency heads in selecting staff according to merit. But there are signs of genuine reform. A recent report from the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) gives high marks to Secretary-General Kofi Annan for improving the quality of staff and putting in place effective management practices. The U.N.'s financial weakness severely limits its capacity to respond to new challenges and prepare for unanticipated ones. At American congressional insistence, for example, the U.N. Secretariat's budget has been frozen at about $1.3 billion for the past four years. After accounting for inflation and delayed or defaulted payments by the United States and other nations, this means that the U.N. has far fewer funds to meet greatly expanded obligations.

Much of the financial weakness undermining the U.N. could be cured by a unilateral U.S. decision to pay its dues. Arrears in U.S. peacekeeping funds make up the lion's share of Washington's U.N. debt. These arrears largely result from the chronic skirmishes between the executive and the legislative branches. Both branches agree that a reduction in the U.S. assessment for peacekeeping must be achieved but differ on the strategy by which to achieve it. Despite recent efforts to improve coordination on peacekeeping needs, Congress has held up more than $200 million in peacekeeping monies for 2000 that was already in the budget that it had appropriated. Moreover, it seems likely to approve for the 2001 budget a sum substantially below what will be required for next year's higher peacekeeping costs. A large portion of the arrears ($658 million) that a Senate agreement was to settle -- provided that the U.N. members met American conditions -- will go to reimburse other states for their troops' role in peacekeeping operations.

If we've committed the money, we should pay it, but do we actually want to put funding an organization who refuses to account for their expenditure of the funds front and center while we so desperately need the twelve bucks Bush left us in tax revenue to fund several billion dollars worth of domestic projects?

Don't Take the UN Too Seriously

In their speeches before the United Nations both President Bush and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, in different ways and probably for different purposes, made a couple of mistakes that could easily come back to bite them. The chief mistake was to take UN resolutions and statements by diplomats and political leaders too seriously, too literally. World affairs are always greased by a certain level of hypocrisy, by a reasonably shared understanding that most of the participants donít really mean what they are saying. If they did, they would probably make even more mischief for those over whom they claim authority than they do already.

Ponder these ideas while I go teach two people to use a system I spent two months documenting and still don't quite understand myself.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:01 AM | Comments (1)
September 03, 2003

What shall we chat about today?

Yet another report of the USofA's undiplomatic diplomatic technique?

Are such reports, in fact, indicative of the current Administration's failure to assign people with a modicum of tact to the diplomatic service or has international "diplomacy" become such a carousel of lying, misdirection, and polite avoidance that someone who speaks bluntly and without euphemism capable of sending shockwaves through the international community?

Really, you could argue either side of that one successfully.

Is it a sign of real change if Latin American countries begin to call people to account for their misdeeds? Is this a new trend? Will USofA politicians someday have to worry about being made to account for the evil they commit in the name of...whatever purpose it is they think they serve?

Interesting thought. Clinton's impeachment, I need hardly say, would never have gone through on the grounds of perjuring himself over the precise semantic meaning of "having sexual relations" although he might well have found himself in slightly warmer water for other financial missteps that were unaccountably 'lost' in the wheeler-dealer atmosphere of Washington.

We protected our buddies in Saudi Arabia from any distasteful investigation into exactly why the vast majority of the 9/11 hijackers were of Saudi citizenship, and how do they thank us? By making deals with Russia to control the price of oil. We killed thousands of Iraqis and sacrificed hundreds of USofA soldiers in an attempt to deflect attention from prominent Saudi citizens directly financing terrorist organizations, and this is how they reward us? There's just no gratitude any more.

For reasons that will no doubt be made manifest at some later date, one of the Texas 11 has abandoned his fellow Democrats, endangered the quorum-busting sit-out, and fled back to the arms of the establishment. Will some intrepid reporter follow this man's career and let us know if, in a few months or a year or so, he suddenly becomes heir to a windfall from a lucky business deal or the death of some obscure, untraceable relative? Or even if he swaps parties and winds up in higher office in the near future?

Matthew Rothschild thinks Bush is a Bad Man. While he's discussing it, he reveals that the USofA's history shows we've never precisely been on the side of the white hats.

I think, if you read the science reports carefully and sift through the information...well, it looks like those guys wearing the aluminum foil helmets are right. The human race was, in fact, seeded on the planet by some starfaring, alien species. Well do I remember that survey class on Geography I took during my sophomore year. Well do I remember the explanation of soil layers and the demonstration of how much damage to this fragile balance the single, human footstep does. Every. Single. Thing. We. Do. on this planet damages it. Face it. We're not a part of the natural ecology of the place at all.

I'm just really not in the mood for these idiots today.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:11 PM | Comments (0)
September 02, 2003

It's a topic that comes up from time to time and I always like to add to the body of knowledge (so to speak) on the subject of the latest appearances.

Fandom is not, as some believe, limited to prepubescent girls joining fan clubs for pop stars or people sporting Spock ears and practicing that Vulcan nerve pinch. It's found in all areas of life.

Men who would scorn to explore the emotional subtleties of a Merchant Ivory film by joining a group dedicated to discussing the nuances of the script and performances will spend hours a week for months on end playing "fantasy" sports games. What is that but fandom?

Women who would draw their metaphorical skirts aside to avoid being contaminated with an obsession over a television show will join on-line discussion groups with a preoccupation about embroidery patterns. It's just fandom.

Anyhow. The latest outbreak is in the world of art where a guy named Seward Johnson (Or something. It's hard to get the names right from the radio when you're fighting rush-hour traffic), one of the heirs to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, is gaining establishment acceptance for his particular fannish obsession.

It seems that Mr. Johnson has decided that great Impressionist works by painters such as Renoir should be turned into...wait for it....interactive dioramas.

He recreates scenes from famous pictures and the viewer is encouraged to wander into the space to see details not included in the original painting and to view the scenes from other than the artist's perspective. That's the bit that distinctly identifies this as a fannish obsession, the bit where he adds his own interpretations to the work.

"I am recreating the artistís subject, not his work," Johnson explains. "The artist painted only part of what he saw. What is beyond his frame is my territory. I have a tremendous amount of fun deciding what else to include."

If he wasn't a multi-multi-millionaire, he'd be just another fanboy.

These life-sized 3D renditions open in the Corcoran soon and the exhibition will be traveling to (one presumes) a limited number of other museums.

I have a passion for Impressionist art, but I'm not sure I'd go see Johnson's toys even if they showed up in Denver. (On the other hand, I'm looking forward to visiting the "Sargent in Italy" exhibit at the Denver Art Museum this weekend.)

Posted by AnneZook at 01:27 PM | Comments (3)
Monday's Mixed Bag

I largely avoided newscasts over the long weekend, so it was a surprise to me that a giant asteroid might be headed our direction.

I should start using that feature that sticks most of my posts behind that more>>> link. It's supposed to make the page look all tidy. I've considered it, but considering the untidy nature of my mind, it almost strikes me as false advertising.

While thinking people continue to try to explain that low-wage work isn't a stepping stone to riches but, instead, the pit that swallows up too many USofA workers, I heard coverage of a Bush speech on the radio this morning where he vowed that the USofA wants to compete with third-world countries to get our manufacturing jobs back. We don't want anything but a level playing field, he claimed. Since it's unlikely that GE or Dow or any of the conglomerated giants are going to start paying workers in Pakistan $12/hour, the only way to achieve that is to lower our bottom-rung wages down to fifty cents a day. (Let's also take a moment to scoff at his disingenuous outrage over the "thousands" of manufacturing jobs that have been lost in this reception. Although I suppose, we should be scoffing at his semantics instead, since 2.5 million is, indeed, many, many "thousands.") By the way, Bush's half-witted plan to "increase manufacturing jobs" involves increasing the size of government. Okay, only by one assistant secretary, but still. That's not very small-government Republican of him, is it?

And where are they going to get the money to pay for 5,000 more 'air marshals' when they recently laid off a slew of them for lack of funds?

(And, by the way, there is really no good reason on earth why the number of 'air marshals' should be classified information. It's just stupid and, further, it sets a bad precedent. I don't want anything about these new 'homeland' security procedures out of the public eye. I don't trust any of the people responsible for implementing the legislation. I want their hands on the table, in plain sight, all the time.)

I should create a new category for "stories you won't see in the USofA medial. Here's the first entry.

I'm not surprised by a backward, religion-infested community that says women invite rape by wearing lipstick. A year ago I'd have been outraged to realize that kind of thinking still existed in the world but the sad thing about today is that I've heard so much worse, this barely moves me.

From the Denver Post, something I didn't know, namely that Colorado Democrats did not, in fact, tamely roll over and play dead when Colorado Republicans pushed through the kind of redistricting that has Texas in the national spotlight.

Let's put Iraq Fallout Unnerves Bush Re-Election Team under "headlines I like to see first thing in the morning."

John Paul Getty, like many rich and influential people of the time, seems to have been a fervent admirer of Hitler's.

I'm in favor of on-line archives, especially those to specialized bodies of material I probably wouldn't have access to any other way. I appreciate the people who dedicate themselves to projects like this one. I've bookmarked PaperOfRecord.com and I look forward to seeing how it continues to develop.

Read this.

Bob Herbert says we need a time-out. I agree and I'm going to take one right now. After a three-day weekend, it behooves me to pretend to a slight interest in the work I'm paid to do.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:11 AM | Comments (0)