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Letters to the editor

- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2007

For Ralph de Toledano

I met Ralph de Toledano only last year.

I had come back to Washington, after many years and was reading his book "Notes from the Underground" when I found this passage:

Oct. 18, 1960

Dear Ralph,

The Montero is marvelous. [I had sent him a recording of Germaine Montero reading Garcia-Lorca's "Lament on the Death of a Bullfighter," his greatest poem.] I scarcely expected at my time of life to have the kind of experience that occurs at my son's age: something new and wonderful, since what the young woman is saying in the tone (more than any words) is what has always been there. I thank you for bringing this young creto-iberienne to our house...

Whittaker

Suddenly, I had to meet him.

However, after the death of my grandfather, Whittaker Chambers, our families had not kept in touch. Fortunately, Ralph was not hard to find and was delighted when I called. He suggested we meet at his old stomping grounds at the National Press Club. At the appointed time and date, we met upstairs on the fourteenth floor, in the members' bar.

Ralph was a tall man, nearly 90. He had survived intestinal cancer, though not without scars. While a bit unsteady, he was still bright-eyed and was warmly welcoming as we sat down. Lunch was on him, of course: It was his treat to his old friend's grandson.

It was hard to know where to start talking. Conversation was hampered partly by the deafness of age. Part of it was due to the memory of Whittaker Chambers that played across his face faster than he could utter words. He started to tell stories several times but quickly broke off in mid-sentence, all the time smiling. I knew he missed my grandfather, and the memories were happy.

Then Ralph asked me whether I had read "Notes from the Underground."

I had come because I had read the book, I said — and to thank him.

He looked surprised.

I told him about the letter I had read.That record of Germaine Montero's he had given Grampa, her recital of Garcia-Lorca's "Lament" that Grampa had enjoyed so much? It had come down to me. I had listened to it many times, but I had not known until those letters that it had come from him.

Thanks to that record, I told him, I had been sure to read Federico Garcia-Lorca, had read about the Spanish Civil War, Pablo Neruda's memoirs and poetry, Abel Paz's account of Durruti's Column, Orwell's "Homage." Through that record, I had come to know of many of the leaders and intellectuals involved in that prelude to World War II. Because of that record, I had listened to my mother's copy of Germaine Montero singing Brecht's "Mother Courage," as well as my grandfather's copy of "Lotte Lenya Sings Kurt Weill."

Ralph loved music, and his face beamed.

Again, I thanked Ralph for his gift. He quoted something in Spanish I could not follow, but it did not matter. Looking at his face, I realized that in thanking him, I had given him something back in return. By learning of this lasting affect on our family, Ralph had touched his old friend again.

Just a few weeks ago, I happened to pass by the National Press Club again to see Ralph. He was not there. He had been in the hospital, reported Jack, the barman. Jack did not expect him to come to the Press Club anytime soon, but I could call Ralph at home. Meanwhile Jack would pass on my regards if he talked to Ralph. Then he asked my name and instantly remembered my sole visit more than a year ago: you are the grandson of Whittaker Chambers that Ralph met here. That's right, I said — what a thing memory is.

One matter I had not told Ralph that showed how deeply his gift had touched me was that I had read from Lorca's "Lament" at the funeral of my maternal grandfather. With the news of Ralph's death, I read it again:

Tardara mucho tiempo en nacer, si es que nace,

un andaluz tan claro, tan rico de aventura.

Yo canto su elegancia con palabras que gimen

y recuerdo una brisa triste por los olivos.

It will be a long time, if ever, before there is born

an Andalusian so true, so full of adventure.

I sing of his elegance with words that groan

and I remember a sad breeze through the olive trees.

David Chambers

Reston

Still a bad immigration bill

The article, "Senate illegals bill near complete" (Page 1, Thursday) states that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy is heading the effort to create an immigration bill that is likely to reach the floor in April. It is expected that the bill will be a reworking of the McCain-Kennedy immigration legislation introduced last year.

Mr. Kennedy authored the family unification legislation that lead to the huge influx of immigrants that flooded into the country since 1965. One should also remember the 1986 immigration legislation that rewarded over 3 million illegal aliens with amnesty.

Since Congress has a majority of Democrats as a results of elections held last year, it is expected that they will introduce legislation that will likely include another amnesty proposal in support of the president's version of a proposed amnesty for up to 20 million illegal aliens in the country.

It is expected that thousands of people opposed to any legislation that would grant amnesty will flock to Washington to lobby Congress during the last ten days in April. Led by a group of radio talk-show hosts from across America, their listeners will demand secure borders and workplace enforcement of existing immigration laws before considering any widespread attempt to legalize those illegally in the country.

BYRON SLATER

San Diego

Fix the whole system

In response to "Tim Kaine's failed leadership" (Op-Ed, yesterday): It is not failed leadership; it is plain out-right dishonesty. Go to the Virginia Treasury'sWebsite (http://www.trs.virginia.gov/cash/cash.asp) and the first thing you will be staring at is an arrogant boast about managing up to $8 billion dollars. Surf a little more into the site and you find that the average monthly liquidity has now reached $7 billion. That means on average the state carries a surplus of $7 billion, compared to an annual budget of approximately $30 billion.

The mainstream media, the Chamber of Commerce, Gov. Tim Kaine and his supporters want us to believe that they need a stable source of funding. If you have ever looked closely at Federal accounting, or state financial accounting and its history, you know that the whole idea of "dedicated taxes" — that is, taxes raised from a particular source and associated with a particular expenditure, is a total scam. Ever hear of the Social Security trust fund?

How many times has Virginia raided the highway trust fund to pay for things other than roads? Government trust funds are nothing but political allusions, and if the electorate ever comes to realize this, there may be some real reform in government fiscal operations.

The only thing that matters to the Virginia treasurer is that the color of the money is green. Would a road be any different if it were paid for by income taxes, registration fees or a sales tax? Of course not. And if you need a more stable source of funding, why not revamp the whole tax code and connect that one stable source to the whole Virginia budget? This will not happen, of course, because there is no one, ultimately stable source and there can never be, because in the end the state is exposed to the same risk as each and every tax payer.

SAMUEL BURKEEN

Reston