by News Staff / October 2, 2007

Second Life Newbie
I really enjoyed reading the July issue [and the] Get a (Real) Life and Reality Check articles about Second Life. I have heard of Second Life from an academic point of view but never visited the site myself.

It does give me some idea about the virtual life.

Thanks for sharing,

Cecilia Hui

Pacific Northwest National Lab


Local Action
Your August editorial [The Sacrifice at Home] raises some interesting questions. It suggests first that your real target is the Bush administration's prosecution of the war effort in Iraq - rather than federal funding and crime rates. I would suggest that misses the real issue, which is that the level of federal spending may or may not have affected the crime rates. I seriously question that relationship.

I've been engaged in transportation issues for nearly 40 years, and there are some strong parallels - including those technology related. So, a few questions:

How does handing the states and municipalities back their own money, after taking a 10 percent to 20 percent cut and creating another layer of bureaucratic oversight and control, help crime local rates?

Is the lost flexibility to respond to local issues that may differ from federal perspectives worth the typically small change in distribution of the funds?

Is the issue really one of willingness of state and local government to directly address their own needs?

In my view, more than 40 years of federal oversight has not significantly changed how transportation systems are constructed, with the single exception of the interstate, or the general levels of safety of those facilities.

That said, like crime issues, there are many variables. For example, I believe that in both issues federal guidance on standards has helped, but not the "redistribution of wealth." One could make the same argument for streets, roads and highways as you suggest for crime, and I believe the same questions are important to resolving what we are trying to accomplish, and the best way to do so.

It would seem to me that the best solutions have come from local resolve and action.

Al King, P.E.

No Politics Wanted
I wasn't aware that this was a political opinion magazine. I thought that technology information distribution was the goal. Your private political opinions [are] of little interest to me - and perhaps to other readers??

Pat Hoepner

Eau Claire, Wisconsin



Faulty Findings?

Mr Towns:

I strongly disagree with your editorial [The Sacrifice at Home, August 2007] on several counts, as well as with Mr. McKay's analysis [Vanishing Act, August 2007].

First, your opinion of the war and how it has been run should be kept to yourself since it's your opinion. There are many people who read the government news who believe the war is [a] right and just cause, even though I may agree the political, desk-bound generals and Pentagon personnel have truly screwed up the tactics after the initial victory over conventional troops.

This is due to no longer having down-to-earth, fighting generals like Omar Bradley and Patton. It is a syndrome of the present upper echelon to think in terms of big wars instead of down-and-dirty wars, as we are in now, who fail to listen to their own personnel who are experts in fighting this kind of conflict - their egos and political nature got in the way.

The new general in charge - who wrote the book on counter insurgency - is finally in charge. He is moving the troops in the right direction. I do not feel fighting the enemy in their land is a waste of taxpayers' money; unless you wish to fight them eventually in the U.S.

Second, federal grants have been around for ages. States and counties and local agencies should start their own programs, hire their personnel and then ask for federal assistance in obtaining highly expensive equipment to initiate a program that they are capable of supporting locally.

Otherwise, when federal money runs out due to inevitable cutbacks in the government, the agencies drop the program and use the hard equipment for other things than its original purpose. The brass will transfer officers to the patrol or other divisions who are short of personnel or lay off officers since their budget inflated by federal grants has now been reduced to a figure which cannot sustain the extra personnel unless they raise taxes which is never approved by the locals.

Federal grants are temporary - not permanent. If you want a permanent government dole then all police agencies should come under federal control, and all officers be made federal law enforcement officers with one set of policies and procedures etc., and with the power to enforce all federal, state, county and local laws anywhere in the country. This was suggested when grants first started being popular. It made sense financially, but state, county and local officials screamed since they would no longer have the power to dictate to the state police, sheriffs or chiefs of police.

The hue and cry was "violation of states' rights."

All local governments have the responsibility to establish and maintain police departments. If they cannot, then they must have state troopers or county sheriffs patrol the area. Ultimately it is the taxpayer who must bear the burden if they want local control.

Crime reduction has never relied on the federal money pumped into agencies. It may help for awhile to put extra bodies on the street, but it is good, hard, aggressive police work that reduces crime. The community also must work in consort with their local agencies, not remain silent when information is needed to apprehend the criminal element including narcotic pushers and dealers.

Community programs started on federal assistance must be able to continue with local funds after the initial seed money from the federal government runs out. If not, then the program should never be started.

Being on the federal dole like welfare recipients is a local government on narcotics - each agency must appropriate the funds needed through taxes to build an agency capable of dealing with local crime. It is not the federal government's job.

If Mr. McKay is referring to a federal government mandated program, which calls on local agencies to enforce federal laws, then money from the DHS to initiate and sustain the program as long as required is appropriate.

I remember our local finance director abhorring federal grants because it obligated the local agency to the federal government; created a lot of paperwork [for] which they had to hire more clerks (which the feds did not pay their salaries); and left the department with more officers than it could afford to keep once federal funding expired. If the citizens liked the program to continue, the politicians had to raise taxes - the community did not like that idea so the program was abolished.

States, counties and local agencies are supposed to fend for themselves through local taxes. The federal government takes care of foreign and domestic issues that concern federal law - unless you and Mr. McKay want a permanent federal law enforcement agency responsible to the federal government only, not local politicians.

The average police officer does not object to the concept of a federal police department - one department; one set of policies and rules; pension, uniform and equipment issue (which saves money), etc.

Liberals object to the concept since they are afraid of a national police force. Local politicians object since they would lose control over their private army, unable to dictate what they will or will not do.

You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

I will say it again: Federal money is generally used to sustain an army and enforce federal law; not sustain a state's efforts to fight crime. It should be used for seed money only, never to continue local agencies' programs to fight crime unless it involves federal law (e.g., narcotics movements across state lines).

I like the government news to report, inform, give pros and cons on issues, equipment, [and] programs and let the reader decide. But please leave individual ideas and opinions to yourselves.

John MacKay Stillman