- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2000

Glorious film gets a disappointing critique

Mackubin Thomas Owens' faultfinding with the movies "The Patriot" and "Glory" ("History and the movies," Op-Ed, Aug. 1) is largely a case of mixed muses. While "The Patriot" is largely costume entertainment that would have fallen under the muse of Calliope, the muse of poetry, "Glory" belongs to Clio, the muse of history.

"Glory" stands largely silent on whether the blacks recruited for the 54th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry were drawn from among free Negroes or runaway slaves. Indeed, the character Searles (often called Thomas and played by Andre Braugher), is not only a freeman, but someone who before the war moved in civilian life in circles with the Boston aristocrat Col. Robert Gould Shaw. It would have been irresponsible to have forgone the dramatic possibilities implicit in the character Trip (played by Denzel Washington), an escaped slave whose deep scars from an overseer's whip are revealed at a crucial moment.

Within limits, the few black members of the 54th we get to know represent as much of a social cross section as the bomber crews in World War II movies. When in battle, the black soldiers and their white officers perform competently in a skirmish and then heroically in the doomed assault on Fort Wagner.

The story of the 54th has inspired other works of art: The Robert Gould Shaw memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens across from the statehouse in Boston (second only to the Vietnam Wall as perhaps America's most moving war shrine); the poem "To the Union Dead" by Robert Lowell; and James Horner's score for "Glory," which constitutes a masterpiece within a masterpiece. If Mr. Owens must point out historical inaccuracies, let me note one in his column: The Civil War reporter in "Glory" was a correspondent for Harper's Weekly, not Harper's Monthly.



Editorial too tough on India

Your July 29 editorial "Kalashnikovs, anyone?" was a shameful poke in the eye of a country India that rapidly has become a foundation for stability and democracy in Asia. Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman last week introduced legislation for the design of a new Asia-Pacific Charter intended to build a "hub of stability around India as part of a new national policy toward Asia." Such a partnership also would check the creation of additional regional hegemonies, for which, as Mr. Gilman said, "China is the most likely candidate."

With the world's largest standing army bordering India to its north and a military junta riding the tiger of Islamic fundamentalism to its west, it seems only realistic for Indian rulers to seek an appropriate deterrent. For The Washington Times to assume that such force would be directed at the Pakistani state smacks of hypocrisy. If your true concern regards profligate defense expenditures, perhaps you should retrain your scrutiny on Pakistan's military junta. Admittedly, the lack of budgetary transparency and dubious arms deals will make discovering that military's capacity considerably more difficult.

One thing is for certain, however, Pakistan's continued moral, political, financial and military support of cross-border militarism in Indian-controlled Kashmir constitutes the bane of that society's existence. If Pakistani leaders choose to continue to fuel the flames of separatism in Kashmir, then neither they nor The Times should be dismayed at India's defenses.


TOWELL (retired)


Ambassador Towell is a former deputy chief of protocol and deputy director of the Peace Corps under Presidents Reagan and Bush. He was ambassador to Paraguay from 1990 to 1994.

Metro's drive toward alternative-fuel buses

I feel compelled to respond to some of the concerns expressed by Elliott Negin of the Natural Resources Defense Council in his July 23 letter "Federal funds could pay for alternative-fuel buses." Mr. Negin implies that I somehow misled your reporter when I stated that there is no special pot of money to pay for alternative fuel buses.

Mr. Negin correctly pointed out that in enacting the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (known as TEA-21), Congress authorized $100 million annually within the Transportation Trust Fund for fiscal years 1998 through 2003 for the Clean Fuels Formula Program. This money, however, has never been appropriated for this specific purpose. In the appropriations process, this funding has been added to the general Bus and Bus Facilities Program. The allocation of funds for this program is controlled by a specific earmarking action determined in the appropriations process. For the coming federal fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, it appears likely that Congress will earmark this funding for a long, specific list of projects that have already been identified for support. There are no Metro bus procurement projects on that list.

In addition, TEA-21 authorized another $100 million annually from general funds outside the Transportation Trust Fund for the Clean Fuels Program, but these funds have never been appropriated. Therefore, neither Metro nor anyone else has been able to pursue these funds.

The other major category of potential federal funding cited by Mr. Negin is the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, also authorized under TEA-21. This funding is allocated directly to states and the District for their recommendation as to which projects and areas within their respective jurisdictions receive support. Metro has coordinated closely with Maryland, Virginia and the District to secure funding under this program. The jurisdictions in this region have chosen in the past to provide limited Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program funding to Metro. We have used these funds to help finance our purchase of new buses.

Until very recently, our program has been to purchase clean diesel buses which comply with existing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations for emissions in accordance with the current Metro fleet management plan. It should be noted that the District's health director has calculated that we have achieved a 35 percent reduction in emissions from our buses since 1995 due to an aggressive bus overhaul and replacement program.

Our board of directors has recently directed staff to conduct a comprehensive re-review of this situation. On July 6, we hosted the Alternative Fuels Workshop, during which our board members heard from 10 experts representing virtually every point of view imaginable on the subject of alternative fuel buses. It was a thorough and important discussion on a timely topic.

Based on the discussions from that workshop, Metro staff will be presenting our board of directors with a series of options in September for future Metrobus procurements. Those options will include compressed natural gas buses, diesel hybrid electric buses and clean diesel buses. We will provide an assessment of each of these options against a set of evaluation factors that our board has instructed us to consider.

It is essential that we move aggressively to buy new buses for the Metro fleet to meet service demands based on the opening of five new Metrorail stations out to Branch Avenue in early 2001, the expansion of other bus routes and the increased expectations for bus service due to dramatically rising ridership. In the past three years, we have seen our bus ridership increase by 16 percent 11 percent in the last year alone.

If our board of directors chooses to pursue the procurement of alternatively fueled buses this fall, we will be happy to take D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton up on her very generous offer to help secure additional federal funding to assist Metro in making these purchases. Some of the possible funding opportunities Mr. Negin mentioned in his letter, such as tax credits, are available only to private sector transportation providers. We continue to encourage and monitor legislative proposals that would provide additional funding for alternatively fueled vehicles and fueling facilities. We also have recently sent letters to area gas companies, asking if they may be able to offer some financial assistance.

Metro is committed to providing the region with a bus fleet that is efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly. We look forward to working with the Natural Resources Defense Council and other interested groups as we continue to pursue those objectives.


General manager

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit



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