- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Marriage of convenience

Does President Bush truly believe it is necessary to amend our most sacred document, the Constitution, to prohibit people like his own vice president’s daughter from ever receiving a civil marriage license? I doubt it (“Bush circles the wagons as approval ratings slip,” Page 1, Saturday).

More likely, he and his handlers see this as a way to energize their base for the November election and shift the focus of debate away from their many failures. They don’t have much else to make people want to vote for them.

So, rather than reach out to the majority of American people, who I still firmly believe are moderates, Bush panders to the ultra-right-wing religious fundamentalists. It’s just more polarization from Mr. Bush, who used to claim with a straight face that he was “a uniter, not a divider.”

Will anybody — or at least a majority — buy the scare tactics this time? I hope not. I think Americans are realizing that they’ve been had. The polls show it. A sizable majority of the public does not trust the president and other Republican leaders. They think the nation has run off the tracks.

Even religious fundamentalists must be tiring of being misled about the most serious threats the nation faces. I certainly am.

WILLIAM C. STOSINE

Iowa City, Iowa

Beltway educrats

“Fixing math, science gaps” (Commentary, yesterday) misdiagnoses our educational failures. It is not math and sciences that need to be studied but the history of federal government intervention in state schools. The”bogeyman” today is that we as a country are not competitive enough and therefore we need more government programs and federal control of education in order to compete in the global marketplace.

In 1958, when we had our first math and science education “crisis” because of our so-called failure to stay competitive with the Soviets, the federal government passed the National Defense Education Act. That was followed by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, followed by the National Diffusion Network of 1974; the 1990 Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills; the Goals 2000: Educate American Act of 1994; Improving America’s School Act of the same year; School to Work Opportunities Act, also in 1994; the 1998 Workforce Investment Act; and, finally, 2001’s No Child Left Behind. What history has taught those who are willing to study it is that federal intervention in state schools has not helped education, but hindered it.

It should be apparent that more of the same will lead to the same poor results. So-called education reformers need to look at what works, and it is obvious that centralizing control of education in Washington is not it. If they really want to help us be more competitive in the world, which should be only one of many purposes of education, they should start by cutting the strings that bind the states to the federal government, including repealing No Child Left Behind.

MICHAEL D. OSTROLENK

Director of education policy

Eagle Forum

Washington

A wise ‘Sunday driver’

As an engineer, I certainly enjoyed reading Michael Pravica’s column “Energy savings over friction,” (Commentary, Sunday), which is all valid and correct. I am one of the old duffers who increased my city gas mileage by about 3 miles per gallon by studiously observing the laws of physics. My new driving habits also have substantially irritated the people around me who are doing all the bad things — accelerating hard to break hard at the next light and, of course, speeding. In fact, if Mr. Pravica has visited Europe, he probably found the people smoking like fiends and driving their little economy boxes like maniacs. There are some exceptions, of course, but mostly this is the rule.

Most drivers either find it economically advantageous to trade gasoline for time, or they just give in to their herd instinct to beat the next guy to the red light ahead. Until gasoline costs $10 per gallon or some other lofty figure or there is a radical change in the transportation system, don’t expect economics and psychology to give way to physics.

SAMUEL BURKEEN

Reston, Va.

Bogey(wo)man

When 14-year-old Michelle Wie made her mark on the PGA Tour in 2004, she didn’t just impress the golfing establishment, she captured a lot of hearts and imaginations. In a sport firmly in the grasp of middle-aged men, this little girl — in age only — sent shivers throughout smoke-filled clubhouses everywhere (“Wie takes swing at history,” Page 1, Monday). Missing the cut by just one stroke in the Sony Open that year, she generated the kind of excitement normally reserved for heavyweight boxing champions and Hollywood celebrities. The world was Michelle’s oyster.

Since those heady early days, she has been criticized increasingly not only by the men on the Professional Golfers’ Association Tour, but by her comrades on the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour as well. To them, she is nothing more than a chimera: big drive, long legs, no titles. Yet, still she seeks exemption after exemption to play on the men’s tour. What’s going wrong here?

The answer, commonplace in sports, is money. After her impressive showing in the 2004 Sony, Miss Wie became the darling of sports companies around the world. This cute young girl with the big swing was just too good to be true. In the do-it-now, make-it-now, milk-it-now world of sports marketing, she was the new “It.” The money is good; regrettably, the effect is bad.

Miss Wie is in no way ready to compete on a regular basis with professional male golfers. Anyone telling her to do that is doing her a great disservice. She hasn’t won a single tournament on the women’s tour, yet her minders push her toward the men’s tour at every chance. All we have heard from her camp is the mantra “if she can make the cut.”

Greg Norman, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els all have spoken of the need for the PGA Tour to modify its rules regarding corporate sponsors’ ability to give spots to women. Mr. Singh even went so far as to withdraw, as the defending champion, from the 2003 Colonial tournament because Annika Sorenstam, the dominant female golfer of her era, was given a sponsor exemption. Unlike Miss Wie, Miss Sorenstam could make a strong case for her participation on the men’s tour.

Up to the 2003 Colonial, Miss Sorenstam had won 48 tournaments and had finished second another 34 times. In 2002, she won 11 of the 20 tournaments she entered on the LPGA tour. For her career, she had more than $11 million in winnings. She had beaten and continued to beat all the women.

Before Miss Sorenstam, there was “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias and her appearance at the 1945 Los Angeles Open. Babe Zaharias wasn’t so nicknamed because she was pretty. It was because, with Babe Ruth-like power, she hammered five home runs in one game as a baseball player. She also was an All-American basketball player. Between 1946 and 1947, Babe won 14 golf tournaments in a row and 17 out of the 18 she entered. During that streak, she became the first American woman ever to win the Women’s British Amateur Golf title. By comparison, Tiger Woods’ best year to date has seen him win just nine tournaments. In today’s parlance, she had the street cred.

Hostility toward Miss Wie is brewing on the LPGA because of her monthly exemption ritual. Morgan Pressel spoke up during a conference call for the Fields Open in Hawaii. The 17-year-old rookie said Miss Wie should have to qualify for the women’s U.S. Open instead of the exemption she received. There will be more criticism to come. If she took her time and played her way onto the men’s tour by proving she could regularly beat the women of the LPGA, the world might once again join to cheer her on.

PAT PATTERSON

Leesburg, Va.


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