Backtalk

The Alarming John Ashcroft
Thank you for your insightful, if somewhat terrifying, analysis of the attorney general ("The Fundamental John Ashcroft," March/April). Ashcroft clearly does not understand that if we simply cast aside our rights and liberties when they become inconvenient, we become no better than our enemies and thus all but concede victory to the terrorists. It is in times such as these that we must closely guard our principles and demonstrate to the world that our ideals will not only survive, but flourish. Now more than ever, we must hold our leaders accountable for the decisions they make and the actions they take.

Daniel P. Bennett
Buxton, Maine


 

Plenty Mean
While I agree with Molly Ivins that getting rid of Senator Phil Gramm and Rep. Dick Armey is wonderful ("The Masters of Mean," March/April), we have not run out of nasty Texans in Congress. There's always Rep. Tom DeLay, who inhaled too many pesticides in his former job as an exterminator. And Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who never met an oil company or big business PAC she couldn't take money from, wants to come back home in four years and run for governor. Texans never cease to find ways to express our maso-chism. I'm for seceding from the Union and letting the president and his fellow Texans stay in Washington as wards of the state.

Corinne Sabo
San Antonio, Texas


 

Fostering Families
There is nothing going on at the Hope Meadows community in Rantoul, Illinois ("Fostering Hope," March/April), that can't be done more effectively and humanely without tearing children from their parents. The horror stories that Hope Meadows gladly supplies to journalists are the exceptions. Most parents who lose their children to foster care are neither brutally abusive nor hopelessly addicted. Far more common are cases in which a family's poverty is confused with child "neglect." Others fall on a continuum between the extremes, the parents neither all victim nor all villain.

Try giving birth parents $19,000 a year "plus benefits," surround them with therapists and other supports, and throw in rent subsidies for the children's own grandparents, and the foster care population in America would plummet. Then there'd be plenty of room in good, stable foster and adoptive homes for the few children who really must be taken away.

Richard Wexler
Alexandria, Virginia


 

Tip of the Iceberg
"Losing the Cool" (March/April) nicely conveyed some impacts of climate change in the Arctic. But it seems to associate rising sea levels with losses of sea ice -- floating ice formed from the freezing of surface seawater. Such loss, while ominous, cannot directly cause sea levels to rise, just as melting ice cubes in a glass of water don't raise the water level. I believe your mention of a hypothetical 21-foot rise in future sea levels refers to the possible collapse of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet -- glacial ice formed on land from accumulated snow. While such an event is considered unlikely in the next century, other warming-related causes are virtually certain to accelerate the rise in sea levels.

Jonathan D. Karr
Geochemist, Duke University
Durham, North Carolina


 

Mastering Card Discipline
After reading "Don't Leave College Without It" (March/April), I fail to have much sympathy for students who have gotten themselves deep into debt with credit cards. I received several unsolicited cards myself as a student, and I never ran up a debt nor paid the high interest rates these cards charge. How did I manage that? Simple: I never spent more than I could afford to pay when the monthly bill came. Instead of indulging in the typical knee-jerk liberal reaction of blaming "greedy corporations," I suggest you advocate a little personal responsibility.

John Irwin
Wilsonville, Oregon


 

History Lessons
Your review of James Hirsch's Riot and Remembrance ("When Tulsa Burned," March/April) notes two claims by the author: that "Tulsa suffered from a cancerous silence" about its 1921 race riot and that the event was erased "from official histories."

I grew up in Tulsa. It was no secret that there had been a race riot. The riot was covered in my junior-high history class, a course required of every student. In front of me is Tulsa 75, an official history commissioned by the mayor and published by the Chamber of Commerce in 1974. The riot is covered on pages 62-65, with nine photos.

If Hirsch just means the riot was not the No. 1 topic of conversation, then he's right. Tulsans, like most Americans, do not spend a lot of time talking about the past. Maybe we should think about our history more. But it's not a conspiracy.

Hank Coiner
Miami, Oklahoma