- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 16, 2000

Media's inconsistent 'hate crimes' reporting

I was heartened to see the front-page article "Stabbing probers kept race a secret" in The Washington Times on July 12, but I was shocked by the recent hypocritical treatment of the "hate crimes" issue by The Washington Post.

On July 7, The Post's front-page article "Racial Note Found in Suspect's Hotel Room" never called the murder of a white 8-year-old boy, Kevin Shifflett, a possible "hate crime;" even though the prime suspect, a black man, had likely penned the note found in his hotel room which read "Kill them raceess whiate kidd's anyway."

I find this especially flagrant because The Post that same day had posted a Los Angeles Times article on its Web site ("Supremacist's Trial Delayed For Death Penalty Defense") in which a "white supremacist … is accused of 16 federal counts including murder, attempted murder and hate crimes in connection with an allegedly racially motivated shooting rampage."

What is the difference between these two crimes? In the first one, the suspect is a black man, so his case is to be judged only on whether or not he committed the crime. In the second, the suspect is white, so if guilty he must be punished not only for the crime, but also for the thoughts in his head.

The politically correct have dictated that if a white man thinks a malicious thought against a minority, a woman, a homosexual or a handicapped person while committing a crime against one or more of them, then he should receive extra punishment for it. The Senate has already passed this kind of measure in its "hate crimes" legislation. It is only a matter of time before the thought itself can be separated from the action and prosecuted simply because it is deemed a "hate thought."

All crimes merit punishment, regardless of who commits them. But politicizing what are appropriate thoughts is a slippery slope toward George Orwell's "1984."

I am grateful that The Washington Times did not bow at the foot of the PC monster on this issue. There will be dire consequences if we look the other way when it rears its ugly head.

ROBERT MCFARLAND

Spokesman

Free Congress Foundation

Washington

AIDS, Africa and news coverage

Recently, I have been relieved to see the AIDS epidemic in Africa receiving some of the media attention that it deserves. At last, Western countries might stop ignoring the glaring reality that a large portion of the African population will disappear in the next 10 to 20 years because of this disease.

There is no doubt that millions of African men, women and children already have died from AIDS, and there is no doubt that millions more will die from AIDS. Even if a miracle AIDS vaccine were introduced this afternoon, millions of Africans would still die from AIDS.

Therefore, I have a problem with the headline in the World section on July 11 that reads, "AIDS could kill millions in southern Africa." Sadly, the word "could" is misleading and untruthful.

We must stop averting our eyes from the devastation that this disease is causing in southern Africa. Every word counts.

SUSAN BALLINGER

Washington

'Jurisprudential drift' of the Supreme Court

Bruce Fein has accurately described the lack of direction of the Supreme Court ("When moorings are absent," Commentary, July 7). What is interesting, however, is his apparent surprise that the situation could be different.

The 5-4 decision in the partial-birth abortion case is just the most recent, but by no means the last, chapter of this court's attempt to restructure constitutional principle in the past three decades.

Eight separate opinions were filed in this case, with the output of the dissenters Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas nearly twice as long as the majority opinion, a clear sign of the jurisprudential drift that now exists on the high court.

Justice Thomas' thoughtful but devastating critique of the majority opinion will be a landmark dissent and strengthen his position among those who do not accept the principle of judicial legislation. Of the decision, he wrote, "And so today we are told that 30 States are prohibited from banning one rarely used form of abortion that they believe to border on infanticide. It is clear that the Constitution does not compel this result."

What can be done to arrest this lack of direction?

The answer is not simple, for even if Texas Gov. George W. Bush were to be elected president, he would need the political will to appoint judges who believe that the text and traditions of the Constitution limit their decision-making power.

Mr. Bush also has expressed his admiration for the jurisprudential philosophy of Justice Scalia, but would he follow through on such a belief in nominating like-minded justices to the federal bench? Clearly, such action would result in direction and consistency from such a court.

Time will tell, but I, for one, am not sure.

VINCENT CHIARELLO

Reston

Columnist misses the boat with view on Cuban embargo

Georgie Anne Geyer argues that the U.S. embargo on trade and travel against Cuba should remain in place because altering the status quo would solely benefit the authoritarian Castro regime ("Castro's embargo emanations," Commentary, July 7).

But Miss Geyer, much like the House Republican leadership that recently gutted the proposal to allow sales of food and medicine to the island, falls into a trap of her own creation when her arguments degenerate into the very "ideological preference" that she patently loathes. Her antediluvian attacks on a progressive Cuba policy lack both inner logic and supporting evidence, and are backed up only by dusty rhetoric left over from the Cold War and her repeatedly recycled articles on the subject.

Lifting the embargo would not "negate" U.S. democracy promotion efforts at all, since such efforts have been largely ineffectual throughout the hemisphere. For example, was Argentina's President Carlos Menem a democrat? Or Peru's Alberto Fujimori? Certainly Miss Geyer won't claim that Washington was even remotely responsible for Vicente Fox's victory in Mexico, since the White House pandered to the Institutional Revolutionary Party for years.

In fact, it is the anti-Cuba blockade itself that destroys Washington's credibility on the issues of human rights and political liberalization. In terms of trade, Congress has already normalized ties with China, Vietnam and North Korea, all communist countries responsible (unlike Cuba) for the deaths of thousands of U.S. soldiers in combat. Similar treatment for Iran, Libya and Iraq are on the docket for action in the near future. Does Miss Geyer mean to tell us that Cuba, of all the world's reprobates, should be exempt from any relaxations?

The existing restrictions only weaken U.S. appeals for free trade by obscuring the reason behind the policy stance; instead of a true desire to encourage democratic values, the Republican leadership has shown the world its hypocritical and self-indulgent habits through its dumb-dumb predilections for ritual Castro-bashing. In terms of travel, the embargo violates not only the 1975 Helsinki accord, which guarantees citizens the right to unrestricted movement, but also the spirit of our Constitution, by imposing stiff penalties on what should be a form of free expression. Why should journalists like Miss Geyer be permitted to travel to Cuba, but not some unattached, inquiring mind?

Even without considering the deleterious effects that the embargo has on innocent Cubans, it is becoming ever more apparent that Washington's putrescent embargo policy must be discarded, if only because it doesn't have a single backer in the world. This is a fact that even many of Miss Geyer's like-minded colleagues have come to realize and now renounce what they once proclaimed.

DAN NEMSER

Research associate

Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Washington

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