Space are heroes

space are heroes
Seated in front are astronauts Rick D. Husband (left), mission commander; Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; and William C. McCool, pilot. Standing are (from the left) astronauts David M. Brown, Laurel B. Clark, and Michael P. Anderson, all mission specialists; and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist representing the Israeli Space Agency.

All those who venture into space are heroes. They represent everything that is valued in our species—courage and daring, passion and compassion, intelligence and intellectual curiosity, strong hearts and beautiful souls. They are our most precious selves; the best that humanity has to offer.

From all nations they come, eager to volunteer and join in the greatest adventure of our time. We live through them. We watch them rise to the heavens on a chariot of fire and then, at the end of their mission, glide gracefully back to Earth. So effortless do these conquering giants make their work seem that we forget the danger of it. Risk becomes routine.

But space is still a realm of great peril. We must pay for our intrepid nature, and we must pay dearly. The Columbia seven were the prodigal sons and daughters of us all. We ache at their loss, and grieve for their families—for if their deaths are painful to us, how much more so must it be for those who knew them so well.

There will be an investigation into the causes of this tragedy so that this precise failure will not happen again. This is necessary. There will also be calls to abandon the great projects of space exploration. Many will say it is too dangerous, too expensive. But what would the heroes of Columbia and Challenger say to them, if they could? “Press on,” they would plead, “more missions, more funding, more opportunities are needed, not less.” We honor them with renewed commitment and faith. We make sure in this way that their lives were not lost in vain.

The seven men and women of the Columbia will live on in our hearts, and in the annals of space exploration. They will not be forgotten.

How politics affects the currency markets

The Forex market moves over $5 trillion a day. It is a massive market and there are many different types of players, given the size one would believe that no person or institution could move such an extensive market, but for those that don’t know the Forex market they have a lot to learn. The currency market is affected strongly by  the dollar fluctuation, as over 80% of the majour currency pairs have the dollar on the other side. Understanding the various political situations around the world could shield traders against abrupt movements that could lead to a loss in their account. It is important also to have a good source of news, Borkers like tickmill offer news updates on their blog.

 

War

warWar affects currency all over the world, and how these are traded on the Forex market. War affects currencies as the currency is a reflection of an economies health and a war could shift the focus of a country from production to destruction, creating losses and deep spending for reconstructing the country, and no taxes being collected during the reconstruction phase. To make matters worse wars, normally, do not have a time frame and affect production, growth thus the countries currencies for long periods of time, creating big shifts in the currency Markets.

Peace

With that being said about war, those who trade on the forex market also take note of peace and peaceful countries. The countries that stay peaceful in times of war are often seen as stronger countries. They are seen as stable because they are staying out of the war and out of any conflict. Forex traders look for stable countries when the currency they have is in an unstable one to be sure that they do not lose out on their investments.

Allies

Each country chooses it’s allies, but allies can affect a country’s economy  and and how they traded. The wrong allies can create enemies among the global powers, wrong allies can also create bad investment opportunities that can affect investments leading to economical losses. Allies should create strength and not weaknesses, thus it is important picking allies extremely carefully.

Enemies

Enemies can cause countries to loose foreign investments. If your enemy is a big economy, like in a situation of a trade embargo, the country will fall short of external investments and this affects the economy as investors are not willing to take risks in countries that are unstable, and that do not have trading partners to support their economies. Investors look at the relationships between countries and if these are not healthy and the economy is weak, the same investor could trade against the economy trading down the currency. Strong countries are seen as safe havens and safe investments

Janet Yellen

Last but not least the Federeal reserve bank Chair, Janet Yellen. She is one of the most influential people in the Forex market, and has the power to erode billions from economies. Every time she has a press conference and mentions an interest rate hike or interest rate cut this could easily swing the markets either way affecting economies and businesses all around the world that trade in USD, or that account in Dollars. This also affects economies that have deposits in dollars, to weather out periods of weaknesses.

The Nature of the U.N.

Next week the United States and Great Britain will go back to the United Nations Security Council once again and try to persuade the other member nations to enforce resolution 1441, which the Council has not only passed, but passed unanimously. Some may find the whole situation rather curious, because the U.S. and G.B. seem to be attempting to convince other Security Council members of the patently obvious — that Iraq is not fully complying with Security Council Resolution No. 1441. This resolution states:
The government of Iraq shall provide to Unmovic [the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission], the IAEA, and the Council, not later than 30 days from the date of this resolution, a currently accurate, full, and complete declaration of all aspects of its programmes to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons

Resolution 1441 finishes by saying that “the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations.” Even the inspectors, which have clearly disagreed with the U.S. and U.K. on many substantitive issues, and therefore can hardly be called a pawn to our interests, have stated that Iraq has yet to fully comply. The Iraqi regime has also violated other specific provisions of 1441. For instance, Iraq was to provide all scientists and others involved with WMD programs for private interviews at the request of the inspectors. Stories like this one, Iraq defies weapons inspectors, from London’s Daily Telegraph have been numerous. Iraq has failed to comply fully, completely, and immediately as clearly stated in 1441.

So why is there a discussion? The facts are quite clear. Iraq is not complying with either the spirit or the letter of 1441. The resolution was passed unanimously. Why are the members of the Council unwilling to state the obvious and then call for enforcement?

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Frustrations like these betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the U.N., and of the Security Council in particular. If one starts with the assumption that the Council is made up in a way similar to the U.S. Supreme Court — wise men chosen through a democratic process who are then free to make their best judgment on what lies before them — then the actions of the Council are nearly incomprehensible. This is how many of the people who are wrongly stating that all war without U.N. approval is immoral or illegal see the Council. They see the Security Council as a body of men who are chosen by the world to represent the world’s interests. This is not the case.

The men on the Security Council are not appointed to a position like the Justices in the American Supreme Court. They are mere mouthpieces for the governments they represent. They are not free to see evidence before them and then make informed judgements. Witness the reactions to Colin Powell’s recent evidentiary statement before the U.N. — the responses to his statements by many nations were written out beforehand. Therefore, it was quite clear that it didn’t matter what Mr. Powell had to say. The positions of the various members of the Council were already decided ahead of time, and they were dictated to them by their home governments.

Those who believe in the concept of the U.N. Security Council as the ultimate arbiter on when force ought to be used and when it should not might still say “Well, Okay, so the individuals on the Council may not be free to vote their conscience, but what’s really important is the fact that they still voice the will of the international community by speaking for the individual nations.” This brings me to my second point, and, I think, the heart of the matter. One cannot represent an individual nation and the international community. France serves as an excellent example of why this is so.

Is the will of France the same as all of Europe? Is the will of France that of India? Nations like France have a lot to gain from continuation of the current Iraqi regime. Despite the murderous nature of the regime, France has made multi-billion dollar oil contracts — contracts which could very well be null and void with the fall of the regime. There is a great deal of suspicion that France has sold prohibited dual-use building blocks for banned weapons. This would all come out if the regime were overthrown, and something which would destroy French credibility on these matters. After all, it would be shown that they were breaking Council resolutions which they themselves voted for. Many might begin to ask whether India, the world’s largest democracy, would be more appropriate as the fifth permanent member of the Security Council. France has a lot at stake. France will vote its own interest, notwithstanding the flowery speech of Mr. Villepin to the contrary.

The U.N. has become nothing more than the thinly-veiled pursuit of narrow national interests in the guise of a democratic world body. The moral authority of the U.N. is an illusion. The members of the Security Council do not represent the world. In many cases (such as China) they cannot even be said to represent their own countries, because their governments, in turn, are not legitimately representative of their own people. The will of the U.N. is flouted by countries when it is convenient to their interests. To use France again as an example, this would include selling materials to Iraq which were proscribed by U.N. resolution. It would also include bombing Serbia and taking military action in the Ivory Coast without U.N. authorization. However, when it suits its national interest, France will cry out that all U.S. action is immoral if not done through the U.N. — where, conveniently, France holds a veto.

There was hope when the U.N. was founded (by the United States) that it would become a body truly representative of the world and gain the authority to prevent war by confronting would-be tyrants and conquerors with the united will of the international community. Sadly, human nature, and thus the nature of nations made up of men, does not change. What we have seen lately at the U.N. is nothing more than age old power politics between nations, but in the venue of the U.N. Let us all remember to see the world the way that it is, not the way we wish it to be.

Gorton Feels Pain of Impeachment

WASHINGTON – Although Sen. Slade Gorton is no fan of President Bill Clinton, he has been working to make his impeachment trial as short as possible, contrary to the wishes of fellow Northwest Republican senators and other hard-liners.

Gorton, R-Wash., is fiercely partisan and has said he would probably vote to convict the president. But he also is one of the most astute political minds on Capitol Hill, and he is firmly convinced two-thirds of the Senate won’t go along.

At the age of 70 and facing probably his final election campaign next year, he would rather put his talent and energy to use on something productive. “Why should we spend a month or two trying the president when we know what the outcome will be?”

Gorton teamed up with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., a friend from the time when they were both state attorneys general, on a plan to curtail Senate impeachment proceedings with an early “test vote.” A week before each of the 100 senators and Chief Justice William Rehnquist took an oath of impartiality during opening trial ceremonies on Thursday, the plan was floated by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who appointed Gorton as a counselor last year.

Under this scheme, if after hearing from and questioning both the House Republicans who are the prosecutors in the case and the White House defense team, enough senators agreed the evidence was sufficient to convict Clinton, the trial would go forward. But if the two-thirds super-majority required for conviction did not agree that the evidence was sufficient, the Senate would then decide whether to end the proceedings, which would require only simple majority approval.

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This process, Gorton said, would prevent the trial from erupting into a bitter, counter-productive squabble between the two parties, in contrast to the House of Representatives’ vote last month.

Gorton’s proposal was welcomed by the White House and most Democrats, but was shot down mainly by friendly fire from hard-right conservatives like Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. Craig, also a member of GOP leadership, supported House Judiciary Committee Republicans’ demands to call numerous witnesses, including Clinton’s partner in the White House sex scandal, 20-something Monica Lewinsky. Craig characterized the trial as a serious and solemn duty, and invoked the Constitution.

Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., a corporate lawyer by training who usually praises Gorton for his advice, also criticized his idea for short circuiting the process. “The only way to establish what the facts are and to get at the truth – and therefore a verdict that will stand the test of time and history and be accepted by the American people – is if we somehow find out what the truth is,” Smith declared.

That means if independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s star witness is called, the cross-examination conceivably could get into such questions as: “You say the president touched you where, Ms. Lewinsky?” It was for such reasons that the House Judiciary Committee judiciously avoided calling any witnesses, or even conducting its own investigation of the charges in Starr’s report.

Even so, the Republican impeachment strategy backfired and they lost five House seats in the Nov. 3 election, including two in Gorton’s very own state, Washington. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., who won one of those seats partly by campaigning against impeachment, was sworn in on Wednesday and immediately gave a speech urging House members to end the process now. “Enough is enough. Let’s get on with the nation’s business,” Inslee said. But the House voted largely along party-lines to reappoint the impeachment prosecution team headed by Rep. Henry Hyde.

Gorton’s and Inslee’s plea for comity and accomplishment was echoed by a Democratic Northwest colleague, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, although Wyden did not support the Gorton-Lieberman plan, either. “A significant number of senators are working to find common ground. That’s what folks at home want to see us do,” Wyden said after a meeting at the White House earlier in the week on Clinton’s proposed tax break for people who provide long-term care to elderly relatives.

The Northwest’s other senators were quiet on the subject this past week. Newly elected Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, who as a lame-duck congressman voted to impeach Clinton only last month, deferred to Craig’s lead. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., was careful during her successful re election campaign last year to not take a stand on the question, although she criticized Clinton’s behavior. Murray’s Republican challenger, Rep. Linda Smith, was strongly pro-impeachment.

But many Republicans feel they won’t be penalized in the 2000 election if they go after Clinton now. GOP pollster Bob Moore of Portland, who worked for numerous Northwest candidates last year, said the issue did create a late surge of Democratic voters who feared Republicans would dethrone the president. Still, Moore said members of Congress have little to fear by supporting impeachment because people are not paying much attention or are divided over the question.

“Nobody’s engaged. The public has heard it all,” Moore said last month.

Gorton takes a different point of view about the Senate’s business: “There’s a great deal on our plate, and I’d like to get to work on it.”

By Larry Swisher, Political Columnist

Has NATO a future?

Much has been made of the fact that this crisis with Iraq is a test of the will, the credibility, and the very purpose of the United Nations. If the U.N. does not move to enforce its own resolutions and stand up to a brutal dictator bent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction, then people are right to raise the question of why we in the United States should continue to fund what has become little more than a very expensive anti-American, and anti-Semitic, talking shop. Because of the outright opposition of NATO’s two largest European members, France and Germany, to U.S. policy on something of supreme importance to our national security, I believe we should also begin to consider whether or not NATO has also outlived its usefulness.

At the end of the Cold War, there was much talk about the future role of NATO. Should it be limited to defense of Europe, or should the infrastructure and resources of NATO be used to handle other international crises outside of its historic sphere of influence? There was much hope NATO might become a framework for a like-minded group of Western democracies to maintain peace and stability in the world.

The action against Yugoslavia in support of the minority Muslim population of Kosovo within the Yugoslav federation was hailed as a model for the future of NATO. We were able to get support for this action because the nations of Europe saw this as a danger to their own security. They feared a guerrilla war in Kosovo could turn into a civil war in Yugoslavia. The very possibility of a war in their “backyard,” and in the area where World War I started, was enough to scare France and Germany into acting — notably, without United Nations authorization.

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Shortly after September 11th NATO voted unanimously to invoke Article V of the NATO charter, which declared that an attack against one was an attack against all. Why a vote was necessary, I really don’t understand. This is the entire raison d’etre of NATO. It was a nice gesture. But it has turned out to have little meaning. We got European support for action in Afghanistan, to be sure. But the threat of terrorism is one that spans the globe, and was certainly not limited to Afghanistan. When oceans of Soviet tanks, missles, and men were massed in East Germany ready to roll through the Fulda Gap into West Germany at a moment’s notice, we stood by Germany. When the threat of war breaking out in the Balkans threatened European security, we heeded their call for assistance — even though Russian and Chinese veto power on the Security Council denied us U.N. approval (have I mentioned that before?). Now, when we need the support of our supposed allies, Germany and France, on something difficult and risky, we not only fail to receive their support but seem to have gained, instead, their active resistance.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder led his re-election campaign last year with America-bashing. One of his cabinet members compared U.S. President Bush to Hitler. Schroeder actually stated that even if the United States went to the Security Council, and got a unanimous resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq (which, by the way, we have done), that Germany still would not participate. Schroeder’s government is in trouble, and may be using this issue to distract the electorate from the absolutely horrible state of the German economy (e.g., unemployment has just reached 11%). But opinion polls have shown that his anti-American view is widespread and representative of his nation.

The same is true in France. One of the best-selling novels of last year in France was “911: The Big Lie,” which posited the argument that the events of September 11th were the product of a nefarious plot of the evil American “military-industrial complex” which was just itching to invade Afghanistan and then seize the oil of the Middle East.

When Donald Rumsfeld was asked recently, before Congress and under oath, questions pertaining to our allies in a possible war with Iraq, he answered truthfully that we had received outright denials of assistance from only a few countries, including Cuba, Libya and Germany. Rumsfeld was assaulted in the German press for mentioning Germany in the same breath with these tyrannies. Only one major German paper, Die Welt, looked inward and honestly confronted the fact that it was the present German government that put itself in the company of those other nations — not Secretary Rumsfeld. Die Welt went on to warn that if Germany votes against a possible second UN resolution on Iraq, “Berlin’s plunge into the company of pariahs, thieves and the usual suspects for anti-American activities would be complete.” Unfortunately, the German government and the majority of the people of Germany have chosen to ignore this perceptive observation.

France and Germany only want an alliance with the United States when it suits their purposes (as in the Cold War and, more recently, in Kosovo). Threats principally to the United States are not their problem, and our efforts to defend ourselves are to be opposed. The interests of France and Germany no longer coincide with our own. If a military alliance is not reciprocal it is worse than useless.

Eighteen other European nations, including a majority of Western Europe and nearly all the nations of Central Europe, have stood up alongside us (see earlier article on GPTV on the letter by the first eight to do so). Clearly we have many friends in Europe, and we should foster these relationships on a bilateral basis — or perhaps under a new framework that reflects the political reality of today, rather than that of the Cold War. But NATO is dead. Our erstwhile allies in Germany and France are clearly allies no more.

Sprawl Problems Gain Attention

WASHINGTON – Forget about saving spotted owls and spotted fish. The hot new environmental cause for the Northwest and much of the country is stopping sprawl.

Vice President Al Gore has seized upon suburban America’s growing unhappiness with the problems caused by poorly managed growth, and “livable communities” is going to be one of his campaign themes for the 2000 presidential race. But wisely, Gore has rejected an attempt to impose a national solution from Washington, D.C., instead emphasizing federal government support for local efforts.

Having learned a lesson from President Clinton’s first term failures to pass sweeping new federal programs, Gore said, “It is not appropriate for (the federal government) to get into the business of local land-use planning. But it is our job to work with states.”

Like many other progressive government programs over the years, smart growth is a policy that Oregon and its elected officials have pioneered. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., has promoted livable communities since first coming to Congress in 1996 when few had even heard the expression. Blumenauer supported Gore’s proposals, as well as his rejection of a cookie-cutter, top-down solution.

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Last year, Gore campaigned extensively in the Northwest for congressional and local candidates. He also helped dedicate the opening of Portland’s expanded commuter light rail system and spoke in praise of a new higher density housing development west of the city. Pollsters said traffic congestion and other problems of sprawl were a top concern among voters in the Portland-Vancouver and Seattle areas, the Northwest’s major population centers and key to winning Oregon and Washington’s electoral votes.

In announcing the Clinton administration’s new $1 billion “livability agenda” last week, Gore cited Portland as one of several local success stories and a model for other cities. The Max light-rail system is “already beloved by its users. It is easing traffic congestion and building a Portland with, in the locals’ own words, `fewer arteries and more heart,'” Gore said.

Environmental groups lined up behind Gore’s “Livability Agenda,” most of which requires congressional funding. The Sierra Club last year declared suburban sprawl “the fastest growing threat to our environment.”

A committed environmentalist who is also a New Democrat, the former senator from Tennessee was careful to stress positive “smart growth” policies, rather than condemn all growth. He also touted the economic advantages of having communities that are attractive, clean and well planned. Developers, private property rights groups and other critics charge that tough land-use controls result in “no growth” policies and make homes unaffordable for average Americans. Most Republican politicians share this philosophical opposition.

But the financing of growth is usually a question of “pay me now, or pay me later,” often at public expense in the form of roads, public utilities and schools, increased congestion and commuting time and environmental degradation.

In the 1998 election, a widespread public backlash against these hidden costs of runaway development emerged in congressional and legislative races and 200 state and local ballot measures to protect open space and manage growth. New Jersey Gov. Christine Whitman, a Republican, has launched a costly program to buy half of its remaining 2 million acres of open space – or easements – to save it from bull dozers.

Experts point out that most states and local governments have yet to make the tough decisions requiring strict planning and zoning laws that stop expansion of low density housing ever outward, gobbling up farmland, forests and other open space, worsening traffic congestion and emptying out inner cities.

Oregon is a happy exception. Under a 25-year-old land-use law, local governments are required to prohibit housing developments on farmland and to plan and zone enough other land to handle future growth. As a result, a single major county, Lane County, has protected as much agricultural and forest land as New Jersey is now scrambling to save, Robert Liberty, executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon, a land-use advocacy group, said. Oregon has a total of 16 million acres in such zones thanks to the foresight of former Gov. Tom McCall and other officials.

Liberty welcomed the nationalization of the battle against sprawl, but called Gore’s proposals “baby steps.” “You cannot fundamentally change patterns of growth with a few billion dollars to buy up conservation easements,” he said. “I don’t want to discourage them from taking these steps, but people should be under no illusion that these are sufficient.”

The biggest pieces of Gore’s livability agenda are federal tax credits for investors in new state and local environmental bonds and a boost in funding for mass transit and transportation improvements. The first proposal would leverage up to $9.5 billion in state, local and tribal government bonds to fund green space, parks, water quality and waste clean-up projects.

Like public schools, growth management has traditionally and legally been the bailiwick of state and local government, not Washington, D.C. But much like education, which has become a federal priority over the last several years in response to voter concerns, sprawl is now percolating to the top of the political radar screen.

Also like education, sprawl is a domestic issue that tends to favor government-activist Democrats over Republicans, who support local control and a “hands off” federal policy. In southwestern Washington, newly elected Rep. Brian Baird defeated a Republican state legislator who opposed the state’s growth management law. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber was re-elected handily over Republican Bill Sizemore, an anti-tax crusader who also campaigned against the state’s land-use law, saying local officials should determine how and where their communities grow. But during a debate Kitzhaber retorted, “I’m not willing to let our state grow at the expense of our livability.”

Even if Republicans in Congress rebuff most of his proposals, Gore has found a sure-fire message that will play well in the Northwest in 2000.

By Larry Swisher, Political Columnist/Jan. 1999

What would Iraqis say, if they could?

Another ill-considered argument I have heard from those protesting the war is that the war will lead to civilian deaths, and therefore must be opposed. This is overly simplistic. First, all wars will always result in some innocents killed, but sometimes war is the lesser of two evils (see GPTV article War is not Always a Bad Thing, and NRO article Asymmetrical Warfare & Just War ). Second, in this particular case, the risks to Iraqis of Saddam Hussein’s continued rule are even worse than the upcoming war with the United States.

What would a rational, informed, Iraqi say about this upcoming war? I posed this question in an earlier article, and thought I might expand on the idea a little further.

One of the more interesting points that immediately comes to mind is that we can’t easily ascertain exactly what Iraqi opinion on this really is. Elections in Iraq are a farce (unless you believe Saddam Hussein really did get 100% approval in the last election). Someone who might wish to speak out would likely be somewhat intimidated by the prospect of being tortured or killed, or watching the same sort of thing done to a family member, to actually speak their mind. So, we are left with mere conjecture. Luckily, that’s what we do best here at GPTV — talk at great length!

After invading Kuwait, Iraq was forced by the United Nations Security Council to disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction, among other things. The failure to do this has lead to lots of noise on the Security Council, but a lack of the will necessary to authorize force to make Hussein to comply. So they turned instead to something completely ineffective, that would in fact lead to impoverishment of the Iraqi people, but would have the laudable effect of being seen to do something. They invoked sanctions. Of course, those countries most likely now to cry out for the sacrosanct nature of U.N. authority (any readers out there from France and Germany?), quickly broke these sanctions and made lucrative deals with Iraqi companies. How handy that they no longer had to compete with American firms (who kept to the sanctions rules)! The effect of these sanctions has been to starve the Iraqi people, while Saddam Hussein and his band of merry rapists (did you know there is an official position in the Iraqi government of rapist, the duty of such individuals being to persuade those not entirely in agreement with the Iraqi regime that they should reconsider their, ehem, position?) were allowed to carry on running Iraq.

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Iraq has tons of oil, and an educated population, certainly two great big steps up on the usual ladder of success for nations. Yet, Iraq is poor today. Hussein and his defiance of the U.N. sanctions have left Iraq destitute. The people of Iraq are starving because the reduced amount of money available under the U.N. “oil-for-food” program has been diverted to build Hussein palaces and keep up one of the world’s larger standing armies. The effect of this, according to one estimate from UNICEF, has been the death of over 500,000 Iraqi children because of malnutrition or lack of medication. Many in the Arab world say it’s the fault of the United States, but that’s just not true. Saddam agreed to disarm, and hasn’t, and it’s the United Nations that voted for those sanctions, not just the United States.

Iraqi Kurdish civilians gassed by Saddam. Photo: The Economist In addition to the 500,000 children who died because Saddam has violated U.N. sanctions, he has also murdered countless numbers of his own people. He’s used chemical weapons against his own civilians (see photo at right). And millions died in a war with Iran, which he started.

The population of Iraq is estimated at 24 million. By my calculations, if you are an Iraqi who has grown up in the last ten years, you’ve had about a 2.08% chance of dying just from the effects of sanctions Iraq lives under due to Hussein’s intransigence (based on that 500,000 dead figure from UNICEF). The estimates for the number of dead in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war run as high as 1.5 million. Assuming roughly half this number was Iraqi (sorry, too tired to go look the exact figure up), this would yield a roughly 3.125% chance of having been killed in that war (if you’re a man between 15-40, the figure would be much higher).

Now that we have some perspective of what the Iraqi people have been through the last few years, what level of risk would be acceptable to you, if you were an Iraqi citizen, to see him replaced by an internationally monitored, representative government? You have run high risks of being killed from his military adventures and brinkmanship with the rest of the world. Your country is impoverished. Your children are dying. You have no say in your government. If you tried to protest, you’d likely be tortured or have one of your children tortured in front of you by Saddam’s goons in order to persuade you to stop doing so.

When the United States decided to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, we targeted those two groups to the greatest extent possible. This was surely the most bloodless, and quickest, war to change a regime that has ever been waged. I have read estimates that put the number of innocents killed as high as 2500. The population of Afghanistan, estimated to be about 27 million, is similar to Iraq’s. 2500 out of 27 million yields a 0.009% chance of being killed in the crossfire between American and hostile forces. Certainly, no such risk is better than any such risk. But for Iraqis the risk is already there in different forms, and with much less favorable odds, isn’t it? And living or dying is not really the only thing. Most of us in the West want to live a free and prosperous life, not one of poverty, constant fear, and intimidation. Are Iraqis so different from us that you think they would not want the same? Sadly, they cannot speak for themselves.

Northwest Power Rates At Risk

WASHINGTON – Congress this year is expected to consider unleashing market forces in the electric utility industry, posing a severe threat to the Northwest’s cheap, relatively clean energy.

For the third year in a row, the legislative agenda includes proposals to restructure the utility industry to open it up to greater competition. Even the Clinton administration supports the goal, saying it would help reduce fossil fuel burning that contributes to global warming. Some congressional measures would create a free-market for power that in effect, would lead to a bidding up of prices in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

Northwest senators doubt a bill will pass but predict advocates will make more headway than they did in 1997 and 1998, when they backed away from trying to win even committee approval.

Most Northwesterners probably take for granted the unparalleled system of public and private dams that fuel their economy and jobs and keep their air clean and their electric bills the lowest in the nation. High cost, fossil and nuclear fuel-burning areas, especially in the East, covet this resource and have fought to reduce federal government subsidies of the Columbia and Snake river hydrosystem.

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Reflecting the fears of consumers and business alike, the congressional delegation can be counted on to band together to defend its vital energy resources. Primarily, that means keeping in place legal safeguards limiting the sale of federal power to outsiders.

But the delegation has yet to unite around a specific plan, and two factors threaten to undermine its solidarity – disagreement over how to structure competition within the region between public and private utilities and deep divisions over how to save salmon runs that are endangered mainly because of those same federal dams.

Writing new rules for electric utilities and Bonneville Power would mean changing the landmark 1980 Northwest Power Act, a hard-fought and carefully balanced compromise. Also, it probably would lead to the creation of new regional governing bodies for major aspects of energy and salmon recovery or alternately, giving the Northwest Power Council greater authority over them.

Fish advocates could use the vulnerability of the Northwest energy system in any congressional debate on restructuring to leverage greater concessions. In contrast, some Northwest politicians want to keep decision-making authority over both energy and salmon within the region and out of the hands of the federal government, even if that means overriding the Endangered Species Act and treaties with Indian tribes.

Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., said it is the most complicated policy matter he has ever dealt with, including, when he was a state legislative leader, the Oregon health care plan. Its numerous facets impact the environment, energy, management of the Columbia and Snake rivers, treaties with Canada, navigation and transportation, irrigation and flood control. “It’s all of those things, and those are all unique to this basin,” he said last month at a conference on the economy and the environment sponsored by NorthwestLetter, a government affairs newsletter, in Portland.

Previously, House and Senate committee leaders agreed to allow the Northwest delegation to write its own section into any restructuring bill. Three competing versions were drafted.

The Northwest delegation is in a strong position to get what it wants in a Senate bill, with a total of four high-ranking members on the energy committee. In the new 106th Congress, which opened Jan. 6, it actually gained with Smith taking the helm of the water and power subcommittee. Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, who put off serious consideration last year, has put energy restructuring “fairly high” on his priority list this time, Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., a committee member, said. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, chairs the forestry subcommittee, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is that subcommittee’s top Democrat.

On the other hand, the region lost all three of its seats on the House Commerce Committee, which has primary jurisdiction. Gorton, who also spoke at the Portland conference, said the lack of a House committee member is a disadvantage.

Congress is not expected to pass restructuring legislation this year, however, mainly because lawmakers are literally all over the map on the issue. The divisions reflect varying patterns of power production, ownership and use in the United States. Like the Northwest, “every part of America has its unique characteristics and history as well,” Smith said.

A former businessman, Smith generally supports deregulation and free markets, but said losing cheap energy would “tear the heart out” of his region’s economy. He doubts Congress will deregulate energy until the market place accomplishes it first. Forced to make a prediction for 1999, he said, “There will be a bill, and it will get hearings, and there will be a lot of noise. But there won’t be a (presidential) signature or perhaps even a passage.”

Gorton agreed deregulation will proceed at the state level. But because of federal laws that inhibit interstate transfer of power and some kinds of competition, “ultimately this is something Congress is simply going to have to deal with at one level or another,” he said.

Whenever it comes, it will be a supreme test of the ability of warring Northwest interests and members of Congress to work out their disagreements, deal with outside political forces and balance the needs of the economy and the environment.

By Larry Swisher, Political Columnist/Jan. 1999

Iraq and the War on Terrorism

We have reached a point in history when the margin for error we once enjoyed is gone… the cost of underestimating the threat is unthinkable.
— U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld

One of the arguments I’ve heard proffered by some Democratic members of Congress and others as an objection to the administration policy is that action against Iraq will keep us from prosecuting the War on Terrorism. Until recently, we’ve heard few forceful arguments from the U.S. administration that Iraq was part of the War on Terrorism. It was, I think, clearly implied that actions such as this would be necessary from the very beginning. But the connection with Iraq had not been stated explicitly for some time. The President remedied this in his 2003 State of the Union:

Today, the gravest danger in the war on terror, the gravest danger facing America and the world, is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. These regimes could use such weapons for blackmail, terror, and mass murder. They could also give or sell those weapons to terrorist allies, who would use them without the least hesitation. […]

America is making a broad and determined effort to confront these dangers. We have called on the United Nations to fulfill its charter and stand by its demand that Iraq disarm.

It is now clear that the Bush administration views Iraq as part of the War on Terrorism, and so the argument that dealing with Iraq will detract from it has lost one of its key supporting points. If you still are in doubt, the way to ask this question would be more accurately phrased as follows: “Is this the best way to fight the War on Terrorism?” This has the benefit of acknowledging the administration’s actual position, and therefore being intellectually honest.

How exactly should the administration deal with the threat of terrorists obtaining weapons of mass destruction? Should we ignore it? Should we give in to whatever their demands are, and therefore encourage anyone who would like us to change our behavior to nuke an American city to get their way? I don’t think these are serious options. How about beefing up homeland security some more? This is something we’ve also heard from many Democrats as an option. Keep in mind that a small nuclear device could be carried in a large trunk, or put into the bottom of a standard shipping container, encased in lead, and buried under a mound of pistachio nuts and then loaded onto a ship with thousands of such containers and headed to New York from the Middle East. If I recall correctly, we currently inspect about 1% of incoming containers. If we double, triple, or even increase by twenty times our spending on this effort we would still not be able to check the vast majority of such containers.

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Even if we employed a veritable army (say 200,000) of customs officers to inspect every single containerized cargo ship completely, we would still be vulnerable. These people are not stupid, they would simply change the method of delivery. A determined terrorist could still buy a small sailboat and sail right into New York harbor, or buy an SUV and sneak through from Canada through the dense woods of North Dakota, or put it in a suitcase on a scheduled flight into Washington D.C. and detonate it as it flew over the capitol bulding, or . . .

How can you defend a three thousand mile border with Canada, a fifteen hundred mile border with Mexico, both of which are currently so open that people cross them illegally by the thousands every day? And we also have thousands of miles of coastline. No amount of money and manpower could guarantee that a single person could not get into the country either by plane, on foot, or on a small sailboat if they were committed enough. We could shut down international travel and trade, spend half our budget on this effort, and still provide only a marginal increase in security.

You cannot possibly prevent such an attack once a determined person already possesses such a device. You cannot win by defense alone.

Clearly, we cannot give up and simply sit and wait for tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of Americans to be killed. The only realistic option left is to lean forward, not back. Terrorists, however, are hard to find, and usually have no fixed address where we can send police by to make a few inquiries. When possible, we should hunt them down and kill them or capture them. But we will not be able to find all of them.

So if we can’t find all or even most of the terrorists, as is likely, what else can we do? Weapons of mass destruction are not easy to manufacture in a cave or a tent while on the run. They require the resources of a state to develop the more difficult kinds, and the protection and safe haven of a state to develop even the simpler ones. Terrorists may not have military and other assets that we can strike. But the states that support them do. This is why the President said immediately after Sept. 11th, “we will make no distinction between the terrorists that committed these acts and those that harbor them.”

This does not mean we must make war with the entire world. Most of the world will, in fact, rally behind us if we are willing to show resolve, and as we are proven successful. There are relatively few nations that are actively supporting terrorism in a form that threatens the United States. One at a time, we must give this small number of countries an ultimatum — they must cease and desist all such activity immediately, or else. After years of “reflexive pullback” when we were attacked in Somalia, the U.S. embassies in Africa, the USS Cole, and other instances, the enemies of the United States have learned that we do not follow through on our threats, and we are not willing to pay the price of blood for securing our safety and that of our allies. When we made such a threat to the Taliban, for instance, one could excuse them for not believing we would really invade Afghanistan, which we were told was the “graveyard of empires.” Well, we did.

We have now given the same ultimatum to Iraq. We have worked through the U.N. to the greatest degree possible, we have many allies (including 18 in Europe, at last count), but the President has been steadfast in his determination and has made this clear to Saddam Hussein and the world. After Iraq, when we turn to other outlaw regimes such as North Korea or Iran that also have ties to terrorists, and whom we believe may provide weapons of mass destruction to them, they may listen to that ultimatum when it comes to them a little more carefully. Hopefully, the restoration of our credibility on these matters can prevent some future wars. But we are going to have to earn it back first.

Should we do anything? What must we do? We must, in fact, do exactly what the President has started to do. The war on Iraq is another step in the rational prosecution of the War on Terrorism, and it should not and will not be the end.

Packwood Case Worse Than Clinton

WASHINGTON – As the sparring between Republicans and Democrats over the Senate impeachment trial of Bill Clinton has escalated, so has the debate over the treatment of former Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., a few years ago.

The two deeply flawed leaders have been compared since the disclosure of Clinton’s adulterous affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky more than a year ago.

In the impeachment case, Republican prosecutors have cited the Senate’s threat to expel Packwood for committing unwanted sexual advances and obstructing an ethics investigation as a precedent for removing Clinton from office.

More broadly, Democrats and women’s groups who demanded Packwood’s head have been accused of applying a double-standard by defending the president or arguing that the charges against him don’t meet the Constitutional standard of high crimes and misdemeanors.

But Democrats argue the two cases are quite different, both legally and morally, although they condemn the behavior of both men. In fact, many have condemned the Republican Congress’ whole impeachment crusade as politically motivated.

In Washington, D.C., where Packwood has built a lucrative lobbying career since resigning in the face of expulsion, he has been thrust together with Clinton in more ways than one in recent weeks. They spoke briefly at a Jan. 29 memorial service for the late Lawton Chiles, Florida governor and former senator, causing news media to take note and speculate about the conversation between two highly skilled and self destructive politicians with much in common.

As the trial winds down this week, Packwood’s case is bound to be raised by senators in what is expected to be secret deliberations before a final vote on impeachment, which requires a two-thirds majority. That Clinton is all but certain to survive that vote and serve out his term, in contrast to Packwood, will only rub more salt in Republican wounds.

In last year’s election, Republicans railed against Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and other vocal critics of Packwood with hypocrisy for not demanding Clinton’s scalp as well. Lately, the argument has narrowed to the finer points of how the Senate has conducted their two quasi-legal proceedings.

One of the 13 House Republicans who are acting as prosecutors, Rep. Charles Canady of California, urged the Senate not to apply a lower standard to the president than they did in Packwood’s situation. The five term chairman of the Finance Committee “resigned under imminent threat of expulsion for offenses that included acts similar to the acts of obstruction of justice committed by President Clinton,” Canady said on Jan. 25 in arguing against a Democratic motion to dismiss the case.

billc

The Ethics Committee found Packwood “endeavored to obstruct and impede” its inquiry by altering and destroying evidence, notably his daily diary transcripts and tapes. But legal scholars have pointed out that the Senate sets the rules and standards for its own members and can expel or punish senators by majority vote, whereas the Constitution limits Congress’ ability to remove the nation’s leader and head of the executive branch of the government and establishes an extraordinarily high threshold for such a drastic action.

A few days later, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who chaired the Ethics Committee when it voted unanimously to recommend Packwood’s expulsion, called a televised news conference to chide Democrats for opposing a motion to take impeachment testimony from live witnesses, including Monica Lewinsky. McConnell quoted several Democrats who had demanded the Senate hear from Packwood’s accusers and conduct open hearings in 1995. McConnell’s press release was headlined, “What a difference three years (and party affiliation) makes!”

This brought an quick rebuttal the same day from Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., the Ethics Committee’s former vice chairman, who said the two cases were starkly different. “The Packwood case involved far more serious misconduct, abuse of office and power and crimes against the Senate,” Bryan said. Also, the Ethics Committee had not held public hearings or released any of its investigative material in 1995 when the Senate first debated the issue. People were concerned Packwood and his supporters wanted to keep detailed facts and witness depositions from seeing the light of day.

On the other hand, independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s report and accompanying documents totaling more than 60,000 pages, including repeated, extensive grand jury testimony by Lewinsky, has been available not only to senators but to the public since last fall.

Comparing the sex scandals, Bryan said Clinton’s “sexual misconduct was of a consensual nature,” whereas Packwood was found to have made “at least 18 separate unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances – sometimes with force.” “There were victims” who filed charges before the Ethics Committee; in contrast, Lewinsky did not want to testify, Bryan said. Not to mention the fact that First Lady Hillary Clinton and the American people have stood by the president.

Bryan was referring only to one affair and did not delve into Paula Jones’ sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton or White House volunteer Kathleen Willey’s charges he kissed and groped her. But Jones has since settled her suit and Starr is still investigating the Willey incident, as well as the possibility of filing criminal charges against Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice, either before or after he leaves office.

Packwood, who never admitted wrongdoing, managed to drag his ethics case out for almost three years, while Clinton was brought to trial in the Senate a year after his affair was revealed.

Partisans on both parties are guilty of a certain amount of flip flopping and exaggeration when it comes to the differences and similarities between the two miscreants. The crucial question is whether our political system has worked to ensure a fair trial and reasoned judgement given the circumstances and standards in each case. It appears that it has.