- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 3, 2002

Airmen don't dig their digs

Air Force personnel "often are bedded down in air-conditioned tents, enjoy televisions and modern fitness centers, and eat the best chow," according to the article "Conditions at Afghan air base spur complaints" (Nation, Wednesday). And when airmen are not treated in the manner to which they have become accustomed, they whine to their superiors in the Pentagon. Worse, if we are to judge by statements attributed to Cmdr. Frank Merriman, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, those complaints are taken seriously and deemed worthy of official response.
Of course conditions at Bagram Air Force facility are uncomfortable. Personnel must endure dust, crowded tents, inadequate fitness centers and volleyball courts, and small latrines. They must wait in lines at the base exchange and mess hall. They must put up with laundry that isn't quite dry. Shouldn't we be sending teddy bears to comfort these children?

Mukwonago, Wis.

I spent three years working with Army front-line units in Germany. My Air Force team routinely roughed it three weeks a month in the field, providing communications support for the Army. My guys would have thought they were in seventh heaven to have the accommodations at that Afghan air base, so I laugh at those airmen's gripes.
While we were in the field, having a shower once a week was a luxury. You got hot food twice a week if you were lucky. Entertainment was what the team made for themselves. Cards and checkers were mostly what we had. Yet we did not whine about the field conditions. Instead, we tackled the challenge to build a good fighting team. We soldiers and airmen had it no rougher than many of the men who had served this country in the past.
When our mission came off successfully, I was proud of my fellow airmen for becoming an essential part of the Army's mission. Not bad for a bunch of Zoomies operating far from the fancy bases.

Air Force (retired)
Lubbock, Texas

Arguing against Va. college bonds

I think you are incorrect in urging Virginia voters to approve the college bonds ("Virginia's dollars and sense on college bonds," Editorial, Friday). The government has no business in the education of its citizens. For far too long, the public colleges have been favored at the public treasury, fostering an unfair advantage in competing with private universities and colleges.
We have learned that through the marketplace, buyers have choices. By being forced to spend their own hard-earned scarce dollars, they make tough decisions. Buying from one supplier sends that supplier a message. Not buying from the other suppliers sends them a message, too. Some suppliers fail and go out of business. The sum of all these buying decisions allocates resources across a spectrum of needs. It ensures that we reach an optimum point for all.
Unfortunately, when government gets involved, it upsets the balance. How do we know that the fact that "Northern Virginia Community College would get $35 million for a new classroom building and renovation projects" is the right amount and not $32 million or $37 million?
I advise a small, private, Catholic college, my alma mater, on technology decisions. Every session, we struggle to make just the right decisions about scarce dollars. We don't have the luxury of taking from the taxpayers by force enough money to furnish every incoming student with a laptop, as one competing state institution does. But then, we know that education is about knowledge transfer, not technology transfer.
Imagine if every educational institution received no government assistance at all. Some would fail, some would succeed, but there wouldn't be any public bond issue, which is an indirect tax. Things would be paid for by willing consumers in peaceful exchanges, not by violently seizing the assets of poor taxpayers.

Kendall Park, N.J.

What's so great about organic?

I am writing to address some major inaccuracies in the article, "Farmers turn to organic methods" (Metropolitan, Monday), which came off the Associated Press wire. This article reinforces the misperception that so-called organic sources of nutrients are environmentally benign and goes on to feature unsubstantiated and false allegations regarding the potential human-health impact of commercial fertilizers.
The organic industry's claims regarding the environmental superiority of nutrients from animal manure are fallacious. Scientific data show that soils make no distinction between commercially produced fertilizers and "organic" nutrients, such as manure. Therefore, readers would be misled in believing that their purchase of organically grown crops contributes to a cleaner environment by minimizing nutrient runoff.
The fertilizer industry has worked diligently during the past several years to advocate improved management practices for all sources of nutrients. Through educational programs and related outreach efforts, fertilizer producers and retailers have helped farmers take great strides toward maintaining a clean environment. Through such efforts, farmers have been encouraged to use modern technology to test soil nutrient levels and apply only the necessary quantities of fertilizers.
It is no less important that organic farmers manage nutrient applications to ensure that nitrogen from animal manure is not released into streams and waterways or lost to the atmosphere. The article cites a neighbor's concern about the odor of chicken manure, which is undoubtedly a result of excessive amounts of ammonia. Although it is not mentioned in the article, these ammonia emissions are a real-world example of the additional environmental challenges posed by organic farming.

Vice president for public affairs
Fertilizer Institute

Rap music is an oxymoron

How many more senseless killings will it take to prove once and for all that hip-hop/rap "music" and "culture" are evil? The latest victim is Jam Master Jay from the trio Run-DMC, who had a bullet put in his head at his recording studio ("No arrest in rapper's death," Nation, Friday). Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. were likewise shot and then glorified.
Maybe it was an East Coast-West Coast rivalry that triggered this event. In any event, I, for one, am sick and tired of performers such as Nappy Roots, Outkast, Jay-Z, Nas, Christina, Eminem and the rest of these musical miscreants foisting their angst and anger on people who have their own problems to deal with.
This hip-hop/rap genre condones violence, disrespect, butchering the English language and sundry antisocial behavior. With help from the media, the performers seem to thrive on negative notoriety. I can only surmise that they have brought this violence on themselves, and if this is what it takes to silence this ungodly "music," then so be it.

Massapequa, N.Y.

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