- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 29, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Bull-loney

Rarely has so much ignorance been jammed into a few column inches as the sidebar on bullfighting, “PETA wants sport relegated to history books” (World, Sunday).

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) Mike Brazell can’t comprehend bullfighting because he can’t comprehend Spain.

Is bullfighting cruel? Yes, in the same way that life is cruel. However, bullfighting reminds us that man alone has intellect, art and, occasionally, the grace to overcome such instincts as fear. No coward, despite Mr. Brazell’s claim, can enter the ring against a half-ton creature driven by nature to trample and gore everything in its path.

Mr. Brazell makes other laughable claims. First, no aficionado believes bullfighting is a sport. Worse are the outright lies that sandbags are dropped on the backs of bulls to weaken them and petroleum jelly is smeared into their eyes to blind them. A matador cannot work a crippled bull, and a bull with defective vision cannot follow the lure of the cape and muleta.

It’s true that the modern Spaniard prefers soccer to bullfighting. Modern Spain also allows abortion and divorce. Spain forgets its own history by allowing out-of-control immigration. Spain, in short, is in danger of losing its soul, like the rest of Europe. The newest rage to ban bullfighting is only one sign and not even the most important.

DANIEL AMON

Alexandria

Rail solution

I strongly disagree with your recent editorial “Rail ties” (Sept. 15) about H.R. 2125, the Railroad Competition and Service Improvement Act of 2007, which I introduced on May 3.

My legislation will preserve existing rail-to-rail competition in areas of the country where competition is working, reduce impediments to competition that adversely affect rail customers, ensure efficient and reliable service for rail customers and provide those customers with a reasonable process for challenging rate and service disputes.

Contrary to your assertion, my bill will not force price controls or create new bureaucracies and punitive regulatory bodies. Instead, my bill maintains the Surface Transportation Board’s authority to ensure fair rates for captive rail traffic.

You stated that the STB is “adequately addressing railroad rate cases.” In reality, the process is so excessively onerous that no shipper has succeeded in proving that a terminal-owning railroad has engaged in anti-competitive conduct. Instead of using its current method of hypothetical expenses to determine whether challenged rates are reasonable, H.R. 2125 requires the STB to base this determination on the railroad’s actual costs.

Your contention that “these concerns have already been addressed by a recent ruling of the Surface Transportation Board” mischaracterizes the rate changes. This is an ‘Emperor has no clothes’ moment. Until just three weeks ago, the small- and medium-volume rate dispute was never used by the public; yet your column did not explain that those actions are never filed. In fact, the board raised fees for most filings this year to record levels. When shippers look to the STB for help, they quickly realize that they cannot afford the exorbitant filing fee required to contest rate cases. H.R. 2125 allows shippers filing a rate case to pay the same cost as filing before a federal district court rather than the current fee of $178,200.

Finally, this legislation is not designed to protect “pet industries,” as you suggested. Instead, H.R. 2125 ensures appropriate protection from the railroad industry’s monopolistic pricing power for rail customers such as chemical corporations, power companies and the agriculture industry.

Our objective is to balance railroad companies’ ability to earn revenue and improve their rail infrastructure with the needs of captive shippers to have adequate service at reasonable rates. H.R. 2125 achieves that goal.

REP. JAMES L. OBERSTAR

Washington

For Puerto Rican statehood

What an absurd assertion that Statehood for the District of Columbia “is a solution in search of a problem” (Editorial, “Puerto Rican statehood,” Monday). You guys just don’t get it, do you? Statehood is the solution to a myriad of problems that have existed for years in the District. It would give us autonomy over our budget and legal systems, solve our problem of non-representation and finally give the people of the District of Columbia the rights they deserve.

Don’t get me wrong, I think making Puerto Rico the 52nd state is fine, right after we make D.C. the 51st. The fact that President Bush would suggest making Puerto Rico a state after implying that he would veto any attempt to give the District voting rights is offensive. We have brave young men and women coming back from fighting for democracy in Iraq, only to be denied their basic civil rights here at home. This is a travesty.

I’d tell you what I really think about those in the Senate that would deny us even the simplest right to representation, but I don’t want to be accused of demagoguery. I will point out, however, that the history of the civil rights movement in America is replete with bigots and racists who hid behind the Constitution.

MICHAEL D. BROWN

D.C. Shadow Senator

Washington

The fundamental issue behind the Puerto Rico Democracy Act was misrepresented in the editorial “Puerto Rican statehood.” The issue is not statehood for the island but status resolution. Congress has been remiss in not ensuring a path toward self-determination and full self-governance for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico. For 109 years, the United States has maintained the territory of Puerto Rico in its impermanent but never-ending colonial status, which can only be described as an anachronism. It is the remnant of a time when the United States experimented with the idea of a colonial empire in the European tradition of the 19th century.

Considering the supremacy of federal law over the territory, the presence of a single non-voting representative in Congress does not constitute a government by consent of the governed. It is ironic that a true democracy does not exist in Puerto Rico, where the U.S. flag has been flying for more a century and U.S. military recruitment ranks with that of the top five U.S. states in per capita military service. There is no question about the plenary authority of Congress over the territory, but authority comes with responsibility. By failing to resolve the unincorporated-territory paradox and by not extending the full protection of the Constitution to the 4 million disenfranchised U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico, Congress has succeeded only in creating and maintaining a separate and unequal class of U.S. citizenship. Because of a lack of political will, Congress has chosen to punt every time this inequity has surfaced, thus preserving Puerto Rico in limbo. Procrastinating further will not make it go away. At some point, Congress has to come to terms with this injustice and resolve the matter. It contradicts the very principles upon which this country was created. The Puerto Rico Democracy Act is the first step.

It is beyond the scope of this letter to delve into the numerous ways Puerto Rico is “broken” and in need of a paradigm shift in its relationship with the United States. Here we only need to consider the absence of the most basic right in a democracy, “the right to full self-government or the equal rights of national citizenship,” as former Attorney General Dick Thornburg has noted.

One hundred and fifty years ago, a similar editorial could have been written about slavery with the same conclusion: “Since nothing is broken there’s nothing to fix.” Nothing was broken with slavery, either. It was simply wrong for many of the same reasons.

RICHARD D. NADAL

Mooresboro, N.C.

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