- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2006

Time to rethink the 17th Amendment?

Anyone watching the two houses of Congress deal with immigration legislation must be struck by the differences in their approaches. The House passed legislation aimed solely at discouraging illegal immigration. The Senate only considered bills designed to greatly increase immigration by means of amnesty, a guest-worker program, more immigrant visas or combinations thereof.

Our president recently invited senators sympathetic to “open borders” to the White House to discuss strategies. They were said to be “thrilled” (“Bush, senators agree on alien citizenship, shut out critics,” Page 1, Wednesday). What’s going on here?

The Constitution our Founding Fathers drafted provided six-year terms for senators. We learned in grammar school that this was to allow them to take a longer view and cool the legislative ardor of the biennially elected representatives. Less attention was paid to the founders’ provision that senators be appointed by state legislators.

A reading of the Federalist reveals why. Founders were skeptical about democracy. For them, the states, with their great number and diversity, might as intermediaries be the saving grace of our union, and so, state electors picked the president and state legislators selected senators.

Even for popular election to the House of Representatives, the states determined who might vote — some states initially limited this to adult white males who owned property.

The 17th Amendment, which provided for the popular election of senators, stood this system on its head. It would have astonished the founders. Following ratification, senators would begin their long terms of office no longer tethered to their state governments, but not really accountable to their electors, either. Over a six-year period, a senator might be wined and dined, captivated and captured by determined special interests. Also, elections being costly affairs, a senator might become dependent for campaign funds upon the moneyed satraps of international commerce.

Maybe we should reconsider the 17th Amendment.

WILLIAM BUCHANAN

Washington

Mass deportations unnecessary

In regard to the article “Bush rejects mass deportation of illegal aliens” (Page 1, Tuesday), President Bush is dead wrong. We could get rid of nearly all illegal immigration with two steps, without the need for mass deportations.

1) Mandatory online employment eligibility verification, with stiff employer sanctions ($50,000 or more for each illegal hiring) and criminal charges for repeat offenses by employers. There’s already the SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements) program, which verifies that someone is legal to work; it just needs to be made mandatory.

2) Blocking all benefits — medical, educational, retirement, etc. — at all levels of government for illegal aliens.

If you did these two things, illegal aliens would have no means of support and would stop coming, and those here would leave.

But if mass deportations were used, they would pay for themselves in four years, even using absurdly low estimates of apprehension rates, according to a study published by the Center for American Progress.

What’s lacking is not feasibility, but the political will to save the country.

RICHARD SOL

Los Angeles

Iran and the atomic bomb

Frank Gaffney (“Intelligence failures,” Commentary, Tuesday) is rightly skeptical of administration claims that Iran is several years away from developing a nuclear bomb.

Such estimates, based on projections of Iran’s centrifuge enrichment capability, may well be wide of the mark. Iran could shorten the time frame for a bomb from years to months by acquiring nuclear explosives from a willing foreign supplier.

One Iranian procurement target has been Russia’s leaky nuclear stockpiles, which in the 1990s gave rise to multiple thefts of highly enriched uranium and plutonium.

Modern security systems are being installed to protect Russia’s estimated 600 tons of fissile material outside of weapons, but as of the mid-2000s, only about half of this material was adequately safeguarded, at least by U.S. standards.

At this late date — 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union — it is conceivable that enough material to make one or more weapons has escaped into black-market channels and is available for sale.

U.S. policy-makers, thus, should plan for the contingency that Iran already has the ingredients to assemble a bomb, even while it continues on the visible and laborious path of uranium enrichment.

RENSSELAER LEE

McLean

The free world in denial

In her excellent April 21 Op-Ed column, “Useful idiots … Innocent Islamists,” Diana West is correctly critical of President Bush’s stated position that “terrorists have hijacked a peaceful religion in order to justify their behavior.”

With all due respect to our president, try telling that to the Christians who have been persecuted for their beliefs. The history of Islam tells us otherwise.

In his book “The Lucifer Principle,” Howard Bloom writes of Islam: “Some readers will be outraged by my presumption. How dare I regard any group as barbaric? What appalling ethnocentrism! There are no barbarians. There are simply cultures we haven’t taken the time to understand. Cultures to whom we haven’t given sufficient aid. Cultures in need of development. Beneath the skin, all men and women are the same. They have the same needs, the same emotions, and the same ideals. If you simply took those folks you speak of so contemptuously out for a cup of coffee, you would discover that they are just like you and me.

“But there are barbarians — people whose cultures glorify the act of murder and elevate violence to a holy deed. These cultures portray the extinction of other human beings as a validation of manliness, a heroic gesture in the name of truth, or simply a good way to get ahead in the world. Islamic societies tend to be high on this list.”

As Miss West writes, “the Free World remains in denial,” regardless of all the atrocities that have been committed in the name of Allah.

STELLA L. JATRAS

Camp Hill, Pa.

A dubious ‘magic bullet’

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine is on track in concluding that the minimum pass scores required for the statewide public school tests are unacceptable (“Kaine says schools must set higher goals for students,” Metropolitan, yesterday). The focus is necessarily on students immediately below, at or immediately above the barely-pass score. Those suffering most are the “forgotten middle,” those achieving between minimum and advanced proficiency.

Unfortunately, Mr. Kaine has bought into the latest education magic bullet: preschool for at-risk pupils. Darcy Olsen’s comprehensive surveys of nationwide data (American Experiment Quarterly, Spring 2005) showed preschool achievement “fade out.” Participants’ cognitive gains (achievement levels compared with those of nonparticipants) disappear in the third or fourth grade. The same held true when full-time and part-time kindergartens were compared.

American fourth-graders test higher in math and reading than those in many developed countries. American eighth-graders score average. By grade 12, they are near the bottom. In Arlington, 95 percent of second-graders are reading at grade level. This falls to 64 percent in sixth grade. Yet, the school board appears ready to approve a million-dollar increase in the preschool budget next week. It is time for the nation (and Arlington, which already has universal full-time kindergarten) to focus on the post-grade-four years.

JOHN A. SULLIVAN

Arlington

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