- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2000

Real Cuban dissidents not allowed to tour world

In Cuba, if you are a pro-democracy activist you are jailed and your family is systematically harassed and threatened ("Who speaks for the Cuban people?" Op-Ed, July 18).

It is interesting to note how some so-called dissidents, however, are allowed by the dictatorship to leave the country to tour the United States and Europe so long as their "messages" reflect the regime's policies and objectives. One such "message" is the destructive myth of profound divisions between Cubans on the island and Cubans of the diaspora.

Observers of the Cuban situation should remember that genuine opposition leaders within Cuba, such as Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Vladimiro Roca and Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, are imprisoned. They certainly cannot "tour" the international community. If they could, they would not seek to divide Cubans, but rather to further unite all who work for the prompt re-establishment of democracy on that long-suffering island.

REP. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington

Commission should support World War II Memorial

I will attend the Fine Arts Commission hearing on the proposed World War II Memorial today to show my support for the project ("WWII Memorial decision nearer," Metropolitan, July 18).

Opponents of this long-overdue memorial should remember something that even this relative whippersnapper, who served in the Persian Gulf in 1991, understands: Had my father's generation lost World War II, the democratic process by which the fate of this memorial will be determined would have become a casualty of war. The World War II Memorial deserves a special location that underscores the special contribution of the World War II generation.

Do the right thing, commissioners. Approve the World War II Memorial.

STEVE THOMAS

Washington

D.C. rent control hardly affects the city's economy

Bruce Bartlett's economic attack on rent control in the District falls short ("D.C. rent control should go," Commentary, July 17).

Mr. Bartlett concedes that 83 percent of D.C. units already rent for below the controlled price, and that lifting rent controls on the remaining units would increase unit rents by less than $6.30 per month.

Unlike desirable cities such as New York, San Francisco and Santa Monica, Calif., where below-market controlled rents make it unprofitable to construct and market rental housing, rent control in the District likely has little impact on the housing market, and lifting controls would increase supply only at the margin.

The District's decrease in rental units is more likely to have tracked a population decline attributable to crime, high taxes and poor schools.

The benefits of lifting price controls are proportionate to the effect that controls have on the market. The District's paper rent-control laws are the equivalent of setting the minimum wage at 1 cent. It is still wrong for the government to set prices, but in practice, the impact is minimal.

ANDREW G. BIGGS

Washington

Law on class-action suits should not be changed

In "How court-shopping lawyers affect you" (Commentary, July 12), Jan Amundson, general counsel for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), whines that defendants in class-action lawsuits are mistreated because they may be sued in a state in which they have done business. (Class-action lawsuits allow many people who have suffered similar injuries at the hands of a defendant to join together to seek justice economically and efficiently.)

Ms. Amundson's defense of irresponsible corporations doesn't pass the hypocrisy test. Ms. Amundson, who pleads the case of the wrongdoer corporation, touts the U.S. Senate's class-action federalization bill (S. 353) as the "solution" to the complicated issue of state vs. federal jurisdiction over class-action lawsuits.

It's strange that the NAM and its allies which usually favor the devolution of power to the states don't in this case. Instead, the NAM favors a bill that allows defendants unilaterally to yank lawsuits out of state courts they don't like and take them to federal court where chronic understaffing has led to a backlog of cases that stalls trials and wins irresponsible corporations years of reprieve from justice.

It's also strange that part of Ms. Amundson's argument involves an attack on local judges' acumen. Many federal judges began their careers as state judges, and their intellectual prowess isn't instantly magnified when they are appointed to the federal bench.

Are these contrary views a coincidence? Not likely. Passing S. 353 would allow defendants to keep cases in state courts they deem favorable or remove them to federal court when the outlook at the state level does not look good. That sounds like court-shopping.

We need to keep the law as it is. Giving states jurisdiction over class-action suits puts corporations on notice that they must abide by the rules of the people from whom they seek to profit. The issue is simple: If businesses don't want to be held accountable in multiple states, they shouldn't choose to do business in those states. If they don't want to be sued, they shouldn't engage in irresponsible behavior.

RICHARD H. MIDDLETON

President

Association of Trial Lawyers of America

Washington

An unfair suspension of conservative columnist

As the Jeff Jacoby suspension story continues to rage, I implore the Boston Globe to rethink the four-month unpaid suspension of Mr. Jacoby for serious journalistic misconduct in his July 3 column ("Journalistic jaywalking," Editorial, July 14).

Should he have stated where he gleaned his information on the Founding Fathers? In hindsight, possibly. I believe it was an oversight by Mr. Jacoby, who clearly believed any information regarding the Founding Fathers would be in the public domain. If there was a question, it was up to the Boston Globe's legal department and Mr. Jacoby's editor to flag the column and inform Mr. Jacoby of the oversight before publication, not for the process to work the other way around.

It is my understanding that the Boston Globe receives more letters regarding Mr. Jacoby then about all of its other columnists combined. The reason is that he is read by the left wing, the right wing, the West Wing and even the wingless. His writing can evoke laughter, tears, anger, debate and, more often than not, a high-five. Readers can decry him one week and exalt him the next, but few will deny that he is never boring. In the hundreds of columns he has written, from retracing his father's steps through the horror of the Nazi death camps to his annual letter to his beloved little boy, it is clear he demonstrates passion for his work.

If he is guilty of any journalistic abuse, it is that he "neglected" to add, "As many have written before me …" This never would rise to the legal definition of plagiarism or copyright infringement. To deprive Mr. Jacoby's readers of his column and to deprive him of his reputation for integrity and journalistic excellence and of his livelihood is licentious and obscene.

CHAMBIER BECHTEL

Sonoma, Calif.

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Let's not forget one other interesting point in the suspension of Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby: timing. His four-month suspension shuts him out of writing about the November elections.

Let's hope he keeps writing between now and then and can publish where his writings can be found. We need all the conservative voices we can get during an election year.

MICHAEL BROUSSEAU

Orem, Utah

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