In "Bowling Together" [February 11], Robert Putnam identifies several
methods of creating "institutionalized changes" and urges policy makers to back
national-service efforts such as AmeriCorps.
Fortunately, Putnam recognizes what many of the strongest
proponents of national and community service often neglect: Cultivating students'
commitment to service must begin at a young age.
Over the past decade, an increasing number of elementary, middle-school, and
high-school students have participated in a powerful new form of service,
"service learning," which integrates service projects into academic studies.
Instituting public-service programs as a basic component of schooling exposes
young people to the "activist civics education" that Putnam calls for.
Now is the time to ensure that students of all ages have a high-quality
service-learning experience. To achieve this, the Bush administration must
increase funding not only for AmeriCorps and homeland security, but especially
for the Learn and Serve program, the only federal program dedicated to funding
National Service-Learning Partnership
New York, NY
The Poll Truth
While Ruy Teixeira's "The Poll Truth" [February
11] includes some thoughtful analyses, it misses at least one key point:
Following a redistricting that raised incumbent protection to a crass new level,
perhaps as few as 30 to 50 U.S. House seats will be up for grabs.
In other words, the big battle for the House will involve
only a handful of voters; national polls, public attitudes, and presidential
popularity may not be good predictors of what tips the balance in those close
races. Local endogenous factors certainly will be part of the mix: the quality of
the campaigns and candidates, the regional economy, even late-breaking scandal,
real or manufactured. And since the 2002 election is the first following
redistricting, some of these races will take place in substantially new
districts, with candidates chasing new voters, which adds an additional
hard-to-quantify variable to the crystal-ball gazing.
Finally--and perhaps the most critical factor to watch for as the Democrats
attempt to retake the House--is the degree to which Democrats have successfully
unpacked many minority-opportunity districts, adding reliably Democratic
racial-minority voters to neighboring swing districts. Hopefully, that gambit
won't result in making the House more white and less minority. But such are the
vagaries and zero-sum games of our winner-take-all electoral system.
Center for Voting and Democracy
Takoma Park, MD
In "Snatching Defeat" [March 11], John B. Judis
says that George W. Bush should follow the example set by his father in the
Middle East and "force peace." In Judis's view, the elder Bush "set the stage for
the successful negotiations at Oslo." Exactly how can anyone consider the Oslo
negotiations successful? The war has perpetrated some of the worst human-rights
violations--including the deliberate targeting of children by the
Palestinians--and is the direct result of a peace process that required Israel to
jeopardize its security in exchange for hollow promises the Palestinian Authority
had no intention of keeping.
Even Faisal Husseini, long considered the most moderate of
all Palestinians, referred to the Oslo process as a Trojan horse designed to
bring Arab weapons within close enough proximity to target Israeli cities. Those
moderates Judis trumpets speak English well enough to speak moderately, but every
one of them, particularly Mr. Arafat, continues to speak of glorious martyrs and
Palestinian jihad when speaking in Arabic.
The conflict in the Middle East has spawned many "peace plans" hatched in
London, Paris, and Washington. Each one, including Oslo, was a disaster. Only
those in the Middle East can make peace. In the meantime, Israel cannot be held
to a standard that prevents it from defending itself and pursuing its national
Jonathan D. Reich
Chairman, United Jewish Communities of Polk County
Can Buffy's Brilliance Last?
Until I read Garrett Epps's dazzling piece "Can
Buffy's Brilliance Last" [January 28], I thought I was the only adult in this
country who realized that Buffy is brilliant television. I could not agree
more that the series, without preaching, sent a powerful message to the
show's teen audience that sex is dangerous. Buffy had sex during high school only
once, with the good vampire Angel. But once was enough to break a gypsy's curse
that had given Angel a soul. Similarly, Xander lost his virginity to Faith, the
only character portrayed as promiscuous. The experience left him feeling used,
while Faith's wantonness prefigured her fall.
I also agree that as characters began to move out of
adolescence and have adult sexual experiences the show faltered. I only hope that
Epps is right when he says that "where there's undeath, there's hope." But if
not, the first four Buffy seasons will live on in reruns, helping
adolescents to make sense of an often bewildering environment and entertaining
the rest of us happy few grown-up viewers.
William L. O'Neill
New Brunswick, NJ
How does Garrett Epps know that fear of sex is
natural and ahistorical, while enjoyment of sex is a creation of the 1970s that
fully replaced the Victorian fear of sex? How does he know teens are being
coerced by our culture to have sex before they are ready? Can he be sure that
they aren't being shamed by our culture for having sex that they were "ready"
Our culture currently teaches us that sex is good and
healthy, while simultaneously teaching us that sex, especially for young women,
is shameful and traumatic. Epps's article is reflective of that schizophrenic
message. He notes teenagers' obsession with "scoring" and the vicious gossip that
surrounds a young woman's sex life. Yet he declares repression dead and claims
that the preachers of abstinence aren't reaching teenagers.
Please. Culture does not change so swiftly as all that.
The Other War at Home
I read with interest Emily Parsons's "The Other
War at Home," which reviewed Judge James R. Gray's book on the failed drug war.
Gray is quite right in saying that "the War on Drugs is about a lot of things,
but only rarely is it really about drugs." And Parsons alludes to what the war is
really about: "Prison construction and inmate upkeep turn out to be big
business... . " Protecting wealthy U.S. investors presents the most daunting
obstacle to end the war on drugs.
To end the war, the establishment must be convinced that the war is too
costly to pursue. To make this case successfully will require a massive, well
organized, and sustained movement composed mostly of middleclass citizens.
The country needs a loyal opposition that will speak truth to the power of
the Bush administration. Underlying this challenge is a view of the Constitution
that stresses the protection of individual rights, the limited powers of both the
legislative and executive branches, and the equality of all criminal suspects. We
won't find that opposition among "liberal" academics like Laurence Tribe and Cass
Sunstein. Tribe claims that Congress could cure the whole problem through
legislation authorizing tribunals, yet he never details how Congress might have
this authority, despite the clear dictates of the Sixth Amendment. Sunstein
thinks that an inflated reading of the phrase "unlawful combatant" provides
wholesale authority for the tribunals. The American Bar Association has come
closer to the mark: In early February, the ABA adopted a resolution insisting on
jury trials for terrorists who commit "violations of federal or state" law. This
is the mandate of the Constitution and has been my position all along.
Dan Gerstein, senator Joseph Lieberman's communications director, has taken
exception to the figure for total Enron contributions ($37,000) that we listed
under Lieberman's photo on our February 25 cover. As noted, we included money
given directly to Lieberman's own campaign committee ($2,000) plus the $35,000 in
Enron money given to the New Democrat Network's soft- and hard-money PAC, which
Lieberman co-founded in 1996. On NDN's Web site, HREF="http://www.newdem.org/leaders/"
posting dated February 2, 2002, heralds Lieberman as a current leader of the PAC.
Enron, expert in filling the many pockets of a politician's coat, found this open