- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Development in the hinterlands

In “China’s reform shortfall” (Commentary, Saturday), Jay Ambrose says “the coast shines but the hinterland is dark and dim, still a part of the Third World,” where “900 million [people] are stagnating.” This statement, quoted from Peter Drucker, bears no relation to the facts. I can speak with some authority on this matter because I have been to China’s hinterland nearly every year since 1980.

Like anyone who knows China, I have watched with amazement the enormous outburst of economic activity led by an exuberant private sector in all parts of the country. In the so-called hinterlands — in the north, west and east — the provincial capitals have been transformed into huge thriving cities, with new thoroughfares and hundreds of high-rise buildings that house offices, department stores, restaurants and apartments, all ablaze at night with neon signs. In the older side streets, every square meter is taken up with all varieties of private shops and restaurants. This scene is repeated in most inland municipalities and towns.

In the past 10 years or so, a highway program that well might surpass our interstate system has been built connecting the provincial cities, along with new railroads. These works have opened up tremendous opportunities for China’s superb farmers to produce the vast quantities of fruits and vegetables consumed every day in the cities. Of course, as in any country, there are remote, mountainous areas where life is hard, but even those places benefit from remittances of their young people who work in the prosperous cities.



Artifacts that will tell the story

I was again saddened and dismayed to read about the misdirected actions against Richard B. Marx, lead FBI agent at the World Trade Center recovery operation at the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, N.Y. (“FBI peers criticize discipline of agent,” Page 1, Monday). I was witness to the historic operation that recovered more than 4,000 human remains, 54,000 pieces of personal property, and that enabled museums to tell the history of September 11 with objects that will speak to generations to come about a day that changed history. These are the objects that Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, and the FBI have mistaken for souvenirs. We call them artifacts. Had Mr. Grassley spent one day at Fresh Kills, he would have witnessed what we and the families did. I stand by Mr. Marx and his actions.

Since 2001, more than 2 million visitors from across the United States have seen these artifacts in the New York State Museum’s galleries, and close to 1 million in the cities that hosted the traveling exhibition “Recovery,” now on its way to Germany. These, too, are the objects that ultimately will tell the story to generations at the museum at Ground Zero.

Mr. Marx has much of which to be proud, including trusting the nonpersonal evidence of September 11 to museums. Mr. Marx probably is one of the most capable collecting curators in America. Rather than punish Mr. Marx, the FBI should recognize him for his contributions to saving the evidence of history. Without his foresight, these treasures would be underground at the Fresh Kills Landfill.


Director of exhibitions and education

New York State Museum


GOP conservatives?

In “GOP and the conservative movement” (Nov. 24, Commentary), William Rusher offers an interesting simile of the “Republican Party as a bottle, and the conservative movement as the wine it contains” and finishes by saying that their union has been “remarkably fruitful.” Apropos indeed, but only when one realizes that once a conservative enters the bottle, he is exposed to the corrosive effects of big-government Republican pols such as Rep. Tom DeLay, who, by all accounts, wasted little time overriding junior lawmakers’ complaints about pork in the budget. Few conservatives (Rep. Ron Paul of Texas comes to mind) remain unscathed.

Further, when Mr. Rusher says “remarkably fruitful,” he can only mean that the Republican-conservative union has unprecedented power, because he certainly cannot mean that true conservative principles are being advanced. With very few exceptions, they are not. In the course of an otherwise engaging history lesson, Mr. Rusher doesn’t enumerate the core principles of the Republican Party or the conservative movement. What those principles are seems to depend on whether you judge by words or by actions.

By words, President Bush and the conservative movement say they believe in freedom, limited government and lower taxes. If these truly are the core values of conservatism, how can this Republican-conservative marriage be so great? What fruit has it borne? We deregulated the airlines — great, but what else? We still work half the year to pay for government. A great new tax panel (commissioned by a conservative administration, no less) was told to come up with a “revenue neutral” plan. Revenue neutral? Translation: Don’t lower the total tax take. How conservative is that?

Ronald Reagan tried to eliminate the federal role in education but failed. With a Republican administration and Congress, this federal role not only was not eliminated, but was expanded via the No Child Left Behind act. Conservatives, led by Newt Gingrich, reformed welfare in the 1990s, but now, with even more power, conservatives have inexplicably reversed course by greatly expanding welfare and government via the Medicare drug benefit. Politically savvy, maybe, but definitely not conservative.

I could go on, but the point is that the foundation of Mr. Rusher’s union is showing cracks. Foundations of such political organizations must be built on bedrock principles, and they do not change with events. If, for example, nation-building violated the conservative doctrine, as Mr. Bush said it did during his first presidential campaign — and as it clearly did — how could events change that status? Again, core principles do not, must not change because of events. Yet they seemingly have. Perhaps conservatism is not quite as principled and constant as its supporters claim.

Certainly, the conservative-Republican union has brought fruit, but I say it is the bitter fruit of disillusionment both at home and abroad, as true fiscal and constitutional conservatives are betrayed continually by their elected representatives.



Alternatives to hydrocarbon

One telling note about where John Crisp’s anti-hydrocarbon position comes from (“Oil sands no magic bullet,” Forum, Sunday) is that he did not list nuclear or hydroelectric power as alternatives (neither favored by environmentalist zealots).

Part of the problem with petrochemical availability is our refusal to develop new resources. Resistance to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is only one example. Oil shale in the Rocky Mountain states can be developed using clean new methods of extraction, and clean-coal technology exists, but environmentalist forces have been able to prevent development of these resources. The U.S. reserves of oil shale and coal represent a greater energy deposit than all the reserves of the Middle East.

The professor’s energy alternatives all fail the test of legitimate replacements for hydrocarbon: Wind energy is inefficient and expensive and causes microclimate change (and possibly, if widely used, could have broader weather effects); solar is a net energy loser, costing more to implement than is saved; and hydrogen takes more energy to create than it delivers.

There are ways to extend the use of hydrocarbon resources in the near term with the use of biomass-derived fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel and the use of improved hybrid vehicles. Modern nuclear reactor designs are safer and more efficient than current operating systems, and technology is being developed to reduce nuclear waste. It’s time to expand the nation’s nuclear power systems. Distributed small hydroelectric systems can be incorporated into the system of locks and small dams maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control without the necessity of large dams with their environmental impact and expense.

We need to focus on sustainable energy, but restricting the solutions will cripple the economy.



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