- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2000

Opening reserve would be too taxing. How about a cut?

Opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve will do little to help with the immediate heating oil problem in the Northeast ("Fuel for thought," Editorial, Feb. 23).

Most of these reserves are stored in salt domes along the Gulf Coast, and by the time the oil is extracted, refined and barged to the Northeast, summer will be here. There is no heating oil pipeline to the Northeast because of the dense population, local and state restrictions, the cost of right-of-ways and the seasonal demand. Trucking heating oil is expensive and inefficient because of restrictions imposed by local, state and federal regulators. Barge delivery is inexpensive and faces fewer restrictions, but it is difficult when the water is frozen.

The fastest relief that can be given would be a 90-day moratorium on state and federal taxes on heating oil, diesel fuel and gasoline. The taxes on these three products have almost doubled in the past 10 years and account for 30 percent or more of the price paid for the product. The cost of lost tax revenue compared to pulling reserves that are there for the military probably would not be that different, because the federal government would have to buy replacement reserves.

Another problem the United States faces that I do not hear mentioned is that we have half of the refineries in this country that we had 10 years ago. Because of the cost of upgrading older refineries to meet current Environmental Protection Agency standards, many refineries were shut down. This has reduced the overall ability of our country to produce refined products in a timely fashion to meet demand.

So, cut the taxes.

JOHN SPAID

Dallas

Church group's policy on same-sex marriages is hypocritical

How hypocritical of the Episcopal Church commission. While condoning an unofficial policy of allowing individual dioceses to decide whether they will bless same-sex marriages, the group has the unmitigated gall to say it is not taking any position. That is a position. ("Episcopal panel stays neutral on gay unions," Feb. 15).

This so-called unofficial policy is perpetuated by a minority of outlaw bishops who have rejected the Episcopal Church's official teaching and tradition, which limits intimacy to heterosexual marriage. Because these rebels have been unable to force their heretical ideas on the overwhelming majority of the Anglican Communion, they stoop to pursue underhanded methods.

Nothing describes their actions better than something columnist Samuel Francis wisely said in a column in The Washington Times in 1993: "Cultural revolution proceeds by the sly substitution of new norms and the tacit abandonment of the old ones."

MARY BAILEY BOWEN

Silver Spring

How are the Republican primaries going?

It sickens me to watch the news these days, with the way the media is obviously backing Sen. John McCain (who gets not only more favorable mention than Texas Gov. George W. Bush, but just plain more mention.)

The media discuss how Mr. McCain can beat Mr. Bush, how he must win a particular state, how he is winning in their biased polls and so on. The media even give the impression that Mr. McCain could possibly defeat Vice President Al Gore in November. It is obvious that the only reason Mr. McCain has any momentum is because the liberal Democrats are voting for him in the open Republican primaries. If Mr. McCain somehow were to get the Republican nomination, he would be dropped by the media in favor of Mr. Gore as quickly as he was picked up by them.

I just wish the media, when commenting on this horse race of a bid for the nomination, could be a little more neutral instead of hurting Mr. Bush's chances for the nomination and in turn the presidency. If the decision were left to the American public, Mr. Bush would win by a landslide.

ASHLEY PARRINO

Louisville

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The results of the Michigan primary should force the Republican Party leadership to ponder the following: Are the Democrats correct in assuming that Sen. John McCain would be the greater challenge in November, and if so, why did so many Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents vote to enable that challenge? Does Mr. McCain's appeal to Democrats and independents all but ensure his election if nominated, and if so, would Republicans rather risk a loss to the likes of Vice President Al Gore to avoid having to accept Mr. McCain's candidacy?

I suggest that the Republican Party's overriding objective should be first to remove the stain of Bill Clinton from the halls of the White House and then to work to foster an ethic of practical conservatism in the nation. In other words, accept that Rome wasn't built in a day and first do what is doable so that later what is right becomes possible.

ROBERT A. WOLPERT

Fairfax

U.S. needs to use its greatest 'weapon' in Colombia: American values

The Feb. 15 article showing a 20 percent increase in Colombian cocaine production certainly causes alarm ("U.S. officials hold talks in Colombia on drug war," World).

Given these troubling figures, the $1.6 billion aid package pledged by the Clinton administration to fight the drug war is certainly a step in the right direction. While providing a measure of weapons and support, the administration also has been critical of the Colombian government, which long has been accused of human rights violations and corruption.

This brings to mind an important point, which will prove critical if we are to succeed in fighting the drug war: For our military and financial support to have any effectiveness, it is crucial that it be used in ways that will promote greater harmony between the Colombian government and the people of Colombia.

While the U.S. government has spent millions opposing the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and the National Liberation Army guerrillas, it often has ignored a more crucial segment the Colombian people.

More than 1.5 million Colombians have been displaced in the past decade because of the country's civil war. The majority of the Colombian people are fed up with the left and right extremes, and they also have little trust in a government that they view as irrevocably corrupt.

The most effective way to combat the extremists would be to establish a "moral cause," which would unite the Colombian people against them. To put it in the words of the late Gen. Edward G. Lansdale, a U.S. expert on counterinsurgency warfare, "[T]ake the cause away from the guerrillas."

The Chinese warrior-philosopher Sun Tzu once said that "establishing a moral cause means that there must be a common conviction shared by both the people and the government. The people must agree with the goals of the government before they will be willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the country."

For this to occur, the Colombian people must feel that they have a government that is for them, rather than against them. The United States can provide all of the money and weapons in the world, but they will be useless if they are not accompanied by political, social and economic justice for the Colombian people.

If the United States uses our greatest "weapon" in Columbia, our values of freedom and democracy, only then will we have a chance of making a difference in the drug war.

DAN KOBRINSKI

Research assistant

National Defense Council Foundation

Alexandria

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