An opportunity to sort out the climate-change treaty

In their Sept. 14 opinion piece, "Clarity on global warming," Kilaparti Ramakrishna and George Woodwell completely missed the point of my recent remarks on global climate change.

Anyone slightly familiar with my record would know that I never said we should "completely ignore the progress made so far, drop any further consideration of the Kyoto Protocol [on climate change], and form a new agreement from scratch."

What I have said is that the Kyoto Protocol's good qualities vastly outweigh its flaws. But many important details of implementation are undefined, and this provides national governments an opportunity to compromise the treaty in order to meet their first round of emission-reduction targets. It is vital that the Kyoto Protocol has environmental integrity.

As we look toward the next formal treaty negotiations in The Hague in November, we must clarify as much of the Kyoto framework as possible, so that we keep the process moving forward and make future implementation and international political support more likely, not less.

Eileen Claussen Arlington, Va. President Pew Center on Global Climate Change

Redistricting limits voter choice

In your excellent story "House races go national" (Sept. 14), one crucial point needs more exploration. You quote one observer, who says, "The irony ... is that in most congressional districts in the country, the election has already been decided, because incumbents have such a huge financial advantage."

But our research shows this conventional wisdom is simply wrong. We have predicted with great accuracy a startlingly high percentage of winners and their victory margins in the past three congressional elections, without any reference to campaign spending.

What we found was that, rather than deciding races, money generally flows to districts where incumbency and partisan tilt (exaggerated by the ability of the parties to custom tailor House districts by choosing exactly which voters will be allowed to choose which candidates) have already determined the outcome. This point cannot be overemphasized, because it suggests that most voters will experience "no choice" congressional elections until we change our winner-take-all electoral system or, at minimum, take redistricting away from partisan politicians.

As we continue to learn about the relative importance of districting and money in elections, we find that Will Rogers said it best: "It's not what you don't know that hurts you - it's what you know for sure that's wrong."

John Gear East Lansing, Mich. Center for Voting and Democracy

The poor are misperceived

I was surprised and somewhat appalled by the condescending tone in your Sept. 13 article, "How the poor fare among richer neighbors." To generalize about how the poor and working-class would fare in a more affluent neighborhood is Classism 101.

Experiments, like the one in Chicago which seeks to integrate homeowners from the projects into middle- and upper-middle-class neighborhoods, are prone to failure. That's because some of the residents in these "better" neighborhoods carry their own prejudices toward lower-income residents.

Despite popular conception, not all poor and working-class citizens lack morals and ethics. Many of them are decent, clean, and considerate of noise violations in their communities. I have found that a number of "role models for the poor" who live in beautiful neighborhoods blast their stereos after midnight and forget to clean up after their dogs.

Pier Penic Alexandria, Va.

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