Saturday, February 19, 2005

When the going gets tough, the tough go skiing

The Kyoto treaty came into force this week and the French media are not painting a pretty picture of the Bush administration. Here’s my translation of the first paragraph of an article from Le Monde, entitled “Reluctantly, Washington is forced to change”:

“The first Bush administration’s refusal to ratify the Kyoto protocol is one of the best examples of its indifference towards the US’s allies and partners. It took the president only three months after taking office in January 2001 to reject the treaty. The pretext – the same one that prompted Congress to refuse to ratify it in 1997 – was economic. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions would cost five million jobs nationwide. Washington believed, even hoped, that without its support, Kyoto would be doomed. Under the influence of the oil industry, the hostility of the Bush administration to environmental constraints was total.”

The article goes on to say that the administration has dismantled existing regulations, received significant campaign contributions from energy companies and cast doubt on the validity of global warming theories themselves. But public opinion in the United States is forcing the administration to change its tune, the article says, and at least pay lip service to global warming. Many Republican senators are coming round to the idea, and industrial companies themselves are realizing that sooner or later they will have to get serious about it.

The New York Times article from the same day, entitled, “Mixed Feelings as Treaty on Greenhouse Gases Takes Effect”, also highlighted this aspect, but the emphasis was on how European companies were less than enthusiastic, and even a little resentful, about implementing Kyoto, because Europe has already done a lot of work that other countries haven’t even begun to do. I had heard these criticisms here from other people (it comes up in translations). People complain about the quota system, too, saying that it’s unreasonable for it to be on a strict per-country basis.

In other news, following the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister, Condi Rice pointed out that the presence of foreign troops in the country was a destabilizing force. Hmmm. Both the US and France called for Syrian withdrawal. Politics makes strange bedfellows. Which reminds me, with the Syria-Iran link up, the axis of evil is indeed becoming an axis. Finally, John Negroponte’s new post is national intelligence czar. OK, I’m willing to give him a chance, he’s been a loyal servant of several presidents. But about his job selling the invasion of Iraq to the UN when he was the US ambassador there, his predecessor Richard Holbrooke said, “the only intelligence was bad”. In his new job, I hope he doesn’t make the mistake of thinking that “only the intelligence was bad”.

So many subjects, so little time. Almost makes me wish I weren’t going away skiing this week. But I am. Hey, this is France, and the snow-covered Alps are beckoning. See ya in a week or so.



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