- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Virginia tax continues to punish car owners

The car tax continues to be resented by Virginians ("Virginia tax battles," Jan. 13) because, despite the phaseout, it remains discriminatory and punitive.

The 4.57 percent tax is almost quadruple the 1.23 percent tax on real estate, making it a regressive tax that singles out car owners.

Furthermore, the car tax applies to a base that overestimates fair value. I learned this the hard way before the phaseout of the car tax began.

I bought a used car for $14,500, but Fairfax County valued the car at $17,000. The county's justification was valuation according to the blue book value of the car, which generally exceeds both market and fair value.

By contrast, real estate tends to be valued conservatively, at market value or less. A car tax that is almost quadruple the real estate tax and that also applies to an inflated base exceeding market value is outrageous.

The wonder is that some legislators continue to defend such a tax on the grounds that governments need money for programs. If revenue needs are the rationale, they should be collected from another tax source, and the discriminatory, punitive car tax reduced according to schedule.

THOMAS HOGARTY

Reston

Common law has its weak points, too

While I agree with Lee Casey and David Rivkin on the dangers inherent in the International Criminal Court, I must protest their characterization of civil law as "a system spread through Europe in Napoleon Bonaparte's baggage … designed as means of vindicating the state's power against the individual" ("Clinton's worst folly," Op-Ed, Jan. 9). It was not Napoleon who spread civil law throughout Europe, but the Roman emperor Justinian. Roman law is also the basis of the legal systems of several of our own states, such as Louisiana and California. Roman jurisprudence survived into the medieval period, and civil law is generally considered one of the cornerstones of Western civilization. And while we may grant that the Anglo system may have improved upon it in some respects, it can be argued that without this foundation, civil justice would not exist today.

The design of any state's idea of justice is never exclusively prejudicial to the individual's interest, especially should that state be civilized enough to base its legal proceedings on proven and equitable principles, common or civil. There is surely nothing wrong with the fundamental civil law approach, which is to provide a common-sense list of fundamental rules one should aspire to follow in dealing with legal matters kind of like the Ten Commandments. This is opposed to the unending and inaccessible legislative snowballs that have been rolling out of our state and federal governments ever since our representatives became increasing less farmers and more … well, lawyers.

We should be willing to learn as well as to remember. Thanks to the total police control (and manipulation) of evidence, a man I know spent a couple of years in jail for a crime it was later proved he did not commit. Not the first or last time that has happened anywhere, but in this we could perhaps take a cue from the French criminal justice system, which establishes a body unconnected to both the defense and the prosecution for the verification and preservation of evidence. Surely, we could also say that in recent decades we have all felt the significant trouble caused by common law's inherent weakness, namely, that sometimes all it takes is one bad precedent to set the whole thing awry.

JAMES RUSSELL DESMOND

New Orleans, La.

Pro-lifers neither few nor 'extreme'; but science not resolved on issue

Kathleen Parker made a number of assertions in her Jan. 13 Commentary column ("Fine man, wrong choice?") that were not well supported. Her claim that the moment of conception is "… fundamentally a religious question that can never be satisfactorily answered for all" was treated well by Francois Quinson in his Jan. 15 letter to the editor ("Beginning of life more than matter of religious faith"). Perhaps Miss Parker may be unaware of the scientific and medical evidence cited by Mr. Quinson. Her other assertions, however, raise questions as well.

For example, she claims that Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft is "an anachronism." But which of the qualities she lists truly has less value today than it did "once upon a time"? Does she really think someone who fears God, is "devout," and has "a reputation for common sense" and "a history of decency" is so out of touch with reality or with the values of "the people" or even "most Americans"? Did Miss Parker feel this way about Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who referred to God often in his speeches? From the focus of her column, it appears she feels this way about Mr. Ashcroft mainly because he is staunchly pro-life.

Miss Parker gets to her point later: "But what's really wrong with Mr. Ashcroft is that he's too extreme … When you say 'Ashcroft,' … You think, well, 'far, far right.' … Mr. Ashcroft dwells in the ideological hinterlands where most unarmed Americans fear to tread." Really? What about the polls that say 50 to 75 percent of Americans are pro-life and/or favor some restrictions on abortion? Miss Parker's use of the word "extreme" is straight from the refrain of the "far, far" left.

The truth is that many liberals fear those who hold the very mainstream belief that abortion is unjust. To her credit, Miss Parker encourages education and discussing "the spiritual ramifications and potential psychological trauma of abortion." But then she adds: "But let's not pretend to believe that the personal beliefs of a few are going to unify a diverse nation of peoples, most of whom believe that a woman knows best whether she's up to the awesome job of mothering." If this is true, then why is it that in the case of Mr. Ashcroft, it is the few special interest groups like Planned Parenthood who seek to sink his nomination because he is pro-life?

JEFF GARDNER

Manassas, Va.

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Francois Quinson claims that science supports the notion that human "life" begins at conception, an argument used to oppose a woman's right to terminate a problem pregnancy.

However, 167 distinguished biologists and physicians, including 12 Nobel laureates, presented an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in 1989 stating that science cannot determine when human "personhood" begins, as that is a matter of opinion among various religious and philosophical positions. However, the scientists affirmed that science can establish when the "organic capacity for human thought" becomes possible. The brief stated that "it is not until sometimes after 28 weeks of gestation that the fetal brain has the capacity to carry on the same range of neurological activity as the brain in a full-term newborn."

Essentially, then, science supports the nuanced pro-choice position that the U.S. Supreme Court articulated in its 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision.

EDD DOERR

Executive Director

Americans for Religious Liberty

Silver Spring

New sheriff in town

Pornographers have a lot to lose with John Ashcroft as attorney general.

The porn industry is fighting hard to keep him from being confirmed by the Senate. Mr. Ashcroft will crack down on child pornography and other illegal activities.

Kat Sunlove, the Free Speech Coalition chief lobbyist for porn industry publication Adult Video News, admits pornographers are worried that under a new administration they will no longer enjoy the "benevolent neglect that the industry has enjoyed under Janet Reno."

Mr. Ashcroft, an honest man and son of a minister, is like a new sheriff in a white hat riding into town, and pornographers are not happy about it.

LORI VIARS

Lebanon, Ohio


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