Regarding the Aug. 7 article, "Why the US should mandate paid vacations": One reason there is no paid vacation law in the US is that few people even know such laws exist elsewhere and so can hardly imagine a "right" to such a thing. Like the prevalence of national healthcare and other social benefits abroad, lack of reporting about life in the rest of the world is to blame. Your article is a rare exception. I disagree that "trade unions in the US are too weak to win a paid vacation battle." American unions feel they need to "bring home the bacon" for their members. Foreign unions have often learned to cooperate to improve vacations – for everybody – but they have a base to work from. This year, France celebrates the 70th anniversary of paid vacations. Also, the vacation industry forms a huge economic sector in countries with paid vacations.
In the Aug. 7 article arguing that American workers need more vacation time, some of the statistics should be held suspect. For example, the article stated that Americans averaged 25.1 hours worked per week vs. 18.6 for Germans. But do these figures include the unemployed? Germany's unemployment rate is more than twice that of the US. When you count the unemployed, Germans appear to work fewer hours since so many more of them don't work at all.
Similarly, Norwegians (who presumably have longer vacations) appeared to outpace Americans dramatically in productivity – $62.66 in goods and services per hour vs. $47.42. But is this because Americans are overworked and thus less productive per hour, or because oil accounts for nearly one-fifth of Norwegian GDP? If the price of oil weren't so high, would Norway look so productive?
Regarding the Aug. 7 article and the issue of vacation time, as in so many instances, we have increasingly become a nation solely interested in the short term. Not only do we work more than other nations, but many of our social events revolve around work.
This short-term thinking has long-term consequences: We are less healthy than those in other industrialized nations, and our educational system is increasingly driven by the demands of work. Although many appreciate the added consumer goods that come from working overtime, in the long term, that second SUV may not be essential after all.
Regarding the Aug. 7 article, "At detainees' trials, will hearsay be heard?": Those who favor accepting hearsay evidence in the trial of detainees by military commissions obviously forget that the US system of justice will likewise be on trial every time a detainee is hauled before the commission.
If the US system of justice is seen by the whole world as nothing better than a system of kangaroo courts – which is going to happen if hearsay evidence is ruled acceptable – America will surely be the loser. America will lose its credibility as the premier champion of the democratic and humanitarian values of liberty, freedom, and the rule of law.
One of the stated objectives of President Bush's administration is the promotion of American-style democracy in the Middle East. That goal is a worthy one but is bound to be seen as hypocritical if military commissions are allowed to consider hearsay evidence in the trial of detainees.
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