- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 3, 2000

Corporate capitalism not the same as national interest

Doug Bandow's "International silent treatment" (Commentary, May 18) declares that nonintervention in Africa is the best policy because "Americans' lives should be put at risk only when their own political community has something at stake. That is not the case in Sierra Leone." This statement makes bold assumptions that must be analyzed and requires us to re-evaluate the definition of what our national interest is and when our political community has something at stake.

The national interest currently is defined strictly by economic terms, which explains U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf war. This signifies a "marketization" of our democracy.

The Washington consensus of free trade, open markets and a minimal role for the state in the economy and society is spreading rapidly, and as a result, the United States is undergoing the longest sustained economic expansion in history.

Shame on us that on a global level economic inequality, poverty and crime have not only persisted, but have increased in recent years. We cannot sit back complacently and allow the market to determine what our national interest is or isn't.

It is no surprise that the wealthy elite and the U.S. government have become bedfellows in defining the national interest, but how representative and reflective is this national interest?

According to a nationwide survey conducted in April 1999 by the Pew Research Center, the majority polled felt that globalization would hurt them and that big business had acquired too much power. Widespread support for globalization is only voiced by the wealthy. This implies that the American people are not at ease with having corporate America's priorities (profits) define our national interest.

In an idealistic world, the question of intervention in Sierra Leone would be answered by concern for moral and humanitarian issues rather than profit margins.

Assuming that in reality, moral and humanitarian reasons are never enough, we also must consider that promoting political development and stability in areas such as Sierra Leone is in our best interest because global stability is paramount to our national security. Also, such failed nations can be hospitable to international terrorists and criminals.

We cannot expect corporate capitalism to care about what is occurring in Sierra Leone. But we can expect the United States, as a chief global player, to hold itself accountable to the United Nations by paying its dues, committing resources to preventative measures such as peacekeeping operations and passing the bill calling for a U.N. rapid-deployment force.

JOHN HAHN

Washington

Racial issues will create a do-nothing police force

Bravo to Fred Reed for his factual and undaunted Police Beat column that describes critical personal problems facing our gallant police officers every day because of the racial profiling issue ("Minorities will lose if cops retreat from racial hazards," Metropolitan, May 22).

The time is drawing near when police officers will hesitate about making discretionary misdemeanor arrests or traffic stops when minorities are involved for fear they will be admonished by their chief or administration for being politically incorrect or acting under a racial cloud. Surely, this is no way to run a law enforcement agency.

As usual, the public is ultimately the loser. Unless officers are allowed to do their mandate, according to their training, we residents will be protected by a do-nothing police force. That is a sad state of affairs.

GARRETT T. KIRWIN JR.

Silver Spring

Garrett T. Kirwin Jr. is a retired police officer.

D.C. school board fights for power

The elected school board in Washington has brought problems on itself by refusing to change its methods of operation. However, on June 27, voters will not have much of a choice on the issue of school reform, thanks to the political chicanery of the D.C. Council and Mayor Anthony A. Williams in reducing the options of residents to either retaining a failed system or accepting one that on its face looks worse.

At present, the D.C. control board has jurisdiction over school governance. This has resulted in a convoluted structure responsible for (among other disasters) the District's having had three superintendents of schools since 1996. It unilaterally and under force of arms usurped the democratic election of November 1996 by denying the residents' right to elect their own representatives. Since that time, nine residents have been elected by the voters of the city to the 11-member school board. Those new school board members have no connection to the ignominious 30-year history the control board chronicled in its manifesto "Children in Crisis: A Report on the Failure of the D.C. Public Schools" to justify nullifying the 1996 vote. In fact, the current elected school board can share proudly in the 13 improvements in the school system that outgoing Superintendent of Schools Arlene C. Ackerman noted in her resignation letter.

Nevertheless, the D.C. Council's June 27 referendum on cosmetically altering the elected board by creating new school districts, reducing the number of board members and altering the method of selection of its president, coupled with the control board's reluctance to quit, continues to threaten the right of current elected board members to be empowered to do their jobs. It's clear that there never was any intention of restoring the elected school board's authority to run the schools. Why, then, the charade?

Mrs. Ackerman recently lamented that there were too many layers of oversight by groups and individuals who wanted to be involved in the daily operations of the public schools. She stated that as superintendent she wanted to be held accountable for carrying out tasks but not interfered with in the day-to-day conduct of her job. For Mrs. Ackerman, control board Chairman Alice M. Rivlin's curt letter overruling her decision to retain the Paul Junior High School building as a public school magnet program was the last straw. Like the emergency trustees who resigned their appointments on this same issue, she saw it as a cue to the reality that she also was just a figurehead in the District's murky governance structure. Mrs. Ackerman had to take the position that if it's not my show, I've got to go.

Mrs. Ackerman recognized that a dysfunctional system could make a good person look dysfunctional. Thus, a procurement system that is not coordinated and a payroll system that doesn't pay threaten to undermine even the best of intentions. A dysfunctional system is not altered simply by removing its figureheads. What has changed since Mrs. Ackerman's resignation? The trustees announced that the control board would correct procurement and payroll deficiencies. Several people have been appointed to take charge, and several people have gone on to bigger and better things without correcting the problems. How, then, did the blame for these broken systems fall upon Mrs. Ackerman's shoulders? The D.C. Council has been around the entire time that the school system's operations were declining. How can a superintendent who has been on the job for two years be blamed for these types of failures and the council excused for its role?

Real change takes detailed work; it's too bad the mayor, city council and some news media ignored the elected board's revised code of ethics and procedures a detailed effort to remove future members from the dysfunctionalism that has crippled the board to date. What has killed the D.C. school board's performance record are the rules, regulations, omissions and gaps in logic and thought found throughout the laws and codes that govern the board and the conduct of its members. The council's June 27 referendum simply seeks to continue the appointed trustees. Nowhere has the council or its supporters provided an explanation to parents as to how this referendum will improve what goes on in the classroom or, for that matter, the school board. The council's referendum does nothing to change the conduct of members of a school board whether elected or appointed.

Elected school board members need to be empowered to be effective child advocates. In the area of school governance, the public school community wants to be directly in charge of its nonpartisan elected representatives so they can be removed from office for failure to address problems. The public needs to be respected at the voting booth and not subject to the ideology of the elite.

Current elected school board members hope the citizens' response to the council's June 27 referendum will be respected by the control board, the Congress, the D.C. Council and the mayor. All elected officials should be empowered to do their jobs so they can be evaluated based on what they are empowered to do as opposed to who likes or dislikes them.

DON REEVES

Ward 3 member

D.C. Board of Education

Washington

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