Readers write

On the bright side of the ballot

A marathon of an election is the best thing that could have happened to Americans. After decades of mounting political apathy, the tide seems to have turned as Americans of all walks of life debate the constitutionality of recounts and ponder the legitimacy of a president without a popular mandate.

Americans no longer feel the political process to be some alien encounter that they - like automatons - are expected to validate once every so often.

Those who charge that "dragging this process on is endangering America's great democracy" are mistaken. This democracy is, in fact, being rehabilitated by the very process that cynics believe undermines it. Is it not fitting that a country that prides itself on propagating the virtues of democracy should take a refresher course on exactly what it means to express the will of the people - all the people?

Zachary Taylor Washington

The Nov. 21 editorial, "Orderly transitions of power," deploring the seemingly fuzzy process of determining who will become our next president is reactive and shortsighted.

In fact, the process by which we are determining whether George W. Bush or Al Gore won Florida is a glorious example of American democracy. Everyone is agreed that the judicial system will decide which votes count and when they count. People in many nations, including the ones cited (Peru, Mexico, Taiwan), would welcome our systems of checks and balances, specifically an independent and strong judiciary.

Let's be sanguine and very careful not to fiddle with a system of legislative, executive, and judicial restraints that is a marvel of political fairness and durability.

Scott Aiken Cincinnati

Your Nov. 21 editorial says that America should "swallow hard" before lecturing other countries on democracy. Do you believe our democracy is failing because of the recent chaos in deciding who won the election?

Everything that has happened since election day is part of the ongoing democratic process. Lawyers are going to courts, but armies are not marching through the streets. People are angry and frustrated, but no one is throwing rocks or burning buildings.

This country has survived unexpected crisis in the past and, I am sure, will survive many more. You should be celebrating our resilience, not belittling us by comparing us to tyrannical governments.

Jonah Steinhaus Los Angeles

Jakarta no green example

In his Nov. 22 opinion piece, "Cutting greenhouse gases is a two-way street," Agus Sari cites Jakarta, and begs us to believe the city's policies to be exemplary of government efforts to seek practical solutions to global warming.

I work and live in Jakarta. What I see daily are immense traffic jams.

Mr. Sari's claim that controlled ingress by cars has cut traffic by 40 percent ignores two telling facts: First, private vehicle usage has dropped since 1997 because of the prolonged economic/political crisis battering the country; and, second, vehicles denied access to the principal arteries simply navigate their way along other (now equally clogged) routes.

The model Sari cites should not be based on Jakarta, but rather, Bangkok, which has indeed seen a drop in congestion following the opening of its overhead light-rail system. Jakarta, with its nearly 9 million residents, would greatly benefit from similar light-rail mass transit - as would other metropolitan areas in the developing world.

Lenard Milich Jakarta, Indonesia World Food Program

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