On Chávez and freedom of speech
Thank you for Bart Jones's June 4 Opinion piece, "Chávez is no enemy of free speech." I have been following this story for a while, and it is good to hear the other side of it. People have been trying to discredit Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for allowing the license of Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) to expire, but in my opinion, Mr. Chávez did not go far enough.
The owners of that TV station should have been tried and put in jail for implicitly supporting the 2002 coup against Chávez. Also, I would agree that they went beyond their authority as broadcasters, and the matter is no longer a question of free speech.
Freedom of speech and the press was never designed to institute violence. None should be allowed the cover of free speech when his actions are suppressing the voice of millions.
Regarding Bart Jones's Opinion piece on Venezuela's President Chávez and free speech: Perhaps Mr. Jones should move to Caracas and while there, he should write some positive things about the current US administration. Then he can criticize the Venezuelan government. I feel pretty certain that Jones would be threatened and possibly shut down if he continued to write stories that the government didn't like.
Walk a mile in Venezuelans' shoes. The really rich are doing well. The Venezuelan middle class (university teachers, policemen, engineers), which has a considerably lower median income than the US middle class, is being targeted for being intellectually active enough to criticize. The poor are either too afraid to speak out, or they are enjoying some of the government's giveaways. But even they get the short end of the stick when the government is not putting on a show. Just go to a government-subsidized Mercal grocery store and see the food shortages – in a country with some of the world's largest oil reserves.
I didn't like Marcel Granier, the chief of RCTV. But Mr. Granier had backbone, and he had the gall to stand up for real free speech.
Of course Chávez is not an enemy of free speech – as long as it's his own free speech. Anybody else's speech – that's not so free.
Fight wildfires at night
The May 30 article, "Six weeks later, Georgia fires still raging," had an all too familiar ring to it. Living in the West, we read similar statements every time there's a large fire that armies of firefighters are powerless to stop. (When a fire is very large, attempts to suppress it are often so ineffective that you can't tell that any attempts were made at all.)
The problem is the outmoded methods used to fight fires. News media seem to concentrate on the worst of the fire – usually late in the afternoon when it is impossible to make much difference.
Instead, concentrate on what the fire is doing at night – usually not much. It is then that suppression should be done. An attractive approach is to use drones to image the fire in infrared (which "sees" through the smoke), allowing the fire boss to guide night-flying aircraft to specific GPS drop locations.
In the 14 hours from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 a.m., planes flying at 10-minute intervals can put up to 2 acre-feet of water on a fire, which should be more than enough to totally suppress it in just one night.
One wonders why we don't do this since the military easily has this capability. But as long as we continue our outdated methods, wildfires will continue to be uncontrollable.
Los Alamos, N.M.
Humanitarian aid, more than money, will help Africa
The June 1 article, "Blair's parting drive to aid Africa," didn't directly discuss World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies, which have a dark side. These agencies offer African debtor nations the option of relieving their enormous debts in exchange for economic adjustments. These Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) include privatizing industries and cutting public spending. These adjustments impact the working classes the most, through the loss of health and education benefits.
Privatized industry enables employers to exploit workers for lower wages as they struggle to eke out a living. The World Bank and IMF may have good intentions, but their policies only lead these nations into greater predicaments. Rather than promising meaningless aid checks to these countries, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the other G-8 leaders should emphasize humanitarian aid as their primary form of assistance to Africa.
A Marshall Plan for Mexico
Regarding David Kirkham's June 5 Opinion piece, "Enduring lessons of the Marshall Plan": I have been trying to get an idea noticed for several years without success. Instead of the Senate immigration bill that is now being considered (which will cost an untold amount of money in just a few years and will ultimately change just about everything about America), why not institute a "Marshall Plan II" for Mexico and Central America to entice the illegals back home and give them a better life in their own country? This makes a lot of sense to me. How about to you?
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