Citizen activism is high, despite low voter turnout

I read with interest your excellent Oct. 3 article "Why the poll booths of America are empty." As a partial explanation, you cite Robert Putnam and his idea that our "social capital" has eroded. Perhaps a counterweight to this argument is the late Everett Ladd's work "The Ladd Report," meticulously documenting that Americans continue to be socially connected despite the fact that some organizations appear to be in decline.

For example, participation in local parent- teacher organizations and environmental groups has risen over the past two decades, while a variety of community churches are burgeoning. More than 80 percent of all charitable giving is done by individuals, and overall volunteer rates in a variety of groups are up despite time constraints on "two wage-earner" families. Maybe the jeremiads that we often hear from Mr. Putnam and others about the woeful state of social engagement by Americans are overstated, and the current voter-turnout levels do not indicate citizen malaise.

Edward J. Valla Taunton, Mass.

High oil prices: Who can change it?

Regarding your Sept. 21 article "Wielding oil, Saddam rises again": Is Saddam Hussein really in the driver's seat "hinting that he may cut off or reduce Iraq's [oil] production," sending oil prices higher?

Last March, a group of United Nations oil experts assessed the status of Iraq's oil industry and found it "lamentable." They predicted that, with spare parts and equipment arriving "too little, too late," Iraqi oil exports will drop from 2.2 million barrels per day to 1.8 million or 1.9 million.

With rigs and refineries rapidly deteriorating, "unless the delivery of spare parts and equipment is immediately accelerated," the oil experts forecast that Iraq's oil production would decline even further, between 5 to 15 percent per annum.

Suzy T. Kane Bedford Hills, N.Y.

The media are bashing Vice President Al Gore for not having an energy policy. But it is the Republican Congress that has thwarted any energy policy by not supporting alternative-fuel research and energy conservation.

Mr. Gore knows that oil can't be our only source of fuel. Government has to spark investment in new fuels with tax incentives and research dollars. If we had a hydrogen-based economy - using fuel cells to run our cars and power our homes, with solar and wind as additional electricity sources - then we could thumb our nose at OPEC.

Arlene Williams Sparks, Nev.

Mr. Al Gore has attacked oil companies for driving up fuel prices. Oil companies don't drive up fuel prices, governments do. Our government has been terrible, with taxes imposed on oil production along with oppressive regulations, that have reduced our domestic oil and gas production to dangerous levels. These taxes have been passed along to consumers in higher prices.

J. Edward Johnson Denver

Real terms of Israel's withdrawal

Your Oct. 3 article "Peace that left a public behind," on violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel, is written from an Arab point of view. I particularly object to the reference to UN Resolution 242 calling upon Israel for "withdrawal from lands seized by force in 1967."

Americans fought hard to have that resolution read "lands" and not "all lands." It was well recognized at the time that Israel would not and was not expected to withdraw from all the territory. The Palestinians know this, but they are hoping that the world has forgotten.

Anne Mehler Rockville, Md.

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