- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 8, 2000

Pitcher not off his rocker, just a jerk

[pHow in the name of freedom and sanity can Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker be ordered by Major League Baseball to undergo psychological tests just because he expressed his opinion ("Psychological tests ordered for Rocker," Sports, Jan. 7)? He may be a prejudiced jerk, but he did nothing worse than state his opinion which he has a constitutional right to do on the city of New York and its residents during a magazine interview.

Being a jerk is not against the law. Being a racist is not against the law. Acting on those feelings by trying to hurt someone or threatening to do so is, but Rocker didn't do anything of the kind. Rocker's biggest sin is stupidity, which also isn't against the law. This straitjacket-for-the-opinionated behavior is frightening: The world got more than 70 years of lessons in it from the Soviet Union, but apparently few of us learned anything.

Though I personally think Rocker is the east side of a westbound horse, I sometimes feel as if I'm the only person left in the country who remembers the quote, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it." Despite the fact that I found his remarks to be absurd, on principle alone I hope Rocker refuses the evaluations, turns his inevitable suspension from baseball into a Supreme Court decision and rides off into the sunset with the life savings of all those who have forgotten the countless American soldiers who died in battle to preserve the rights we supposedly still have.




So poor John Rocker has been ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation to determine why he doesn't think the way baseball Commissioner Bud Selig believes (or pretends to believe) he should.

When the Cold War ended almost a decade ago, I read somewhere that we would come to miss the "Evil Empire." It appears that Commissar excuse me, Commissioner Selig misses it a great deal and wants us to adopt certain aspects of its operational manual. Wasn't it the Soviet Union that pioneered the practice of using psychobabble against those found to harbor "deviant" thoughts? The evident premise here is the logical outgrowth of years of political correctness: If you disparage homosexuals, minorities and immigrants, you must be somehow unhinged and in need of "treatment." This is just like in the old Soviet Union, where you were deemed to be suffering a mental disorder if you did not accept the beauty of international communism.

Rocker is 25 years old. Some people will agree with the opinions he expressed in Sports Illustrated. Some won't. Rocker himself may change his opinion as he grows older. Maybe he won't. So what? He is entitled to say what he thinks without having to be summoned before an inquisition of snake-oil dispensers. Rocker should be left alone.

Wouldn't it have been interesting if Sports Illustrated had been able to interview Ty Cobb? I wonder how he would have responded to Mr. Selig's order.



Uncle Sam needs to dig deep into wallet to fight tuberculosis

The Jan. 5 article on tuberculosis ("Disease fighters slam apathy on tuberculosis") states that 60 percent of Americans infected with multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) will die, despite the best treatment modern medicine can provide. Given the lethal nature of the disease and the speed with which it can spread, the TB prevention and treatment budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is clearly much too small and must be increased. Unfortunately, increasing funding for U.S. public health agencies alone will not protect us from MDR-TB unless we do something about TB overseas as well.

The deadly MDR-TB bacteria has no respect for borders. TB is an international threat and needs to be fought around the world, particularly in those developing countries where it is most prevalent.

Want the good news and the bad news? The good news is that there is a low-cost method of treatment for non-MDR TB that is very effective and also prevents emergence of new drug-resistant strains. It is called directly observed treatment-short course (DOTS). The secret of DOTS is that a health worker watches the patient take the medication to be sure it is taken on time and that the patient does not stop the treatment until all of the TB germs are gone. The bad news is that in developing countries, DOTS is being used for fewer than one in five of those ill with TB.

The U.S. House of Representatives, in passing the fiscal 2000 foreign aid funding bill, told the U.S. Agency for International Development to spend $35 million on TB prevention and control this year. That would be triple the 1999 level if it actually happens. Congress needs to exercise its oversight role to be sure the funds are used as intended. Looking ahead, it's going to cost about $1 billion a year for several years to conquer TB worldwide. The U.S. share of that looks to be about $100 million a year. That may sound like a lot, but it is well worth the money if it prevents a very costly and deadly epidemic of MDR-TB in this country.


Senior legislative adviser



Muslim-bashing reaches new heights in column

Don Feder's "Post-Yeltsin lens on Chechnya" (Commentary, Jan. 4) offers nothing but a clumsy conspiratorial vision of world affairs. Not even the most bigoted of Muslim bashers ever suggested that conflicts in places as politically and geographically diverse as the West Bank, Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Dagestan and Kashmir are all connected, coordinated by Osama bin Laden and designed to advance "International Islam."

Seeking to substantiate his conspiratorial attitude, Mr. Feder could only advance the assessment that "forensic tests show the explosive devices in the Moscow bombings are similar to those used to blow up U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania last year." No collaboration is offered to support the statement. Does Mr. Feder believe readers are so naive that they will just have to trust his assertion?

Beyond this Hollywood-style stereotypical depiction of Muslim villains, Mr. Feder shows his anti-Chechen face by recklessly denying the besieged Chechens any legitimate aspirations, stating that all they want is the freedom to kill, terrorize, kidnap and threaten neighbors. The Chechens denied responsibility for the bombing of the apartment buildings in Moscow. The U.S. government refused to accept Russian claims of Chechen responsibility. But these pieces of information are not important to Mr. Feder; he has determined that Russia is waging a justified "brutal war against brutal people."

Mr. Feder's views appear to be grounded in fears, perhaps emanating from the fact that in all the conflicts he mentioned there is a Muslim viewpoint. But this only reveals an unfortunate anti-Muslim hysteria. There are at least 30 other conflicts in the world, most of which do not involve Muslims (for example in Rwanda, Columbia, Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland). Some worrisome conflicts have involved Muslim against Muslim (for example, the Gulf war and conflicts in Somalia, post-communist Afghanistan and Algeria) hardly evidence supporting Mr. Feder's theory of a coordinated Islamic front against the West.

To view worldwide encounters among Muslims and others through the lenses of conflict and violent incidents is to distort the truth egregiously. Muslims, like others, are active in all walks of life. Most of their interactions with others are peaceful.

Mr. Feder's vision of an all-out war between Islam and the West hardly matches reality at home. American institutions and society increasingly are accommodating Muslims who are consciously and persistently pursuing a path of acceptance. Muslims who are going that route repeatedly have pointed out the distinction between the fringe and the mainstream. When extremists blew up the World Trade Center, the American Muslim Council condemned the violence. When the U.S. government recently arrested an Algerian crossing Canada with explosive-making material, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for a thorough investigation and suggested consideration of the toughest punishment allowed under the law.

Still, there is no escaping from pointing out that no one should be expected to compromise on the fundamental elements of human dignity. Muslims, like all others, should be expected to exercise the right to self-determination, the right to live under freely elected government and the right to freedom of religion. The voices of prejudice betray these values when they deny others the very rights they support for themselves and when they blur the distinction between a nation and its zealous extremists and the difference between terrorism and self-defense.


Research director

Council on American-Islamic Relations


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