- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2000

Western fires result of government 'stewardship'

The most disturbing thing about the forest fires rampaging through the West is the likelihood that things will get worse in the years to come ("Deforest Service," Op-Ed, Aug. 29).

Even if a new administration adopts sensible forest management practices beginning next year, undoing the damage already inflicted will be a daunting task, particularly if the federal estate is allowed to grow. It is the federal government's mismanagement of the lands it already owns that turned our national forests into tinder boxes.

Washington currently owns more than 630 million acres, or more than one-fourth of the land area of the United States. Yet it is precisely this stewardship, or lack thereof, that led to the tragedy unfolding in the West.

Unfortunately, some in Washington still equate government ownership of land with sound environmental stewardship. The House of Representatives recently passed the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA), a pork-laden, $45 billion trust fund that will enable the federal government to acquire more land without having to go through the annual congressional appropriations process.

If CARA passes the Senate this fall, the feds will have a pot of money at their disposal with which to grab more land.

Anyone interested in knowing where all this land-grabbing may lead need look no farther than the scorched forests in the West.

BONNER R. COHEN

Senior fellow

Lexington Institute

Arlington

Union deal would inflate cost of Wilson Bridge

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), America's foremost association representing merit shop contractors, their employees and families, applauds the Aug. 29 editorial in The Washington Times decrying a possible project labor agreement (PLA) for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge ("No 'union only' Wilson Bridge").

The editorial pointed out many reasons why a PLA would be the worst enemy of the crucial bridge job, with likely cost overruns, unconscionable discrimination against some 80 percent of the area work force, and union pledges of labor peace that sound like thinly disguised extortion.

We would like to add that labor peace is also a hollow promise. Many PLA-governed job sites have been struck over the past year, from the San Francisco Bay area to Maine. Union bosses cannot prevent stoppages and don't especially care to do so once they've gotten their way with an exclusionary PLA.

By limiting competition, union-only PLAs inflate the costs of construction projects. Furthermore, PLAs boast a poor safety record, leaving behind a trail of Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations with hefty fines.

Many minority groups, including the National Black Chamber of Commerce, and women's groups have also strongly opposed union-only PLAs due to their discriminatory nature.

A new Wilson Bridge is needed, and the risky union-only PLA gambit that Maryland officials are considering will jeopardize $600 million in federal funding. Let's not sink this bridge with a PLA.

W. THOMAS MUSSER

President

Associated Builders and Contractors

Rosslyn

Libertarian Party influence encourages smaller government

Though I respect your newspaper, I must take issue with Tod Lindberg's Commentary article "Political gatekeepers" (Aug. 29). Mr. Lindberg makes the sweeping statement, "In Washington it is impossible to find anyone who takes politics seriously and wants political influence who is neither a Democrat or Republican."

I encourage Mr. Lindberg to visit the Watergate. There he will find the headquarters of the country's third largest party, which has hundreds of people serving in office across the nation and which is running a candidate, Robert D. Kampia, against Eleanor Holmes Norton in this very city.

The Libertarian Party is the first new party in more than 80 years to run candidates for a majority of congressional seats. Unlike those minor parties on which Mr. Lindberg and the rest of the mainstream media have focused (are pugilists and millionaire hippies really that fascinating?), the Libertarian Party will be on the ballot in all 50 states for the third year in a row. Our presidential candidate, Harry Browne, most recently appeared on "O'Reilly and Co." and "Politically Incorrect."

No, there are no Libertarians in Congress yet However, our candidates never fail to assert the influence Mr. Lindberg speaks of by transforming the debate from "how will we spend the public's money?" to "should we tax and spend the public's money?" Carla Howell, our candidate running against Edward M. Kennedy is making her presence known in just this way, while Republican Jack Robinson has been running a feeble campaign. The Socialist Party didn't win elections either, but its influence in today's politics is unfortunately undeniable. Libertarians are using that lesson to bring about smaller, not larger government.

I challenge readers of The Washington Times who are true conservatives and want government out of their wallets and their bedrooms, to open their eyes to the Libertarian Party.

NOELLE STETTNER

Falls Church

Stossel organic expose' based on unsubstantiated premise

Doug Bandow's circle-the-wagons defense of John Stossel's discredited organic food report on ABC's 20/20 ("In the cross-hairs," Commentary, Aug. 18) highlighted everything that's wrong with the arguments made by Mr. Stossel's big-business benefactors. Recent efforts by Mr. Bandow's employer, the Cato Institute, as well as other corporate front groups offer a revisionist history of this matter, clouding the fact that the premise of the entire Mr. Stossel report was, and remains, unsubstantiated.

Mr. Bandow completely ignores, a la ABC News, the issue of the nonexistent tests for dangerous E. coli bacteria, on which virtually the entire segment was based. Michael Doyle, the University of Georgia researcher who conducted the tests cited by ABC News, confirms that the bacteria tests could not detect dangerous E. coli. The tests, therefore, were not capable of substantiating Mr. Stossel's repeated claims that organic food can kill you. These facts were cited in a letter written to ABC News in November 1999, three months before Mr. Stossel's segment first was broadcast.

Mr. Stossel's original story aired on Feb. 4 and again on July 7, driving home the theme that organic produce is for suckers more expensive, no healthier and more likely to kill you than conventional produce because it has higher levels of deadly bacteria. In addition to the supposed test for deadly bacteria, Mr. Stossel asserted that ABC had commissioned tests for pesticide residues for organic vs. conventional produce. Neither test was ever conducted, but when caught, ABC went the easy route, ordering Mr. Stossel to apologize only for the nonexistent pesticide tests. There has been no action taken to address the misrepresentation of ABC's nonexistent tests for deadly bacteria.

Referring to the fabricated pesticide test conjured up by Mr. Stossel, Mr. Bandow claims that the mistake was real, though not serious. To make matters worse, Mr. Bandow claims that pesticide levels commonly found on produce are too low to harm anyone. In fact, many different types of foods are contaminated with levels of pesticides that are unsafe for infants and children under the age of 5 years old, as well as people with weakened immune systems. In the past year, the Environmental Protection Agency has banned certain uses of three pesticides (methyl parathion, guthion and chlorpyrifos), in large measure because of their potential to harm children.

Mr. Bandow also asserts that Mr. Stossel's error did not actually mislead, immediately followed by a reference that proves himself wrong. Mr. Bandow refers to Mr. Stossel's erroneous statement,"our tests surprisingly found no pesticide residue on the conventional samples or the organic." Yet Mr. Bandow cites a Consumer Reports study that found pesticide residues on both organic and conventional produce. Actually, the magazine found that organic foods had consistently minimal or nonexistent pesticide residues, while 77 percent of their conventional samples had pesticide residues. Furthermore, the organic foods consistently had the least-toxic residues.

Mr. Bandow and others who are trying to rewrite the history of this issue are as guilty as Mr. Stossel for their fabrication and misrepresentation of facts. If Mr. Stossel made only a one sentence error in a 10-minute story, then why has ABC News agreed to pull from circulation all videos and transcripts of the story?

KEN COOK

President

Environmental Working Group

Washington

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