- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2001

Stop speeders from killing people and breaking things

Your July 3 editorial "Look who's watching" is way over the top. Speeders kill people and break things, so there are laws against speeding. The desire to stop this illegal behavior is well-founded. I don't see much difference between a police officer on the beat using a hand-held radar and writing down a license number and an automated system that does essentially the same thing. If it's more cost-effective for the city to pay a contractor than hire more police, that's fine.

Possible abuses of equivalent systems should be addressed on their own risks and merits. Let's just stick to stopping speeders. The thrust of the editorial seems to be that people should have a sporting chance to break the law and get away with it which brings us back to killing people and breaking things.



Article ignores success story of female bishop

As a long-time daily subscriber to The Washington Times and an active Episcopalian (a thirtysomething postulant, no less), I have been reading your series on the future of America's clergy with great interest. However, I am saddened that you chose not to identify our bishop, Rt. Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon, as an example of a woman breaking through the "stained-glass ceiling" in your July 4 front-page article "Feminization of clergy rebuffed."

Your readers know The Washington Times is intimately familiar with Bishop Dixon from the extensive coverage you have given her already this year. It seems to me that your paper's bias against Bishop Dixon, as evidenced in your previous articles, kept you from reporting an important success story for Episcopalians, Washingtonians and women.

I am a Republican political consultant and a postulant in the Diocese of Washington. Some people can't believe there is or ever could be such a combination. Clearly outnumbered, I look to The Washington Times for solid, honest reporting to balance the liberal media bias in this town and diocese.

Unfortunately, your oversight of this female success story makes me wonder if The Washington Times is up to the challenge particularly since it is in your own back yard.



Rep. Armey and the phantom lockbox

Regarding the item in the July 3 Inside Politics called "Armey razzes Daschle," House Majority Leader Dick Armey, as an economist, should know better than to trumpet the House-approved "lockbox" on Social Security and Medicare.

Any surplus funds not paid out for current benefits are used to retire public debt, and an IOU is placed in an accounting fiction called a "trust fund" that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, will have to be repaid.

There is no "lockbox," there is no trust, and there is no fund. We, the taxpayers, are on the hook for future benefits unless the whole system is reformed.

Mr. Armey should be ashamed of himself.


Hermosa Beach, Calif.

Stem cell controversy calls for leadership

Why does an ethical issue such as embryonic stem cell research pit conservatives such as Reps. J.C. Watts Jr. and Tom DeLay and House Majority Leader Dick Armey against Sens. Strom Thurmond and Orrin G. Hatch? Why is it driving White House advisers to the point of distraction, giving them the impossible task of striking a compromise between life and death?

At the root of the controversy over human embryonic stem cell research lies the profoundly simple yet often obscured truth that human life begins at fertilization. Absent a political or personal agenda, any objective observer of human development will easily identify the beginning of human life at the logically and biologically clear point of fertilization, when an individual's genetic makeup is complete and unique. Establishing the start of human life at any later point along the seamless continuum of human development whether it be a 14-day-old embryo, a viable fetus or a partially born baby is patently arbitrary and irrational.

Another straightforward yet often violated tenet of ethics and law that is at stake in this issue is that a person is any being of human origin. Our Declaration of Independence asserts that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." The developing human embryo, the Down syndrome baby, the Alzheimer's patient every human being created in God's image represents a life worthy of our honor and protection.

The embryonic stem cell issue also splits political lines because it invokes the temptation to compromise ethics on the basis of utilitarianism. In our passion to develop cures, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the utilitarian calculus, "How many will be hurt and how many might be helped?" often requires an unconscionable human subtrahend.

Rather than doing what is right and protecting all human life, the goal of utilitarians becomes minimizing the perceived value of those who will be hurt. Hence the emphasis on experimenting only on embryos that arguably will be discarded. Might as well put them to use, the utilitarians say.

Before adopting a utilitarian approach to research on human beings, however, we would do well to glance back at recent scientific history. An elite league of German scientists recently apologized officially for their organization's participation in unimaginably cruel medical experiments on Nazi concentration-camp prisoners. Addressing surviving victims during a June 7 gathering, Germany's Max Planck Society President Hubert Markl expressed "deepest regret, compassion and shame at the fact that crimes of this sort were committed, promoted, and not prevented within the ranks of German scientists." He confessed that leading German scientists "cooperated in the preparation of Nazi crimes, and they used them to pursue their scientific goals beyond every moral boundary of humanity."

How ironic that while Germans today emphatically eschew human embryo experimentation as reminiscent of the Nazi utilitarian ethic, American scientists are employing utilitarian arguments in clamoring for license to destroy human embryos.

Germany does not stand alone in repenting of its crimes against humanity in the name of science. In 1997, President Clinton formally apologized for an infamous government-sponsored human experiment on nearly 400 poor black Alabama sharecroppers. The unwitting human subjects suffered from syphilis while federally funded researchers working at Tuskegee Institute purposely denied them treatment. The calculated exploitation of a powerless minority furthered the utilitarian research aims of the U.S. Public Health Service.

When tempted by utilitarian research, we need to ask ourselves, "What kind of society do we want to live in?" Do we want a society in which human beings are vulnerable to destruction because no one wants them? Who will be next, and who will decide?

Or do we want to live in a society that values every individual not on the basis of features and benefits, but on the intrinsic merit of humanity and unconditional love?

The president's pending decision on embryonic stem cell research represents a watershed event not only for medical ethics, but for our society as well. This clash of conscience calls for moral statesmanship not political compromise. May the president use this opportunity to lead our nation in starting to build a culture of life.



The writer is senior policy analyst of the Christian Medical Association

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