Red Lake shootings and importance of family bonds

Regarding the March 23 article "School shooting: familiar echoes, new concerns": Already we see the media turning the tragedy in Minnesota away from the true cause of the incident, a destroyed family structure. In both Columbine and in Red Lake, Minn., the children who perpetrated these acts came from weak or broken families.

Blaming guns or the plight of native Americans is precisely the wrong attitude, as it shines light on current political agendas, not on the true cause for concern. Modern America is blind to its own worst shortcoming: the erosion of families and parents.
Allen Edwards
Falls Church, Va.

This latest story saddens my soul. My theory is that, like so many young kids in America, he felt lost in a country that, in his eyes, had no future for him. Maybe it's time that the powers that be started paying more attention to young loners, and finding out why they don't fit in and how to change this.

When I grew up in the late '50s and early '60s, we had manners and knew how to talk to adults, and I really believe our parents were more connected. That connection seems to be missing.
Paul N. Harmon
Williamstown, N.J.

How valuable is the Chilean model?

Thanks for your valuable article on the social security system in Chile ("In Britain and Chile, lessons for revamping Social Security," March 14). While it is not my intention to cast aspersions on the Chilean system, I'd like to point out that, according to your article, fully one-third of Chileans do not or cannot participate, and that as many as one-third of those who do are receiving a benefit of just $132 a month.

The Chilean system may indeed be a success story in contrast to the disastrous British system. But I'd ask my fellow Americans to think about whether a system where perhaps a third of the people cannot afford to participate at all is an improvement.
James Nichols
San Francisco

Beware of making false comparisons between Chile's and Britain's privatizations and the US Social Security system. Buying an insurance policy from a private company to provide an annuity involves the following elements: risk sharing involving an actuarial relationship between risk and costs; a homogenous risk pool; a reserve fund of marketable assets from which to pay claims; a legally binding contract; and transfer of risk from insured to the company. None of these elements can be found in Social Security.

For better or for worse, it is a pure tax and transfer system. It is cheap, but the downside is that it is inherently actuarially unsound. If you want real insurance, you have to pay for it.
Samuel Burkeen
Reston, Va.

A less-than-informed populace

After reading the March 18 article, "In US, uneasy ambivalence about Iraq," my question regarding the majority of Americans thinking that the average Iraqi citizen is better off since we invaded their country, is: How in heaven's name would they know?

Average American citizens get by, concerning news, on captions and sound bites. The nearest they would ever come to attaining an informed state would be listening to an occasional documentary.

In my opinion, average Iraqis are not better off than before the US arrived. They are still rationing drinking water and power, for starters.

The statement that the average American thinks that Iraqis are better off is probably true. But the fact is that the average American is simply talking through his or her hat.
Jerry McIntyre
Las Vegas

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