- The Washington Times - Friday, November 18, 2005

A growing threat from China

It is quite alarming that wealth transfers from our trade policies are underwriting communist China’s ominous buildup of its armed forces (“Get real about China,” Commentary, Tuesday). Amazingly, we are enabling China to expand and modernize nuclear-armed submarines and ICBMs whose devastating warheads are aimed squarely at American cities.

Meanwhile, President Bush’s response to China’s growing military threat is to continue to encourage free-trade giveaways with this repressive dictatorship and to downsize our military, particularly the Navy.

Enabling a communist regime to build up its military was once considered treasonous. Now it is considered good economic policy. This is a far cry from President Reagan’s street-savvy foreign policy of condemning and isolating the former Soviet Union to hasten its demise.

It is high time for prominent conservatives to sound an urgent alarm about the administration’s myopic, incoherent and reckless foreign policy toward China. Mr. Bush and Congress should end our suicidal trade policies with China and begin immediately to rebuild our shrunken military — otherwise, it’s goodbye Taiwan, so-long Japan and bye-bye America.

MIKE MARK

Warwick, Pa.

Time to champion everyday issues

Cal Thomas’ Wednesday Commentary “Rediscovered offensive … with echoes” confirms his spot among the inside-the-Beltway elites. Politicians and journalists are so completely disconnected from the rest of America that it is stunning. “Rediscovered offensive” is long on hyperbole (“under God” and “judicial activism,” etc.) but short on issues that really concern a large swath of America.

President Bush doesn’t need to go on the offensive; he needs to provide leadership and learn to govern more than just the extremists in his party. Republican officeholders are going to discover that the moderates who have put them in power are tired of seeing them champion the hot-button issues that have little consequence in everyday citizens’ lives while ignoring the less sexy issues.

Mr. Bush and Karl Rove wouldn’t need to go on the offensive if the Republicans had any policy initiatives regarding free trade, illegal immigration, tax policy (tax cuts and deficits don’t cut it) or pork-barrel spending. Mr. Thomas is just a shill for more of the same from our “leaders” — namely, justification and rationalization for current failed policies by the Republican Party and obfuscation of issues not important to social conservatives. Deeds not words.

BEN BERRY

Dallas

Taiwan and avian flu

As we have learned more about the threat the H5N1 “avian influenza” virus poses, it has become evident how far we still have to go before we will be able to mount a more credible defense against that and other infectious diseases (“World urged to prepare for flu,” Business, Nov. 8). One of the more gaping holes in our global health network is the continued absence of Taiwan from international health bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) and the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza (IPAPI).

As we learned from the 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in Asia, infectious disease knows no borders, and avian flu is no exception. Considering Taiwan’s dual roles as an important transit point for migratory birds and a global transport hub, there has never been a more appropriate time to reconsider its potential value as an effective bulwark against the spread of disease or face the possibility of watching it become an unwilling Typhoid Mary from which infection rapidly spreads to other countries. The world needs to put politics aside and support Taiwan’s bid to fully access and participate in international bodies such as the WHO, GOARN and IPAPI.

EDDY TSAI

Director

Press Division

Taipei Economic &

Cultural Representative Office

Washington

Labor and security

Donald Devine’s Nov. 11 Commentary column on a federal suit (“Bureaucracy reform blocked”) led by the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) against new personnel regulations for employees at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contained a number of inaccuracies and contradictions. Given the large number of problems with the column, it is difficult to know where to begin to set the record straight, but perhaps the blatant misrepresentation of the court’s decision in this case would be a good choice.

First, the court did not rule that DHS had to produce a written contract “agreeable to [the unions]” in order to streamline “existing personnel red tape.” The decision, in fact, agrees that the department has the right to implement its views on most conditions of employment with no requirement to bargain. This gives DHS unprecedented flexibility among federal agencies and departments with regard to personnel regulations.

Second, it is not true that the court precluded DHS from departing from agreements negotiated under the current collective bargaining system. The decision upholds DHS’ authority to declare void existing contract provisions that conflict with the new labor relations system. NTEU, in its suit, did not contend otherwise.

What the court did make clear, however, is that once DHS has set the rules for bargaining, it has to abide by those rules. That means that for those few topics that remain subject to bargaining under the new DHS system, DHS must engage in real bargaining and live by whatever contracts result from that bargaining. This is not radical or revolutionary. Rather, it is basic to any collective bargaining system in both the private sector and federal sector. There is one major exception to that general rule, which NTEU supports: An agency can depart from the contract when emergencies arise.

After unfairly taking the judge to task, Mr. Devine does an about-face and claims that the real culprit is DHS because it tried to retain the current collective bargaining system rather than take advantage of Congress’ invitation to create a new system. It is clear to all who have read the regulations or the court’s decision that DHS took full advantage of the authority granted it by Congress.

The departures from the current system are dramatic: The scope of subjects over which bargaining is required is substantially narrowed; bargaining is not required before management takes action and is limited to a set number of days; and any collective bargaining disputes (including negotiations impasses) are to be resolved by an internal DHS management board.

What Mr. Devine is really taking issue with is Congress’ decision to require that the new labor relations system at DHS ensure employees’ right to bargain collectively. He argues that DHS should not have to bargain but should only have to consult with its unions when changing workplace conditions. Congress could have chosen to establish a consultation system for DHS, but it declined to do so. That is because Congress concluded, after months of debate, that collective bargaining is not inconsistent with protecting the homeland — a position with which NTEU strongly agrees.

Mr. Devine certainly has a right to his opinion, but he does a disservice to readers of The Washington Times when he attempts to support that opinion with false statements.

COLLEEN M. KELLEY

National president

National Treasury Employees Union

Washington

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