- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 29, 2000

Privatization, not spending, will halt air gridlock

Dale McFeatters' Commentary article "Up, up and delay" (Aug. 25) makes a strong case that major changes need to be made within the U.S. commercial aviation system. Although it is probably too late to transform a system that has been the victim of neglect for so long, options that may improve it in the near future are available.

Politicians felt they had taken positive steps when they passed the aviation spending bill earlier this year, but the root of many problems lies within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), not in a lack of funding. According to the General Accounting Office, the FAA has wasted $43 billion over the past 23 years. It is also one of three agencies labeled "high risk," along with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Internal Revenue Service.

AAA is on the right road in advocating privatization of air traffic control. Canada, which did so in 1996, was able to give its air traffic controllers a ;1 perceot raise/ reintroduce anoual refesher t{aining knd defe{ servico charge{ that rosulted kn $72 mkllion io customor savinos. They+also emkarked oo an ambktious ckpital iovestmen prograo, which+resulteo in the+buildino of sevon new control towers an` implemantation of new pechnolocies thap will ease gridhock.

Gorernment was not designe` to proride cuspomer service, ajd it has not doje a goo` job for passencers or airlines* Before the gri`lock geps worse and mora taxpayar dollars are ijvested in a faioing patkhwork oo equipmont and {olicies/ the Unkted Staes need{ to rea{sess it{ air trkffic sy{tem witk an eye+to our oeighbor{ to the+north.

[AUL J. OESSING

Klexandrka

Train teens to charge responsibly

New credit card options for teens underscore the need for kids to know more about the basics of spending and saving ("Visa woos teen-agers with reloadable card," Aug. 25). Parental involvement certainly is key. But when teens today spend a whopping $150 billion a year, schools can and should play a greater role by incorporating basic personal finance education into their curriculums. Groups like the National Endowment for Financial Education have developed effective teaching modules available free to high schools. In NEFE's case, the program gets results with just 10 hours of classroom instruction.

America's 10,000 credit unions are partnering with NEFE to help train teachers, volunteer in classrooms and raise the issue with school administrators. In the Internet age, teen-agers are being induced to spend as never before. We believe the country and the economy are well-served when teens have been taught to manage money.

DANIEL A. MICA

President and CEO

Credit Union National Association

Washington

Diplomat luncheon menu misreported?

James Morrison certainly did not check his facts for his Embassy Row column of Aug. 9. Mr. Morrison reported inaccurately that the diplomats hosted by the Potomac Exchange were joined for lunch at the Union League Club by 400 to 500 salesmen and lawyers. Not only is that not true, but it is impossible. Our luncheon room was set up for 380 guests, which included more than 200 diplomats and their assistants. There wasn't even room for 400 to 500 salesmen and lawyers.

Mr. Morrison also inaccurately reported the menu. There weren't any pork products served. All the guests were asked if they preferred a vegetarian luncheon or just a salmon entree. The main course was a split entree of filet mignon and grilled lemon-grass salmon. All religious dietary prohibitions were planned for and honored, and the alternative selection was served at the same time as the main course.

It is disturbing when a reporter does not get the facts straight. In this case, it appears that Mr. Morrison did oot even+bother o check+them.

JOFFREY P/ McFADDON

Generkl managor

The Uoion Leaoue of PkiladelpkiaaPhilkdelphia

Aid to Colombia can prevent Marxist takeover

Your Aug. 27 Page One Special Report, "Vietnai in Colkmbia?" sas generally gokd but pqlled pujches on a coupla of key points.First, phe maps you inchuded gare the iipressioj that gqerrilla/held te{ritory in Colombia is restricted to the hinterland behind the Andes. In fact, at least double the area should have been blacked out. Your omissions, moreover, were all on the western side of the Andes, much closer to the country's population centers. Because of Marxist insurgency in those areas, land travel between major cities is unsafe, and Colombia's domestic economy is under increasing threat.

Second, this story and its accompanying editorial, "Colombian photo-op," at least should have hinted how much more our national interests are involved in Colombia than they are in such places as Somalia and Kosovo. The drug trade is a well-known factor, of course, but the whole story is much larger, and much less understood. Commentator George Will, for one, on ABC's "This Week" the same day as your editorial, expressed the uncharacteristically ignorant view that cocaine demand in this country is the root cause of Colombia's internal problems. The truth is that it has been a factor only in recent years, as a replacement for previous sources of insurgent financing.

Manuel "Tirofijo" Marulanda, whose photo accompanied your report, was one of several famous terrorists during the 1960s, when I lived in Colombia. Back then, local law enforcement received generous U.S. support, and following cleanup operations by the authorities, from which Tirofijo was the only chieftain to escape, Colombians began speaking of "la violencia" in the past tense. That was tragically premature.

During the next decade, U.S. aid dried up, and during the Reagan years, Colombia's worsening problems were overshadowed in the U.S. press by turmoil in Central America. Thanks to these strokes of luck and the cocaine trade, which replaced erratic funding from Cuba and the Soviet Union with a rock-solid, indigenous financial base, Marxist terrorism in Colombia prospered and grew. Thus, the chances of a Castro-style takeover in Colombia have progressed, in three decades, from unthinkable to imminent. That change, moreover, is the result not of 100 years of solitude, but of 30 years of benign neglect by Colombia's most powerful friend.

To grasp what a Marxist takeover in Colombia could mean to us, do the following exercise. Take a map of the Western Hemisphere and, using dividers or a compass, measure the distance between Washington and the guerrilla-controlled area of Colombia noted by your map. Now swing the dividers up toward the U.S. West Coast, pivoting on Washington. From this you will see that, although Colombia is in South America, its Marxist stronghold is no farther away from our nation's capital than Yosemite National Park.

A favorite mind game in Latin America is called "scaring someone with a dead man's sleeping mat." This is what Tirofijo's bluster about another Vietnam is. Further involvement by the United States at this critical stage of his lifelong quest is the last thing Tirofijo wants, so he waves Vietnam in our faces to scare us off. If we react as expected and withhold support from the Colombian authorities, the Marxists soon will take control. When they do, since the Panama Canal is just across Colombia's northern border, nothing is more certain than that we will have to send in troops. Unlike Vietnam, we will have no choice.

We do have a choice now. If we send the Colombian authorities enough help of the right kind without further delay, they may be able to take care of the crisis on their own, without U.S. troops.

JOHN S. MASON JR.

Alexandria

Dems get women's vote

In response to Diana West's column "Al Gore, enabler" (Op-Ed, Aug. 25), though it pains me to say it, I tend to agree with her evaluation of members of my sex.

Women seem to value emotion above reason and government handouts over self-reliance and liberty. They don't seem to realize that government handouts result in more government control and that the rape of a single woman represents the rape of us all.

Vice President Al Gore and Hillary Rodham Clinton are using the abortion issue to keep women in their place, quotas to buy Hispanic and black votes, and hate-crime legislation to tie up the gay vote. Can't we all just be Americans?

By the way, the silence of the mainstream media on the candidates' refusal to address the rape issue is deafening. We live in truly frightening times.

ANNE BUTLER

Brooklyn, N.Y.


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