Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Trying valiantly...

...to republish today's post, which seems to have been eaten by Blogger.com. Working on it, though..

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The global trust

While your blogstress, with the rest of America, engaged in the distraction of pontificating on the Schiavo case, elsewhere in the world folks find themselves less concerned with the future of the U.S. Constitution (though they may want to ponder that), or the tragic circus into which Terri Schiavo's final days have devolved, than the implications of two critical appointments made by President Bush to international bodies: that of John Bolton to the post of U.N. ambassador and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to president of the World Bank.

It's hard to know which of these is more frightening. Bolton's background harkens back to the bad old days of the Nicaraguan contras--the army of thugs set up in the 1980s by the U.S. to topple the socialist Sandinistas--or Wolfowitz, a believer in the spread of "doable" wars, who has no background in finance or banking.

On the Bolton appointment, the Associated Press reports a chorus of concern from around the world now joined by some 59 former U.S. diplomats (yes, some are Republicans) who have signed a letter to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of that body's Committee on Foreign Affairs, asking for committee's rejection of the Bolton appointment:

The ex-diplomats have served in both Democratic and Republican administrations, some for long terms and others briefly. They include Arthur A. Hartman, ambassador to France and the Soviet Union under Presidents Carter and Reagan and assistant secretary of state for European affairs under President Nixon.

Others who signed the letter include James Leonard, deputy ambassador to the U.N. in the Ford and Carter administrations; Princeton Lyman, ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria under Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton; Monteagle Stearns, ambassador to Greece and Ivory Coast in the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations; and Spurgeon Keeny Jr., deputy director of the Arms Control Agency in the Carter administration.

Wolfie's revenge?

If, like your cybertrix, you fell behind on the many reasons to fear the ascension of Wolfowitz to the throne of the Global Trust*, Jude Wanniski's piece on Counter Punch is a must-read. It's hard for the opposition to dismiss Wanniski as some left-wing crank (though they no doubt will try), what with his background as a Wall Street Journal editor. Here's a taste:

One of the chief architects of the Iraq war, Wolfowitz is a political theorist, a 61-year-old man who spent most of his adult life at blackboards and lecterns teaching students about international politics. He may know how to operate an Automatic Teller Machine when in need of ready cash, but he knows absolutely nothing about banking. Wolfensohn, who was a New York investment banker before President Clinton named him to the post a decade ago, at least knows something about banking. His partner in New York, to which I suppose he will return, is Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, our nation's central bank. Wolfie the Warrior, by contrast, is the lifetime sidekick, even protégé, of Richard Perle, probably the most important intellectual in the service of the military-industrial complex. If you want to know how Professor Wolfowitz got the job, follow the money.

Read Wanniski on Wolfowitz, the World Bank and the military-industrial complex

The Beeb offers a more reserved take, but one worth reading.

Inside the trench coat

Until the courts and the pundits and the journos-that-be decide that bloggers really are journalists, your Webwench generally reserves the right to withhold full disclosure while blogging, though some may find it hard to imagine just what she might have left to expose. Here, however, she treats her readers to something of a flash, finding it necessary to report that she has indeed herself toiled in the service of the World Bank, for a year in the translation department applying her monolingual talents to administrative tasks and, in a later stint, as the editorial consultant on the edition of the 2001 Energy & Development Report that served as the Bank's presentation at the U.N.'s Rio+10 summit in Johannesburg.

With this admission, your net-tête hears the door slamming as a contingent of her devoted readers stalks out. To this she says, get real. Yes, the World Bank does many things of questionable value to the impoverished nations in whose economies it mucks around and, yes, it does some things that are outright rotten.

But the Bank is also full of good people who signed on to do good things, things that virtually no other institution has the means or the will to do. It was there that she met the energy specialist who brought electricity to off-grid areas of Asian jungles, sparing the lives of countless women who suffer horrible fates as the result of hunting miles for fuelwood with babies on their backs. It was there that she met a team leader who helped the people of a central Asian city produce a cleaner-burning indoor stove (of the sort that are used inside the cold-weather tents common to the region), lengthening lives and stimulating the local economy in the process. And it was there that she met people devoted to educating local people about the dangers of indoor air pollution and others who ran clinics designed to clean up the output of the two-stroke engines on the motorbikes of Thailand that had clouded the landscape with smog.

Now imagine what the Bank could do under the leadership of someone who, in lieu of building an empire, simply wanted to raise living standards around the world. If we all imagine together perhaps...well, maybe we can at least levitate the Pentagon.**

Oh, I forgot. Timothy Leary's dead.

*For an exploration of the word "trust" as used in this and other contexts, allow yourself a digression to Hendrik Hertzberg's Talk of the Town Comment on Social Security.

**From Camille Paglia, writing in Arion: "[At] the mammoth antiwar protest near Washington, DC, in October 1967, Yippies performed a mock-exorcism to levitate the Pentagon and cast out its demons. Not since early nineteenth-century Romanticism had there been such a strange mix of revolutionary politics with ecstatic nature-worship and sex-charged self-transformation. It is precisely this phantasmagoric religious vision that distinguishes the New Left of the American 1960s from the Old Left of the American 1930..."

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