The notion promoted by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch that it is somehow a violation of the human rights of teenagers to inform them about careers, job training and educational opportunities offered by the armed services assumes that only the evil or insane would ever consider military service (although the same "progressives" love to criticize any Republican who did not serve in Vietnam) ("Child soldier studies criticize U.S. practices," Page 1, Wednesday).
As a 20-year veteran of the Air Force who has a son and son-in-law who also are veterans, I hold the view that military service often can be the best thing a young man or woman can do after high school. It provides a vital and irreplaceable service to our nation and is a place where young people can mature in an environment that challenges them mentally and physically and helps them grow in every way. It is one of the few places that will give you full pay and benefits while you are in extended training. Much of that training translates directly into civilian employment.
The military is the single greatest financer of college education in the nation, with evening classes offered at every military base, including overseas, plus opportunities for graduate study and special courses in foreign languages. It provides an opportunity to become familiar, face to face, with people from other nations. When teenagers are planning what to do with their lives and looking for ways to make positive contributions to their fellow citizens, they have the right to learn about the opportunities provided by the U.S. armed forces. The ACLU's campaign is part of its goal to keep all Americans in a state of perpetual childhood and not learn how to think for themselves and make their own choices.
LT. COL. RAYMOND TAKASHI SWENSON
Air Force (retired)
Idaho Falls, Idaho
The May 20 editorial "Tax and spend in Virginia" has it right: Vehicle and sales tax increases are just another way for Richmond to feast off the pocketbooks of working Virginians.
This attempt at using the buffet line of honest traffic frustrations among drivers is not only bad fiscal policy, but also misleading.
Building and maintaining road infrastructure is an important function of government, but saddling additional tax burdens onto the backs of the struggling home industry and working families is counterproductive.
If transportation were the real concern for lawmakers, they would have planned to fund needed improvements with the more than $35 billion that taxpayers are projected to give the government next year rather than using such an important issue as a convenient political scapegoat for a lack of fiscal responsibility.
In his Wednesday Commentary column, "GOP: Get back," Cal Thomas approvingly quotes Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, as saying, "I believe the way back to a Republican majority is to the right." This assertion ignores the fact that on practically every important issue, more of the voters trust the Democrats. If the Republican Party moves further to the right, it will fall off the same cliff the Democrats fell off after the election of 1968.
Mr. Thomas goes on to suggest the self-indulgent view that a clone of Ronald Reagan would do fine in the November election. This ignores the facts that Reagan ran in the Republican primaries of 1968 and 1976 and lost both times. He would lose in November. The Republicans cannot keep running against the social chaos of the 1960s and '70s any more than the Democrats could keep running against the Great Depression.
If one feels something strongly, it is easy to overestimate the number of people who feel the same way. It is easy to underestimate the difficulty of converting others to one's persuasion.
Let me get this straight - Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and allied groups get nearly three years of unfettered access to Fox, MSNBC and CNN to demagogue views on immigration; they get the enthusiastic endorsement of network talk-show hosts such as Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, who echo their rhetoric, champion their issues and deride anyone who raises a voice in opposition as supporters of "open borders" or "pro-illegal immigration"; they disparage our motives when we appear on their programs or issue a statement. Yet he's calling us bullies and crying foul because we dare to push back? ("Attempts at censorship," Op-Ed, Tuesday.)
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) did not label FAIR a hate group; the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) did, based on documented characteristics of what defines a "hate group." We did not label the rhetoric that FAIR and the cable networks have used to demonize immigrants as "code words of hate"; the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) did. Neither of those groups has a dog in the fight over immigration. NCLR is ready, willing and able to have a debate on immigration, but our primary concern for the moment is not about public policy.
As the largest national Hispanic civil rights group in the United States, NCLR is alarmed over the spike in hate crimes against Latinos, as documented by the FBI. We are alarmed at the rise of hate groups and white supremacists targeting Latinos, as documented by the SPLC. We also are alarmed at the amazing passivity and lack of judgment with which the cable news media treat many of the anti-immigration groups, including FAIR, whose affiliations and records should be questioned and disclosed.
FAIR is the brainchild of John Tanton, as are many of the other major advocates banging the anti-immigrant drum, including U.S. Inc., ProEnglish, the Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA, and Social Contract Press. Mr. Tanton and his "children" have long ties to white supremacists, eugenics and hate, and yet they continually get a pass on the cable network news.
Appealing to the networks and the better angels of their nature is a logical first step for us to take. There are others, to be sure, but we feel it is appropriate to start here.
President and CEO
National Council of La Raza
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