- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 3, 2006

Overbuilding on the Mall

After reading the article, “Nature’s rest” (Metropolitan, Thursday ) about how plants respond to cold weather and often go into a sort of hibernation of their own, I was moved to revisit the miniature farm on the Mall. This farm, or garden, has been at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue Southwest, between the National Air and Space Museum and the Department of Education, for several years. Even at this late date, it is still lush and full, the plants lovingly tended.

The little garden makes a nice break in a landscape where everything is artificial. There are the baronial government buildings everywhere, of course. Even the ever-diminishing open spaces left on the Mall are landscaped almost down to the last blade of grass. Here, by contrast, is an island of spontaneity. It isn’t a major attraction — it doesn’t even have a sign.

Now this oasis might be in danger. The recent proposal to build an Eisenhower memorial places it in that very area. I took a good look at the garden as I walked about for it might not be here next year or the year after.

Why not simply rename it the “Eisenhower Garden” and leave it at that, even if a lot of architects miss out on money and fame for themselves? Our 34th president began life as a Kansas farm boy, after all.

Whatever happens to it, this little farm should act as a lesson in humility, especially for the solons on Capitol Hill a few blocks away, as they spit and bite for power over each other and the rest of us. They might learn from a bit of cropland that there is an entire creation out there that couldn’t care less about them, that doesn’t even notice their existence.



Offending the rude

What an outstanding and timely article, especially around the holiday season, by Douglas MacKinnon titled, ” ‘Excuse me,’ America,” (Op-Ed, Friday).

I think the electronic age in which we are living is partly to blame for this problem. We somehow have lost what I call the “personal touch” that we used to have with people, whether at work or home. Since the innovation of television, the computer and now the cell phone, personal contact with a co-worker or sometimes even a family member is becoming a thing of the past.

We don’t ask people for their names anymore; we ask them “what is your e-mail address or cell number? Don’t bother me with that now, send me a voice mail and I’ll get it in the morning or better yet fax it to me.”

We see people in checkout lines in stores talking on cell phones completely ignoring the clerk who is trying to get them through the line with their groceries.

I’ve come to work and said “good morning” to people and they just bow their head, smile or even turn away. Or ask them “how are you this morning?” The stock answer is “I am here.”

Mr. MacKinnon, I hope your article has indeed offended the sensibilities of the rude, it should have.


Falls Church

Industry profiteers and Medicare Part D

If Donald Lambro’s goal in his column “Medicare benefit boon” (Commentary, Thursday) was to accentuate the positive and completely ignore the negative in any debate about Medicare Part D, then he succeeded. Unfortunately, telling only half the story does not represent the reality facing millions of American seniors enrolled in the Part D drug program.

Industry lobbyists and Mr. Lambro point to a lower-than-predicted price tag for Part D as evidence that privatization has worked. What they don’t tell you is that seniors will bear an increasingly greater share of these program costs through higher out-of-pocket expenses each year. About 70 percent of beneficiaries are enrolled in just 10 Part D plans and most will see monthly premium hikes from 5 percent to 60 percent next year.

CMS actuaries report that by 2020 Medicare out-of-pocket premiums alone will consume nearly one-half of the average senior’s Social Security check. At the same time, the doughnut hole is growing, Medicare is paying insurers billions of dollars in industry subsidies and Part D is bringing in record corporate profits to insurers and drug makers.

American seniors understand the common sense in allowing the government to negotiate the lowest prices for prescription drugs and they delivered that message on Election Day. No doubt, industry lobbyists don’t like it and the campaign to protect their profits has clearly begun.



National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare


Ford’s many failures

The article on troubled Ford Motor Co., “Toyota outsells Ford again,” (Business, Saturday) focused on production and sales figures and didn’t address the root causes of Ford’s ongoing problems. One analyst blamed Ford’s poor performance partly on the fact that its advertising campaign got a late start in November. Believe me, that’s not why Ford did so poorly.

Ford’s buyout offer to employees, which ended last week, resulted in 38,000 Ford workers saying “adios.” That’s more than 40 percent of its current work force. Ford was hoping to lure 25,000 to 30,000 workers to accept the buyout. What does this mass exodus say about Ford’s future?

Ford is in serious financial trouble. It recently announced an $18 billion refinancing plan in an effort to buy more time to get revenues in line with costs. It will likely shed saleable assets, but even that won’t be enough.

In the midst of all this turmoil, Ford continues to take sides in the culture wars by openly supporting homosexual “marriage.” It is the object of a boycott by the American Family Association, which has begun a campaign to stop Ford from funding groups determined to change the marriage laws in America.

Ford has failed on so many fronts that I believe it will eventually be forced into bankruptcy. Present economic indicators are pointing downward, and that spells even more financial woes for Ford, which is not in a position financially to survive even a mild recession.


North Olmsted, Ohio

Needed:alternatives to oil

The editorial ” ‘25-by-‘25’ assumptions,” (Editorial, Thursday) provides a useful review of what it might take to get 25 percent of our energy from renewable sources by 2025. But the writer had his own unstated assumption that the underlying finite fossil fuels won’t enter their inevitable decline by 2025. While we won’t know when oil production will peak until after it has peaked, it is critical that we give the issue some thought.

The Energy Bulletin’s Luis de Sousa has performed an interesting analysis of oil exports. He notes that oil-exporting nations tend to use more oil each year and are likely to see to their own needs before exporting the remainder. So, when a nation’s oil production enters decline, its exports will decline faster than the depletion rate alone would suggest. He does a country-by-country examination of both production and consumption trends, then combines the information to project trends in oil exports. He finds a decline in exports of 40 percent by 2020. Extrapolating the depletion rate out five more years shows a decline of 50 percent by 2025. While his analysis is simple, it is compelling. We can’t count on having plenty of oil to import in 2025.

The editorial pointed to the difficulties in growing enough biofuels to replace our oil use. Mr. de Sousa’s analysis points to a critical need to find a solution. A few suggestions: Stop building highways and airports and instead build transit and intercity rail. Stop building parking garages and start charging for parking. Stop treating bicycles like toys and start using them for transportation. Stop assuming the market or technology will solve the problem and start using the market mechanism and existing technology to address the problem.



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