- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2006

Don’t scale back VOA broadcasts

Helle Dale’s excellent piece “Spreading the word” (Op-Ed, Wednesday) on the planned closure of a number of Voice of America radio programs emphasizes the significance of the VOA English-language shows. But the loss of the broadcasts in other languages might be as damaging.

I work for the VOA Russian service, so let me say a few words about it, but I speak only for myself — not for the agency. Our influence in Russia has diminished in the last decade, mostly due to the shrinkage of our presence on the air (from 18 hours a day in the 1970s and 1980s to three hours now); however, we still have about 3 million listeners daily. Last Friday, I hosted our talk show and was overwhelmed with calls from listeners who were shocked with the news that the VOA Russian radio would disappear after 60 years in existence. They could not comprehend that the enlargement of the Iranian service requires such a sacrifice.

Iran regularly broadcasts anti-American propaganda to Russia on a large scale. For this reason alone we cannot retreat from such a huge battlefield of ideas, leaving it to Iran and to other destructive forces. China, North Korea and other foreign broadcasters are very active in Russia as well, and the mainstream Russian media is mostly against America and democracy.



Selling out on homeland security

Congress is in an uproar over the sale of six U.S. ports to a firm owned by the United Arab Emirates because many patriotic Americans are voicing their concern that our homeland security is being jeopardized (“Uproar over U.S. ports,” Editorial, Friday).

Unfortunately, this sellout of our sovereignty and national security appears to be business as usual for the Bush administration, since it routinely allows big money interests to trump national security. For example, more than four years after September 11, our borders still remain wide open in order to provide cheap labor for business. In addition, to appease big corporations, President Bush advocates outsourcing our manufacturing and technology to China, which enables this ominous threat to expand and modernize its long-range nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, much (though not all) of the conservative media still portray Mr. Bush as a tough commander in chief who is protecting America, even though many of his economic policies clearly undermine national security.

Now super-liberal Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, both New York Democrats, have thrown a right hook at Mr. Bush by correctly coming out against the port sale, thus shrewdly positioning themselves as homeland-security hawks. The conservative media needs to stop the partisan spin and sound the alarm when Mr. Bush and the Republican Party betray America to appease big corporate donors, or the Republican Party will continue to sell out our national security and could lose big in 2006 and 2008 as fed-up conservatives stay home or vote for a third party.


Warrington, Pa.

Social attitudes toward raising children

I agree with Steve Chapman in “‘Demographic suicide’ in Europe?” (Commentary, Wednesday) that the decline in the European birthrate is due to economic factors — that is, young children are no longer “productive assets” the way they were in an agrarian economy — and also due to the invention and widespread use of the birth-control pill. However, there are several points Mr. Chapman made which are exaggerated or insulting to generations of women, who were exclusively homemakers and caregivers for their families.

First, while it is more expensive to raise children nowadays, this is not all due to necessity, but rather often due to parents feeling the need or desire to fulfill their child’s every whim. Now that the majority of women are in the work force, the amount of disposable income has increased dramatically in the last 30 years. Dual-income families now have the money to purchase larger homes, three or four cars, numerous television sets and other home entertainment systems, as well as designer clothes, cell phones, extravagant birthday parties and other expensive items for their children. Of course, when children are raised like little princes and princesses, it is much harder to afford a large family.

Second, Mr. Chapman makes the point that “if men and women conclude happiness entails fewer children, it’s hard to see why governments should encourage them to have kids they don’t especially want.” I agree that citizens should not be encouraged to have children they don’t want, however, there are still numerous parents with three or more children who are very happy with their decisions to have large families.

Mr. Chapman appears to question the decisions of women who have large families. I find this to be very insulting to women who for generations devoted their lives to raising large families. While it is wonderful that women today have the option to pursue other avenues, many women were undoubtedly happy in the past and still are today devoting their lives to raising their children. This work can be both demanding and exciting, and careers outside the home are not the only means to women’s self-fulfillment.

In short, while the declining birthrate in Europe and the United States is reason for concern, the remedies for this situation are debatable. Mr. Chapman mentions several of them, which include increasing immigration or extending the number of years before retirement. While I favor tax breaks, similar to those now in the United States, for each child, I realize there also needs to be a change in society’s attitude toward the raising of children. A mother’s choice to raise her children full time does not make her any less valuable as a woman, and in fact a full-time parent is making a valuable contribution to society and should be recognized for her effort.



Mr. Gore’s conduct as a disenfranchised politician may not be wholly reflective of how he would have behaved as president, but to go to Saudi Arabia and proclaim, “The worst thing we can possibly do is to cut off the channels of friendship and mutual understanding between Saudi Arabia and the United States,” while implying that that is what the Bush administration has done shows a certain disconnect from reality. It’s even a disconnect from the liberal Democrat party line, which builds on the claim that the Bush family is too close to the Saudi ruling family for America’s liking. One has to wonder what Mr. Gore was thinking, and if he was thinking at all, or simply pandering to his audience.

Most of the September 11 hijackers were Saudis, which should mean, if nothing else, that Saudis need to face the same screening process as everybody else who comes into the United States. Not necessarily more, but certainly not less. To merely overlook this fact does a great disservice to America’s national security. To my knowledge, President Bush hasn’t made statements to the same effect, but the connection between the Bush family and the Saudi ruling family has been cited by many liberals as cause for concern. Now we know that this criticism is either hollow or it cuts both ways.

The fact that Mr. Gore pandered so heavily to his Saudi audience with comments that would not have been acceptable to an American audience suggests that he has realized that his end on the American political stage is at hand. Either his political aspirations have dissipated, or he is suffering from the worst case of foot-in-mouth disease we’ve seen in some time.



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