I am writing in response to the letter from Susan Rosen ("Don't Knock Mark Twain," Dec. 19, 2003) in which I am misquoted.
Regarding Mark Twain, a middle school in District 21 in Brooklyn, Ms. Rosen states that she is "disgusted with parents and administrators who continually 'knock' the amazing success that this school has had. ...when people make remarks like 'It's not all it's cracked up to be' or 'If you think your child is getting a better education in District 21, he's not,' or 'Mark Twain is not a magic formula for success,' or 'There are incidents all the time at Mark Twain,' I feel sickened." I don't know to whom Ms. Rosen attributes the bulk of these remarks, but I'd like to set the record straight about one remark attributed to my letter (Supports School Restructuring, Dec. 5, 2003). I wrote the following: "As a parent who has one child currently attending a middle school in District 21, (as well as a fourth grader who would be part of the restructuring plan), I have come to realize that the schools in District 21 do not have a magic formula for success. What they do have, however, are some of the most academically successful students in the city, whose numbers are bolstered by several hundred children from Rockaway..." Mark Twain is never mentioned and, unless Ms. Rosen believes in magic, it is certainly not a disparaging remark. I spoke at the December 18 school board meeting regarding the school restructuring in Rockaway. The following is a quote (verbatim) from my remarks regarding the Brooklyn middle schools: "...I would very much like to see quality programming of the sort now in existence in Districts 20, 21, 22 and 23 in Brooklyn. Many of those middle schools were once failing, and are now thriving, with ethnically and racially diverse populations. My middle school age child attends one of these schools and he is benefiting greatly from exposure to a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds. All of our children deserve the same sorts of programs currently available in other districts. These schools perform well, and I know we all want academic success for our children..." I believe these meetings are videotaped, so you can check the transcripts for accuracy. Nearly everyone I know agrees that the schools in District 21 perform well. Why else would we send our kids there? Who, exactly, is bashing Mark Twain, Ms. Rosen?
When you take a remark out of context and misquote someone, it could be construed as malicious. If you are going to "quote" people, kindly do it accurately. With all the good that could be possible for this community, why would you fixate on some perceived slight of your child's school, for which there seems to be no basis in fact? We all agree that District 21 schools are among the models for successful middle school education in New York City.
The point of all of this restructuring is that we have the resources to create terrific programs like those in District 21. It is not an "us vs. them" dynamic, which Ms. Rosen seems intent on perpetuating. No one is "double-dealing to sell the proposed changes for our local Rockaway schools"; no one has suggested that this proposal would be "better than Mark Twain before anything is even in place" as Ms. Rosen suggests. However, in order to make these changes workable and successful, we must stand together as a community to create safe and engaging learning spaces where great things can happen.
I realize that "community" is not the top priority for some people, and they will be against this plan because their children would be among the first to participate. Others realize that this plan is so crucial to the well-being of our schools and our peninsula that they are willing to be part of something new in the interest of the greater good. This is about the importance of community, about coming together to create something better for all of us in Rockaway, particularly as it relates to the education of our children. We have the chance to be part of something so significant, something that will affect the future generations of kids growing up here. If you and your family choose not to participate in this effort, good luck to you in your journey. I applaud the vision and commitment of Dr. Cashin, the staff at Region 5, and Mr. O'Connell at 114 for their tireless dedication to our community and to our kids. You are doing valuable work in the service of others, and we will be honored to see your vision for the children of Rockaway come to fruition. Let's all stay positive and focused on the goal at hand: sending our children to quality schools in their own community. Thank you.
Now In Nassau
The Association of Auxiliary and Volunteer Firefighters (AAVF) is now setting up an office in Long Beach, in Nassau County. The organization is currently getting a combination fire engine and search and evacuation truck, which will be available in the spring, and will work with their on-going weather station in Far Rockaway.
Once the truck is set up, it will be available not only for weather, but any disaster that may come along. The truck will also be available for parades, meetings, training, outdoor fairs and other community needs by request.
The AAVF is looking for good volunteers, male or female, between the ages of 21 and 69, and only those who have been trained as a firefighter, search and rescue, evacuation, Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, etc. Due to a conflict of interest, members of the NYPD cannot join.
For more information, call the 24-hour Operations Command at 718-327-2296.
Welcome New Neighbors
With great pleasure my husband and I read the New York Times article on 12/7 in the Real Estate section, "In Rockaways, a Tide is Coming In." Finally, Rockaway is recognized as the hidden jewel that it is. We were happy to read the positive remarks of Howie Schwach, Vince Castellano and Jonathan Gaska.
In the 1950's, my parents, Michael and Mary Tully, rented rooming houses during the summer months. Dad would frequently say "this beachfront property is too valuable to use only during the summer."
Now with a diverse population moving into new homes, there will be a better quality of life for all Rockaway residents.
I urge my new neighbors to get involved in this wonderful community. Join a civic or home/resident association. You can make a difference.
Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah!
MARY DEVER KELLY
Speed Up Soldiers Return
I agree with Tom Lynch that no evidence has been found to connect Iraq with the events of 9/11/01. I do not agree with the decision to begin the bombing, invasion and occupation of Iraq on March 19, 2003.
When the House and Senate debated the resolution authorizing the use of force, member after member cited the evidence the Bush administration claimed to have concerning Iraq's possession and ability to use weapons of mass destruction. Few, if any, Americans believed Iraq's statements that they had destroyed their weapons of mass destruction. Now most of the world has found that the claims that the U.S. and Britain had proof of the existence of these weapons was false.
The "dangerous crazies" Mr. Lynch cites hold positions of power in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Pakistan's nuclear weapons could easily fall under their control. The U.S. defeat of the conventional forces of Saddam Hussein strengthens the argument of those who would use terrorism against Americans and those who support us.
Lynch cites the Korean War as an example of the effective use of military power. During the Korean War, President Truman had to fire General MacArthur when he wanted to lead U.S. troops into China. Lyndon Johnson warned against sending American boys to do the jobs of Asian boys in Vietnam, but disregarded his own advice when he sent hundreds of thousands of Americans to Vietnam.
President Bush has involved more than 100,000 Americans in a violent occupation of Iraq for an undetermined time. Will Secretary of State Colin Powell have the courage to write a book 30 years from now telling of his private opposition to this war as former Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara has done?
The U.S. will be successful when we use our military power to support those nations which ask for our help. We are able to defeat any conventional army in the world, but we cannot afford to keep hundreds of thousands of Americans in foreign lands as an occupying power.
We cannot afford to pay for prescription drugs, an effective school system, better mass transit, crime control or protection of our water or food supply if we spend hundreds of billions we don't have (deficit spending) on unnecessary wars. If the Bush administration does not find a graceful way to extricate us from Iraq, the next Democratic administration will have to do so.
The U.S. is a democracy in which the people make the ultimate decisions. In our homes, civic and political organizations as well as in our local press, we should study the issues, listen to and question the candidates and work to support those who best support our interests. A successful change in American policy through these means would inspire those who believe in democracy in nations throughout the world as the election of John F. Kenney did in 1960.
You've Been Had Buddy
I must confess that although I have never met Tom Lynch, I do admire his often lengthy but always sincere and factual narratives to The Wave on a variety of themes. I too am a life-long Democrat, with the hopes that the governmental disasters in the offing by this illegitimate administration can be circumvented by change in 2004, which is so necessary to prevent the on-set of years of uncertainty wrought by those in power today. If ever we voted a bad lot into power - with the Supreme Court as the catalyst - this unfortunately was it: a constitutional horror resonating forever.
I am probably somewhat older than Mr. Lynch, having passed my eighth decade, but ingrained in my memory while growing up in the Depression 30's, under the Republican president Herbert Hoover, and observing families put out on the street by city marshals and sitting on the cold sidewalk, plus many such events which made me into a life-long Democrat. Of course, Democrats too may have their failings, but compared with the machinations of today's group of deliberate malefactors, there can be no comparison. I am therefore coerced to put some random thoughts on paper.
Let me say that since I've never met the man, and I am not a psychologist, it ill behooves me to conjure up a pseudo diagnosis of the nuances and dynamics that presage a political change as described. I am just perturbed, no end, by what appears to be a distorted and quite naïve appraisal of the political facts as we know them.
Our literate writer ought to remember that this administration is working with a majority in both Congressional houses, who continue to push through one-sided legislation favoring a small part of our people, once even holding up a vote for five hours before they cajoled and threatened recalcitrant members to accede. Our writer ought remember the notorious Tom DeLay gerrymandering Texas districts to engender more favorable demographics to insure the next election, with Democrats fleeing the state to avoid arrest.
This administration claims to hew to the line of "compassionate conservatism." They are actually radical conservatives, lately adopting a rationale of fiscal adjustments long held by Democrats, which they always abhorred, but seeking some balance for the inordinate tax cut for the wealthy alongside of the middle class being out-scoured with more than nine million jobless while they take pride that Wall Street is soaring and what they perceive as a surging economy. Surging for whom? In the face of greater productivity by the American worker, India and China are taking away our professional computer jobs. The "trickle down theory" is certainly not working for our jobless.
Where does our writer stand on an accruing deficit of five million dollars in the next few years dictating a debt service greater than the GNP of countries. Our grandchildren will have to pay for our excesses. Where does the writer stand on our use of thousands of soldiers continuing to search for WMD's, which the administration said were within 45 minutes of being launched by that psychotic dictator. They still cannot be found. Was this another case of faulty intelligence or deliberate lies to legitimize a preemptive war needed by a faltering administration? Were we ever in danger from this fifth rate country? Why haven't the biological or chemical weapons be found?
Their apologists fall back on the idea that we are great because we got rid of a vicious dictator. Hooray for that: Now we can train our guns and expertise on the additional 30 or more psychos in the world where brush fires - wars - are being fought right now as an affront to our morality. Are we the world's policeman? By what right ought we have that degree of arrogance?
Do consider our faithful allies in this "moral" quest. Pakistan, which already has WMD's and Saudi Arabia where 15 of the 19 suicide bombers came from. Are they morally useful because of their oil? And do we take on adversaries only when we can overpower them with superior fire power - a ten to one disparity with a fifth rate power militarily. And with their civilians suffering tens of thousands of casualties, killed by our "smart" bombs which we call "collateral damage." Is it any wonder that the carnage against our soldiers continues? And no exit for a couple of years at least. And how to justify to the parents and spouses something like 450 deaths and counting with 2500 wounded and maimed. Try explaining that to the grieving relatives. No wonder our caskets are not being greeted with military honors on being returned here. Does only the President appear when he can reap political advantage?
Try to explain the no competitive bid contracts with Halliburton (Cheney) and Bechtel, with the statements that "we will force them to give back" the overcharges on fuel to our military.
So - my theme here basically is that the writer, for whatever his narrative skills are, has been suckered, as have all of us willing to be taken - fooled to a fare-thee-well by a group of Machiavellian advisers whose motive, I believe, is simply to get their man reelected. I believe this is paramount in their quite obvious ideology. Because our president is what the essayist Tom Wolfe, in another context, has characterized his type as one of the southern "good-ole-boys." I agree with the "boy" characterization since this is a boy in a man's job, for which he has proven, again and again, that he is ill equipped. But you'll never get it listening to the "spin doctors" selling you a bill of goods. He has to be very carefully guarded against speaking out of turn, since his intellectual equipment falls far short of capabilities for the serious job of governing.
Witness how they maneuvered the "mission impossible" event which blew up in their faces. Witness the fine speeches he reads, with dramatic coaches hired to structure an appropriate reading, with the best speech writers in the world. You and I and a high school senior able to read with expression can do as well. So - finally - can it be that these advisers know that the "good-ole-boy" image, the rough home-spun cowboy in Levis out on the ranch, resonates quite well with a populace which may look askance at a professorial academic type (witness the debacle of Adlai Stevenson whose polished prose alienated many voters, as not one of "us.")
Buddy - you've been had - and apparently you like it. For that I am sorry. I am more sorry for the rest of us who have to bear so much more. There is a great deal more that ought be said but space and time forbid continuing - ideas on the environment - ideas on perversion of justice - jobs going overseas - and the like.
Your changing of sides remains a purely personal matter. But from the everyday facts, it is beyond my understanding. Do have a good New Year.
JESSE H. PLUTZER