- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

Wetlands aren't all washed up

F. Patricia Callahan's column "Rescue needed for property rights edict" (Commentary, Monday) fails to recognize the larger goal of ensuring that our nation's waters are protected from pollution. The legislation introduced by Sen. Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota and Rep. John Dingell of Michigan all Democrats works to address this goal as it relates to wetlands.

While it may appear that "isolated wetlands" are separated from all other water bodies, appearances are deceiving. Science shows that these wetlands are often connected through groundwater and form a complex freshwater web that sustains people and wildlife. The benefits they provide include controlling flood damage, filtering pollution, replenishing water supplies, improving water quality and providing wildlife habitat that fosters recreation and tourism.

The consequences of not protecting isolated wetlands are serious. Polluters will be free to discharge contaminants directly into these wetlands, potentially jeopardizing our nation's water supplies. Current discussions in the Bush administration about writing new "rules" that may withdraw protections for isolated wetlands, as well as for streams that do not flow year-round and other types of lakes and ponds, promise to further exacerbate an already dire situation.

Forty-five percent of our nation's waters are already too polluted for fishing or swimming. One can only imagine the increased damage we risk with even fewer safeguards for America's waterways.

Muddying the waters about the importance of our nation's wetlands will not change the science that supports protecting them.


MARK VAN PUTTEN

President and Chief Executive Officer

National Wildlife Federation

Washington

Stick to bananas, Belafonte

As a middle-class white girl who attended high school as a minority in the "Region" of northern Indiana during the 1970s, I listened to many lectures against racism every February during "Black History Month." I took the message to heart.

I married a military man and in the 1980s we lived on numerous military bases where one's rank mattered, not one's skin color. I chose my friends from acquaintances based on a cheery smile, polite words, a kind disposition and kindred beliefs. I raised my children the same way. I have never heard any of them describe friends or strangers by the color of their skin, but rather the qualities mentioned above or other noticeable features; skinny, tall, short, bald or "Mom, there's a man at the door with a clipboard."

Now, when Harry Belafonte reduces such a fine American and statesman of great character as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to a "slave who has ditched his principles" ("Inside Politics," Nation, yesterday), it sickens me.

I can only conclude that being black no longer refers to skin color but has come to stand for a certain set of beliefs and principles. So, how is a white person like me, let alone another black person, ever going to escape the label of racist if I disagree with these values? I feel bombarded by hatred from Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton for having a different set of beliefs, none of which have to do with skin color.

I know in my heart, and God knows, I am not a racist. This letter is my way of fighting back against a growing propaganda machine intent on making a racist out of me and many other innocent, loving Americans.


NANCY SCHMIDT

Woodbridge, Va.

The 'essence' of Pakistani electoral reform

Yesterday's editorial "Pakistan in the balance," while appreciating the central role played by Pakistan in the international campaign against terrorism, misses the essence of the electoral reform process initiated by our government.

The eligibility or lack thereof of candidates is based on sound principles of probity of conduct, as well as the financial background of individuals, thus barring anyone who is either a convict or financially insolvent. Similarly, the requirements for clearing one's outstanding financial liabilities is based on the logic that representatives of the people need to lead by example and be measured by a higher moral yardstick since they are public persons representing the sovereign will of the populace.

The campaign period was shortened to comply with the decision of the Supreme Court, which had mandated a return to a parliamentary form of government before Saturday. During the run-up to the elections, for the first time in Pakistan's history opposition politicians were allowed to appear on television and radio talk shows to express their views. Opposition rallies were also covered by the state-controlled media. While curtailing the campaign period, the government provided an all-Pakistan forum to the opposition parties and set a level playing field for the electoral process because the electronic media is owned by the state.

The government had reiterated and ensured that the elections would be free, fair and transparent. That is exactly what occurred with minimal violence and no allegations of votes being rigged. Foreign observers were free to travel to any polling station, and they were facilitated in their unannounced inspection visits by the government.

Finally, there is a lack of conceptual clarity about the role and function of the National Security Council. This body will be composed of the president, prime minister, speaker of the house, leader of the opposition, four chief ministers of the provinces (all eight elected) and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the three services chiefs (all four unelected).

This body will deliberate on matters of high politics and whether Article 58(2)(b) should be used to remove a sitting government. The NSC will not dictate policy to the government of the day nor will it be involved in the day-to-day running of the country. Such bipartisan and inclusive representation of all stakeholders of state and society is an unprecedented and positive political development that will enable intraconstitutional dispute resolution rather than political intrigues and machinations, which in the past resulted in military intervention.


ASAD HAYAUDDIN

Press attache

Embassy of Pakistan

Washington

Punishing workers for management's misdeeds

Did Tom Schatz, president of Citizens against Government Waste, leverage his inheritance to buy WorldCom stock? Or perhaps he has invested in a WorldCom competitor? I have to guess that the motivation for his hysterical screed against WorldCom short of pure meanness is an unmentioned personal agenda ("Pull the purse strings on WorldCom," Op-Ed, Tuesday).

A handful of people at the top of the WorldCom management pyramid have apparently engaged in accounting manipulation. Mr. Schatz's irrational response is to demand that federal business be denied to WorldCom, despite the fact that there have been absolutely no allegations that WorldCom has deceived the federal government on any of its billions of dollars of contracts. So Mr. Schatz's proposal is patently illogical and probably illegal, but it also ignores the fundamental questions.

First, whom would it benefit? A few increasingly few competitors.

Second, whom would it punish? There are the 60,000 WorldCom employees, most of whom feel betrayed by the activities of a few individuals and are working hard to make a go of it so they can feed their families and pay their mortgages. Then there's the federal government, which will have fewer choices while cutting itself off from WorldCom's immense global network. Lastly, there are the American people, whose economy will suffer even more when tens of thousands of WorldCom employees lose their jobs so much for President Bush's "rights and interests of American workers," to whom Mr. Schatz refers and whose tax dollars will pay for the reduced quality of service that inevitably results from diminished competition.

One of WorldCom's strongest legacies is the introduction of competition into a glacial marketplace. It is one of the precious few American telecom survivors capable of meeting the enormous communication needs of the U.S. government.

As a fellow "citizen against government waste," I'm appalled that the chief executive of an organization flying that banner fails to understand that reducing the pool of capable vendors to a puddle ultimately increases costs and inevitably results in inefficiency and waste.


SAMUEL R. LEWIS

WorldCom employee

Oak Hill


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