News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
SUNDAY, APRIL 17, 2005


City should invest in IB now to improve future


I met 14 teachers and administrators from Decatur two months ago while leading an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program training in Houston, Texas. As I looked at my roster, the first thought I had was, "Some systems really care about the education of kids."

The IBMYP training is three days of intensive teacher and administrator education. Participants study research based best practices in education, how the IB Middle Years Program uses state standards to elevate education for all students, and techniques for delivering a quality education.

Decatur teachers were amazing cheerleaders for their students. These educators were very enthusiastic about the IB Middle Years Program and the changes the program would bring about for these students.

After reading a copy of your March 31 editorial entitled, "Council should approve request for IB funding," I am led to believe that the Decatur City Council has decided that there are more important things to fund than an IB education. Funding an IB program does all of the wonderful things you mention in your editorial, but it also does something else; it tells parents that the city government believes in their children. Putting money into an IB education supports the concept that all children, each and every parent's child, can become more: more understanding of the world today, more able to communicate with people of other countries in the language of that country, and more educated.

We all, and I include myself as a parent, want our children to be more than we are — to reach higher than we were able to reach. That reach takes the financial backing of local, state, and federal governments even when financial times are extremely difficult.

The people of Decatur want their children to reach high and sometimes that means funding for programs like the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program.

Rena J. Berlin

Richmond, Va.

Communications act would level field


As a retired BellSouth employee, I am concerned about the information coming out about the Communications Reform Act of 2005. This bill is not about rate increases; it is about allowing consumers, not government regulation, decide the winners and losers in the competitive marketplace. As most of you know, the competitive issue in the telecom industry is becoming more prevalent every month in today's world.

The Communications Reform Act, which was passed by the Alabama Senate and is now being considered by the House, would give BellSouth and other local exchange companies the freedom to create service bundles and contacts to meet customer needs and compete. It would place telco-provided service outside Alabama Public Service Commission authority — just as cable-provided broadband is now. It would make no change in BellSouth's and other telco's obligations to provide service in remote, rural areas, and it would not change the PSC's jurisdiction over service over a single phone line with no vertical services, carrier-to-carrier matters, customer service issues or wholesale prices.

Competition in the telecom industry was unthinkable when I started to work in 1956. Now, it's unthinkable what the industry would be like without it. The Communications Reform Act is a step in ensuring all the competitors are playing by the same rules and consumers are determining the outcome of the game.

Lynn Fowler


Let market determine rates and services


The Alabama Legislature is currently debating how communications services are marketed, sold and regulated in this state. These are important times and critical decisions.

The merits of both sides of the issue to limit the regulatory authority of the Alabama Public Service Commission certainly can be argued. However, there are some undisputable truths.

Broadband, wireless and cable communications are fiercely competitive industries and they are becoming more so. Where there is competition, there is no need for regulation because it stifles innovation, can increase costs and ultimately hurts consumers.

The PSC and the Legislature should answer the following questions: As a country and state competing in a global economy, where do we want to be technologically positioned in the world? The U.S. already trails more than a dozen countries in broadband access. Statistically, broadband availability translates to a more educated population. In Alabama, we could use every tool available to improve education.

As a technology company competing globally, Avocent must have the freedom to be creative and quickly respond to market challenges. Both at the state and federal levels, we must eliminate the unnecessary constraints we place on all businesses.

Let buyers pick winners and losers. They are the best regulators. Let communications companies learn the hard way that they must price their products competitively and provide quality service. If they can't do that, customers leave in droves. That's the way free enterprise is supposed to work in this country.

John R. Cooper

Chairman and chief executive officer



There is no excuse for Blankenship's fraud


As a licensed professional engineer for 23 years, I was appalled and ashamed of Mr. Clete Blankenship and his actions, as I feel all other engineers should be. After reading the April 3 letter to the editor, I felt the need to respond with an opposing viewpoint.

Having experienced identity theft, as a victim, at the hands of one of those politically connected, technology-savvy, good ol' boys (referred to as "GOB") and having dealt extensively with the non-professional staff of the Alabama Board of Engineers for more than 3 years, my opinion is not unbiased, but rather is formed by experience. Blankenship deserves neither sympathy nor empathy from other professionals and I offer none.

Blankenship's political connections through close relatives and friends with the Alabama Fish and Game Department, Health Department and other government agencies in the state apparently gave him a false sense of security that he was above the law in the state of Arkansas, also. His acts required premeditation, planning and preparation, if not prior experience and practice.

Attempting to fraudulently avoid a hunting citation by means of duress in effect ("I'm a federal tax agent (IRS) and I'll audit you from now on... see my badge"). Unfortunately for Blankenship, the authentic law enforcement agent performed his duty. Hooray for the officer in the performance of his job. He was neither intimidated nor impressed by the "GOB" political tactics that might have worked in Blankenship's home state.

He has been convicted of a felony, and justly so. The Code of Alabama, section 34-11-11 says to protect health, safety and welfare, the Board of Engineers "shall revoke the license of any engineer convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving dishonesty as an essential element."

Blankenship has political connections and legal loopholes. I'll be watching.

Robert C. Hall


NASA's technological advances a great asset


In your editorial on March 28 about NASA funds, you mentioned numerous technological advancements made possible by research and development associated with the space program. This technology has evolved from the beginning of the program and has been consistently transferred to private industry. As a result, mankind has benefited around the world.

As I reflect on my NASA work career, I suggest that this subtle, non-spectacular, minimally recognized technology transfer may be the agency's greatest accomplishment. The fact that it continues today should encourage financial support for future space initiatives. Consider the following technological advances attributed to NASA.

Medical: Insulin infusion pump; programmable, implantable medication system; rechargeable pacemakers; laser surgery; patient monitoring techniques; improved and invisible dental braces; speech autocuer; seat lift; computer readers for the blind; vehicle controller for the handicapped; advanced wheelchair; voice-controlled wheelchair and manipulator; scratch-resistant glasses.

Environment: Air pollution detection; waste treatment; water recycling; air purification systems; gas analyzers; smokestack pollution control devices; solar electric systems; crop management; electric automobiles; protective coatings.

Transportation/safety: Firefighting (breathing system, Coast Guard fire module, fireman's suit, flame-resistant materials); sensor detectors; aeronautics (a complete field in itself, making U.S. airplanes the best in the world); search and rescue.

Industrial/manufacturing: Dry lubricants; industrial lasers; composite materials; flow meters; robotics; spray-on foam insulation; sprayable ablator; waterjet cutting; structural analysis; robotic automatic welding; and variable polarity plasma arc welding.

Consumer/home/recreation: Helmets; batteries; ground fault interrupter; weather forecasting; solid-state watches/clocks; micro-miniaturization (watches, clocks, radios, computers, calculators, phones, television, cameras, all electronics); freeze-dried food and smoke detectors.

NASA should do better in educating the public about the agency's tangible contributions to America and to the world. Favorable public opinion goes a long way during budget hearings.

Robert C. Francis Jr.


Bush administration's record unimpressive


General Accounting Office auditors say Halliburton charged the government $27.3 million to deliver 444,000 gallons of fuel from Kuwait to Iraq. Now, the same people who made this deal want to fix Social Security. Anyone from this administration who attempts to touch Social Security should have his hands chopped off at the wrist.

President Bush and his administration fed the American public a pack of lies about Iraq in order to get public support for his war, which is costing the American taxpayers more than $1 billion a week. The public swallowed it hook, line and sinker. We have lost more than 1,500 American lives and had thousands wounded who will be disabled for life.

This administration fixed Medicare and, the year before the fix is to take effect, the Part B premium increased by 17 percent. In 2006, the trustees say the minimum increase will be 12 percent, and in the future, it will take half of the average person's Social Security check to pay his Part B premium.

Here we have a president who wants to parade around as a cowboy, who has never done a day's work in his life, and who evidently burned his brain with alcohol and dope in his early days. Let's face it: He would not know a cow from a doggie if he met them in the middle of the road.

Gordon D. Pigg


Leave feedback.