The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on December 2, 1997 · Page 21
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 21

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Tuesday, December 2, 1997
Page 21
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THE PALM BEACH POST TUESDAY, DECEMBER 2, 1997 21A Florida lawmakers should want to open, not restrict, government appear to be targeting larger areas of the law such as limiting the First Amendment's guarantee to open, public trials. Legislators considered a bill that ; By Sandra F. Chance ' During the last legislative session, ;!Florida legislators added 12 new exemptions to Florida's Sunshine Laws, i bringing the total to 706. It could have been worse. More than '90 bills creating 50 new exemptions were filed this session. But thanks to an effective coalition of media, media lawyers, lobbyists, citizens rights' groups and legislative leaders, the worst of the bills limiting access to information were killed. That's the good news. The bad news is that legislators failed to enact any of the provisions that access advocates endorsed. In addition to chipping away at citizens' ability to be informed about what !state officials are doing, legislators now sent letters to jurors saying they hoped someone close to the jurors would die a "horrible and lingering death." In the other case, a convicted murderer requested a juror's home address. While the anonymous juror bill was defeated, we probably haven't seen the last of it This proposed legislation reflects an alarming trend toward secrecy in government where legislators appear enamored of concealing information and reluctant to consider more appropriate, less drastic measures. Government records have been open since 1909, when the Florida Public Records Law was passed. Meetings of public officials have been open to the public since 1967, although the Legislature did not apply the law to itself until the 1992 constitutional amendment whether they have a vested interest in the outcome of the trial. The legislators advocating juror secrecy argued that the proposed exemption was needed to reduce jurors' fears about their safety and privacy. But these legislators failed to consider two critical points: First, judges already have the power to keep jurors' identities secret, if necessary, to protect their privacy. Second, there's no proof that either jurors' safety or privacy is at risk. Jurors hear more than 150,000 criminal trials in Florida each year. And, supporters of the anonymous jurors legislation were able to cite only two situations where jurors' identities were an issue after the trial. In one case, relatives of an angry victim unhappy with a not-guilty verdict The Florida Legislature has passed an average of 25 exemptions each year since 1967. As a result we have less access to information about our government than we had 25 years ago. Floridians must not accept this decline in our right to be informed about our government Exemptions should be scrutinized with the utmost concern for protecting our rights to see public records and attend public meetings. Rather than restricting access, legislators should be fighting to protect the public's interest and open government Sandra F. Chance is assistant director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information and an assistant professor of journalism and communications at the University of Florida. wouia nave kept secret the names and addresses of jurors in criminal trials. Not only did this bill fly in the face of Florida's open government tradition, it was blatantly unconstitutional. An open, public trial assures accountability from the prosecutor, defense attor Ms. Chance ney, judge and most important, the jury. And because jurors represent us, it is important that we know who they are and Get over post-Gulf War Syndrome ;A new U.S. approach to Middle jEast policy is overdue; the task of maintaining a broad consensus on what to do about Iraq re ' quires greater sensitivity toward its allies' concerns. ByShibleyTelhami f As the crisis with Iraq headed toward military confrontation, the United States found few international backers for its approach, which enabled Russia to take the diplomatic lead in and credit for defusing tensions. Since Iraq's violation of the U.N. resolutions on weapons inspections was undisputed, how could this have happened? .' The answers underscore the need for a new U.S. approach to Middle East policy even as Washington must remain steadfast in demanding Iraqi compliance. Specifically, the current institutional separation between Arab-Israeli issues and the rest of the Middle East must be erased. "Linkage" of these issues, temporarily suspended in 1990, can no longer be avoided. The essential task of maintaining a broad consensus on what to do about Iraq requires greater U.S. sensitivity toward its allies' concerns. Arabs frustrated at pace of peace talks . The administration should have been better prepared for Saddam Hussein's periodic gam-ties to ease the sanctions regime against him. First and foremost, that would have required maintenance of a political coalition in the region. Instead, the rift between the United States and its Arab allies over Iraqi policy has been growing daily, exacerbated by Arab frustrations over the glacial pace of the Arab-Israeli peace process. : Washington simply has not been paying attention to widespread Arab sentiments, evident for months, that the economic sanctions against Iraq should be scaled back. Even members of the staunchly anti-Hussein Gulf Cooperation Council, which are concerned not only about Selling missiles, bartering bread See the spectacle of Moscow selling missile know-how to Iran's ayatollahs and championing the sordid cause of Iraq's Saddam, proudly bestriding the world stage by sticking Russia's thumb in America's eye. ' ; And then read this headline in The New York Times: "Russia Is Seeking More Western Aid for Financial Ills; American Backing Asked." Yevgeny Primakov is socking it to us while Boris Yeltsin is begging it from us. To explicate this pushmi-pullyu policy, I turn to my Russian counterpart, Vy-acheslav Punditsky. Q: Suddenly Russia's budget is busted, the ruble is shaky, wages aren't being paid what happened? ' A: You want party line? Fallout from Thailand; emerging markets now imploding markets. Tough, all over, nobody's fault. Q: C'mon what's the root cause of the red ink and the desperation to borrow? A: Root cause is roots potatoes, beets, radishes. Farmers barter them for vodka, shoes, music videos. Three-quarters of our sales is barter. Q: Why don't Russians use their rubles? A: Because you have to pay taxes. Russian people no fools. William Satire Q: Why, then, doesn't Mr. Yeltsin broaden the base by privatizing and then taxing the big government monopolies in energy and armaments? A: Easy to say. Anatoly Chubais did some of that privatizing, but those thieves caught each other paying him off. Now Yeltsin put Chubais in doghouse, and reform of Gazprom is dead. Q: But the young reformer Boris Nemtsov is still in place, even though he lost one of his titles in the Chubais chastisement Isn't he the apple of Mr. Yeltsin's eye? A: When Nemtsov can't pay the back wages he promised by next month, Yeltsin will blame him. The czar never knew." Nemtsov is a good man, and his new helper Zadornov is a product of Yabloko reform, but they are dependent on Yeltsin. Q: What's the economic answer? ; A: Public auctions of the monopolies. Land sales. Lower taxes so more people can use money again and government can raise some revenue. Q: The practical political answer? A: We need a whole group of reform leaders in the Kremlin and the Duma who can guard one another's backs as they let the people exploit the riches cf this country. Grigory Yavlinsky's party, Yabloko, dreams of that, but it won't happen soon. Q: Why not? Why can't a literate population in a resource-rich land make ends meet? A: Because this czar knows where he wants to stay but not where he wants the country to go. That's why he puts one arm around Iran and Iraq while he has the other hand in America's pocket You like "root cause is roots"? Big insight If you use, credit Punditsky. With Primakov on the loose in Iraq, and Chernomyrdin wheeling his nuclear deal in Iran, it's the only kind of credit we can get. William Safire is a columnist for The New York Times. the humanitarian costs but also about the long-term consequences of a disintegrating Iraqi society, back this view. Last week's call by the president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to normalize retentions with Iraq had been privately made weeks ;ago. ; During the Gulf War, U.S. policy sensibly separated Arab-Israeli peace issues from the Irest of the Middle East. Unfortunately, war-time ' expediency has been mistaken for reality and ;even institutionalized in the State Department with the appointment of a special envoy on ! peace issues, leaving the assistant secretary of I State for Near East affairs with minimal involve- ment in Arab-Israeli issues during the past few years. Consequently, there also has been scant ' evaluation of how various Mideast issues affect t each other. The mistake made by many analysts I during the Gulf War of assuming that public I opinion on the Arab-Israeli peace process was the most critical factor in the region has been replaced by the mistake of assuming that public ignore it. It is key to sorting out U.S. priorities on sanctions policy. The United States currently regards the sanctions regime military and economic components as a single package. As such, removing economic sanctions is seen to play into the Iraqi government's hands by increasing its ability to cheat militarily. Although Washington has partly responded to humanitarian demands by approving a U.N.-administered oil-for-food deal, its approach to overall economic relief for Iraq remains limited. Policy shift, with military sanctions But growing ally misgivings about the dire effects of economic sanctions are undermining the entire package when the United States seems to have lost the diplomatic initiative to Russia and France. Accordingly, the day is approaching when the United States will have to make military sanctions its primary objective if it wishes to maintain any significant influence in the region. It can secure regional and international support for this policy shift by being more responsive to Arab and European concerns about the hardships induced by economic sanctions. The crisis with Iraq may have been defused for now, but it certainly will not be the last, or most serious, crisis in the gulf. The U.S. military is fully capable of repelling any Iraqi invasion, but it is incapable of resolving medium-size crises without the guidance of a diplomatic strategy. The success of U.S. policy ultimately will depend on the extent to which Washington coordinates its conduct with its key coalition partners, assesses the regional consequences of its actions and acknowledges that the situation today is not the same as in 1990, when a powerful Iraq marched across Kuwait's borders. ' Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor at the University of Maryland, is author of a recent report on Persian Gulf security. He wrote this article for the Los Angeles Times. front complicated U.S. policy in the gulf. But the difficulties facing U.S. gulf policy are not limited to the fallout of a collapsing peace process. There are some important differences between the United States and its Arab allies on policy toward Iraq, differences that the administration has not seriously addressed. For starters, U.S. Iraq policy is contradictory. On the one hand, it aims for full Iraqi compliance with U.N. resolutions while, on the other, it seeks to undermine Hussein's government. This explains why most Washington analysts are hesitant to read the Russian-brokered resolution of the crisis as a success: Although Hussein allowed U.N. weapons inspectors back in his country, his government was no weaker for it. More generally, U.S. policy is a nonwinner, for if Iraq fully complied with U.N. resolutions and the sanctions against it were accordingly re moved, Hussein would only grow stronger, economically and politically. The time has thus come for the U.S. to choose its priorities. Until then, regional perceptions of U.S. goals will remain conflicting. Some Arab states will continue to believe that Washington is intentionally maintaining Hussein's government as a way of scaring them into accepting U.S. policy. Others will fear that the United States is incapable of toppling the Iraqi leader but cannot admit it. Neither view bolsters U.S. policy in the region. Perceived schism on humanitarian issues But the biggest concerns in the region remain humanitarian and strategic. Most Arab states do not trust the Iraqi government, but they are sensitive to reports of thousands of dead children and of middle-class women turning to prostitution to survive. They regard American insensitivity to such suffering as another example of the West devaluing Arab lives. This is no mere cosmetic difference. The perceived schism between Arab and American sensitivity toward Iraqi suffering runs deep across the region, and U.S. policy cannot ; opinion is not important at all. ! Effort wasted on conference in Qatar This helps explain why the administration J spent valuable time and leverage and still I failed in its attempt to drum up maximum j participation at the inconsequential Middle East Economic Conference in Doha, Qatar, when I postponement would have been the far wiser IUU1 sc. f EVirtiKiolre Qauli Arabia nnrl Fovnt twn in. ! dispensable Arab players in any successful U.S. ; strategy, had signaled their desire not to attend the conference. But the United States persisted I and, in the end, found itself facing a politically J failed conference that only served to highlight the deadlock in the peace process and tension among Arab allies, Israel and itself. American political leverage had been depleted at a time J when maximum coordination was required. Not surprisingly, U.S. diplomacy in both the t Arab-Israeli arena and in the gulf region is fal- tering. Last week, President Clinton edged that the stalemate on the Arab-Israeli With no bribes, business in 34 countries will be unusual Art Buchwald Berry's World VISIT OOR i WEB v., patent leather, calfskin and Gucci suede." "I'm sure that can be arranged. May I ask what you intend to do with all the footwear?" "Wear them, dummy. My husband may wear the pants in the palace, but I wear the shoes." The shoes were delivered, and the phone company runs the entire communications industry in the country. With the new treaty these arrangements will be a thing of the past. For the first time, business in 34 countries will be honest and aboveboard, just as South Korea intended it to be. B Art Buchwald is a Washington-based humor columnist, t ; It didn't get much publicity, but 34 of the world's leading nations signed a treaty I outlawing business bribes to foreign offi- cials. The treaty will change the way com-; merce is conducted throughout the globe. I The treaty doesn't forbid bribes to po-' litical parties, nor does it force countries to I revoke the tax deductibility of bribes that ' European nations permit. ; And it doesn't penalize political office-j holders who receive the bribes. Nevertheless, it's a giant step for man-', kind. Those who will be affected the most by the treaty will be the brothers and brothers-in-law of heads of state. Their living depends on soliciting bribes from anyone who expects to do business in their ships in Saltpeter." "Do you take me for a fool? I'll bet you $2 million that you can't." "You make a tough bet. All right, I will bet you $2 million I can't do it." "OK, you win." Dum Sum says. "Here's the number of my Swiss bank account." Occasionally, the wife of a head of state may also be in charge of soliciting money from abroad. The most famous was Madame Hari of the Sweet Potato Islands. When a telephone company executive approached her to acquire a monopoly for her country and asked her what it would take, she replied, "Shoes. I want 3,000 pairs of shoes. I want them from Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bally. I want the-m in alligator, respective countries. This agreement will have an impact on state officials as well as civil servants who do business with foreign companies and who expect to be tipped for issuing the correct papers to them. Here's how it worked in the past: The Seig Heil Motor Co. wants to open dealerships all over the country of Saltpeter. The president of Seig Heil, Hans Schmidt, flies in and says to Dum Sum, the brother of Big Sum, the premier, "I have come to your country to make a bet with you. I bet you $1 V-million I cannot open 40 Seig Heil dealer

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