- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Rethinking tyrants’ taste in art, cuisine

Does Belle Haven Marina deserve public funds?

As a sailboat owner who recently rented a slip on the Potomac, I read with great interest Andrew H. MacDonald’s July 9 piece about Belle Haven Marina, “Saving a local treasure.” While I share Mr. MacDonald’s concerns over a shortage of boat slips in the Washington area and would hate to see the National Park Service close Belle Haven, I must disagree strongly with his recommendation that the federal government should subsidize Belle Haven or any other local marina.
Belle Haven, as wonderful as it may be, is a tiny marina of no national significance, and there is no reason the federal government should subsidize its existence or even own the land on which it is located.
The only reason the National Park Service operates small local parks is historical accident. Washington used to be surrounded by a ring of military forts: Fort Marcy, Fort Totten, Fort Washington and so forth. When the military necessity for these forts ceased, most were turned over to the National Park Service, but there is no real justification for having the federal government run small municipal parks.
They could be run much more efficiently and cheaply by local governments such as Alexandria and Arlington. In fact, national parks cost 10 times as much per visitor to operate as state parks. It would make much more sense to sell the land on which Belle Haven is located to a private company or simply to give the land to Virginia or Alexandria. All the other small parks in the area that used to be forts likewise should be transferred to local governments.
Mr. MacDonald concludes his piece by asserting that “if President Bush would fulfill his campaign promise to increase funding for our national parks, the park service would not need to close tiny Belle Haven Marina to help fix leaky sewers in Yellowstone Park.” It seems to me that visitors to Yellowstone would have an even stronger argument that “if President Bush would keep his promise to make government smaller and return power to local communities and if the park service would sell off tiny places of no national significance, such as the Belle Haven Marina it could use the money to fix the leaky sewers in Yellowstone and save the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Coalition for Local Sovereignty

In the July 9 Op-Ed column “Saving a local treasure,” Andrew H. MacDonald describes how Belle Haven Marina a small, local marina that improves public access to the riches of the Potomac is expected to shoulder maintenance costs by itself, while the large concessionaire Guest Services Inc. benefits from government leniency and support.
This article prompts a larger question that should interest all Americans: How public are our public spaces? Unfortunately, the increasingly frequent response is, “not very.” Insufficient funding for upkeep, giveaways or subsidies to private corporations, and environmental degradation are depleting our shared resources, our common assets. These situations, whether examples of benign neglect or intentional liquidation, are robbing us and future generations of our right to enjoy these spaces in a healthy condition.
Our governments must fulfill their responsibility to safeguard these public spaces and the public interest. It’s up to us to ensure that our tax dollars protect public access to our common assets.

Common Assets Program
Redefining Progress
Oakland, Calif.

Tricky terminology obscures science of stem cell issue

The term creates the impression that this tiny human being is a mere thing. However, human embryologists have debunked the use of the phrase. most notably Ronan O’Rahilly, the University of California at Davis human embryologist who helped to develop the classic Carnegie stages of human embryological development and who also sits on the international board of Nomina Embryologica (which determines the correct terminology to be used in human embryology textbooks internationally). Dr. O’Rahilly wrote in the 1994 book “Human Embryology & Teratology”: “The term ‘ovum’ implies that polar body 2 has been given off, which event is usually delayed until the oocyte has been penetrated by a spermatozoon (i.e., has been fertilized). Hence a human ovum does not exist. Moreover the term has been used for such disparate structures as an oocyte and a three-week embryo, and therefore should be discarded, as a fortiori should ‘egg’.”

Professor Dianne Irving reiterated this idea in plainer language in “When Do Human Beings Begin? ‘Scientific’ Myths and Scientific Fact,” a 1999 article in the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy: “the use of terms such as ‘ovum’ and ‘egg’ which would include the term ‘fertilized egg’ is scientifically incorrect, has no objective correlate in reality, and is therefore very misleading. … Thus these terms themselves would qualify as ‘scientific’ myths. The commonly used term, ‘fertilized egg,’ is especially very misleading, since there is really no longer an egg (or oocyte) once fertilization has begun. … ‘fertilized egg’ … is a human being. … This new single-cell human being immediately produces specifically human proteins and enzymes (no carrot or frog enzymes and proteins), and genetically directs his/her own growth and development. (In fact, this genetic growth and development has been proven not to be directed by the mother.) Finally, this new human being the single-cell human zygote is biologically an individual, a living organism an individual member of the human species.”

In future reports, it would be most helpful to your readers if Mrs. Fields would use the correct scientific terms, such as zygote, embryo and fetus. This would help your readers understand that (a) the person in question is not part of the mother’s body and (b) she or he exists at fertilization and is an individual. It also clarifies the fact that many popular methods of birth control, such as the pill, abort people during their first few days of life.

I hope that, in the future, Mrs. Fields uses scientifically correct terms rather than false science when describing the growing human being.



American Life League

Stafford, Va.


I was disheartened to read Suzanne Fields’ column urging federal funding of embryonic stem cell research (“Life and death in the laboratory,” July 9). What upset me most about her column was not that we disagree but that like many proponents of federal funding, she refused to write honestly about the biology.

Mrs. Fields claimed baldly that a blastocyst is not an embryo. If she would look in a basic biology textbook, she would see that she is wrong. Or, easier yet, just turn to the “American Medical Association Encyclopedia of Medicine,” available for perusal in any bookstore. It states, “From the time of conception until the eighth week, the developing baby is known as an embryo.”

Or, at least, it used to be known as an embryo. Apparently, however, the politics of this debate has changed the science. This is merely another incursion of postmodernism into our national life if you don’t like the facts, create your own narrative. Yet I have always been told that conservatism stands fast against that approach.


Oakland, Calif.

Wesley J. Smith is author of “Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America”

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