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February 8, 2000


Governor Siegelman's Safe Agenda

Governor Siegelman's State of the State address last Tuesday night was a disappointment. Instead of promising to tackle significant issues such as tax and constitutional reforms, the governor vowed to take on safe issues during the coming legislative session.

In his speech Governor Siegelman called for raising teachers' pay, while weakening tenure rules that prevent the removal of ineffective teachers and principals. Proposals such as these play well with voters, but what do they really involve?

Bringing salaries up to the national average is vitally important. But without new sources of revenue to pay for them -- sources that could come from tax reform -- the governor must take money away from someone. The Dauphin Island Sea Lab, for example, would see its budget cut by $200,000 if the governor's budget is approved. Removing bad teachers and principals sounds great, but the governor's plan to weaken tenure in the public schools is dangerous. Tenure reassures teachers that they will be paid, especially during hard times. Remove tenure and the best teachers will be the first to search for other jobs when budgets are tight. Ask any English academic who endured Margaret Thatcher's tenure reforms.

Other issues on Governor Siegelman's safe agenda include tough penalties for a variety of crimes and the establishment of a ôrainy day'' fund for state government. Such goals are worthy of a great police chief or a great accountant. They should not be the major goals of a great governor.

Dan Silver

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Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

The December 25 issue of the Los Angeles Times carried an essay by Dr. Melvin H. Kirschner, a practicing physician in Van Nuys, California. I'm calling it to your attention because it deals in a pretty dramatic way with how rapidly our health care system is deteriorating. He starts off by telling about the unnecessary deaths of two patients -- one a 59-year old woman who refused to go to a hospital emergency room because she had no insurance, even though Dr. Kirschner assured her that because of the emergency nature of her illness they couldn't refuse her treatment; the other, a 57-year old man with chest pains who likewise refused to go to a hospital because he had no medical insurance, and was found dead in his home three hours later.

Dr. Kirschner ended his essay with these words:

"There are 44.5 million people in this country without medical insurance. In Canada, everyone has medical coverage. Nobody need be afraid to seek medical care because they have no insurance. My two dead patients prove that everyone should be covered by medical insurance. That would require a national health program, health care for all.

"Opponents to a national health plan say that in Canada, patients must wait on a list before getting some procedures done. Our uninsured people don't even have the privilege of being on a list. In Canada, total expenditures on medical care are less than in the U.S., but their national statistics are better than ours.

"It's time to get rid of our wasteful, for-profit medical insurance system and get a single, national health plan for all."

After giving a lot of free time to the movement for universal health care in the U.S., and reading the propaganda against a Canadian-type system by those who can only see health care through the prism of a dollar sign, I have reached the only conclusion my own mind can reach. Barring the total collapse of our present profit-ridden system, we will never have universal health care until people like us demand it. I think the demand will have to begin with a revolt within our existing institutions. And the revolt will have to begin with you and me. You're a member of AARP? Then stir up your local chapter. You are a veteran? Then stir up the local Legion or VFW. You're a member of a local labor union? Then find out what your local is doing, and if it's doing nothing let them know there is a National Labor Party whose top priority is national health care and which the local can join. You're a member of a religious group? Then ask what its heroes would do.

Townsend L. Walker Sr.
Huntsville, AL

Dear Editor,

I wonder if you can be of assistance. My uncle, Arthur Dennis Nicholson, was trained to fly bombers under the Arnold Scheme in 1941 and 1942.

Born in South Shields, England, on 22 January 1942, at the time of the war he lived in Greenside, near Ryton in Northumberland. He trained as a toolmaker until the war and, as soon as he was old enough, he volunteered to fly for the RAF. He entered the RAF on 21 March 1941 and commenced training on 14 July 1941. Once his training was complete, he was posted to 103 Squadron RAF, based at Elsham Wolds in Lincolnshire where he flew Lancaster bombers. On his 5th operation he was shot down by a night fighter early in the morning of 29 April 1943 and killed.

As far as we can tell, using his service record for guidance, his career went something like this:

After about 8 weeks at No 7 Initial Training Wing, based in Newquay, England, he entered the Arnold Scheme and then trained in a number of locations in the southern USA.

In October 1941 he was stationed at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, AL. We believe this was his orientation training and his record shows that he was there for 20 days or so.

From there he went to the Graham Aviation School, Americus, GA. This was located (as far as we can tell) at Souther Field. Here he carried out his primary flying training. We have photographs of him in Stearman Kaydet biplane trainers. He was stationed here from November 1941 to January 1942, for some 66 days. An interesting note is that, before Pearl Harbor, the British students did not wear uniform but smart jackets and ties etc when off base since the USA was neutral. After that date the photographs usually show him in uniform.

January 1942 saw him move to Cochran Field, Macon, GA. He stayed here for another 66 days or so, until March 1942 and did basic flying training. In February of that year he was promoted to Cadet Corporal.

From March 1942 to May 1942 he was stationed at Napier Field, Dothan, AL where he completed his training in the USA and earned his USAAF silver wings. Since he was at Dothan, we know that he was training to be a fighter pilot. He was streamed for bombers once he was back in England.

Once back in England he went on to further training, 3 weeks or so at Bournemouth, 9 weeks at Leconfield and then he moved to Montrose where he attended the Flying Instructors School. From this we assume he was training to be an instructor.

In October 1942 he was posted from there to an Operational Training Unit at Hixon in Staffordshire. Here he would have learnt to fly bombers, probably the twin engined Wellington. We do not know for sure why he headed for bombers, but from the family we assume he was eager to see action, and the only way off the flying instructor route was to go to bombers.

In March 1943 he was posted to two Heavy Conversion Units, the first at Lindholme and then on to Rufforth, both in Yorkshire. This was where he would have converted to the big 4 engined bombers he would fly on operations.

On 6 April 1943 he made his final move, to 103 Squadron at Elsham Wolds in Lincolnshire. This was a bomber squadron with a dreadful record for survival, carrying out the most operations in No 1 Group but also suffering the most losses.

As you can see, we know a reasonable amount about his career from his records and, of course, the family but I am trying, now, to trace anyone who knew him, especially on the USA side of his life. I have some photographs of him with people in the USA, they are of particular interest. He was in the USA for the best part of 9 months, and we know he was friendly with a number of people.

If anyone did know him, please email me or write to me at the address below.

Many thanks,
Quentin Smith
Calf Hall North
Nr Consett
Co Durham

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