- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 1, 2003

Preserve U.N. office in D.C.

I was surprised to read Betsy Pisik’s report in The Washington Times “U.N. office in D.C. targeted” (Page 1, Thursday). The U.N. Information Center (UNIC) in Washington is critical to a strong U.S.-U.N. relationship, and I cannot think of a worse time to consider closing this office.

UNIC is not merely a repository for U.N. documents and information. It is a critical communications link between the United Nations and its largest donor nation. UNIC’s small but extremely professional staff arranges countless briefings and meetings for senior U.N. officials, and staff members are on hand to provide quick answers to inquiries from the public, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), Bush administration officials and congressional offices. Their unique perspective of understanding the politics of Washington while having a wealth of expertise on the complexities of the U.N. system is essential to the ability of lawmakers and the NGO community to pursue U.S. interests through the United Nations.

Whether one is a strong supporter or strong critic of the United Nations, timely and accurate information about the United Nations and its work around the world is necessary. The relatively small amount of money saved by closing the UNIC office in Washington surely would be outweighed by the costs of losing this vital function.



United Nations Foundation and Better World Fund


Movie matters

I enjoyed Gary Arnold’s profile of director Martin Campbell (“Reviving listless movie scripts,” Arts, Wednesday). At one point, though, he says Mr. Campbell directed a highly implausible mountain-climbing movie titled “Terminal Velocity.”

He did direct such a movie, but it was titled “Vertical Limit.” Deran Sarafian directed “Terminal Velocity,” a highly implausible sky-diving movie in which Charlie Sheen jumps out of a plane inside an automobile and survives it.


Silver Spring

Continuing the debate about manufacturing

In your Wednesday editorial “Kerry’s flawed economics,” you do a superb job of chronicling Sen. John Kerry’s voting record and how he has changed his position, particularly on taxes. Those of us residing in the 10th District of Ohio are familiar with this phenomenon. Our representative, Dennis J. Kucinich, is also running for president. He too has flip-flopped on important issues. Mr. Kucinich, a Roman Catholic, has abandoned his faith in favor of political expediency. Once considered a staunch supporter of the pro-life movement, he recently voted against banning partial-birth abortion. Washington hypocrisy never ceases to amaze me.

Later on in your editorial, you challenge Mr. Kerry’s assertion that “our manufacturing base is under siege.” Your editorial states: “Evidently, he is unaware that business equipment manufactured in the United States has increased by more than 50 percent over the past 10 years. He apparently doesn’t know thatU.S.-manufactured durable and nondurable consumer goods have increased since 1993 by nearly 60 percent and more than 12 percent, respectively.”

You don’t cite the source for these statistics, and frankly, I believe they are misleading. While I do not like Mr. Kerry’s economics, I believe he is right when it comes to U.S. manufacturing. Just because a factory here at home reports increases in sales of its products doesn’t mean that those products are manufactured here. The most obvious example is automobiles, which contain increasing percentages of foreign-made components. Certain models of “American-made” automobiles have been reclassified as “foreign” because the percentage of American content has fallen below 50 percent. I believe DaimlerChrysler’s PT Cruiser is one example.

More and more American manufacturers are becoming assembly plants, and it’s not just automobile producers. Other major manufacturers are building plants in foreign countries in search of cheap labor and lax environmental and worker-safety laws and their attendant lower costs. Those displaced American workers must then find new jobs, and they usually end up earning lower wages because high-paying manufacturing jobs have disappeared.

Some sobering facts:

1. The trade deficit is expected by some to hit a record $500 billion this year.

2. The retailer Wal-Mart will spend $12 billion buying products from China in 2003.

3. The current economic recovery may be a jobless recovery.

4. European Union and Asian government subsidies continue to make American products less affordable here and overseas; just ask Boeing about Airbus.

5. Trade barriers erected by our trading partners keep out American products. For example, the tariff on rice coming into Japan is close to 500 percent.

6. The European Union has blocked U.S. agricultural products from its market with phony health scares concerning genetically-engineered crops.

7. Energy costs will continue to rise, making it even more difficult for American factories to compete, and environmental activism will prevent us from becoming less dependent on foreign sources.

8. Currency manipulations by China and Japan put us at yet another disadvantage.

9. Rising health-insurance costs have negatively affected American manufacturers.

10. The World Trade Organization won’t support our safeguard action on illegally dumped steel; it will vote against the United States this month.

What’s even scarier is that no Democrat running for president has a clue about what should be done to solve these growing economic problems. Some would cut off imports, but haven’t figured out that exports also would cease; others would end NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), which would solve nothing. The Democrats’ solution to our struggling economy is to raise taxes — but isn’t that what they always do? Send more money to Washington. After all, we have seen how efficient Washington is at spending it.


North Olmsted, Ohio

Hill lockdown not child’s play

Some of us might buy the comment that the two female staff aides with the Halloween costumes didn’t have “any ill intent” (“Toy gun results in Hill lockdown,” Metropolitan, Friday) if someone in Congress will confess that the aides and security personnel were overly careless and dock their salaries for the cost of the two-hour shutdown of the Cannon House Office Building. Better yet, relieve them of their duties.

The security personnel were not interested enough in doing their duty — paying attention to the content of containers brought into the building. It is apparent that there was dereliction of duty if enough moments passed that the two aides had disappeared from the corridor before security officials noticed the image of a gun on a video screen. I don’t think that can be described as performing well within standards. In fact, it doesn’t even measure up as mediocre.

Saying sorry doesn’t cut it. The security personnel should be fired for negligence, and Rep. John Shimkus, Illinois Republican, should replace the aides with more responsible individuals.

We have a problem in this country — mediocrity-minus — and it is prevalent in all the corridors and offices of government. We should not tolerate mediocrity in our government.


Fredericksburg, Va.

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