- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2003

A new state for D.C.

I am responding to Deborah Simmons' column "The District of discontent" (Op-Ed, Friday). Surely, the smoothest way for D.C. residents to have full voting rights and serious government is to follow the examples of Arlington and Alexandria, where Mrs. Simmons' fellow columnist Adrienne Washington lives.

Arlington and Alexandria once were part of the District of Columbia. However, in response to the desire of their voters, the area was returned to Virginia in 1846, and all have lived happily and with full voting rights ever after, thanks to the Civil War and the civil rights struggle. No constitutional amendment was required to put Arlington back in the "Old Dominion," just an act of Congress.

My suggestion is that the 68.25 remaining square miles of the District revert to Maryland and be a county of the "Free State," where the residents will have all the rights of any citizens, including representation by real senators and representatives and oversight by real attorneys and inspectors general. If D.C. residents do not want to associate with Maryland, they can become part of another state, such as Virginia.


RICHARD GARRISON

Arlington, Va.

France's Russian connection

Why are the French so ungrateful? This question seems to preoccupy many writers in The Washington Times, the most recent example being Clifford D. May in his Sunday Commentary column, "Not an ally of preferred vintage."

Yet your writers always pass over a very significant historical truth: that the relatively quick American liberation of France in World War II was possible only because the German army had been devastated by three years of fighting in Russia, whose tremendous losses in the millions dwarfed our own. Russia really won the European war through its victories in the East, not the United States through its late-stage victories in the West.

So it would seem to follow logically that France should discharge part of its debt of gratitude by supporting all future Russian wars.


JOSEPH SOBRAN

Burke, Va.

Why Serbs are cynical

Thou shalt speak kindly of the dead, but to claim that Serbia's assassinated Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic doggedly pursued democratic reform is to be economical with the truth ("The shots in Serbia," Editorial, Saturday). To fiddle with the ballot box is one thing, but even Slobodan Milosevic refrained from replacing elected legislators with compliant cronies. This is precisely what Mr. Djindjic did early last summer to half of those Serbian Parliament deputies belonging to his opponent Vojislav Kostunica's party. When Serbia's Supreme Court ruled this act illegal, Mr. Djindjic proceeded to replace the remaining deputies loyal to Mr. Kostunica.

Mr. Djindjic eventually relented, but the West, true to form, treated this sordid episode as a mere peccadillo. (Mr. Djindjic was given the benefit of the doubt because he was a "pro-Western" reformer.) Mr. Kostunica, who ultimately was pushed aside because of Mr. Djindjic's superior skills as a power broker, was distrusted by the West because he is legalistic (believes in the rule of law), cautious (or conservative) and nationalistic (wants to defend vital Serbian interests). Unlike Mr. Djindjic, Mr. Kostunica is a committed democrat and is untainted by any contact with Belgrade's criminal world. No wonder most Serbs are cynical.


YUGO KOVACH

Twickenham, Middlesex

United Kingdom

Explaining an airliner's downward spiral

As a frequent traveler and one who is familiar with airline management and unions from a long career in the industry, I am responding to United Airlines pilot Jim Smart's comments and assertions in his Sunday letter, "United gets a bum rap."

The initial third of his letter, which gives statistics and data on time departures, is irrelevant to the issue at hand: United's abysmal performance and its questionable future.

In fact, the Air Transportation Stabilization Board specified the issue of United's onerous union contracts. It's not a "possible" part of the cost structure, but the major issue that brought United to this point. The unions at United cannot bring themselves to accept that their wanton disregard of the financial realities of the deregulated airline marketplace is the major cause of their present situation.

It has become easy to blame United's problems on September 11, the rise in fuel prices, lost high-end passengers and new costs associated with security. However, the warning signs about United's demise were evident well before September 11, and industry analysts pointed at the airline's onerous pilots contract as the first step down that road.

Does management bear any blame? Sure, and one of many errors was its spineless acquiescence to union demands. United's pilots contract led to higher costs at other major carriers because of the various union locals' demands for "industry-leading contracts," a euphemism for "we want more than they get at (insert airline name here)."

Want more proof of airline unions' inability to see reality? Look at American employees picketing for more federal aid. In other words, let's keep things like we have them and get more money from Uncle Sam, money that comes out of the pockets of people like me who are also paying to fly.

The seeds of this disaster at United were sown long before September 11, and no amount of denial or obfuscating will change that.

Airline labor rates are totally out of line with comparable rates in any other industry. Arguments that pilots deserve those rates of pay because they are responsible for planeloads of people are simply ludicrous. With that logic, what should we pay our soldiers and sailors in Iraq? How about our police officers and firefighters? Bus drivers?

As for the service provided, any employee of a major airline who thinks his carrier is providing a product better than what is offered by discount lines such as Southwest, Jet Blue and AirTran is living in severe denial. From now on, use your passes to fly coach, not first class, on your own airline.

Mr. Smart is correct in one assertion: Trying to compare Southwest to United is like trying to compare Motel 6 to Hyatt. Unfortunately for United, it is Motel 6.


JIM DIXEY

Assistant dean and director

MBA Career Management

McDonough School of Business

Georgetown University

Washington

Polling Bush's war supporters

I went to the Zogby Web site to verify what the article "Public opinion rallies in support of Iraq war" (Page 1, Wednesday) said about the polls. I discovered that the picture the article painted is far rosier than the one painted by pollster John Zogby himself. In his opinion, the support base for war is virtually identical to the support base President Bush has enjoyed all along: basically from a core of whites who are conservative and vote Republican. So Mr. Bush's overall support has not "rallied," to say the least.

Here is what John Zogby has to say about the situation: "The most interesting thing in both the numbers of those who support the war and the President's job performance is that the 'coalition of the willing' essentially includes the Republican coalition and little more. The President is bolstered by overwhelming support from Republicans, whites, Protestants, married voters, men, and investors. He does pick up support from Catholics but mainly those who are active churchgoers and women. But independents are evenly split on both the war and the president's performance, while all the Democratic constituencies are opposed. In short, the President seems to have squandered almost all of his post-9/11 bounce and, on the eve of a war, finds himself hardly more popular than when he polled near 50% in November 2000 and in late August 2001. On the war issue, the youngest voters and the oldest voters are the ones most opposed. This should spark some keen interest and debate."


RICHARD H. MARCUS

New York

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