- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

The McClellan-Clark ticket?

Former NATO supreme commander Gen. Wesley Clark is considering challenging President Bush in 2004 "because of concern about the administration's foreign policy" (Inside Politics, yesterday). Presumably he would have to run as a Democrat as he has no hope of being nominated as a Republican.
Interestingly, a similar dispute once prompted another famous general to challenge a Republican president. In 1864, the Democrats nominated Union Gen. George McClellan as their standard bearer against President Lincoln on a platform calling for an immediate cease-fire with the Confederacy. McClellan was noted for his extreme caution and reluctance to engage enemy forces, making him then as now the ideal candidate for the Democrats.
He ended up losing to Lincoln in a landslide.
One wonders if the two generals are related.


Toward a new and improved WTU

The recent national takeover of the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) noted in the Feb. 9 editorial "AFT at fault" was a painful episode that offers the unexpected opportunity to re-examine why the union is in business to improve the conditions and quality of teaching and learning in our public schools. A good teachers union contract includes not only competitive salaries, but much more.
We can learn from the successes of teachers unions in Rochester, N.Y., and Toledo, Ohio. The Rochester Teachers Association contract includes a major school-district collaboration to mentor teachers, allowing a mentor to go to another school, if needed, without losing a permanent class assignment. The union helped propel the city to provide funds for the salaries of teachers who take over mentors' classes. The union also sits on a panel to select mentors and decide whether new teachers continue in their positions.
The contract of the Toledo Federation of Teachers features teacher quality as its centerpiece. The contract has three unifying themes: attraction and retention of quality teachers; professional development in skills and knowledge of subject matter; and the setting of standards for increased student achievement.
A new and improved WTU will make growth in the academic achievement of our youth its top priority, and it will play a key role in putting teacher supports fully in place, including help for new teachers, professional development programs and better conditions for teaching and learning.
As an active collaborative body of diverse stakeholders interested in reforming public education, D.C. Voice hears story after story from principals and teachers on how school progress is hampered by an uncoordinated and inefficient central human resources system. It is time for the union's inaction and lack of foresight about recruitment and hiring of quality teachers to stop. It is time for our teachers union to become a national leader in helping raise student achievement. It is doable, and the community wants to work with the union to make it happen.

Executive director
D.C. Voice

Arm cargo pilots

Rep. Don Young's measure to arm more than 10,000 cargo pilots is a needed fix for airline safety ("Corrective bill seeks to arm cargo pilots," Nation, Tuesday).
With the signing of the Homeland Defense Bill last year, Congress and President Bush gave 60,000 airline pilots the opportunity to undergo training to protect the cockpit and passengers. Unfortunately, left out of the law was any provision for granting cargo pilots the same privilege.
If airline pilots are deserving, why not cargo pilots? Cargo planes are not exempt from terrorist hijackings. Indeed, cargo planes make ideal flying bombs, as no pilot is armed, and our country cannot afford an interruption of air commerce.
Congress needs to get behind this legislation and push quickly to arm cargo pilots as soon as possible.

Community liaison
Airline Pilots Security Alliance
Jackson, N.Y.

Judging with kindness

Cynical lawyers have a saying: "When the facts are bad, argue the law. When the law is bad, argue the facts. When the facts and law are both bad, collect your fee and attack the judge deciding the case."
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer is usually a pretty reasonable fellow. But, as Wesley Pruden reported in his column, "When can the judge watch the machine?" (Nation, Tuesday), Mr. Lockyer is now trying to get Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals barred from sitting on all death-row appeals merely because Judge Kozinski befriended a prisoner who formerly was on death row and is now serving a life term. Mr. Lockyer's over-the-top reaction is bizarre, because the inmate is not involved in any pending case.
That judges might form friendships with convicts just doesn't scare me. All too often, judicial opinions read as though they were authored by someone who lives in a completely different world from the rest of us.
So, rather than attack Judge Kozinski for not living in the ivory tower of the law, Mr. Lockyer should encourage judges to get to know the inmates they have sentenced. If Mr. Lockyer would visit the same prison as Judge Kozinski, he would realize that there is nothing there to hide from judicial view but the excruciating boredom and fear of prison life.
I hope that Mr. Lockyer will bury the hatchet with the good judge, and get back to what he is paid to do; argue the merits of his cases, rather than attacking the thoughtful jurists we pay to decide those cases. As Judge Kozinski himself observed, we all should have "the courage to witness the consequences of [our] actions."

Ventura, Calif.

A paeon to 'unacknowledged legislators'

Though Suzanne Fields has a right to her negative opinion about poets ("The night of the armies of the poets," Op-Ed, Monday), she would do well to ponder Shelley's eloquent description of poets' function in society: "Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present; the words which express what they understand not; the trumpets which sing to battle, and feel not what they inspire; the influence which is moved not, but moves. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."
In short, poets throughout the ages have reflected the conscience of the people, albeit not in the noisy fashion of politicians. Seldom have politicians risen to this level, anyway. Today's anti-war poets are simply one group of people from around the globe who realize the idiocy of politicians' rush to war on Iraq.
Mrs. Fields' fatal mistake was her feeble attempt to enlist Walt Whitman as an ally for war against Iraq. Whitman who did not bear arms during the Civil War but worked as a hospital orderly would have been among the first to speak up at a White House poetry symposium. Of course, it never would have come to that point; Old Walt would have been disinvited well in advance of the event.

Houston, Texas

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