- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2006

Civil War heroes

Thank you for the interesting article and book review about Robert E. Lee (“Robert E. Lee: ‘A wonderful loser’” and “Lee showed greatness in times of war, peace,” The Civil War, Saturday). Both the article and review correctly point out that Lee has become an icon to many in our society. He is rightly praised for his unique character and ability as a man and a soldier.

Lee’s decision, a difficult one as cited by your authors, to fight for his state of Virginia rather than his country at the beginning of the Civil War raises some questions. The authors overlooked the fact that Lee’s allegiance quickly changed from his state to the newly-established Confederate States of America. From a historical point of view, it would have been more laudatory for Lee to accept President Lincoln’s offer to lead the U.S. Army in putting down the Southern states’ secession from the Union. This likely would have brought the rebellion to an end much sooner, and would have saved many of the 600,000 lives lost during the four years of conflict.

In contrast to Virginian George Henry Thomas, the renowned “Rock of Chickamaugua” who fought for the Union and as a result was ostracized by his family and friends for the rest of his life, Lee chose to fight against his country. Thomas has become an obscure figure, while Lee turned out to be a national hero. An argument can be made, however, that Thomas was more courageous and made the greater sacrifice.

THOMAS J. RYAN

Bethany Beach, Del.

Carol Schwartz on parking

Yes, as you say yet again in Thursday’s Page One article “Angry ‘no’ to D.C. parking ‘wringer,’” I did sponsor the provision in 2002 that enables our 13 locally elected members of the D.C. Council to have the same parking opportunities that the 535 members of Congress gave themselves more than 50 years ago.

Now let’s put this in perspective. We are talking about 13 persons who are duly elected to serve the people of Washington, unlike 534 of the 535 members of Congress, who represent constituents from across the country. The increased parking opportunities for council members are, in fact, restricted by the D.C. Code to “available curb space(s)… not in violation of a loading zone, rush hour, firehouse, or fire plug limitation.”

Further, unlike most upper-level (and many not-so-upper-level) officials in the executive branch of the District government, I use my own car (not a government car, though they are seldom ticketed) and I certainly do not have a driver at my disposal to help me meet my official obligations (which are numerous), nor do I want such perks. I am perfectly fine with using my own vehicle, buying my own gas and driving myself at no expense to the public.

I enjoy taking part in local events and activities, but being engaged with those I serve is also a significant part of my job. In fact, it is not unusual for me to attend four or five community functions in one evening. Being able to park for short periods of time in available curb spaces that are not in violation of loading-zone, rush-hour, firehouse, or fire-plug limitations helps me keep my scheduled commitments to those I represent. Why this causes The Times such ongoing consternation is beyond me.

It is common in other jurisdictions for elected officials to have parking abilities similar to ours. However, because the D.C. Council acted on this in a public way — by voting on it in a meeting of the full council — we are singled out again and again by The Times. This is discriminatory on the newspaper’s part, and it should end.

Carol Schwartz

Member at-large

D.C. Council

Washington

Boys, men and Band-Aids

I applaud The Washington Times for going down a politically incorrect road and facing squarely a reality that we as a society generally have refused to face — the educational devastation that has been wrought upon boys and men over the past four decades by the matriarchy that dominates education (“Academic underachievers,” Page 1, yesterday).

While many attempts to improve the educational lot of boys and men are reported in this article, in my opinion, they miss the core of the problem.

To properly locate the core — and see just how far the pendulum has swung — one need only search two locations: (1) select any university Web site and enter into its search engine the terms “women’s studies” and “men’s studies”; and (2) search anywhere for special programs, scholarships, fellowships and grants of any kind that are restricted to one gender and see how many are set aside only for girls and women versus how many are set aside only for boys and men.

In my view, if we truly wish to improve the lives of boys and men and return the educational pendulum to dead center, we must experience a massive change in our social attitudes and come to view boys and men as worthy human beings — deserving not only of equality in educational opportunity but also of civil and human rights as well.

As I see it, all else is but Band-Aids placed on a rapidly metastasizing matriarchy.

GORDON E. FINLEY

Professor of Psychology

Florida International University

Miami

The rise and fall of an American city

New Haven, Conn., is probably one of the leading examples of the irreversible decline of major U.S. cities in the second half of the last century (“Storied Winchester firearm factory likely to close,” Business, Wednesday). It also has been one of the highest per capita recipients of federal social engineering aid — housing, social services, etc. Unfortunately, all of the federal aid and foreign aid mentioned by Thomas Sowell in his piece on China (“Curing poverty or using poverty?” Commentary, Wednesday) has had little effect on national poverty or failed to stem the urban decline in U.S. cities.

At the beginning of the last century New Haven reached its peak as a major industrial city. If you look at the distribution of population in and around New Haven you find that 30 percent of the population lived inside the city in 1820. This climbed steadily to 80 percent in 1920, and declined steadily to about 33 percent today. The population shifted to the suburbs, as it was in the agrarian-based economy in 1800.

So, what happened? I think you can attribute it mainly to the creative destruction of a democratic capitalist economy, which provided the AC power grid to replace fixed-point, urban-centered steam power for industry; the automobile, which replaced fixed-path rail transportation; and the increasing flexibility and portability of capital. Industry can be located wherever it is most productive and cost-effective, and that is the case the world over.

In short, urbanism is obsolete, and of course so is social engineering and just about every other federal Band-Aid applied to stem the urban decline. But the left never seems to notice, as Mr. Sowell points out. One of the most inane comments made by the current governor of Virginia was to state emphatically that high taxes and proactive government mean high quality of life — just look at Mississippi, the poster child for low taxes.

Maybe, but the governor seems to be oblivious to the population shift described above, which was motivated by low taxes and low business costs outside of city boundaries. School systems are best where taxes, land and home prices are lowest, and that has powered the race to the suburbs for most of the U.S. population in the last century.

SAMUEL BURKEEN

Reston

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