- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

C’est la vie

It would have been helpful if Tuesday’s Page One article, “French get a cold eye from irked Americans,” had provided demographics on those polled. Notwithstanding, I think it’s unfortunate we feel that any nation that disagrees with our stand on Iraq, even after Secretary of State Colin L. Powell’s presentation to the United Nations last week, is disloyal and deserving of the worst castigation.
Our stand on Iraq is fiercely unilateral, even as we seek to satisfy our military objectives against Iraq through a body committed to using multilateral approaches to resolving world issues. Saddam Hussein is one among several dangerous despots who may want nuclear weapons and need to be monitored carefully. However, he is not deemed an immediate threat to the world.
Additionally, what should be more important from our perspective is that Saddam Hussein did not perpetrate the September 11 attacks. Logically, our most immediate challenge should be to bring the full force of our power against al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, not Iraq.

Takoma Park

Given the popularity of France-bashing perpetuated by commentators such as Jack Kelly (“Fates entwined,” Commentary, Sunday) have we Americans forgotten about the great intellectual gift France has bestowed upon the world? I speak, of course, of the great gift of postmodernism, a philosophy that has enjoyed near total acceptance in American academia and pop culture.
Such thinkers as Michel Foucault, genius of intellectual clarity, taught us that objective truth does not exist. Rather, the truth is simply whatever the powerful say it is. Jacques Derrida liberated us from our naive beliefs in material reality, the value of science and the link between human nature and economics. Jean-Francois Lyotard teaches us to reject reason itself, and to accept that all concepts are oppressive.
According to postmodernism, modern Western thought and culture are the suspect products of the Enlightenment. Western history is, of course, just another example of how the powerful lie with impunity.
When we base our claim that Saddam Hussein must be forcibly disarmed on such outmoded concepts as reason, truth, science, the nature of tyrants or the history of Iraq versus the world, we must remember that such arguments fall upon deaf ears in France, where “nothing exists outside the text” which is to say, that literally there is no reality beyond language. It is then no wonder that, for the French, the solution must necessarily lie within the narrative.
Being something of a diplomat myself, allow me to propose a win-win situation: the United Nations should send a battalion of French philosophers to meet with Saddam Hussein. They could talk him to death, or perhaps even convince him that he doesn’t exist.


Social insecurity

I am writing in regard to Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s letter (“End seniors’ ‘double payment’ on health care,” Monday), which was a response to Sen. Larry Craig’s Op-Ed column (“Quit double-taxing seniors,” Feb. 4). While I also believe strongly that the government should eliminate the burden of double taxation on its citizens, both of their plans are severely limited in their relief.
Why not eliminate the double-taxation scheme that affects every American who receives a paycheck? By that, I mean the one where the federal government promises on every pay stub that a certain amount will go toward Social Security, yet Congress is free to take whatever is not used for present Social Security payments and spend it as it pleases.
Of course, the lawmakers leave an “IOU,” but the only source of income the government has to pay back this “loan” is the money it takes out of our future paychecks as income tax. Thus, we will be paying out of our income tax to get what we already paid for through the Social Security tax. Besides, lawmakers know very well that an IOU without any terms for repayment specifically spelled out in the contract is not legally binding. What is the payment plan to pay back all the money “borrowed” through the years?
Until this thievery of the American peoples’ retirement safety net is stopped, any talk of “saving Social Security” or “helping out the senior citizens” by any member of Congress is disingenuous and hypocritical at best.

Mount Airy, Md.

Iraqi human rights are not the issue

Accosting Saddam Hussein’s human rights record, as did Kathryn Cameron Porter (“Living and dying in despair,” Op-Ed, Tuesday), is like shooting fish in a barrel: Of course his record is abysmal. However, the great hypocrisy here is that this is the same evil, sadistic Saddam Hussein whom the United States (and many in the present administration) not only counted as our ally in the 1980s but actively supported with more than $1 billion worth of technology used toward his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.
This upcoming war has little to do with human rights. If that’s what this nation is concerned about, we would have stepped in to save the millions who died in the genocides of Rwanda and Cambodia, instead of turning the other way.
By the way, perhaps Miss Porter can explain how human rights are served by plans to fire some 800 cruise missiles on a city the size of Los Angeles?

Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

Columnist misreads books

As the president of Carson-Dellosa Publishing Co., I read with interest Cal Thomas’ column “Reading flunks the test in the Big Apple” (Commentary, Sunday). Our company publishes the Month-by-Month Phonics books selected by New York City as the basis for its reading curriculum, to be implemented in the next school year.
In addition to giving the incorrect title for these books, Mr. Thomas left out important facts and improperly identified the books with the whole-language approach to reading.
I will address the reference to whole language first. The Month-by-Month Phonics books have nothing to do with the ill-fated whole-language approach to teaching children how to read. Month-by-Month Phonics provides systematic phonics instruction. There is a planned sequence of lessons with specific letters, sounds and words for the teacher to use. Month-by-Month Phonics teaches children how to decode and spell unfamiliar words using both sequential (letter-by-letter) and pattern-based phonics knowledge and skills. The program begins with phonetic awareness and letter-sound learning and advances until students can decode and spell unfamiliar polysyllabic words out of context. Anyone who has taken the time to study the books or use them in the classroom will attest to this fact.
Mr. Thomas left out three other important facts from his column.
First, professor Patricia Cunningham, one of the authors of the series, is widely recognized as an expert in phonics. She is a professor of education at Wake Forest University and has written numerous books in collaboration with her colleague, professor Dorothy Hall. Both professors have been presenters at the annual convention of the International Reading Association, and Miss Cunningham was a 2002 inductee into the International Reading Association’s Reading Hall of Fame. At the height of the whole-language movement, she published an invited review of research on teaching phonics in the 1992 National Reading Conference Yearbook. This review opposed the views of whole language.
Second, New York has used the Month-by-Month Phonics series in two of its districts (10 and 15) with positive results. It makes sense that city officials would decide to implement a program that they know has worked for them in the past and has worked elsewhere.
Third, since 1997, 500,000 elementary school teachers across the United States have used Month-by-Month Phonics books in their classrooms.
Mr. Thomas’ column did not represent all the available facts. It did, however, present a misinformed opinion to your readers.

Carson-Dellosa Publishing Co.
Greensboro, N.C.

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