When the FBI knocks on your door

I was disappointed, but not surprised, when I read "Political dissent can bring federal agents to door" (Jan. 8), in which small leads are prompting FBI agents to interrogate citizens. John Ashcroft has already boldly stated that the Bush administration considers criticism of it to be equal to the support of terrorism. I used to be a registered Republican and I still consider myself to be both a conservative and a civil libertarian. But there is certainly nothing "conservative" in any traditional sense about what George W. Bush and John Ashcroft are doing to the Constitution and the civil liberties that made this country great.

Steven Randolph Lakeland, Fla.

We should all be grateful for the courage it took to publicize the outrageous actions of the FBI in attempting to suppress dissent. This is an unconstitutional and un-American abuse of power, reminiscent of the COINTELPRO program of the 1970s, and the excesses of Senator McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s. Thank you for bringing this to the nation's attention. It is a sad commentary on our present circumstances when it takes courage for a newspaper to print the truth.

Robert Potter

Santa Barbara, Calif.

Keep Washington away from education

I see a contradiction in "Dissent must be tolerated - or we've lost the war" (Jan. 3, Opinion). First, Pat Holt criticizes the government and educators for not allowing dissenting comments and questions in the classroom. Then he seems to advocates federal government taking over public education. This could result in US government control over what is taught, including not allowing the kind of dissent discussed. One of the most effective ways to control or indoctrinate the public is to control the schools. It would be better to keep local control of the schools, and that includes local financing. The funds ultimately come from the local taxpayer regardless of who administers the funds and decides how they are distributed.

John Tinkham

Virginia Beach, Va.

Argentina should discover its value

As a citizen of the US who spent a few months working in Argentina between 1997-98, I find "When a nation melts down" (Jan. 3, Editorial) accurately grasps that the causes of their economic disaster are embedded in a lack of civic responsibility.

What I saw was a once-proud country that had fallen into a welfare state of mind. Most major buildings were constructed two or more generations ago by first- or second-generation European immigrants. When confronted with instituting a democracy, they failed time and time again for various reasons until they fell into the military's lap during the 1980s. When they finally broke free, they were living the high life with borrowed money. Unfortunately, all that money wasn't spent on job creation. I found that very few things Argentines used were made in Argentina.

Linking the Argentine currency 1 to 1 with the US dollar probably was a good short- term solution back in the early 1990s, but by the time I was there, it just didn't make sense. It's like they didn't trust their own worth as a sovereign country. When Brazil went through its devaluation in the late 1990s, it showed just how foolish the sustained link to the dollar really was for the Argentine peso. Brazil was Argentina's big buyer of things made in Argentina. If Argentina had just disconnected their currency from the dollar when Brazil devalued their currency, and let both currencies float, Argentina would not be in such a deep mess today. Of course, keeping corrupt leaders in office doesn't help, no matter what is done with currency.

Kirk Harris


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