- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2001

Chartering the right course in D.C. schools

I was delighted to read the comments of Mayor Anthony Williams in his State of the District address about his priorities for city schools ("Williams vows it's 'back to the basics' for city services," March 2), particularly when he said that "the right way [to achieve education reform] is giving parents more choices among public schools, including charter schools."

Already, more than 10,000 students, or more than 10 percent of the public school system's pupils, are enrolled in D.C. charter schools. Increasing support for this option will help not only parents but also the students and teachers in the city's remaining public schools. A survey by the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution in 1997 found that more than half of D.C. teachers cited the high cost and complexity of school administration as the main cause of the District's public education woes.

By allowing the system to decide which schools are capable, this will not only weed out the bad but, ultimately, reward the good. More charter schools, more scholarships and, yes, vouchers will force the District to reverse its historic trend of spending less than half of its school budget on classroom instruction and improve the quality of education for all of its children, in public and charter schools.

LARRY PARKER

Senior Reporter

Alexis de Tocqueville Institution

Arlington

Drug war has a high cost and a low demand

The State Department's report on annual drug trafficking brings to mind Joseph Heller's novel "Catch-22." According to the report, the success of U.S.-Mexican counterdrug cooperation depends on Mexico's ability to combat institutional corruption. Yet Mexico's institutional corruption is a direct result of America's drug war. The international drug trafficking organizations that corrupt Mexican law enforcement are aided by the drug war's distortion of basic supply and demand dynamics. Without prohibition economics, marijuana would be virtually worthless. The never-ending drug war has made an easily grown weed literally worth its weight in gold in American cities.

The U.S. criminal justice system is not immune from corruption. The high profile Los Angeles Police Department Rampart scandal, in which anti-drug officers were caught selling drugs and framing gang members, is one of many examples. The crime, corruption and overdose deaths attributed to drugs are all direct results of drug prohibition. Alcohol producers no longer gun each down in drive-by shootings, nor do consumers go blind drinking unregulated bathtub gin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, injection drug use has directly and indirectly accounted for 58 percent of all AIDS cases among women in the United States. This public health crisis is a direct result of zero tolerance policies that restrict access to clean syringes. It's time to stop wasting the taxpayers' money on drug policies that do more harm than good.

ROBERT SHARPE

Program Officer

The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation

Washington

Mugabe should not be immune to justice

On Feb. 25, you published two stories about Zimbabwe. Holger Jensen's Commentary article, "Leaving behind an imploding Zimbabwe" describes how the notoriously corrupt and brutal regime of President Robert Mugabe has destroyed the country's economy and resorted to violence, intimidation and gross human rights abuses. In the same edition, the AP story "Possible Mugabe immunity opposed," reports that the U.S. State Department is considering a grant of immunity for Mr. Mugabe, who is being sued under the Alien Tort Claims Act by widows of Zimbabweans who were beaten and murdered by government thugs during the recent election.

Topper Whitehead, spokesman for the four plaintiffs, said it was a sad day when the State Department decided to support Mr. Mugabe in his claim to immunity from prosecution for human rights violations. It was also noted by the harassed Zimbabweans that foreign citizens have the right to pursue such cases in American courts, as demonstrated by similar lawsuits brought against Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines. The State Department should reconsider its position. Giving immunity to Mr. Mugabe flies in the face of democracy, the rule of law and common sense.

THOMAS W. SCHAAF SR.

Fairfax

Tax cut remarks are reminiscent of Marx

The Democratic response against the Bush tax plan is eerily familiar. Ever since the $1.6 trillion proposal was first floated, they have resorted to repeating such phrases as: "tax breaks for the wealthy," "hurts the ones who need it most" and "ignores the low- and middle-class working family," among others. The term "working families" gets me the most, as if families who happen to be "rich" didn't have to "work" to get that way. The money just fell out of the sky, I suppose.

Underlying this rhetoric is the idea that the wealthy should pay high taxes because they can most easily afford to and that tax relief should favor those who need it most (i.e. the poor and middle class). In other words, "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."

Sen. Tom Daschle and Rep. Richard Gephardt, meet Karl Marx. Sounds like you all have something in common.

JACK WEBB

Springfield

Metro trash is a safety hazard

I enjoyed reading the Feb. 27 story "Metro eases policy on adults eating, drinking during ride." However, I am concerned that Metro's no-eating policy is too often presented as if it had something to do with the etiquette of eating in public. Such is not the case.

The object of the food ban is to reduce trash, which tends to pile up against electrical connections and poses a hazard when these points become hot. Plus, Metro has already had several incidents involving fire and smoke, and trash can only contribute to the problem. For instance, London had a subway fire disaster a few years back in which trash and smoking played major roles.

I hope that when the subject comes up again that the fire-safety aspect of these rules can be mentioned. Indeed, Metro should do a better job of publicizing this aspect.

RICHARD GARRISON

Arlington

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