- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2002

Courting illegitimacy in New Jersey

The Republican Party has justifiably asked the U.S. Supreme Court ("Republicans move to block Torricelli-Lautenberg switch," Nation, Friday) to step in and stay the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision to ignore clearly written state law and approve the Democratic Party's transparent ploy to cheat voters of their basic rights by allowing a losing Senate candidate to be replaced on a whim after the legislated deadline.
Article I, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution clearly delegates to state legislatures, not state courts, the authority over the "times, places and manner" of elections for U.S. senators and congressmen. And the law as written by the New Jersey legislature, the elected representatives of the people, clearly states that selecting a replacement candidate shall be made not later than the 51st day preceding the date of the general election.
How can the New Jersey Supreme Court "liberally construe," as they put it, this precise deadline? Which part of "not later than the 51st day" was unclear to them? Will drivers in New Jersey be allowed to "liberally construe" the speed limit? Can New Jersey Republicans dump their candidate, Doug Forrester, in favor of a heavy-hitter like popular former Gov. Tom Kean?
How do we know that if the 78-year-old substitute candidate Frank Lautenberg is allowed to run and wins, he will serve out a full term and not profess health problems and resign, letting the Democratic Gov. James E. McGreevey, who has eyes on the Senate himself, appoint a much younger replacement.
The national Democratic Party finds itself in the position of trying to keep a dead congresswoman, Patsy Mink of Hawaii, on the ballot, while trying to get a live senator, Mr. Torricelli, off. The end justifies any means.
Democrats' attorneys argue that after the Torricelli bait-and-switch, the right of voters to have a meaningful choice trumps any "arbitrary" deadline. But they had a meaningful choice, and the Democratic bigwigs just didn't like the choice voters were making. Welcome to Third World elections, America.


Amtrak criticism on the wrong track

Christopher Gleason ("Looking beyond Amtrak," Commentary, Friday) blames Amtrak's woes on a "culture problem." He even blames the recent deaths of passengers on Amtrak when, contrary to the best information available, evidence clearly suggests problems in freight railroad's maintenance procedures and not in any "dysfunctionality" on the part of Amtrak. Other deaths have resulted primarily from vehicles running into the trains' right-of-way at crossings. One tragedy even resulted from a barge wrecking a bridge.
In the most recent accidents, though, rail maintenance was being performed by and for one of the many "private" railroads that used to operate their own passenger trains until generous government subsidies to their highway and air competitors made it impossible to make a profit or break even.
It was they who begged the government to bail them out and resulted in the need for Amtrak in the first place.
As with most of these privatization gurus, Mr. Gleason is blind to the vast subsidies to these government-preferred means of transportation and how they have warped and distorted transportation and energy policy, thereby skewing the ability of market forces to properly function. He seems to be blind to the 40,000 highway deaths each year, the danger and indignities foisted on those of us who must fly, and probably most important, to the threats and costs to our national security posed by our overreliance on the oil-dependent highway and air modes. Where does he think those terrorists got their money and rage, anyway?
As an Amtrak passenger, long and short distance, since the gas crises of the 1970s, I have been amazed at the level of service Amtrak has been able to muster, despite woeful underfunding, while a transportation funding policy so unquestioningly and enthusiastically showers billions on highways and air.


Treating a man as a minor

I know of a young boy who was 17 years old. A poor high school dropout, he joined an armed and aggressive organization. This boy was ready to fight and, if need be, die. I know for a fact that that 17-year-old boy became a man the minute he decided to do this. He knew exactly what he was doing and why, and eventually he did fight and prevail against armed adversaries for a total of three years.
To say that 19-year-old John Walker Lindh was just a boy and did not know what he was doing is a lie that transcends ignorance no matter who utters it or prints it or decides it in a court of law.
Lindh did not get a jury of his peers (young military personnel). Had he, he most assuredly would not have gotten off so lightly. In fact, he most likely would have and, in my opinion, should have faced a firing squad. At a minimum, he was guilty by association of armed aggression against the United States, and also guilty by association of murder of every military person who lost his life no matter how that life was lost in Afghanistan, and that includes CIA agent Johnny "Mike" Spann.
The judge who accepted the plea bargain is also guilty of aiding and abetting Lindh. Along with him, his superliberal parents also should have received a minimum of 20 years incarceration each, but, alas, there is no law against very poor parenting and ignorance.
Who was that 17-year-old boy spoken of above? Me.

Army (retired)
Waynesville, Mo.

Applying market principles to drug policy

The environmental devastation described in "Coca snuffs out Peru forest" (World, Sept. 30) is a direct result of U.S. drug policy in South America. In an effort to eradicate coca crops, toxic herbicides are sprayed from above, hitting water supplies, staple crops and people. Aerial eradication campaigns drive peasants deeper into the Amazon basin, which in turn leads to more deforestation. If South America's rain forests are to survive, the self-professed champions of the free market in Congress had better learn to apply basic economic principles to drug policy.
As long as there is a demand for drugs, there will be a supply. Destroy the Colombian coca crop, and production will boom in neighboring Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. Destroy every last plant in South America, and domestic methamphetamine production will increase to meet the demand for cocaine-like drugs. Instead of wasting billions of tax dollars on a futile supply-side war abroad, we should be funding cost-effective drug treatment here at home.

Program officer
Drug Policy Alliance

An ultimatum to Iraq

As reported in Friday's Page One article, "Weapons inspector seeks to delay work until U.N. OKs Iraq resolution," Iraq is hesitant to allow access to Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces. In fact, Iraqi diplomats are trying to make four palace complexes completely off limits to unannounced U.N. inspections.
To breach this obstacle, why doesn't the United States just level the palaces with missiles after giving Baghdad a 24-hour ultimatum? Then the White House could simply say to Saddam's regime: "OK, the palaces are now off the table. Is there anything else you don't want inspected?"
This strategy might save American lives by signaling that we mean business, thereby averting an all-out war. Besides, if we suspect Iraq is storing chemical weapons in the palaces, they will likely be the first buildings destroyed in any invasion led by U.S. troops.


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