- The Washington Times - Monday, July 22, 2002

Public civility does not hinge on one derogatory word

The resolution to discourage use of the racial epithet "nigger," sponsored by Baltimore City Council member Melvin Stukes and adopted unanimously, is unquestionably laudable ("Council seeks to end use of racial epithet," Metro, Wednesday).However, would it not have been even more laudable to urge the good people of Baltimore, and, indeed, all good people everywhere, to refrain from using derogatory epithets in general, not simply the one Mr. Stukes finds particularly offensive? After all, racial slurs such as "white trash," "redneck" and "honky" also are common parlance among blacks who call each other the "n word." What about the particularly odious and sexually demeaning term "ho," used so flippantly by rappers and those who mimic their idiom to describe women? For that matter, it would have a salutary effect on public civility in Baltimore and elsewhere if those towhomthe resolution is targeted would refrain from using what appears to be one of their most popular epithets (for decency's sake, suffice it to say it's King's English with a matronly twist).
To begenuinely effective, people of good will such as Mr. Stukes must address society at large, not simply targeted racial or cultural groups.

Florence, Ala.

An infectious muppet to the rescue

The Washington Times reports that the South African version of "Sesame Street" will introduce a cuddly, HIV-positive Muppet that children can "touch and interact with" ("No HIV Muppet for 'Sesame Street,'" July 17). Unfortunately, the article raises more questions than it presumes to answer.

Some 4.7 million South Africans one in nine are HIV positive. More than 10 million black African children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. Their tragic plight merits the compassion of all Americans.

The introduction, however, of an HIV-positive female Muppet on South African television may obscure the fundamental cause of AIDS rampant promiscuity and the most effective way to combat it. The children who watch "Sesame Street" will not be told why or how people get AIDS, much less how the dreaded infection can be avoided.

Further, South African President Thabo Mbeki has said that it is "demeaning" and "insulting" to Africans even to suggest that sexual promiscuity spreads the HIV virus. In its lengthy story on the recent International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, The Washington Post did not even mention the word promiscuity.

The United States should be commended for providing medication to AIDS victims worldwide, but as long as the media and politicians fail to acknowledge the basic cause of AIDS and shirk calling for a change in sexual behavior, the epidemic will not go away, Muppet or no Muppet.


Senior Fellow

Ethics and Public Policy Center


Lines were tangled in telecom repartee

I appreciate the opportunity to reply to letters by Charlie Black ("President, not columnist, has right plan for tech sector," July 16) and Russell Frisby ("Deregulating telecoms will encourage monopolies," July 15), which were critical of my July 10 Commentary column, "Reviving the tech sector."

While my article focused on four areas broadband deployment, digital piracy and copyright issues, wireless spectrum deployment, and privacy regulation Mr. Black's and Mr. Frisby's complaints are directed at broadband, where both find my views too deregulatory.

Mr. Frisby, who heads an association of companies that compete with the Bell companies, naturally wants to preserve the current regulations, which allow his members to lease lines from the Bells at prices set by the Federal Communications Commission. He says the FCC's prices "allow the Bell companies to collect their cost plus a reasonable profit." However, the "cost" the FCC uses is not the actual cost of building and running the network, but instead the hypothetical cost of building a brand-new network in a perfect world in which there is no embedded infrastructure and no investment risk. Such prices might indeed produce hypothetical profits, but in the real world, "cost" means what you paid for it, and profits happen only when you sell it for more.

Mr. Frisby's claim that these rules don't affect investment runs counter to the conclusions of the vast majority of market-oriented economists. As Progress & Freedom Foundation scholars Larry Darby and Randy May put it in a recent filing with the FCC, economic analysis leads to the "unequivocal conclusion that forcing firms to sell output at a loss reduces their incentive to risk scarce capital to build facilities for producing that output."

As for Mr. Black, he and other Republicans representing AT&T; have foisted upon the Bush White House the bizarre strategy of embracing the disastrous industrial policies advocated by Al Gore and put in place by the Clinton FCC. As FCC Chairman Michael Powell put it recently, the Clinton FCC erred by "encouraging the formation of hundreds of Bell competitors without realizing how few of them would ultimately be able to survive." In blatantly Orwellian fashion, Mr. Black tells us that deregulation is really "federal meddling" and that eliminating the Clinton-Gore industrial policy is "industrial policy." As a political consultant, Mr. Black can be forgiven for not understanding telecom policy; as hired help for AT&T;, he can be forgiven for doing his client's bidding. But it's hard to understand how, as a Republican, he can feel comfortable wrapping former President Bill Clinton's disastrous telecom policies around President Bush's neck.



Progress & Freedom Foundation


JDs vs. MDs

Wednesday's editorial "Trial lawyers and the terrorist threat" is at best misdirected and at worst disingenuous. Damages in medical malpractice are designed to give the medical community an incentive to improve the quality of care as well as to compensate the victims.

The instances of medical malpractice I have read about are not cases of runaway juries giving away millions after being duped by smooth-talking lawyers. Rather, they involve situations in which doctors, other medical personnel and health care providers made egregious professional errors that caused death, disfigurement and disability to human beings.

The judicial system has built-in rules to guard against jury verdicts that are excessive or fly in the face of the evidence. For example, regarding the former, New York's Civil Practice Law and Rules (subsection 5501(c)) instructs courts to decide whether the jury's verdict "deviates materially from what would be reasonable compensation." Regarding the latter, Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows the judge to overrule verdicts that are not in accord with the evidence.

The medical profession has done a less-than-rigorous job of policing its own ranks. Yes, it does some policing, and yes, continuing medical education is required. But clearly, it is not doing the job well enough. Yet, instead of prodding the medical profession to develop innovative ways of increasing the quality of care, The Times gave us lawyer bashing. Because lawyers are not causing poor care, having The Times take this approach doesn't help solve the underlying problem. Rather than simply parroting the medical community's spin on this issue, The Times should try thinking outside the box. Such thinking wouldn't lead to "tort reform" or "insurance reform." It would lead to medical reform.


Rock Island, Ill.

"Trial lawyers and the terrorist threat" aptly describes the problem of run-away medical malpractice suits, but not the solution. I take issue with The Times' editorial position: "At a minimum, it's time that the medical community gets serious about carving out some form of war or terrorism-related exemption." Expecting doctors to fix the litigation-induced reduction of medical services is futile because doctors are not the cause of the problem.

Doctors in Nevada and the other states where malpractice litigation is out of control are no more incompetent than doctors in other states. The litigation-loving citizens of those states have created their own crisis by allowing lawsuits against any doctor for any reason.

Do the people of Las Vegas and its environs want life-saving trauma care? Let them enact tort reform. Then maybe doctors will feel safe enough to serve them again.


Upland, Calif.

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