- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2002

Wellstone's 'mourners'

Tuesday's "memorial service" for the late Sen. Paul Wellstone has been described as electric, magnetic, even fervent words not usually associated with a supposedly solemn occasion. In fact, what transpired at the Williams Arena in Minneapolis helps explain public skepticism toward politics. This should have been a time to honor all that is good about life in the public arena, especially to reflect on why Mr. Wellstone was a great man who was respected by those representing all realms of the political spectrum.
This is what Mr. Wellstone deserved. What he did not deserve was a service that by all standards symbolized what was to come at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Former President Bill Clinton and his wife were the first in line of what has been touted by the press as "the procession." The audience roared and screamed its approval. This was followed by another rousing ovation for former Vice President Al Gore, who, as always, was one or two steps behind Mr. Clinton. Then entered former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, who, according to polls, is leading the one-time front-runner, Republican Norm Coleman.
It seemed obvious that the "mourners" were there to pay homage to the Democrats' most elite fund-raisers equally as much as they were there to honor Mr. Wellstone. The one distinction from this being an entirely partisan political event is that there were Republicans in the audience. When they appeared on the projection screens throughout the arena, they were booed by some in the audience.
So the man known to upstage his political opponents was unfortunately outdone by his own party. The nation's chance to mourn the loss of a great man was marred with a political backdrop that nobody saw coming. I guess we're left to remember Minnesota's senior senator in our own way.


Cyprus and the EU

The Oct. 12 editorial "Turkey: our most underappreciated ally" repeated a misnomer in stating "the European Union included Cyprus (meaning the Greek-Cypriot government) among the nations to be admitted in 2004." The issue must be viewed in the right perspective.
The Republic of Cyprus recognized by the European Union and the international community in general as the only legitimate state of the island and of all the Cypriot people applied for membership to the European Union in July 1990. In 1993, the European Commission (EC) accepted the application in the name of the entire island and considered Cyprus as eligible for membership.
The accession negotiations between Cyprus and the European Union have therefore been conducted by the internationally recognized government of the Republic of Cyprus, on behalf of all its people. As the president of Cyprus stated, following the European Commission's Oct. 9 recommendation for Cyprus' membership, "I welcome this very important decision as a historic development which concerns all the lawful citizens of the island, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots."
The Republic of Cyprus comprises the territory of the entire island, excluding the two British sovereign base areas. The illegal military occupation of the northern 37 percent of the republic's territory by Turkey should not obscure the fact that the occupied area remains an integral part of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Cyprus. The European Commission, accordingly, recommends the accession of the entire Republic of Cyprus, including the occupied area.
As the European Commission in Helsinki in 1999 concluded, a Cyprus settlement is not a precondition for EU membership. If, therefore, by the time of accession Cyprus still remains forcibly divided, the EU rules and regulations (the acquis communautaire) will be implemented only in the areas of the republic under the control of the government, until such time that reunification will occur.
As Gunter Verheugen, the EU commissioner for enlargement, explained, "We do have the option to accept Cyprus as it is, if there is not a settlement. The settlement is the preferred option of course, but not a precondition. It was very important to say this, because otherwise the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey would have a veto."
The EC Report also states that it is "ready to accommodate the terms of a political settlement in accession arrangements, in line with the principles upon which it was founded" and expand "the application of the acquis throughout the island." To that end, the European Commission urges all parties concerned "in particular Turkey to support fully the effort to find a comprehensive settlement."
Cyprus' EU accession and Turkey's EU aspirations can ultimately serve as a catalyst for a comprehensive settlement on the island and greater stability in the region if Ankara adopts a more constructive attitude in line with the principles of the European Union and international law.

Press counselor
Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus

Jesse James reconsidered

The tendentious excerpt ("Southern Outlaw," Culture, et cetera, Monday) from Larry McMurtry's New Republic article on Jesse James led me to read the even more tendentious full-length article. I am not surprised that the New Republic would resort to distortion to malign the South, but I am disappointed when it is repeated in The Washington Times.
Yes, James was a disagreeable character but the main differences between him and such worthies as Gens. William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan were a blue uniform and sympathetic historians. In Tennessee, Virginia, Mississippi, Georgia and the Carolinas, Union generals with large armies committed atrocities similar to those carried out by small bands of Unionist "redlegs" and "jayhawkers" in Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas. In those Western areas, the pro-Union terrorist bands were met by opponents who were willing to respond in kind. One of them was Jesse James.
To depict the violence in the West as a struggle between good (the "abolitionists") and evil (the "pro-slavers") is both false and misleading. The so-called abolitionists in that contest tended not to care about ending slavery per se, but preventing competition to "free labor." A fair accounting of the atrocity totals would show that the jayhawkers or abolitionists, if you prefer struck first and more viciously. But their side won, and the winner writes the accepted history.
The fact that James was widely regarded as a hero should say something about the nature of the complicated struggle he was so reluctant to give up. That struggle has been depicted cinematically in two critically acclaimed films: "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and "Ride With the Devil." After watching these movies, anyone interested in learning the whole story should embark on a reading program of "remedial history."


A case for VAT

Bruce Bartlett is unconvincing in several of his points ("Be wary of the VAT tax option," Commentary, Wednesday).
First, I fail to see how high "start-up" costs with a value-added tax (VAT) would amount to a great cost to business, as any VAT would simply be a change in what merchants already pay the government. It would also be likely collected by states through their normal sales-tax collection and passed on to the federal government, thus removing a whole layer of Internal Revenue Service bureaucracy. Reimbursements for foreign nationals could be entirely done on the Internet.
Additionally, we are already invisibly "taxed" as businesses pass on their own taxes to consumers in the form of higher prices. Therefore, the poor are currently regressively taxed. A VAT (without "rebates" for the poor) would give the poor some share in the tax structure, something badly needed, and encourage them to view taxes, and therefore government services, with suspicion.
Instituting a VAT and removing these tax breaks (and, more importantly, government subsidies through tax breaks) to businesses would create a better, healthier business climate and would likely reduce one reason for lobbying (the other major reason, regulation, would remain unaffected).
A final check would be to constitutionally restrict such a tax to no more that 3 percent, except in cases of war, and thus perhaps place a restraint on the growth of the government.
Overall, VATs may do more to improve business, society and honesty in government than all the campaign finance reform or conservative efforts to shrink government ever could. If properly designed, of course.

San Ramon, Calif.

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