- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 3, 2003

Getting real about the NAACP

Recently, while riding home to Lakewood, N.J. from a family vacation and reading The Washington Times’ July 19 article “NAACP time warp” by Linda Chavez, I was almost floored. Her knowledge regarding the history and current status of civil rights represents fundamental right-wing thinking. We must get real on these issues.

The NAACP is America’s oldest civil rights organization and still represents the moral conscience of the nation. It still fights for the rights of blacks and other Americans who continue to be denied equal treatment at polling places, equity in education, fairness in the courts and different immigration policies for Cubans and Haitians, etc.

It’s rather ironic that Mrs. Chavez, whose name indicates she might be considered a minority, would consider the leadership of the NAACP to be caught in a time warp. No, we don’t have “a world of pick-ax-wielding bigots and lynch mobs.” Unfortunately, today, we have people like James Byrd being dragged to death in Jasper, Texas; Abner Louima being abused by police in New York and police profiling minorities all over the country; Arab-Americans being profiled and denied civil rights since September 11; and many Mexicans working for less than minimum wages. I was privileged to hear Julian Bond’s speech and the questions he raised. The analogies were timely and right on the money concerning the issue of our day.

As a black American, I can assure the writer that racism is as much a problem today as it was 50 years ago. Today, racism is manifested mostly in denied opportunity — the constant attacks on areas of progress such as affirmative action, resegregation in schools, redlining in home buying, selective law enforcement and someone writing a book called “The Bell Curve.” I challenge the writer to find a better explanation of these issues in the 21st century other than racism. Yes, thank God, we have Julian Bond and Kweisi Mfume to articulate these issues, regardless of whether right-wing advocates agree.

We in the black community would have to take exception to the broad-brush reference to the collapse of the black family, public school failure and black-on-black crime. The problem of illegitimacy is not just a black and Latino problem; it exists throughout our country. It’s a national problem.

I agree that there is much work left to be done if the lives of America’s poorest blacks are to improve. Thank God, the NAACP will be at the forefront of articulating what’s wrong in our world and advocating for solutions. History has a way of surfacing the truth. Somehow, its obvious what party Mrs. Chavez supports. It’s very sad that she believes that all Americans are living on a level playing field with the same opportunities. We can’t continue to speak in the voice of Jacob and act with the hand of Esau.


Lakewood, N.J.

Arming pilots against terrorist attacks

As Joe Waldron and Dave Workman note (“At what cost?” Op-Ed, Thursday), despite fresh warnings from the Transportation Security Administration that al Qaeda planners are considering more suicide hijackings and bombings of aircraft, the agency “is continuing to drag its feet on the program for training pilots to be armed.”

Indeed, the program authorized by Congress last fall and signed into law to train pilots to carry a firearm during flight has only one training facility with just 100 pilots trained under federal standards to carry firearms some 22 months after the original September 11 hijackings.

The arguments against letting pilots carry guns in the cockpit fall flat when one considers that before 1987 pilots were in fact allowed to carry guns in the cockpit because planes transported the U.S. mail along with civilians. Bullets are available that can penetrate flesh but pulverize when striking a hard surface such as a fuselage.

We forget that Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, who killed two persons at the El Al airline ticket counter during the July 4, 2002 attack at Los Angeles International Airport, would have had a very good chance of getting his weapons on board a plane, for, as the Transportation Department recently acknowledged, despite our strip-searching of an 80-year-old grandmother, weapons got past airport screeners about 25 percent of the time in nationwide tests in June.

Strip-searching grandmothers will not make air travel safer, but arming pilots will.



Deregulating energy

I am writing in response to the article “Senate GOP defeats tough fuel efficiency,” (Nation, Wednesday). Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat, has it all wrong. He claims that the American people desire to drive smaller, more fuel-efficient automobiles and that the public does not want to spend $40 or $50 dollars per week filling up their cars. People who own sport utility vehicles are generally conservatives — Republicans living in Western states. They purchased those vehicles for a reason, to aid in their outdoor work out West. I own an SUV, drive it for its safety, and live in the East. The SUV allows one to see “down the road” and therefore take quicker action to avoid accidents. A bigger car is safer.

People really want cheaper fuel in all forms. What Congress really needs to do is deregulate the entire energy industry, to get the United States more energy-efficient and less dependent on the Middle Easterners (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in particular).

Why do we allow ourselves to be dominated by them, when we can be more independent, provide lower-cost energy (oil, natural gas, coal, wind, solar and nuclear) to all Americans, even the liberals who drive Volvos, sip Chablis and live in Montgomery County? Do we want another energy crisis in which OPEC raises the cost by a factor of four (as it did twice to Americans, once in 1973-74 and then in 1979-80)?

If we deregulate, we get more producers, who will provide more energy at lower costs. This was brought out by both William Simon, treasury secretary under President Nixon, and Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize-winning economist from the University of Chicago.

Billions and billions of gallons of oil and natural gas are buried in Alaska and off the American coastline. Our oil producers have more efficient technology to get it out of the ground and cause less environmental damage. If we deregulate, it would be a boon to the energy industry, providing more jobs in the United States. After all, energy is a strategic resource. In today’s terrorist world, we need to be even more independent as a nation.



The problem with pensions

I am writing in response to Friday’s editorial “Problems with pensions.” The $300 billion shortfall in Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.-backed pensions was a Dec. 31, 2002, calculation and represents about 20 percent of the $1.5 trillion in pension funds insured by PBGC. Since then, the equity markets are up about 15 percent. The bond markets also were up somewhat this year (until this past month), but given the historically low yields, bond prices have more potential to go down than up.

With respect to the “risk” to the Department of the Treasury, consider that virtually all of these pension funds will be taxable income to recipients, generating somewhat more than 20 percent, on average, in federal tax receipts at the time of payment.

The PBGC needs to enforce existing laws against corporation plans and their fiduciaries that have made unrealistic actuarial assumptions or failed to properly diversify investments, just as the Securities and Exchange Commission needs to enforce existing laws, including the new Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, against companies and certified public accountants certifying cooked books. However, the market’s recovery already should have cured most ills. A Democratic proposal to limit actuarial assumptions to the government bond rate would be devastating. How could plan managers protect workers’ pensions from inflation risk?

Even the Bush proposal would stymie the transition to plan-manager use of “modern portfolio theory,” which can be demonstrated to provide higher long-term returns at lower risk than bonds alone, whether corporate or governmental.

Now is not the time to force pensions out of the “risky” stock market and into fixed-income instruments — you would be forcing the pensions to sell low and buy high.


Charlotte, N.C.

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