Foreign and domestic policies need attentionNow that the...


November 09, 1996

Foreign and domestic policies need attention

Now that the election tumult is dying down it's appropriate to shift focus from the promises made to get a political job, to those actions necessary to do the job.

Two issues that have historic implications and that require both public commitment and political courage are an enlightened China policy and campaign finance reform.

Our relations with China are critical. We can't afford to delay articulating the strategic course we intend to take.

Short-term conflicts and specific issues can then be debated within that context.

From opposite ends of the political spectrum, public officials have called for approaches to this emerging giant that have ranged from missionary arrogance to valueless capitalism.

Preaching moral superiority in ethnocentric terms to one-quarter the population of the globe, who come from an ancient, proud and highly developed culture, is stupid, dangerous and hypocritical.

On the other hand, espousing a policy without long-term principles that is driven solely by greed, special interests and commercial considerations, denies who we are as a nation and is equally dangerous. This debate needs to begin now and the ultimate policy will require wise statesmanship.

The recent orgy of campaign finance abuse may have one benefit. The electorate is finally so repulsed that politicians who resist demands for radical reform do so at their peril.

Business as usual -- with public servants for sale and national policy dictated by special interests -- can no longer be tolerated. And trimming around the edges, as happened after Watergate, is clearly not the answer.

This debate, too, should begin immediately and calls for a similar level of statesmanship. Admittedly this is asking for a lot, but our future demands no less.

Roger C. Kostmayer


Ways to avoid lead poisoning

I read your Oct. 30 article on lead poisoning and would like to add three brief notes that I hope might save someone.

Do not use latex paint over lead-based oil paint. It starts to flake almost immediately. Use oil-based.

Do not vacuum up paint chips. Very fine dust is to be found in the exhaust. Use a dust pan and brush.

Lead acetate was once known as sugar of lead because of its sweet taste. Children eat paint flakes because of this.

!McKenny W. Egerton Jr.

Owings Mills

Has columnist license to libel?

I am responding with outrage to Mona Charen's column of Nov. 4, headlined, ''Oh, who cares?'' Ms. Charen (quoting Bob Dole) asks: ''Where's the outrage?'' I wish to express some.

The president and his wife do stand accused of things. ''Accused'' isn't ''found guilty.''

But Ms. Charen goes further, stating as fact that the Clintons ''unethically interfered in ongoing investigations . . . violated federal law . . . withheld, lied about and then grudgingly turned over subpoenaed documents . . . used the FBI to hound and prosecute an innocent federal employee . . . entertained drug dealers . . . dangled pardons.''

Does the writer have inside information about trial outcomes that are unavailable to the rest of us?

Is she, as ''syndicated columnist,'' free to state as fact things that she really can't know? As far as I know, no judgments have been reached.

So where's the outrage? Here it is: Reporters of the news have an obligation to state facts as facts and opinions as opinions.

The outrage -- mine -- is that insidious comments such as those made by Ms. Charen usually aren't considered libelous; but are OK because, after all, the writer is a syndicated columnist.

I've come to accept that politicians slander each other. I'll never accept that some writers are sufficiently cavalier to ignore the rules of decency that the rest of us live by or are forced to by fear of legal reprisal. Ms. Charen overstepped, and slandered her own profession along with the president and his wife.

Barry Zirkin


School volunteers see teacher workload

I always enjoy Dan Rodricks' columns and was especially pleased that he wrote ''All Americans are indebted to teachers'' (Oct. 16).

We have added value and joy to our retirement years by volunteering at our local elementary school. We wish that more people who have the time would do so also.

It has been a real eye-opener. The teachers have a heavy load dealing with their classes non-stop all day and then spending hours on preparation and paperwork.

Parents have much to be grateful for.

School is more fun that it was in our day, but we guess the dedication of the staff is the same.

Their encouragement, patience, kindness and teaching of moral behavior mark them as very caring people.

Fred and Ruth Handte


Economic growth benefits only a few

Upon reading the Oct. 31 article by Jay Hancock, "Growth can be bad, UM economist says," which concerns the opinions of Herman Daly, I am reminded of how infrequently we encounter articles concerning the irreversible damage we humans are inflicting on the environment.

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