- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 4, 2000

Times publishes a smog-producing editorial

I wasn't bothered that The Washington Times accused Ozone Action of being one of the "zealots" in the debate over Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, even though we haven't even weighed in on that fight ("Death by fuel economy," Editorial, May 22). Since you also view Ralph Nader and the Sierra Club as zealots, we will take it as a compliment.

What bothered me was your attempt to cast the CAFE battle as a choice between fuel efficiency and human life. This is simply not true. CAFE would help mitigate global warming by encouraging the production of cleaner, more efficient vehicles, not endanger people.

Fortunately, your argument is no longer even supported by industry leaders. William Ford Jr., chief executive officer of the Ford Motor Co., recently acknowledged that sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are more dangerous than cars because they contribute more to global warming, emit smog-causing pollution and endanger other motorists. Mr. Ford pledged to clean them up, saying "automakers could wind up with reputations like those of Big Tobacco" if they continued to deny adverse impacts of SUVs.

Maybe The Times is comfortable being judged with Big Tobacco: I'm just glad some companies and environmental "zealots" are not.

BRANDON J. MACGILLIS

Director of campaigns

Ozone Action

Washington

More to the article on GMU censure

An essential point was missed in "Faculty protests 2 courses at GMU" (Metropolitan, May 24). The George Mason University Faculty Senate censured the board of visitors not for requiring a couple of additional history courses, but for reckless pre-emption of faculty prerogative.

GMU's Faculty Handbook confers the primary responsibility for curricular matters squarely upon the faculty and for good reason. Professors are largely unaffected by short-term changes in the political climate of the state and, therefore, are well-suited to develop and maintain curricular integrity.

A curriculum controlled by visitors changes as the visitors change, and this occurs every time the governor appoints a new visitor. Under such circumstances, the curriculum is far too responsive to contemporary politics, and the prevailing political agenda easily might be translated into courses of study. That is what the faculty protested, and that is what provoked the Faculty Senate's censure.

JAMES METCALF

Fairfax

James Metcalf is a professor in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at George Mason University.

Law fails to safeguard those with severe mental illness

Fred Reed, in his Police Beat column, casts a spotlight on the plight of the many who are overcome by severe mental illness, but not so dangerous that our law permits police, or anyone else, to help them ("Police see too clearly the problems of the homeless," Metropolitan, May 29).

Society generally protects those incapable of making rational decisions children, victims of Alzheimer's, those mentally incapacitated by physical illness or injury. Our laws insulate these people from their inability to make informed determinations concerning their welfare.

Inexplicably, we do not similarly safeguard those disabled by severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia or manic depression. Instead, we leave them mired in psychosis.

In the District, someone overpowered by mental illness may only be placed in treatment if the person "is likely to injure himself or other persons if allowed to remain at liberty." More simply, the person must be dangerous. In Virginia and Maryland, dangerousness is also the law.

At least in the eyes of the law, being wrought by delusions and hallucinations, as well as patently incapable of reaching reasonable decisions, does not equate to dangerousness. But it does mean that the person is very sick, unable to make informed decisions and in need of help.

More confounding, due to advances in recent years, we have effective treatments for mental illness. We are no longer limited to the alternative Mr. Reed suggests placing the psychotic in asylums. People with mental illness can now reclaim their lives. But first, there must be treatment. And before that, there must be laws that allow that treatment.

JONATHAN STANLEY

Assistant director

Treatment Advocacy Center

Arlington

Lessons to remember on the anniversary of the Battle of Midway

Fifty-eight years ago today, the U.S. Navy opened the most important sea battle since the Greeks defeated the Persians at the Battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. In that battle in the Saronic Gulf near Athens, the Greeks prevented domination by an Oriental despotism that would have strangled Western civilization in its cradle.

In defeating the Japanese at Midway, Adm. Raymond A. Spruance and his naval task force made it impossible for Japan to seize the Hawaiian Islands and go on to assault and, in all likelihood, invade the West Coast of the United States. Tragically, the Battle of Midway has been almost forgotten except by historians. The lesson of the victory at Midway is lost on a new generation.

In the wake of the collapse of communist rule in the former Soviet Union, many Americans have lost any sense of ongoing national peril. They overlook the fact that the new world order is fragmented, unstable and full of developing threats of violence. No great celebrations are planned this year to commemorate the historic American naval victory at Midway, though the freedom of Americans living today was bought by the heroic sacrifice of seamen and aviators who gave their lives to sink the Japanese aircraft carriers Kaga, Akagi, Soryu and Hiryu the spearhead of Japan's fleet. Those Americans who died in the Battle of Midway turned back the onslaught of imperial Japan, denied Japan control of the Pacific Ocean and prevented invasion of Australia and New Zealand.

The American naval victory at Midway isn't ancient history without contemporary meaning. It is directly applicable to the dangers the United States faces in the 21st century.

Naval threats to the United States haven't disappeared in the era of the new world order. Chinese statements show that the Chinese aim at replacing the United States as the dominant Pacific power. As an interim step, the Chinese seek undisputed sway over the South China Sea, with its considerable oil riches. Chinese actions in the Spratley Islands illustrate the seriousness of their ambitions.

An extraordinary development in this area is the decision by India to hold joint naval exercises in the South China Sea with the Vietnamese and units of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force. The planned Indian insertion of warships into the South China Sea is historic in that Indian ships have not entered an arm of the Pacific Ocean since antiquity. The action also indicates awareness of the diminished American role in the Pacific defense.

This awareness is rational, as America's naval capabilities have deteriorated markedly during the Clinton administration. Even as the Chinese have developed a strong submarine force and built high-quality destroyers, the Clinton administration has drastically reduced the size of the U.S. fleet. Ship construction has been reduced to an unsafe level. Operating budgets have been cut. The next generation of destroyers will not begin to enter service until about 2009, and these ships are being designed for coastal operations, whereas the Chinese pose a blue-water challenge. Instead of striving for a greater war-fighting ability, the secretary of the Navy is crusading for the placement of women on submarines.

In short, the Clinton administration is engaged in a process of naval disarmament precisely when the United States is facing a new challenge in the Pacific. The 58th anniversary of the victory at Midway is an appropriate time for the American people to realize the danger they face because the country's naval might is being undermined.

ANTHONY HARRIGAN

Washington

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