- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2006

Supreme Court and the ‘M’ word

In “Supreme farce: Part II” (Commentary, Sunday), Thomas Sowell paraphrases Justice Stephen Breyer’s judicial philosophy, observing that he believes when “laws are ‘not clear, … judges” must rely “on the ‘values’ they see behind the laws,” not the laws’ words. Branding such approach “shameless sophistry,” Mr. Sowell points out its condescending nature. Equally shameless and condescending is how activist judges twist and otherwise play with the meaning of plain words to achieve their desired values-oriented result. The outcome is that their decisions tend to be contrary to the law and pernicious in effect. An egregious example is Justice William O. Douglas’ discovery in Griswold v. Connecticut that the “specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations,” affording rights to privacy. Such illusion provided grist for Roe v. Wade.

There are those who have read Griswold and have no clue what Justice Douglas was saying, which is not surprising, considering that his opinion is baloney. It might be amusing were it not so deadly. Borrowing Mr. Sowell’s words, these are the “average” people upon whom activist judges believe they have the right and duty “to impose their superior wisdom and virtue.” Scary. Whatever the court’s motives, snuffing life based upon “penumbras” and “emanations” is sick.

Some activist judges are more subtle but equally effective. Consider the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Most of us have no problem with its clarity. Not so the court. Rather than prohibit Congress from establishing a particular religion, the court believes this clause establishes a “wall” that completely separates church and state. This “wall” is not in the Constitution. It is merely referenced in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a religious organization assuring it that Congress would “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, … thus building a wall of separation between church and State.” Jefferson had nothing to do with the writing or ratification of the Constitution, yet the court relies upon his “wall” to abrogate rights the Founding Fathers fought to protect.

One can hardly wait to see what the court does with the complicated word “marriage.”

ROBERT HARGEST

Alexandria, VA.,

Preserving Social Security

“Stop raids on Social Security,” by Lawrence Hunter (Commentary, Friday) outlines the problems with our Social Security program. Mr. Hunter is correct about how Congress has mishandled Social Security. He proposes using Social Security surpluses and owed interest to finance a refundable tax credit for “Head Start Retirement Accounts.”

There is another option to preserve Social Security without increasing taxes or cutting benefits. The first step is to forget the idea of personal accounts. They would be a nightmare to administer. The second step would be to set up a “real” Social Security Trust Fund to save and build annual Social Security surpluses and owed interest. The contract for operating the trust fund should be competitive and awarded to the private financial sector. The goal is to provide a means to eliminate projected funding shortages without raising taxes or reducing benefits.

This action should be taken soon to preserve Social Security without changing it.

JOHN T. MCVICKAR

Vienna

Crypto-Judaism

In framing the debate among scholars with regard to the nature and extent of crypto-Judaism in the U.S. Southwest, Associated Press writer Matt Crenson highlighted the work of one skeptical academic whose conclusions supported his apparently preconceived notions while ignoring the work of such scholars as anthropologists Seth Kunin of the University of Durham (England), Schulamith Halevy of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, sociologist Tomas Atencio of the University of New Mexico and social psychologist Janet Jacobs of the University of Colorado — all of whom have performed careful field work in New Mexico, have published extensively on the topic and have developed conclusions in support of the presence of crypto-Jewish culture in the region. Mr. Crenson was informed as to the availability of these experts and apparently chose not to consult them (“ ’Crypto-Jews’ call New Mexico home,” Culture, Wednesday).

With reference to Mr. Crenson’s treatment of DNA analysis, in which he cited the results of a study indicating that people in New Mexico genetically looked like those in Iberia, with no stronger presence of Jewish descendants here than in Spain and Portugal, I had related to Mr. Crenson that I thought this finding in no way contradicted my earlier findings indicating the historical presence of descendants of crypto-Jews among the early Spanish settlers. I indicated that I had no idea how many such descendants arrived in the 16th and 17th centuries, and I by no means ever claimed the number to represent a substantial percentage of the whole.

More important, during our interview, I told Mr. Crenson that I was far more impressed with the results of medical genetics than the comparatively more basic Y-chromosome DNA work. Over the past decade or so, physicians and geneticists have discovered certain genetic diseases among Hispanic populations, diseases that appear with greater frequency among Jews. Pemphigus vulgaris, for example, is a rare dermatological disease that strikes Jewish people in greater numbers than the general population. Physicians found an unusually high number of New Mexico Hispanic patients with this malady relative to the total number of Hispanics in the state. Further, they found that certain patients demonstrated the identical genome and protein sequencing as Jewish patients with this disease. I pointed this out to Mr. Crenson. He chose not to include it in his story.

The topic of crypto-Judaism is a complex one, not easily given to superficial analysis. It is unfortunate that Mr. Crenson missed a golden opportunity to produce an objective and enlightening article on a fascinating aspect of the history of the U.S. Southwest.

STANLEY M. HORDES

Albuquerque, N.M.

Science and politics

I applaud Ann Geracimos for her article “Science speaks, diplomatically” (Metropolitan, Thursday). The article notes the important and sometimes surprising contributions scientists can offer in shaping diplomatic policies.

The scientific perspective in international policy is underrepresented and underappreciated. The American Association for the Advancement of Science program is an all-too-rare effort to fill this gap, as are some of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s programs. Research!America recently inaugurated its first class of ambassadors into the Paul G. Rogers Society for Global Health Research to promote the importance of U.S. investment in medical and health research that benefits people across the globe. By actively communicating with policy-makers, these experts in global health will have the opportunity to bring the latest scientific perspective to policy issues.

Our nation’s international policies have impact beyond the political arena, and expert viewpoints outside of politics are sorely needed. New solutions to keep America’s work force competitive, ensure our economic growth and contribute to international political stability may come from new directions — the scientific arena is a smart place to start.

MARY WOOLLEY

President and CEO

Research!America

Alexandria

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