- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 3, 2002

Is it fair that Torricelli is off the hook while Traficant is off to prison?

Why is it that former Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. is sentenced to a federal penitentiary for eight years while Sen. Robert G. Torricelli gets only a letter of reprimand in his employment folder ("Ethics panel scolds Torricelli over gifts," Nation, Wednesday)?
One of the possible explanations for Mr. Traficant's conviction is that he incited the Justice Department's wrath by publicly ridiculing the department after he was acquitted at his first trial. Mr. Torricelli, on the other hand, hath no greater friend. He voted to confirm many of the senior members of the Justice Department, and he voted to elevate existing members to federal judgeships. He also was instrumental in confirming many U.S. attorneys.
Instead of accepting Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's allegation that Mr. Torricelli's problems stem from a GOP-led Justice Department, The Washington Times should take the Justice Department to court and demand that it turn over every document concerning the recent Federal Task Force on Campaign Contributions. Then The Times should ask for all the paperwork, including the prosecutor notes, relating to the part of this investigation handled by a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Mary Jo White, a Clinton appointee. Such legal action is reasonable because the allegations of bribe-taking against Mr. Torricelli were made during and investigated by the Clinton-era Justice Department. This may be why there never was a serious threat of indictment.

SEAN R. MCSHERRY
Chester, N.Y.The wrist-slapping given to Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, is a shameful, yet unsurprising move by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, an oxymoron on par with "jumbo shrimp." As if to add insult to injury, this verdict comes on the heels of the Senate's unanimous crackdown on "corporate greed," in which senators targeted (among other things) "stealth compensation" to officers and directors.
Mr. Torricelli's acceptance of "thousands of dollars" worth of gifts from imprisoned businessman David Chang is the very sort of behavior for which the Senate condemns possibly criminal CEOs. This arrogant, reckless and corrupt band of "corporate reformers" is the most in need of independent accountability.

SEAN E. NOONAN
Reston, Va.

Naval Academy modeled on Athens not Sparta

I have to disagree most vehemently with Maj. Daniel B. Streich's letter to the editor on Thursday ("Sissies on the Severn").
I also am a graduate of the Naval Academy (class of 1968). It is a long-standing tradition for our graduates to kid each other about how our plebe (freshman) year was the toughest ever and to say the academy obviously has gone downhill since we left. But such stories are mere tall tales my plebe year gets harder every year I tell a classmate about it. When asked what we really think, I and many other graduates say we could not be prouder of the academy's leadership under the commandant of midshipmen, Col. John R. Allen; superintendent, Adm. Richard J. McNaughton (a fellow classmate); and his predecessor, Adm. John Ryan. Today, the academy's outstanding professional-development program is far better organized than in our day and works to build individual and team performance through human dignity and bringing out the best in each midshipman, not trying to see how much someone can be put down. Modern warriors don't need to be humiliated and to play childish games to be tough. Our knowledge of motivation and leadership has moved beyond that. Maj. Streich may prefer the simplicity of Sparta, but the traditions of Athens which esteemed the warrior-scholar are best for the midshipmen. I can remember a lot of Mickey Mouse-type hazing in the mid-1960s that was supposed to build character. Unfortunately, what it did was reinforce immature behavior and bring out the sadistic impulses in some. Today's physical training program is tougher and produces better and more lasting results.
My message to your readers is that they can be proud of the fine Americans who enter the Navy through the academy. From looking at admissions statistics, I can see that today's midshipmen are easily our equals. From having had the chance to speak with many of them, I know they are as enthusiastic, dedicated and willing to give their all in service to their country.
The "good old days" die hard for some people. I wish I were 18 and starting Plebe Summer again. By the way, beat Army.

CAPT. TOM HOUGHTON
U.S. Naval Reserve, retired
Severna Park, Md.

'Jackal' sniffs contempt for miners

Wesley Pruden just about captured it all when he cited the disdain that press elitists had for those people in the mining communities who praised God, asked for His intervention and prayed for His mercy to ensure the rescue of the trapped miners ("Old-time religion at bottom of the mine," Pruden on Politics, Tuesday).
However, Mr. Pruden missed citing the most typical, mean-spirited, classist question of the post-rescue press conference. A snot-nosed reporter, who obviously detested these salt-of-the-earth, tobacco-chewing people, said, "Governor, we all know these people don't go to doctors regularly. How do you propose to keep them in the hospital for three days?"
If Gov. Mark Schweiker had not been so shellshocked after enduring 72 hours of life-or-death intensity, he would have caught the elitist tone of the "these people" remark and would have had the reporter shown the door by security. The guy is lucky Mr. Schweiker isn't like my own governor, Jesse Ventura, who suffers poorly the "jackals" in the press corps, as he calls them. A folding chair across the head, a body slam and a figure-four flourish would have been the correct response to that reporter's obnoxious question.

ED VIEHMAN
New Hope, Minn.

Health Act would be good for Pennsylvania, rest of U.S.

Kudos to the editorial board of the Times for calling attention to the medical professional liability insurance crisis ("Bush: catalyst for Nevada insurance reform," Wednesday).
The Nevada situation represents just the tip of an iceberg that has been threatening Pennsylvania for nearly two years. Last December, the imminent shutdown of several Philadelphia trauma centers was averted only when Gov. Mark Schweiker acted decisively to extend a deadline for hospitals to pay into the state-run medical catastrophe loss fund (Cat Fund).
Subsequently, the governor advocated for and signed into law two bills that, among other things, phase out the Cat Fund (which has a $2 billion-plus unfunded liability) and enact other tort reforms.
These state-level solutions are common-sense measures that preserve a plaintiff's right to collect damages while bringing fairness, balance and stability to Pennsylvania's liability insurance system.
Unfortunately, as evidenced by recent news coverage from Florida, Mississippi and New Jersey, among others, this is a crisis of national scope that requires federal action as well.
President Bush's call for reform comes on the heels of the recent introduction of H.R. 4600, the Health Act of 2002, by our own Rep. Jim Greenwood, who represents Pennsylvania's 8th Congressional District.
The Health Act includes provisions that would place a reasonable cap on noneconomic damages, establish criteria for awarding punitive damages, eliminate joint and several liability, and institute a sliding scale for attorneys' fees that would assure that the primary beneficiaries of damage awards are injured patients, not the trial bar.
The Health Act will keep doctors practicing, hospital services open and patients healthy. At stake is nothing less than the preservation of Americans' access to the world's best health care.

CAROLYN F. SCANLAN
President and CEO
Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania
Harrisburg, Pa.


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