Our UN correspondent Ian Williams writes: Kofi Annan has unveiled what his spokesman rightly calls a “doable” set of reforms. Those that will attract the most attention, such as a proposed enlargement of the Security Council, are not necessarily the most important. Indeed, there is also a danger that the developing nations–particularly the African states–encouraged by the media, will get bogged down in the question of who sits on the Security Council rather than addressing the more important questions of what the council and the General Assembly should do about major issues like security, poverty, development, AIDS and malaria. In an attempt to win global support Annan offered something for everyone on human rights, democracy, terrorism security and development. He envisions a Human Rights Council that would be smaller and more effective than the current model and that would exclude repeat offenders from membership. However, he may have been too trusting of the Bush Administration’s claims of concern about democracy and human rights, given recent appointments establishing the dominance of the faith-based faction, with its reflexive antipathy to all multilateral endeavors. The White House may seize on Annan’s call for nations to commit 0.7 percent of their GDP to overseas aid and for renewal of the Kyoto Protocol as excuses to renege on US rhetoric about democracy and human rights. The make-or-break date for the proposals will be September, when there will be a global summit for heads of state to celebrate the UN’s sixtieth anniversary.


The Congressional hearings on steroid use in baseball turned into an orgy of self-promotion as committee members told gushy stories about their love of the game. After eight hours of this, six subpoenaed multimillionaires delivered pointless testimony. Home-run champ Mark McGwire promised to use his influence to discourage kids from taking steroids and told the committee, “What I will not do, however, is participate in naming names and implicating my friends and teammates.” Although slammed for stonewalling questions about his own drug use, McGwire took a position in the tradition of noncooperating witnesses in the witch-hunting 1950s who refused to implicate others for personal advantage. And José Canseco, who wrote a tell-all about big-leaguers’ drug use, inherited the role of money-grubbing snitch.


Permanent Minority

. Six Senate Democrats joined Republicans in voting against a measure to preserve soldiers’ minimum bankruptcy protections from debts incurred when they leave better-paying jobs for service in Iraq.

Toward the Majority.

West Virginia Representative Alan Mollohan is sponsoring a resolution to force the GOP to restore ethics rules it gutted earlier this year. The resolution, which is peeling off some GOP support, would allow the ethics committee to proceed with an investigation of corruption allegations against majority leader Tom DeLay.   –DAVID SIROTA