- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Department of Homeland Security:union made

With his mind firmly closed, Donald Devine plumbs the lowest depths of the debate over homeland security. In "Diminishing homeland security" (Commentary, Thursday), Mr. Devine rigidly adheres to his modus operandi of substituting vitriol for facts.
While some see the homeland-security legislation pending before the Senate as an opportunity to protect our nation, Mr. Devine and others see it as an opportunity to advance stalled but long-standing schemes to bust federal employee unions.
Mr. Devine insists that legislation pending before the Senate would "eliminate the president's authority to keep petty matters of union bargaining out of serious matters like homeland security." He was unable, however, to point to even a single example of how ensuring the right of federal employees to engage in collective bargaining has ever undermined national security because he cannot.
Mr. Devine insists that federal employee unions "do not want little matters like national security to get in the way of coffee breaks, bargaining over whether an emergency exists or even whether employees will work at all on new assignments."
In fact, managers in the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as any other federal agency, can ignore any collective bargaining rights during any emergency. Under 5 U.S.C. 7106, "nothing shall affect the authority of any management official of any agency to take whatever actions may be necessary to carry out the agency mission during an emergency."
Mr. Devine insists that the legislation would "even take away the president's existing power to exempt security agencies from time-consuming labor bargaining." This is incorrect.
The legislation does not expand collective bargaining rights for federal employees. If, however, federal employees in agencies to be combined into the DHS have been allowed by all presidents, including the incumbent, to enjoy collective bargaining rights, there is no reason for those rights to be taken away if those employees are simply going to be performing the same work under a different letterhead.
At the same time, should those employees perform different work, DHS managers would be free under the legislation to revisit their union status.
Similarly, Mr. Devine was unable to cite a single example of how existing civil service protections have ever undermined national security again, because he cannot. In fact, managers in DHS as well as agencies throughout the federal government possess substantial authority throughout the federal employment process: from the beginning (hiring and promoting) to the middle (paying and retaining) to the end (disciplining and firing).
Mr. Devine should know better, given that he still insists on identifying himself as a former director of the Office of Personnel Management. That he doesn't know better illustrates why his tenure there was so disastrous and why his departure was so roundly applauded by Republicans and Democrats alike.

National president
American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO

Failing the test

How can Deborah Simmons report on the recent SAT results and talk about 32-year and 10-year comparisons without taking into account or even mentioning the 100 point "adjustment" made in 1995 ("The ABCs of the SAT," Op-Ed, Friday)?
For a few years after 1995, scores were reported both ways, with the post-1995 scores always higher than the pre-1995 scores, but that quickly stopped. Reports that this 1995 adjustment is factored "in the comparisons" defies credibility. Scores dropped steadily until 1995, and now they are magically within a few points of 1992 and 1970? This demands a detailed independent study.

Mashpee, Mass.This is in response to the excellent article chronicling another year of falling SAT math scores in Anne Arundel County ("SAT scores in math trail nation's," Metro, Aug. 28). Black students were particularly hard hit, losing an average of 18 points this year.
This drop can be traced directly to the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP), the "assessment" ("it's not a test," according to a report by the State Board of Education) that measured "performance" in categories such as "Appreciates the aesthetic value of math in our society" rather than testing basic math skills.
For the past five years, our schools have been teaching something called "constructive math." Why? Solely to prepare students to do better on MSPAP. In the process, the schools have put algorithms (better known as addition and multiplication functions) on the back burner.
With this "constructive math" program, teachers were discouraged from straightforward math instruction and encouraged to help students learn the "process" of math to which MSPAP was geared.
We are reaping the harvest of the "constructive math" program students who do not have a solid background in math and, as a result, struggle with even basic math because they were never required to learn it. This lack of math ability is graphically reflected in the recently released SAT results.
I say it's time to stop using our children as guinea pigs for all the social experiments the education establishment devises and to go back to teaching the basic math skills every child needs to be successful in life.

Maryland General Assembly

U.N. summit is not a 'fabulous gab fest'

Helle Dale's column on the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development is riddled with contradictions ("From Rio to Johannesburg," Op-Ed, Wednesday).
She says not much has changed since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, then notes in passing that the number of people who live on less than $1 per day has been reduced by millions; she suggests an inverted relationship between foreign assistance and growth in Africa but fails to note that the 1990s were a lost decade for development as aid levels plummeted; she asserts the wisdom of "good governance" within nations but parodies international agreements that promote good governance among nations.
Under the leadership of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the United Nations has made tremendous strides in reaching out to and engaging businesses as partners with governments and civic organizations in the effort to achieve sustainable development.
The new United Nations recognizes that economic freedom is an important, but not exclusive, prerequisite of environmentally sound economic progress around the world. Cooperation between nations is also essential in today's interdependent world.
For the 1.2 billion people still living on less than $1 a day, the hundreds of millions of malnourished, the repressed and the sick, the Johannesburg summit is not a "fabulous gab fest," but rather a real test of global political will, compassion and values.
The United Nations should be applauded for its efforts to ensure that international cooperation among civil society, governments and the private sector works indeed, it is essential for countries such as the United States, but also for people and nations all over the world.

Executive vice president
U.N. Foundation
New York

Foul ball

I used to love baseball, but the strike of 1994 let in a healthy skepticism. After a six-year boycott of professional baseball, I returned in 2001 and 2002. The threatened strike of '02 has once again driven me from the game, as I decided two weeks ago to impose a 10-year boycott, to end on opening day 2013.
In fact, I hoped for a strike that would persuade a hefty percentage of fans to join me in the silent ranks of dissent. Unfortunately, the strike was averted at the "last minute." Yeah, right.
To the 389,504 fans who attended major-league games Friday night, I say you are fools and the real losers of the union negotiations. You have been played, and you have been taken for another $5 hot dog. The players and owners take you for granted. Sure, the stars may greet you at the turnstiles now, but they're laughing behind your backs at the huge salaries you are willing to pay them.
The only card the fans held in the recent labor negotiations was whether to continue to buy overpriced tickets, concessions and memorabilia and continue watching the definitive infomercial, ESPN.
Well, that precious leverage was given away quite easily, especially in Chicago, where 36,311 fans showed up for the first game on the slate. And how about those tough negotiator-fanatics in Seattle, all 45,260 of them, who immediately stamped their approval on the settlement, with a nod and a wink to the tactics of the players to threaten a repeat of 1994. (Parenthetically, I do exempt my friend who happened to be in Montreal Friday night. Attending an Expos game is akin to experiencing living history.)


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