- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Supporting scholastic competitors

Concerning “Elevating student-athletes” (Editorial, Monday), I would suggest that studentathletes,especially basketball players, are already placed on pedestals far higher than what I would like to refer to as the “scholar-non-athlete competitors.”

My perspective is based on experience from both sides: On the one hand, as coach of numerous youth basketball teams from AAU on down and of the baseball and soccer teams at my public middle school; and on the other hand, as a science teacher and mentor-coach of several exciting academic teams. I can attest that the support and recognition of the sports programs far exceed that of the academic programs.

And while it is true that “coaches [and athletes] work hard throughout the school year merely to field teams,” it is worth considering the effort students put into the academic teams I have “coached.” This year, for example, my Science Exploravision teams worked six to seven hours a week, and additional time at home, for a period that extended through all of the basketball season and most of the baseball season. Many of the original participants quit early on because of the requirements (I certainly never had that happen on any of my sports teams).

Whereas I was paid for coaching baseball and basketball, there is no such budget for the academic teams. Just the same, the results of the teams’ hard work were staggering in their impressiveness. In fact, our next task is to find funding to protect their exciting, innovative technical ideas through the patent office. At my school, the basketball players are heavily recruited by the area parochial schools: I can’t wait to see the day when the exceptional participants from the “academic” teams are similarly recruited.

It is our “scholar-non-athlete competitors” who deserve better recognition. After all, they are the ones who will lead our country in the coming century.

EDWARD AMATETTI

Gaithersburg

Illegal immigration is a state issue, too

The article “Illegals issue seeps into more states’ bills” (Nation, Jan. 13) states, “Illegal entry into the United States may be a federal issue, but try telling that to Dave Schultheis.”

That’s like saying, “Bank robbing may be a federal case.” Bank robbing, murder, kidnapping and many other crimes are federal offenses, but each state enforces the laws against these crimes. Moreover, the 1996 immigration reform bill compels states to enforce immigration laws.

Saying that immigration laws are just a federal concern is a fib fabricated by those corrupt local politicians who are pro-illegal immigration.

Thank God for people like Dave Schultheis. I live in California, a state that’s devastated economically and socially by illegal immigration. According to state Sen. Tom McClintock, it costs California $10 billion a year to educate, medicate and incarcerate illegal aliens. It’s estimated we have 3 million illegal aliens in our state, but it could be more. California is $38 billion in debt. We have become a welfare state for illegal aliens.

By the way, I’m a U.S. citizen of Hispanic descent and, like everybody else, I think illegal immigration is a federal and a state issue.

HAYDEE PAVIA

Laguna Woods, Calif

Not an earmark

The article “McCain, Coburn to force votes on pork spending” (Page 1, Friday) regarding the impending battle over congressional earmarks unfortunately juxtaposes the Defense Travel System (DTS), an important program of record of Department of Defense, with more controversial congressional line-item projects. DTS is not an earmark, as it has for several years been part of the Defense budget.

DTS came about at the urging of Congress in a move to address broad travel issues beyond the capability of traditional, less sophisticated programs. Today’s system, now widely in use, provides a full scope and secure technological solution covering travel authorization, reservations, expense claims and reimbursement.

For Americans concerned about how their money is spent, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service estimates that DTS can save $35 million in processing costs in fiscal 2006 alone.

This session of Congress will certainly be an interesting one, and the timely article highlights the difficulty in discerning between earmarks and legitimate budgeted items. As for DTS, its use continues to expand and the program is expected to be included in President Bush’s fiscal 2007 budget request.

DARRYL FRASER

Sector vice president

Washington Operations

Northrop Grumman Mission Systems

Arlington

Future of the NSA surveillance program

The debate over domestic surveillance should now be focusing on the future, not the past (“Bush claims authority on war, eavesdropping,” Nation, Friday). In the immediate aftermath of September 11, it is appreciated that President Bush sought to use every means available to pursue our attackers. The risk of misuse of power for personal or political gain was at a minimum then.

Now, however, we need to consider the next decade and probably longer. What — if any — oversight should there be over the president and his staff? The president suggests that the occasional secret briefing of eight members of Congress, who are prohibited from discussing the topic with others, will suffice as oversight. This can hardly be called effective oversight.

Mr. Bush may be a Ulysses, so firmly bound by his ideals that he can resist the Siren’s call to misuse unchecked power, but can we say the same about his crew? And what about succeeding captains and their crews?

The track record causes alarm. When left unchecked, Democrats and Republicans and law enforcement leaders have repeatedly abused their power in order to spy on their critics or get dirt on opponents for their political benefit. Surely those in power will feel temptation in 2008 and 2012 and beyond to help themselves and weaken their critics and opponents.

If no one is watching, the temptation will almost assuredly prove irresistible. The country’s Founders had a keen sense of human nature and astutely provided checks to curb the risk of tyranny and misuse of power. We should not be abandoning these safeguards now. Human nature hasn’t changed that much over the last 200 years.

Providing effective checks and oversight — whether through the existing law or a new one — need not hinder efforts to monitor and catch terrorists in the United States. Congress will work with the president to get the laws right.

It is reassuring to see that under the existing legislation on domestic surveillance the judiciary has provided a check without leaking information or impeding investigations. We can be confident they will do the same under any amended or new legislation.

The president and Congress need to work together to create a workable system that provides sufficient oversight of domestic surveillance. A “trust me” policy may be understandable — even justifiable — for the immediate post-September 11 period, but as an indefinite policy, it is a surefire recipe for abuse.

JOHN L. DONOVAN

Annandale

Canadian goodwill

Sadly, some Canadians feel that a chest-thumping, head-held-high and morally superior attitude to America is the way to live (“The response from Canada,” Letters, Thursday). Many less strident Canadians would disagree.

Many in Canada welcome this opportunity to show our friendship again instead of feeding the juvenile tendencies of a vocal few. To President Bush, we say thank you for your patience with Canada, and we look forward to working with you during the rest of your term.

ROY TAYLOR

London, Ontario

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