- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2002

Sissies on the Severn

Nothing I have read yet so perfectly illustrates the depths to which the U.S. Naval Academy has sunk ("Naval Academy considers plebes' dignity," Metro, Monday).

What was once "Sparta on the Severn River" has become a government-funded day care facility for other people's "children." One needs no further proof of the woeful influence of career ambition than to read the article's quotes by the commandant of midshipmen, Marine Corps Col. John R. Allen. Apparently his real role is to make a convincing impersonation of Mister Rogers at the new and sensitive Naval Academy, where, as he said, "We never want to denigrate someone, robbing them of their dignity." So instead of "Drop and give me twenty!" it's now "Please write me an essay on being an American."

Such antics continue at a time when implacable hatred has been displayed by this country's enemies. Instead of teaching our future military officers to make war, Col. Allen and the academy leadership insist on teaching them to make nice. Instead of teaching midshipmen physical and mental toughness, they're concerned with sensitivity training and self-esteem. If it weren't so pernicious, it would be merely absurd.

The Academy's fate was sealed the moment female cadets walked through the door in 1976. Indeed, it is the logical progression of the feminization of the Naval Academy, aided and abetted by career officers who see their "star" as dependent upon their self-abasement before the politically correct. I suspect prospects of promotion have somewhat altered Col. Allen's perspective from the time when he served as the second lieutenant of a Marine infantry platoon.

I am ashamed of the Naval Academy, ashamed of ever darkening the door of the place and doubly ashamed that a Marine Corps officer is partly responsible for such absurdity.


U.S. Marine Corps (retired)

U.S. Naval Academy, class of '79

Fairfax, Va.

Today Big Tobacco, tomorrow Big Mac

Columnist Jonah Goldberg, after calling me "a leading anti-smoking zealot," scoffs at my prediction that "obesity lawsuits will be the wave of the future" ("Fat chance: Food cops are closing in," Commentary, Friday). Ironically, in an Op-Ed column yesterday, Grover Norquist and Emily Sedgwick worry that such lawsuits will be the wave of the future ("Big fat attack"). Let's deal first with the scoffing.

Pundits and even legal experts laughed when the first smoker suits were filed, but my colleagues are routinely winning multimillion-dollar verdicts. Commentators scoffed when nonsmokers sued Big Tobacco, but we already have won more than $300 million, and the individual suits go on. When lawyers sued Big Tobacco on behalf of states to recover tobacco-related health costs, everyone called them crazy. Today we call them multimillionaires because they have won more than $250 billion.

Perhaps the best judges of the potential for these lawsuits are the fast-food companies. McDonald's just paid $12.5 million to settle a fat-fraud lawsuit my law students helped bring a settlement that already has encouraged at least four additional class-action lawsuits. The industry is already responding with major attack ads and with a campaign warning people not to eat too much fast food sure signs that it is taking these lawsuits very seriously.

And so it should. Just as with Big Tobacco, we don't argue that the plaintiffs have no personal responsibility only that companies that heavily promote and don't provide adequate warnings about products that cost American taxpayers more than $100 billion a year in health-related costs should bear some of the responsibility and that to exercise their personal responsibility, consumers need the same clear and conspicuous disclosure of calories and fat content in fast foods that we enjoy and use regarding food purchased in stores. For answers to Mr. Norquist and Miss Sedgwick's many other arguments, please see my Web site (https://banzhaf.net/obesitylinks).


Professor of public interest law

George Washington University Law School


Patriot missiles are the last line of defense

Federation of American Scientists analyst Josh Kellar has accused me of putting our servicemen at risk by giving in my Tuesday Op-Ed column, "Selling Arrows to the Indians" an inflated view of the performance of our Patriot anti-ballistic missile batteries during the Gulf war ("Patriot raises unrealistic hopes," Letters, yesterday). Mr. Kellar must not have read or understood my column. It was about the desirability of destroying roguish ballistic missiles while they are still on the rise, in the rogue's back yard, rather than waiting for them to come crashing down on our Patriot batteries.

As to Mr. Kellar's charge, he must know that the warhead remains attached to the Scud liquid-fueled ballistic missile throughout its flight. In order to give the Scud the necessary range, the Iraqis added more fuel at the expense of payload. Hence, the missile was dynamically unstable, and many of them broke into at least two pieces on re-entry into the atmosphere. Our Patriot batteries were then presented with a problem: which piece to intercept? I merely reported my understanding that we were able to "intercept" over Israel almost all the incoming Scuds. I have no idea how many warheads we actually were able to destroy. Nor, I suspect, does Mr. Kellar.


Arlington, Va.

Abstitence paper pregnant with shaky 'facts'

;I read with disappointment Edwin Feulner's column on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs ("Safe sex: Time to abstain," Commentary, Tuesday). Mr. Feulner accepts as fact a paper by Robert Rector a paper that contains misinformation that demands clarification.

Mr. Rector's paper describes 10 "successful" abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. However, there is no credible evidence to support the claims of success. None of the programs examined in his paper had evaluations strong enough for inclusion in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, excepting Postponing Sexual Involvement (PSI), which was not an abstinence-only program when evaluated. PSI was a sex-education program complemented by information on contraception. In fact, when California tried to replicate PSI in its Education Now and Babies Later program without the contraceptive component, the program failed miserably. In addition, two of the programs in Mr. Rector's paper, Teen Aid and the Virginity Pledge Program, were counted twice.

A good illustration of the misinformation presented by Mr. Rector comes from researcher Peter Bearman, whose article on virginity pledges is quoted. Mr. Bearman states: "There is no long-term benefit to pledging in terms of pregnancy reduction, unless pledgers use contraception at first intercourse. Therefore it seems obvious to me that all adolescents should learn how to protect themselves. This is a finding [Mr. Rector] did not report."

Responsible sex education stresses abstinence but also includes age-appropriate information about the health benefits of contraception and condoms. In this era of HIV/AIDS, it is imperative that all young people whether sexually active or abstinent have the necessary information to protect their health and their lives.



Advocates for Youth


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