- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 8, 2002

No fudging on R&R;

I take exception to the characterization of Army training holidays as "fudging the rules" ("Inside the Ring," Nation, Friday). The Army is on duty each and every day of the year. It is incorrectly stated that the Army takes the day off every Friday before a federal holiday weekend.
I would recommend that Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough ask the thousands of men and women staffing offices and on patrol in Bosnia, the Sinai, South Korea, Kosovo, Kuwait and Afghanistan; searching for missing-in-action remains in Southeast Asia; or drilling as members of the Reserve Component or participating in numerous missions throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America, who were not home the Friday after Thanksgiving and will be on duty each and every Friday, 24/7, 365 days a year.
Ask them if they considered themselves as having fudged the rules.
The policy of granting a "training holiday" to uniformed members of the Army is done in recognition of the fact that these personnel are not "on the clock," do not get paid by the hour and are expected to do whatever is necessary to accomplish their assigned mission, whether that involves working in a cubicle, pulling guard in a foxhole or changing a tank engine in the mud of Grafenwoehr, Germany.
It is done so that officers can assess who needs to be on duty and who can be allowed to take the day off without degrading the mission. It is not a decree mandating absence from duty.
U.S. citizens are receiving immeasurable value for their tax dollars spent on their soldiers. Since the same column mentioned that each soldier receives 30 days of paid leave per year, let's make a clarification. These are "authorized," not mandated, days of leave. Days of leave, just like training holidays, are granted based on mission requirements and are not considered entitlements.

Eagle, Idaho

Waffling on Islamic ideology

With the ongoing debate on what Islam stands for intensifying ("Bush praises Islam for its 'morality,'" Page 1, Friday), it is critical for us to understand how Soviet communism was discredited and eventually defeated as an ideology.
First, it failed to bring progress to the people it ruled. But what made it collapse was when the United States informed people of the Eastern Bloc why the system did not work and showed them alternatives that did: namely, the democracy and freedom embodied in America and many Western countries.
Islam, too, is an ideology that clearly needs reform. In fact, the future of civilization depends on that. This can be brought about only through critical analysis of Islam and showing alternatives to Muslims. Because such a discussion obviously is not possible in most Muslim countries under Islamic rule, shouldn't the Bush administration take the initiative?
Imagine where we all would be if past American leadership had characterized communism as a "moral" ideology that merely treats people equally. This is something the Bush administration needs to keep in mind.

Coram, N.Y.

Cockfighting is barbaric

Texas game-fowl breeder Steve Valdez offered a tired if typical defense of the barbaric and gruesome practice of cockfighting in his recent letter ("Condemning commentary," Letters, Wednesday). Mr. Valdez denied that he doses his game birds with adrenaline-boosting drugs and blood-clotting agents, which are widely advertised in all of the national cockfighting magazines.
However, the case against cockfighting hardly hinges on whether any individual game-fowl breeder provides drugs to his birds. Cockfighting constitutes unmistakable animal cruelty, whether or not drugs are used, and that's why 48 states have outlawed the activity, including Mr. Valdez's own state of Texas. Game-fowl breeders breed birds for aggressive characteristics. The birds' owners strap knives or ice pick-like weapons called gaffs on their legs and place them in a pit to fight to the death. It's all done for amusement and illegal gambling.
This year, Congress passed legislation banning any interstate shipment or exporting of fighting birds, complementing the state laws against the practice, which remains legal only in Louisiana and New Mexico. Sens. John Ensign, Nevada Republican, and Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican (both of whom are veterinarians), and Reps. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland Republican, and Robert E. Andrews, New Jersey Democrat, intend to introduce legislation in the 108th Congress to stiffen penalties for violations of federal animal-fighting laws. Cockfighters and dogfighters are a brazen collection of lawbreakers, and tough penalties are needed to deter their acts of cruelty.

Senior vice president
The Humane Society of the United States

Don't work hard for the money

As a federal civil service employee, I look forward to our forthcoming 3.1 percent raise, regardless, even if it doesn't include the locality differential. It's a raise, as simple as that. Thank you, President Bush.
I also am grateful for my federal job security, which in my reckoning is as valuable as an automatic 25 percent raise each year. So I am very happy with my personal 28.1 percent raise this year.
Federal employees and their unions who are complaining about political appointees getting cash bonuses forget one thing ("White House revives bonuses," Nation, Thursday): Unlike protected civil service employees, political appointees can be terminated on the spot for not performing.
In closing, federal employees who complain the most still have the least to lose. The vast majority of federal employees will still pass when rated under the "D- equals A+" pass/fail system. The vast majority of federal employees will still receive their automatic within-grade increases, basically just for showing up. Finally, the vast majority of federal employees - unlike their military non-counterparts who serve in blizzardy ditches in high-risk conflict areas - will continue to be allowed to take liberal leaves of absence during snow flurries.
It's time to show some gratitude toward the company. Thank you, United States of America. It's an honor to serve you in the public trust.


Teacher, teach thyself

Although I'm behind on my newspaper reading, I feel compelled to comment on the letter by high school administrator Peter Pappas ("Reviving research papers," Letters, Nov. 27). I must address his comments on writing and the very words he used to convey them.
He states: "Students need more writing, not less." That is the only clear sentence of his letter, and he should have stopped there. But he continues: "document-based questions provide rigorous and relevant writing in a manageable format that was easily integrated into a variety of classroom settings."
Good grief, Charlie Brown. Does anyone talk like that?
"A well-constructed document-based question offers students a wealth of engaging historical material and leads them to the construction of a well-crafted essay based on their analysis of the source material."
Document-based, engaging historical material? Say what? As Lily Tomlin used to say in her telephone-operator skit, "Is this the party I am speaking to?"
I think that if I were in a class taught by Mr. Pappas, I'd give up writing and plagiarize, too.


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