- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 13, 2005

Save the bunker buster

As Saddam Hussein was, al Qaeda is capable of burying stockpiles of supplies, weapons and other articles of warfare, not to mention hiding key leaders underground (“Forward thinking on nuclear policy,” Commentary, Monday). Osama bin Laden has been holed up in the past in caves in Afghanistan and could be now for all we know. The only way to reach these underground bunkers is by using a weapon such as the “bunker buster.”

Having this weapon does not automatically mean we will use it immediately. To have it and not need it is preferable to needing it and not having it in this war of unpredictability. We are fighting a new enemy style. The rules of the Cold War and World War II are no longer pertinent. We must take new and bold moves to stay ahead of the terrorists militarily.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has been reconstituting our military to keep up with the changing times, and this weapon certainly would be applicable in that effort. It is also a mistake to limit our nuclear weaponry during a war. We simply cannot revert to pre-September 11 thinking.

To withdraw funding on the bunker buster is, in my opinion, seriously limiting our capability to fight and defeat this terrorist enemy.

JACK DORWIN

Livingston, Texas

It’s easy to break the law

“It is now frighteningly easy for American citizens to be imprisoned for actions that no reasonable person would regard as the type of morally culpable behavior for which the serious sanction of criminal law was once reserved,” according to Ilya Shapiro’s book review of “Go Directly to Jail: The Criminalization of Almost Everything” (Op-Ed, Tuesday), edited by Gene Healy.

Examples that prove the point are not hard to find. Take the arbitrarily enforced Baltimore City Building Code, which makes it, effectively, a criminal misdemeanor to own a vacant building.

Under Section 119.5.1 & .2, boarded windows and doors are simultaneously prohibited (i.e., basis for “a determination of noncompliance”) and required, i.e., “All windows, doors, and other openings shall be closed, securely locked, and, if within 20 feet of the ground or readily accessible, further protected by boarding up with substantial material.”

Boarded or unboarded, ownership of a vacant building in Charm City is criminal under the code and “subject to a fine of $500 for each violation,” calculated daily. Fortunately, the law is applied only selectively.

Because the statutory penalty is not imprisonment, there is no right to a jury trial. Jail time could result, however, from failure to pay a fine or to comply with a court-ordered remedy, such as divestiture or razing the property. That’s punishable as criminal contempt of court.

Needless to say, criminalizing property ownership has done nothing to alleviate urban blight in Baltimore or anyplace else. How could it?

GREGORY L. LEWIS

Baltimore

Trial lawyers should be dancing

Delegate Joseph F. Vallario Jr., chairman of the Maryland House Judiciary Committee, said that “doctors should be dancing in the street” after the General Assembly overrode the governor’s veto of medical-malpractice legislation (“Assembly overrides veto of health bill,” Page 1, Wednesday).

It’s not the doctors who should be dancing in the streets; it’s the trial lawyers of Maryland. They’re the major beneficiaries of the veto override. The citizens of Maryland are the losers.

I also want to thank the General Assembly for raising my future health maintenance organization premiums. I can hardly keep up with the annual increases now. This new malpractice legislation will probably cause me to forgo any health insurance in the future.

ROB BENSON

Dowell, Md.

‘Time is of the essence’

Last summer I learned that my two young children have Type 1 diabetes. Every waking moment since, I have spent hoping and praying that scientists will find a cure.

So I was gratified to read of some promising progress on stem cell research this past week (“Stem-cell ambivalence,” Page 1, Sunday, and “More news on stem cells,” Editorial, Monday). Since learning of my children’s disease, I have come to realize that we all know someone who might benefit from the fruits of this research. Yet research continues to be thwarted.

First, some argue that because progress is being made using adult stem cells, we don’t need to continue research on embryonic cells. But in the interest of finding cures, we shouldn’t close off either avenue of research.

Second, the vacuum of federal leadership on this issue has created a patchwork of state laws and uncoordinated research that needs to be corrected. Stem cell research is going to move forward one way or another. Why not proceed in a coordinated, cost-effective fashion with uniform guidelines set at the national level?

It is time for Congress to revisit current federal funding restrictions on stem cell research and empower the National Institutes of Health to better support and coordinate our nation’s effort in this promising area of science.

I know firsthand that time is of the essence. If stem cell research could speed up finding a cure for diabetes, the results would be life-changing for millions of people. In my home alone, we could avoid more than 4,000 blood checks and nearly 2,000 insulin shots each year, not to mention the fear of developing vision, heart and kidney problems — and all those sleepless nights.

LISA GIBBY

Bethesda

Money-making machine

Mayor Anthony A. Williams inadvertently let us all in on the dirty little secret behind red-light and speed cameras (” ‘Safety’ gives way to D.C.’s revenue cameras,” Page 1, Tuesday). In a letter to District Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, Mr. Williams urged support for the city’s traffic camera contract to ensure continued revenues, without a single mention of traffic accident prevention.

The results of studies used to justify installation of these cameras by cities across the country, in fact remain inconclusive. The revenue-sharing arrangements between a city and its contracted camera operator often create a strong incentive to install red-light cameras at intersections with mistimed traffic lights or poorly designed roadways to entrap drivers who, for example, get caught in a yellow-light phase that is too short. The city of San Diego found that out the hard way a few years ago, when it was sued over the program and its contractor was forced to reveal confidential industry documents.

What Mr. Williams clearly knows is that these cameras are good at one very important thing for a city with budget problems: generating revenue.

TREVOR R. MARTIN

Director of the Trade and Transportation Task Force

American Legislative Exchange

Council

Washington

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