- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2000

Al Gore's credibility in the balance

Given his fervor for such issues in the past, Vice President Al Gore seems conspicuously quiet about his environmental agenda for the 21st century.
Mr. Gore only recently announced his "new, bold" plan for a cleaner environment, which stresses new technology and energy security ("Gore offers $75 billion program to save fuel," June 28). Could it be that Mr. Gore's penchant to label political opponents as "extreme" has left him tongue-tied in the middle of a big hypocrisy?
While Mr. Gore struggles to find a stronghold in the center, a quick glance at the vice president's environmental record strikes fear into the true moderate's heart.
In his book, "Earth in the Balance," from which he still quotes today, the then senator predicted pollution would lead to "an environmental holocaust without precedent," which led him to the belief that environmental rescue must become the central organizing principle for civilization.
Apparently, it was this attitude that prompted Mr. Gore to support the 1997 Kyoto treaty on fossil fuel emissions. The Kyoto treaty would have required the United States to reduce fossil fuel emissions by 12 percent to 15 percent, between the years 2008-2012. The Energy Information Administration estimated that would lead to an increase in gasoline prices by 52 percent, or 60 cents per gallon, plus eliminate jobs and cut into disposable income.
In the wake of Kyoto's de facto defeat in the Senate, however, Mr. Gore now promises a cleaner environment and better technology with no new taxes, no new bureaucracies and no onerous regulations. His rhetoric is an interesting contrast to 1993, when Mr. Gore wrote that only a drastic reduction in our reliance on technology can improve the conditions of life, the same year he cast the tie-breaking vote to increase gasoline taxes.
While not typically known for his steadfast adherence to principle, Mr. Gore has proven he can hold at least one position consistently. His environmental extremism has been a staple of his political career, and recent window dressing cannot hide the ugly truth.
GREG NEWBURN
National Taxpayers Union Foundation
Alexandria

The great health care scam

Michael Arnold Glueck and Robert Cihak write that, in countries with public payment for medical services, a doctor who accepted direct payment for services would be considered a criminal and guilty of taking bribes ("WHO said that about health?" Commentary, July 6),.
Under such a system, health care services would be rationed out to the population according to the preferences of the bureaucrats and their bosses, whether dictators or elected socialists. That is exactly what is happening in the United States with the Medicare program.
Recently, a doctor informed a Medicare patient that Medicare may not pay for an annual gynecological exam and that if Medicare didn't pay, it was unlikely that the patient's private insurer would pay. The patient was required to sign a form agreeing to pay in the event Medicare and the private insurer refused the claim. This is not preventive medicine, it is exploitation by the federal government, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), preferred provider organizations and other health insurers.
The current federal health system, insurance companies, medical profession/industry, including government-subsidized pharmaceuticals/drugs, only ensure and perpetuate a tax burden on the populace and provide continuous golf course fees for the exploiters.
When one considers the cost of health insurance, $5,000-plus a year per person and growing, and government-mandated Medicare insurance premiums, $600 a year, our minds tell us that Medicare, HMOs, PPOs, etc., are rip-offs government, insurance and medical profession scams.
The column reports the United States spends more on its health care system than any other country and yet we rank 37th out of 191 countries in performance. Guaranteeing the medical profession some payment (Medicare/PPO/HMO) other than patient out of pocket, has allowed and encouraged the medical profession to overbook appointments and overcharge for services performed. Even military hospitals overcharge for services if a patient has private insurance. By filing a claim to the service member's private insurance company, military hospitals are reimbursed at least half of what the patient is overcharged/billed. So much for the government/military service promise for lifetime medical benefits for career personnel and their spouses.
Mr. Glueck and Mr. Cihak, based on a World Health Organization (WHO) report, write that the implication of WHO's report is that people with disabilities and chronic disease should be euthanized because they really don't count. Our government health care, insurance and medical scams are enough for the elderly, the chronically diseased and the disabled to elect euthanasia over the high cost.
MILDRED M. FISCHER
Fredericksburg, Va.

Moratorium fans ignore the facts about executions

What has happened to the usually reliable Wesley Pruden? Suddenly, conservatives (and others) who understand the grim necessity for the death penalty are "capital punishment fans … cheerfully willing to execute an innocent man … guilty of exactly what murderers are guilty of indifference to the death of an innocent." ("The happy hangman is a busy hangman," Pruden on Politics, June 20).
Despite these hyperbolic accusations, Mr. Pruden's column is noticeably lacking in specific evidence of any convicted killer's innocence or any court's refusal to consider such evidence. How does he square his recognition that "liberal judges in California … consistently overturned death penalty convictions," with his newly found reverence for their current reversal rate? Why didn't his statistics show the percentage of these reversals that completely exonerated convicted killers of any guilt, as opposed to simply reducing their punishment for reasons unrelated to the question of guilt?
California voters should be commended for recognizing that these "reversals" indicate nothing more than the continued willingness of certain judges to elevate their own policy preferences above the requirements of justice and the rule of law.
If Mr. Pruden is more concerned than others about the death of innocents, why does he fail to address the hard truth that "a fair assessment of the issue of mistakes in capital cases leads to the conclusion that the risk to innocent life from failing to carry out capital sentences … far outweighs the speculative and remote risk that an execution might be in error" (Paul G. Cassell, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, according to The Washington Times, "Inside the Beltway," July 26, 1993).
Since there are a thousand times as many murders as lawful executions in this country, a "moratorium" would risk the slaughter of scores of innocents for every convicted murderer given a reprieve, regardless of any advocate's loudly advertised noble intentions. Why don't these crime victims' deaths enter into Mr. Pruden's moral calculus? This omission is especially strange from someone so quick to accuse others of being "guilty of indifference."
According to FBI statistics, the average sentence for murder in this country is a fraction over 15 years, and the average time served is just 5.5 years. Even so-called life-without-parole laws cannot prevent in-prison murders, murders by escapees, future changes to these laws, pardons, commutations, parole errors, and reversals on technically specious grounds by judges with a psychological need to demonstrate their "compassion."
The insistence that there must be "zero" chance of wrongful conviction before we allow any lawful executions is pure nonsense. Under that doctrine, we should abolish all laws, courts and police since there will otherwise always be a chance of wrongful arrest and conviction. For that matter, every time Mr. Pruden gets behind the wheel of his car, there is more than a "zero" chance he will kill somebody.
In sum, Mr. Pruden's commentary on this issue lacks logic and moral coherence. The death penalty is no more legalized murder than imprisonment is legalized kidnapping. Nor is it an act of revenge. It is retribution, and the distinction between retribution and revenge is as great as that between civilization and barbarism.
If we cherish life, then we reserve the ultimate punishment for those who wrongfully take the life of another. Five-year jail terms and trendy "moratoriums" trivialize murder and the destruction of innocent human life.
MICHAEL CRAWFORD
Great Falls

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