Letters to the Editor

Readers write about the London Congestion Charge, US presence overseas, questions for US presidential candidates, children's need for group play, opium production in Afghanistan, and longer school days.

Pitfalls of London's 'pay to drive' plan

Regarding the June 14 article, "Jammed cities eye 'pay to drive' ": Allison Hannon, a researcher at the Climate Group in New York, was wrong to suggest that the London Congestion Charge has been a success.

Four years after the Congestion Charge was introduced in London, figures for business openings in the charging zone are now outnumbered by closures. The scheme has been unable to pay for itself and now relies for much of its income on fines levied on drivers who fail to pay in a very tight time frame. These fines have been widely condemned as unfair. And of course, since the charge has been in place, the mayor has increased the price by 60 percent (from $10 to $16). And traffic congestion in central London is now back up to pre-Charge levels.

As an elected member of the London Assembly, the body designed to hold London's mayor to account, I have also seen the complete failure of the system to allow for shocks such as the terrorist attacks of July 7, 2005, and their aftermath. To fine those who strayed into the zone to help victims of 7/7 in the capital was cruel, callous, and indicative of the mentality that surfaces when such schemes are in place.

Damian Hockney
Leader, One London Party, London Assembly

End the American empire

In his June 19 Opinion piece, "After Iraq war, resist the isolationist impulse," Carl Minzner's urge to resist isolationism could not be more wrong. America has at least 727 military bases all over the world – an empire by any definition. As we witness daily, this projection of American might has caused enormous suffering worldwide, and, from a purely selfish perspective, we in the US simply cannot afford the costs. Let's do the world and ourselves a favor and end the American empire.

Thomas Nelson
Welches, Ore.

Foreign-policy question for candidates

Clinton Whitehurst's June 14 Opinion piece, "Ask the 2008 presidential candidates better foreign-policy questions," was brilliant. During the past 25 years, our country's foreign policy has marched in lock step with the empire building of multinational corporations, engendering terrorism and growing hatred against the US worldwide.

Therefore, if I had the opportunity, I'd also ask an even broader and more basic question of candidates: If elected, will you establish a foreign policy that demonstrates respect for other sovereign nations, their people, and their ways of life? That alone would be a good beginning.

Helen N. Hanna
Sacramento, Calif.

Children need group play

Regarding Jeffrey Shaffer's June 15 Opinion column, "The ultimate group project – coexistence": I have a daughter who has just finished elementary school. On their last day of school, the fifth-graders had a pool party. Another father commented on how much fun the children were having. My comment to him was yes, they finally get to act like kids.

My point is that since the budgets of many schools have forced out P.E., music, and art, kids can't be kids with kids anymore. They do very little as a group growing up.

Also, there is no sports day, and the students don't learn how to participate in group sports. Heaven forbid they should play softball, kickball, or volleyball. At Park Hill Elementary School in Denver, Colo., we even had organized snowball fights during the lunch break. (That was in the 1950s.)

Coexistance is an evolutionary skill, not a revolutionary skill. You don't need an expert to figure that one out.

Gerald Epstein
Richmond, Va.

A more effective way to combat opium production in Afghanistan

Regarding the June 14 article, "Congress urges military to tackle Afghan opium."

I suggest that concerned Western nations buy the whole opium-poppy crop from the farmers in order to support the Afghan economy. Then, destroy the crop. I believe this solution would be no more expensive and much more effective than current approaches to curtailing the drug supply.

Sandra E. Deutchman
Sandpoint, Idaho

Do longer school hours equal free daycare?

Regarding the June 14 article, "Do longer hours equal more learning?": Several years ago the local school district where I was living at the time was trying to decide whether they should extend kindergarten to a full day or leave it at a half day. The parents around the room were fairly evenly divided on what should be done. The families with stay-at-home parents wanted to keep the kindergarten at a half day, and families without a stay-at-home parent wanted not only optional full-day kindergarten but mandatory full-day kindergarten.

At the end of the article, there was a quote from a parent who liked Massachusetts's plan to extend school hours because "It gives us extra time to get home from working." Longer days at school may have more to do with parents wanting inexpensive, easy, and guilt-free daycare, than it does with a need for more education.

Brad Wilks
Wexford, Pa.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted may appear in print or on our website, www.csmonitor.com.

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