- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2002

An Aussie for America

The article "Australians rethink U.S. support" (World, Saturday) was somewhat off-beam.

While Australians in the aftermath of the Bali bombing on Oct. 12 our very own September 11 naturally look first to our own homeland defense, we are quite aware of the fact that al Qaeda and Jemma Islamiya are all different heads of the same virulent, anti-Christian snake.

While the material capacity of the Australian people to wage a just war is somewhat limited unlike that of the United States it is not limited in spirit. Our country, whose population is less than that of California, has troops fighting for and defending peace in East Timor, the Sinai, Afghanistan and in the Persian Gulf.

It is clear that our involvement in Iraq, should there be war, would indeed stretch our limited resources. Most Australians nevertheless think a contribution to the war on terror is what separates us from America's "allies" in Europe. A contribution no matter how big or how small is what defines us morally, spiritually and historically. And contribute we will.


Darling Point

New South Wales, Australia

Defending the Bush welfare-reform plan

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, claims in "Disconnected dots on welfare reform?" (Commentary, Oct. 8) that there is a growing disconnect between what President Bush says regarding welfare reform and what his administration is proposing. However, Mr. Cardin leaves out several crucial details of the administration's plan, most of which was passed by the House in May.

Mr. Cardin claims that the administration's plan imposes a "one size fits all" approach that would limit state and local decision-making flexibility. On the contrary, the administration's plan would build upon and expand the flexibility that states already have. This would be achieved in part through federal "superwaivers," which would allow governors to combine programs from as many as five federal agencies in order to target more effectively those who need help the most.

Mr. Cardin also says that under the proposal, states would be forced to place welfare recipients in "make-work" rather than in "real" jobs. In fact, recipients would be required to participate fully in the program for 40 hours each week. On-the-job training and other structured activities designed to help people move from welfare to work do not seem like "make-work" undertakings. Rather, they are essential prerequisites to meaningful work and the pride and independence that comes with it.

Finally, Mr. Cardin charges that the administration has "failed" to provide enough funds for child care. In the past decade, total child-care spending has gone from $1 billion to more than $10 billion annually, an overall increase of 1,000 percent. Conversely, the number of people on welfare has dropped by more than 50 percent in five years. Therefore, President Bush, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and I believe that the proposed funding is adequate to meet the need.


Assistant Secretary for Children and Families

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Going ballistic?

As Jacob Sullum addressed in "Ballistic fingerprint resistance" (Commentary, yesterday), there has been much in the news lately about a law enforcement tool called "ballistic fingerprinting." Proponents say that if a nationwide ballistic fingerprint database were implemented, it could be used to apprehend a criminal such as the Washington-area sniper.

Yet ballistic fingerprinting is useful only when a murder suspect has a firearm in his possession that matches the caliber of the bullet recovered from a murder victim. The firearm from the suspect is usually fired into a barrel of liquid and the fired bullet and or cartridge case is then compared on a microscopic level with any evidence recovered from the scene or the victim.

Nowadays, many people erroneously believe that firearms can be "fingerprinted" and placed into a national database that would document more than 200 million firearms and nearly 80 million law-abiding gun owners. The process is only useful when comparing a suspect's firearm to recovered evidence in a crime and is unreliable and subject to a host of errors, when considering a statewide or nationwide database of this information.

Over time and use, the markings left on a bullet from the barrel's rifling will change. The markings left on a bullet can be altered by purposefully damaging the inside of the barrel. Every aspect of ballistic fingerprinting can be deliberately altered and will change over time.

The markings left on a cartridge case also will change over time and use. Besides that, the case ejector and firing pin can be replaced without too much difficulty. Many have tried to place this issue on a par with real fingerprinting, and this is simply not the case.

When this issue comes to legislatures around the country, it is important for constituents to realize that the ballistic fingerprinting issue will only result in de facto firearm and gun owner registration and will not be of any real use to law enforcement in solving crimes without suspects.

I encourage those who are interested in this issue to thoroughly investigate it and not simply rely on the media, politicians or anti-gun groups that depend upon misinformation and lies to further their agenda.




Taunton, Mass.

'National pastime' is past its prime

Baseball, once "the national pastime," once again has taken it on the chin. As a boy in grammar school, I fondly remember how the Irish Christian Brothers who taught us would bring a radio into the classroom so we could all keep up with the long-gone afternoon World Series games.

Now I open yesterday's edition of The Washington Times to discover that no box score providing statistics for game two of the current World Series accompanies The Times' coverage. There is, however, a sizable box devoted to "Redskins stats."



Wrong address

Just two days ago in my art history class at Hood College, I cautioned my students against confusing the fifth century B.C. Parthenon in Athens with the second century A.D. Pantheon in Rome. That's what a reporter, whose article originally ran in the Charlottesville Daily Progress, did in "Dome home seen 'sweet': Energy-efficient retreat has roots in old concept the Parthenon" (Metro, Saturday).

A Parthenon-inspired home would resemble the Lincoln Memorial, a rectangular, flat-roofed structure supported by columns. Attractive but not very innovative, with limited interior space.

The Rosholdts' home has its roots, instead, in the great domed rotunda of the Roman Pantheon. The Pantheon was the direct inspiration as well for William Thornton's original design for the U.S. Capitol, Thomas Jefferson's rotunda at the University of Virginia, and John Russell Pope's Jefferson Memorial at the Tidal Basin.

The genius of the Pantheon and why it continues to inspire modern designers is the engineering feat of constructing in concrete a monumental, unobstructed interior space under a gigantic dome.

The question is, does the Rosholdts' home, like the Pantheon, have an oculus or hole in the dome that invites sunlight (and in Roman times the sun god) to flood into the interior like a giant solar lamp? From the description of the house as "an enormous cave," it would seem not.


Rockville, Md.

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