- The Washington Times - Friday, March 31, 2000

Working for a 'miracle' in Russia

Your March 28 editorial "Putin's challenge" was right that Russia needs something much greater than what is in place now for any success. When I was in Russia last year, I spoke with a missionary who was working in community development. He said that as long as there is no basis in faith, there is no chance of an economy having a foundation that will last. The people need to care about something before they will try to make honest strides in business. Russians need to have respect for something before they will stop selling their weapons to their enemies. They have to have some faith in the future before they will educate and protect their children.

The plight of Russian children concerns me because my family adopted my daughters (8-year-old Ksoosha and 10-year-old Katya) from Russia in July. The children in the orphanages are turned out on the street when they are 16 years old. Many become criminals or commit suicide.

In St. Petersburg, you see flocks of beautiful young girls walking the streets, trying to catch the eyes of lonely tourists or businessmen. When 25 percent of Russian high school girls say they want to become prostitutes, according to Fox News, it is obvious things will not be getting better soon. Even those who see prostitution as a victimless crime cannot think this is the best a girl can hope to do, but it is all the girls from the orphanages can do.

The education they receive is horrible. My daughters were never taught how to learn. Facts were simply recited at them, and they might be beaten if they could not pay attention. Like many adoptees from Russia, they struggle in American schools because all of their classmates have been taught to listen, to analyze and to work a problem even if they get it wrong. Russian children seem so afraid to make a mistake they don't even try.

My father is from that part of the world, and he often says that bad guys are more daring and able to take risks. Often, they are the first entrepreneurs, but eventually they are superseded by legitimate businesses. An example of this happening in America is e-commerce, which early on had many successful pornographic sites and now is how many of us buy refrigerators, books and groceries. I hope my father is right about Russia, but I doubt any entrepreneurial risk-takers will take the place of the Russian mafia until a generation of children raise their hands to answer a math problem.

Your editorial is right about Russia needing a miracle, but a lot of Americans are working as missionaries, Peace Corps volunteers and parents to bring about a miracle.



Maryland lawmakers' arguments, concerns all wet

Let me see. The Maryland Legislature finds it environmentally unacceptable for Fairfax County to use water from the middle of the Potomac River but has no problem with consumption of the same quantity of water so long as the lawmakers can force it to be taken from the river's edge ("Virginia water tap plan stymied," Metropolitan, March 28)?

Are these lawmakers really that self-righteously petty? Delegate Jean Cryor, Montgomery Republican, insists, "The Potomac must be protected." Bravo. How does extending an intake pipe 725 feet "pose a threat to aquatic life" while construction of a new Wilson Bridge does not?

The residents of Fairfax County do not consume vast quantities of water industrially or agriculturally. Water is used for drinking, cleaning and occasionally watering a lawn (as in Montgomery County).

A significant part of the Potomac watershed is in Virginia, with parts in West Virginia and Pennsylvania as well. The 1632 land grant by Charles I is no justification for deliberately creating a public health hazard for Maryland's neighbor. Forcing water consumption from the more stagnant edge of the river deliberately hazards the health of my family. The Maryland Legislature justifies visiting this upon my children for unspecified environmental sins of my forebears.

It may surprise Mrs. Cryor to know that many Virginians are as concerned as she is with the river and the Chesapeake Bay. There is no difference in my lifestyle or my water usage compared with that of my friends in Maryland. Past stewardship of the Anacostia River by Maryland and the District has been nothing to brag about, but I don't seek to sicken Marylanders in retaliation. Were Mrs. Cryor to be honest in evaluating her motives, she would find them far less laudable than she would like to believe.



'One Florida' program a racial-preference policy in disguise

I am a longtime admirer of Clint Bolick's and have written many columns over the years in praise of the Institute of Justice, of which he is director. Mr. Bolick and I share many of the same passions: school choice, economic liberty, equal opportunity and equal treatment under the law.

That said, I was very disappointed to read Mr. Bolick's column in The Washington Times on Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's "skillful" redefinition of affirmative action through his "One Florida" program ("Skillfully redefining affirmative action," Commentary, March 24).

I am one of those conservatives who denounces, and will continue to denounce, Mr. Bush's scheme. I do not wish him well in his quest to disguise the same old, ugly racial-preference policies under the slipcover of "compassionate conservatism."

Mr. Bolick says Mr. Bush's plan offers "a conceptual framework to move forward from one of the most painful and divisive conflicts wracking America." But while One Florida takes one step forward (to pacify supporters of equal opportunity who want to eliminate race and gender preferences by popular vote), it moves two steps back (in a crass attempt to appease left-wing guardians of the affirmative-action apparatus).

Mr. Bush has stated: "I oppose rigid quotas and set asides designed to guarantee outcomes for one class of citizens over another." Yet his "Talented 20" program would guarantee state university admission to the top 20 percent of students in every Florida high school senior class. That percentage that quota was engineered to ensure no net loss in minority enrollment in the state university system.

Although many observers have focused on the effects of One Florida on university admissions, the plan actually would expand racial preferences in state hiring and contracting. Despite Mr. Bush's ostensible commitment to nondiscrimination, he advocates "enhancement of minority business development through financial and technical assistance programs that target the legitimate development needs of emerging minority businesses, minority construction firms and minority franchisees." In other words, more color-coded government aid.

Instead of encouraging minority businesses to compete on their merits, Mr. Bush pledges to "reduce the red tape in the minority certification process to encourage more minority businesses to become certified." Why should they certify by racial status in the first place? "It's time to redefine affirmative action to help those most in need and to get out of the business of classifying and dividing Americans on the basis of race, once and for all," Mr. Bolick writes. Voters in California and Washington state did just that when they passed ballot initiatives banning racial preferences in 1996 and 1998. As Mr. Bolick notes, University of California regent Ward Connerly has brought the battle to Florida and will prevail "if he can surmount absurd state procedural obstacles."

There is another obstacle Mr. Bolick fails to mention: Mr. Bush himself. He refuses to endorse Mr. Connerly's overwhelmingly popular efforts, as does his brother, Texas Gov. George W. Bush. To conservatives who put principle above political calculation, the One Florida plan is an obvious and repugnant ploy to keep Mr. Connerly's initiative drive at bay while boosting presidential candidate George Bush's electoral prospects in Florida come the fall.

Mr. Bolick suggests that conservatives who don't support the Florida governor's bogus plan are somehow uncommitted "to expanding opportunities for the economically disadvantaged." I respectfully disagree. It is Mr. Bush who is noncommittal in his support for true equal opportunity. Mr. Bush himself asserts: "My plan is not race-neutral… . Race-consciousness is appropriate."

How can Mr. Bolick possibly support such a plan given his organization's heroic and consistent stand against race-conscious government policies?


Germantown, Md.

Michelle Malkin is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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