- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2000

A 'goofy' column on U.N. plans

I agree with Oliver North that the U.N. General Assembly's Special Session on Social Development, held in Geneva during the last week in June, got far less attention in the U.S. media than it deserved.
It marked an important step in trying to identify ways to empower 3 billion people to escape the miseries of abject poverty. A fair chance for a decent life is what we seek. Surely that's not asking for too much.
That said, Mr. North's column was premised on a tangle of misconceptions that verge on science fiction. I am the senior member of the Secretariat, with direct responsibility for the special session in Geneva. Mr. North's notion that the United Nations wants to establish a U.N. currency, central bank and global computer system to collect and redistribute funds is just plain goofy and lacks even the remotest connection to anything that was said or done in Geneva.
Division of Social Policy and Development
United Nations
New York

Metro official's 'bureaucratic act of self-justification'

Metro General Manager Richard White's attempt to make us believe that Metro's recent pathetic performance isn't really that bad is little more than a bureaucratic act of self-justification ("Times sometimes goes down the wrong track with its Metro coverage," Letters, July 15).
Unfortunately for Metro riders, Mr. White's assertions and the current realities of the Metro system bear no resemblance to each other.
Twice last week, I have been held hostage by so-called emergency situations on the Metro rail system (an ever increasing phenomenon) that caused delays of more than half an hour. Being visually impaired and unable to drive, I am more or less held captive by the subway.
I moved into the D.C. area in 1988. I can remember when Metro actually was an efficient subway system. Unfortunately, that cannot be said today. Since Mr. White seems to lack the professional competence to ensure that Metro operates as it should, he should be given his termination notice and be replaced by someone who knows what he is doing.

An educational and wonderful column

Suzanne Fields is so right about the great loss our nation is witnessing because our educators don't see value in learning our nation's history (" 'Losing America's memory,' " Op-Ed, July 17).
I talked recently with the office staff of Washington state's Superintendent of Public Instruction about low test scores in our state. A person from the office said, "Students don't need to memorize all those dates from history because what will they do with them when they get on the job in real life?"
Last week, on a family outing in a beautiful rural area of our state, our family stopped at a beautiful old white-steepled church with a cemetery surrounding it. We read each headstone, looking for the oldest date. (It was 1825.) My husband and I talked with our children about what was happening in history when the people buried there were living. Because our one school-age daughter knew the dates of the Civil War, World War II and so forth, we could discuss what the lives of those people had been like, guess why they had died and get a view of history from their perspective. It was wonderful.
Unfortunately, the people running the education establishment in our nation don't want our children to realize the greatness of our country or the sacrifices previous generations made. Thanks to Mrs. Fields for, one hopes, waking up a few people to this situation.
Everett, Wash.

Splintering of group could be good for peace in Northern Ireland

The observations of The Washington Times on the marching season in Northern Ireland were right on the money and most welcome ("Orange march of anger," Editorial, July 13).
It also is fair to say that the Orange Order leadership as a whole was openly critical of the violent tactics and protests of some lodges and their members. However, the "division within Protestant and British loyalist circles" that has resulted should be welcomed and not lamented. We say this not for selfish reasons. It is a separation between anti-Catholic bigots and murderous thugs such as Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair, who are more interested in drug trafficking than political protest, and those who have come to grips with the fact that equality and democracy have changed their colonial fiefdom.
Thirty-two years ago, loyalists crushed peaceful protests with a violence and oppression that forced the minority nationalist community to arm itself. The decades of destruction that followed were as painful as they were necessary. It is our hope that this new axis of loyalist and British forces grasp the nettle of democracy and the rule of law and march together for a peace with justice.
National president
Irish American Unity Conference

Presidential candidates and the Supreme Court

The recent sharply divided Supreme Court decisions on partial-birth abortion, Boy Scouts and gay rights, prayer at public school athletic events and aid to religious schools remind us that the next president can change the court's direction with one, two or three appointments.
A Republican president will appoint (with Senate consent) conservatives who will vote with Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. A Democratic president will appoint (with Senate consent) liberals who will vote with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. There always is a chance for a slip in the choice. Justice David H. Souter (appointed by a Republican president, yet voting liberal) is a recent example of the inability of presidents to guarantee ideological success. But careful consideration of possible nominees will minimize a Souter "error" and help assure presidential success in choosing someone with the same ideology.
No one doubts that on certain crucial issues, such as separation of church and state, the scope of federal power, abortion and gay rights, ideology reigns. The reasons for this have been clear to lawyers, legal scholars and political pundits for decades. There is no science in Supreme Court reasoning. There are no neutral legal criteria that justices can use to reach a "right" result. There are no talismanic formulas learned at law school to interpret the Constitution.
There are in abundance, however, rhetoric, moral passion, subjective personal conviction and ideology, which drive Supreme Court opinions, all of which laypersons have in equal measure with legally trained Supreme Court justices.
This does not mean nihilism and cynicism are in the saddle. What it does mean is that the Supreme Court's reasoning process, although masked in legal language, is no less political than debate in Congress and the public media.
The public is awakening to this fact. Hence, the choices Al Gore and George W. Bush would make on future Supreme Court nominees may swing many voters in November.
At some future time, public awareness of the political and ideological nature of Supreme Court reasoning may go beyond this and lead to a radical reconsideration of judicial review in general.
Avon, Conn.
Mr. Wolfson is a professor of law (emeritus) at the University of Connecticut.

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