The expressions of patriotic apathy by high school and college students in your cover story "Paths to Patriotism" (July 3) were disturbing, but reflection on the reasons for this apathy is even more so. Young people who cannot relate their own lives to the personal freedom from oppression, fear of unwarranted arrest, torture, or death they have been given as a birthright and which they take for granted show a saddening deficiency in understanding the lessons of history: With every right comes responsibility.
Our Constitution and its Bill of Rights were written by those who did have an understanding of where freedom comes from and whose responsibility it is to preserve it. The failure of young people to comprehend the connection between the benefits of human liberty in the United States and the sacrifices and dedication of citizens who did see this bond can only be laid at the feet of the educational establishment: school boards, school administrators, teachers, and the cornerstone of the educational establishment parents.
Robert W. Christie
Regarding "Homeland Security's Secret for Success," (June 21, Opinion): Jack Goldstone proposes to include the FBI and other agencies, but not the CIA, whose field agents operate in areas "where the US Constitution doesn't apply."
This is exactly the problem. Intelligence gathering is one thing, but covert actions such as assassination and torture must be controlled, lest they undermine all that our nation stands for. With a president calling for preemptive strikes, elimination of Saddam Hussein, the overthrow of Chavez, and so on, it is especially important that our Constitution be adhered to. The CIA must not remain above the law and should be brought into the new Homeland Security Department. It must be subjected to close scrutiny by Congress as well as by the executive branch.
David L. Harris
Red Wing, Minn.
Regarding "Plastic fantastic: debit cards with a twist" (June 24, Work & Money): This provided a good explanation of this increasingly popular mode of payment, but failed to include some information that consumers might find interesting.
A key difference between "online" debit card transactions that require consumers to enter a PIN number and "offline" debit card transactions that require a signature is the fee paid by retailers to handle the transaction. Retailers pay a flat fee of approximately 20 cents for an online debit card transaction and the transfer of money from the buyer to the retailer occurs immediately. With offline transactions, retailers pay a fee of approximately 1.5 percent of the transaction and may not receive their funds for several days.
It's easy to see why retailers generally prefer online transactions. Although consumers see no difference at the checkout when using either type of debit card, they wind up paying higher prices as retailers pass along the higher fees of offline debit card purchases.
You call for "less tendency to resort to the extremes of ... large-scale commercial use of the forests" (June 26, Editorial). This happens to be the raison d'être of quite a number of communities in the western public lands. Your statement implies that an entire culture and important economic sector is inherently extremist. I suggest you revisit your implication.
Correction: Due to an editing error, "The art of tricky travel" (July 8, Opinion) should have dated Burma's mass killing of pro-democracy students as occurring in 1988.
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