Dallas Morning News: Tax rebates, lower interest rates and fiscal stimuli can do only so much to pull the economy from its doldrums. The United States also needs to open foreign markets. It needs to export more to the 96 percent of the world's consumers who live in other countries. It needs to have better access to the low-cost foreign components that make U.S. finished products more competitive. But it will not be able to do that unless Congress grants President Bush authority to negotiate trade agreements.
"Trade promotion authority" (formerly called "fast track") tells countries that the United States is serious. With it, Bush may submit trade agreements to Congress for up-or-down votes. Without it, countries may be reluctant to make their best offers out of a reasonable fear that Congress would change the terms of deals; they may even decline to negotiate altogether. It is the sine qua non -- the indispensable prerequisite -- for trade negotiations with significant economies.
Memorial Day deadline
Unfortunately, the legislation is stalled. It needs to be restarted. The House of Representatives passed a trade promotion authority bill in December. So did the Senate Finance Committee. But Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., has not scheduled a vote in the full Senate. He did not accede to Bush's request for a vote on Monday. The vote should be no later than Memorial Day. Any later would too closely juxtapose final consideration with the November congressional elections and increase the chances that Congress would reject it.
Speed is essential because Senate Republicans and Democrats still have to bridge the wide chasm that divides them over how best to help workers who lose their jobs because of trade. Democrats want to give a subsidy so that laid-off workers can continue to buy health insurance from their former companies. Republicans want to give tax credits so that workers can have a choice of programs. Furthermore, Democrats want to help "secondary workers" who lose their jobs because of layoffs at another U.S. company; Republicans do not.
Senators from both parties are behaving as if the disputes over worker assistance are potential deal killers. They should relax. Trade is too important to hold it hostage to what are, in the grander scheme, minor concerns. Congress should recognize that and give Bush the power to make the U.S. economy grow.
FROM BROOKS TO HEIGHTS
Los Angeles Times: The question of why someone would climb a mountain continues to tease us long after George Leigh Mallory's mocking response, "Because it's there." The riddle has fresh intensity since 1996, when a sudden storm caught and killed eight climbers near the summit of the 29,035-foot Mount Everest. Any answer is about as good as another. But one thing that hooks people on climbing is reading, and author Robert Roper's excellent new biography of Everest pioneer Willi Unsoeld explores that point.
Climbers aren't like tennis players or football players, he argues in "Fatal Mountaineer." 'They have their noses deep in books when young, and after being thrilled by the great figures from the past they become mad to do the thing themselves." He adds that "an amazing number" of Unsoeld's friends and fellow climbers were motivated by reading accounts of past expeditions.
Charles Houston, for one, became obsessed with climbing after reading G. W. Young's "On High Hills" at the age of 12. There is anecdotal evidence that many others' early steps toward the peaks were first made in their imaginations. Their literary guides include Eric Shipton and Harold Tilman, the pioneer British explorers of the Himalaya; Chris Bonington, Heinrich Harrar, Gaston Rebuffat, Walter Bonatti and Lionel Terray. Many cite "Annapurna," Maurice Herzog's account of the 1950 first ascent of an 8,000-meter peak, one of a select group of 14 of the world's tallest mountains. Until recent years, this was the most popular mountaineering book of them all. But it has since been eclipsed by Jon Krakauer's chilling chronicle of the 1996 Everest disaster, "Into Thin Air.'
Nicholas B. Clinch of Palo Alto, a former president of the American Alpine Club who has an extensive mountaineering library, accepts Roper's argument up to a point. Clinch's experience is that young people make a first brush with climbing, often at the invitation of a friend or mentor, and then begin fueling their passion by reading. There's little question, however, of the mountains-to-books link.
Clinch himself wrote "A Walk in the Sky," about the American expedition that made the first ascent of Gasherbrum in Pakistan in 1958. Roper notes that the early expedition books often were idealized epics of exotic lands, full of stiff upper lips and muddling through. Personality conflicts were glossed over in favor of the sportsmanship and teamwork needed to get a climber to the top. The trend changed in the 1970s, along with much else in life, to include clashes over who got to be on the summit team, the challenging of leaders' judgment, fights over climbing style and ethics, breathless love affairs at high camps and graphic descriptions of hygiene problems. Many youngsters now start climbing on artificial walls in gyms, with some gravitating to outdoor rock climbing areas. Would they be inspired to greater heights by Harrar's "White Spider" or Terray's "Conquistadors of the Useless"?