Feb 262003
Authors: Becky Waddingham

Smashing, baby

When I think about Britain, I think about tea, the Beatles and William Shakespeare. I think about the Spanish Armada, the London Underground and 800 years of Irish oppression. And I think about how throughout most of our history, Britain has been a great friend to America.

Maybe most of all, I think about how British leaders have worked so closely with American leaders to shape world politics and effect change.

Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher come immediately to mind – and so does Tony Blair.

I used to absolutely love this man. He was like a British version of Bill Clinton, with his debonair yet simple style and forceful political speech. I liked his liberal politics and close association to our own liberal president.

After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Blair was the first to promise aid and friendship to battered and shocked Americans.

But in the last 18 months, the British prime minister has become less of a powerful and impressive liberal world leader and more of a lapdog for our impressively conservative and power-wielding president. How did he go from being Clinton’s drinking buddy to the trusted international ally of the most right-wing American leader since Ronald Reagan? What an about-face.

Not only are the British people increasingly upset about the possibility of war, Blair now faces major opposition from within his own party about whether or not to attack Iraq. Wednesday afternoon, Labour MPs (Members of Parliament) voted overwhelmingly in the House of Commons to reject Blair’s suggested course of action over Iraq.

The Labour government still won, though, and the House of Commons alone cannot stop a prime minister from going to war. But as the London newspapers put it, the 122-member “rebellion” showed how fracted the leading party has become, and how precarious Tony Blair’s position is within that party.

Blair must understand that his growing unpopularity will cause Labour to suffer in Britain’s next elections unless he begins to listen to the people and to his own party. Even more than anti-war Americans, Britons have made it known – loudly – that they do not support an invasion of Iraq.

It’s amazing how an increasing portion of each nation’s population grows ever more disgusted with a war before it even starts. It’s shocking how each country’s leader continues to ignore the sound of dissent, even as it increases in volume.

Blair will eventually figure out how much his relationship with Bush, a perceived warmonger, will hurt him. If not, he might not be around for the war at all.

Farewell, Pioneer

The Pioneer 10 spacecraft, a 31-year-old relic that was the first manmade object to leave the solar system, has fallen silent, NASA said Tuesday.

A decades-old satellite that lasted 29 years longer than it was supposed to is a great achievement for NASA. Pioneer 10 completely left the solar system in 1983, when it passed the orbit of distant Pluto. In its last transmission, a faint radio signal received Jan. 22, Pioneer was 7.6 billion miles away from home. The signal, traveling at the speed of light, took 11 hours and 20 minutes to arrive.

Because of Pioneer’s telemetry data, NASA scientists were able to learn about the asteroid belt, more closely examine our neighboring planets and understand the physics of our solar system.

The small craft carries a gold plaque with a message of goodwill and a map showing Earth’s location in the solar system. It is heading toward Aldebaran, a star in the Taurus constellation, which it will reach in about 2 million years.

I will always argue that the space program should remain one of the proudest accomplishments this country can boast. While it might sound flippant, even superficial after the Columbia tragedy, NASA should be pleased with the performance of this workhorse space probe. It is proof that the space agency can succeed and even rise above its own expectations.

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