- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Clearing up columnist’s static about NPR

Richard Rahn’s Commentary column (“Perils of state-owned news outlets,” June 5) would have been a powerful indictment of the perils of state-owned media outlets except for the fact that his underlying assumptions are so demonstrably and clearly wrong.

In the past 20 years, National Public Radio’s audience has grown by more than 1,000 percent, to 21 million weekly listeners, all at a time of fragmentation and shrinking audiences for most news outlets. The reason for this growth is clear and positive. NPR is a trusted, credible source of news, information and cultural offerings.

Mr. Rahn’s thesis rests on the notion that NPR is entirely government-funded, a situation that ended a generation ago. Today, NPR’s major source of support are its member stations, and only limited support — between 1 percent and 2 percent of our annual budget — comes even indirectly from the federal government through competitive grants. Indeed, the largest source of revenue within all of public radio is voluntary individual charitable donations, made directly to our member stations.

Additionally, Mr. Rahn rehashes the tired notion of NPR as a liberal outlet. But independent polls show that NPR’s listeners are equal parts conservatives, independents and liberals. Many leading thinkers and opinion leaders from all political persuasions have appeared on NPR programs to express their respective views, including conservatives such as Karl Rove; David Frum; Reps. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, and J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican; Secretary of State Colin Powell; Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld; as well as practically every other member of the Bush Cabinet.

NPR offers myriad viewpoints not out of political ideology but because it is our job to fuel the marketplace of ideas, to offer in-depth and careful reporting, and to ensure that NPR carries the most challenging and provocative thinkers and ideas from whatever source.

KEVIN KLOSE

President and chief executive officer

National Public Radio

Washington

Insider trading

Alan Reynolds’ column regarding Martha Stewart misses the mark (“Martha’s newly revised ‘crimes’, ” Commentary, Monday). While Mr. Reynolds is correct that Mrs. Stewart was not charged with insider trading, as was discussed after her trades became public, it is stretching the facts to argue that this was some kind of an intentional smear campaign. Moreover, I contend that what Mrs. Stewart is charged with is just as serious as insider trading.

Insider trading is a complicated area of criminal law, and it is not always clear who can be charged with it. In December 2001, all the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) knew was that Mrs. Stewart had made some trades suspiciously close in time to the Food and Drug Administration’s failure to grant ImClone a license to sell a drug in which it had invested heavily. As is their mandate, the SEC investigated. Mrs. Stewart is not an ImClone insider and it is dubious whether she ever knew why ImClone insider Sam Waksal was dumping his stock.

Most likely these facts were not known in December 2001; they only became known after extensive investigation. However, if the facts in the indictment are proven, it makes a persuasive case of Mrs. Stewart intentionally lying to investigators. Her attempt to change her phone log is a classic “consciousness of guilt” act.

After weathering the 1998 Clinton-Lewinsky debacle, where it was proven beyond any doubt that our country’s chief law enforcement official, President Clinton, lied repeatedly under oath, I do not think we should tolerate lying and obstruction of justice by those in the public eye. What better way to mend the wounds of 1998 by instituting a zero tolerance policy for obstruction of justice by public figures?

Our system of justice is largely a voluntary one. Investigators and prosecutors depend on witness compunction, or fear, to tell the truth, especially under oath. The resources do not exist to punish everyone who intentionally misleads every criminal investigator. If a healthy respect for the truth does not permeate our society, the administration of justice becomes impossible. Setting an example through the use of a public persona such as Martha Stewart is a good idea. Her prevarications should be punished, no matter how innocuous the underlying crime.

COREY J. SMITH

Tax Division

Justice Department

Washington

Slavophobia

I am a Croat. When I started to read the commentary by Jeffrey T. Kuhner (“Acute Slavophobia,” June 1), I was thinking, “What is he rambling about?” By the end of the commentary, I knew he hit right on the spot. While NATO feels “tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis” is a reason to invade a country against the will of United Nations, it did not feel hundreds of thousands were a good excuse in the former Yugoslavia, until an all-out Balkan war was on the verge.

Furthermore, why are Serb officials and officials from other nations of the former Yugoslavia treated equally by the international community in The Hague? Why is it so hard and politically incorrect to say that the Serb government started the war and they should be the one responsible? Is Croatia’s failure to act in what, a posteriori, seems to be a proper way really equal to intentional aggression by Serbia? And, last, why is Serb ethnic cleansing recognized by allowing them a separate state in Bosnia? All of this gives a message from the international community to victims in Croatia and Bosnia:

“These are Slavs … we don’t really care.”

The Washington Times and Jeffrey T. Kuhner: Thank you for raising these important questions.

TIN KLANJSCEK

Zagreb, Croatia

Israel’s plight for existence

Yesterday’s Page One story, “Israel tries to kill Hamas head,” clearly misses the point of the operation that was attempted by Israel.

You fail to mention until the last section of this story on Page A12 that on Sunday, four Israelis were killed in a joint terrorist operation. One of the reasons Israel tried to kill Abdel Aziz Rantisi was because Hamas had killed people the day before.

Remember that Hamas and every other terrorist organization in the Middle East are not participating in the “road map” and do not believe in the existence of Israel. Israel has already paid dearly for this action with the murder of at least 16 innocent people.

I did not entirely agree with the action that Israel took on Monday, because some civilian lives were lost. However, your newspaper cannot continue to glorify this terrorist leader just because he escaped death. Hopefully, you will acknowledge the innocent Israeli lives lost as much as you recognized the life of Mr. Rantisi being saved.

ELI HAMMERMAN

Washington

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