Readers write

Airlines should improve their behavior, too

Regarding your Dec. 20 article "Airline response to rise in unruliness: 'Cuff 'em' ": I wonder why airlines don't consider how their practices provoke passengers.

Their nondisclosure policies on service delays, interruptions, and missed connections; increasingly cramped seating and filthy planes; the shrugs of indifference and outright rudeness of supercilious flight and "customer service" staff are among the reasons I regularly reach boiling point when traveling by air. Certainly, a difference of temperament between feeling irritated and deciding to "let it rip" prevents most of us from expressing air rage.

But these good manners or passivity are not reciprocal: Airlines never politely request our patience; they deny they've inconvenienced us and offer no recourse. Barring cases in which people and property have been put in danger, even the placid among us have been at least marginally sympathetic to an airline passenger who has simply decided not to take it any more.

Katherine Joyce New York

Illinois foster care

Thanks to your Dec. 5 article "How Illinois is moving kids out of foster care limbo," Monitor readers have a far more nuanced view of the changes in the Illinois child-welfare system.

Yes, Illinois has drastically cut the number of children in foster care - but only after allowing that number to soar to obscene heights. At its worst, Illinois had more children trapped in foster care, relative to its total child population, than any other state - nearly three times the national average. Even now, the placement rate is 70 percent above the national average. The foster-care population is now back to roughly where it was in 1993 - and that's still far too high. The praise now lavished on Illinois is a bit like fawning over people who vandalized your home because they came back a few weeks later and cleaned up.

The major reason for the decrease in the Illinois foster-care population is that state officials were pressured into resurrecting efforts to keep families safely together, instead of wrongfully taking away so many children in the first place.

In addition, when the Illinois foster care population soared, total child abuse deaths actually increased, because social workers were so busy coping with all the children who didn't belong in foster care. When the foster-care population declined, so did child abuse deaths.

The most important single change any state can make is to change financial incentives. It was only when Illinois started rewarding agencies for both adoption and returning children to birth parents that the foster-care population plummeted.

Richard Wexler Alexandria, Va. Executive Director National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

Goodbye Oldsmobile

Thanks for the small mention of the Oldsmobile's passing on to "capitalism's junkyard" (editorial, "The 'automo-bubbling' Olds," Dec. 15 ). For an American car that was largely handmade up until 1923, it is indeed sad to see it go. Trouble is, there are just too many like them on the market today. Remember your father's Olds? It was big, heavy, and well-built. GM's decision to move away from the V-8, rear-wheel drive configuration for the Delta 88 and the 98 was a mistake that Ford did not make with the Crown Victoria and the Mercury Marquis. Both the Ford and the Mercury got respectable miles per gallon for their size and sold reasonably well since they were competing in a small market segment. GM goofed badly.

Stephen G. Carpenter Morgantown, W. Va.

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