- The Washington Times - Friday, September 27, 2002

Those campaign-finance reform blues

According to columnist Dick Boland, "the good thing about [the campaign finance reform law] is it will cut out a lot of political advertising 30 days prior to the election, which no one can object to" ("A high price for free speech," Commentary, Saturday).

Well, I can object to this law. The No. 1 reason we Americans have free speech is to voice our displeasure or pleasure with our political leadership. The McCain-Feingold restriction on free speech is exactly how a populace is controlled, not self-governed. When the information people can receive and the time when they can receive it is limited, they are controlled.

The voting public has the right to inform or be informed of every piece of information pertinent to a campaign. Under this new law, however, the only people able to pass on information at least 30 days before an election would be the candidates' spin doctors or the media itself.

Ideally, the more information sources there are, the easier it is to make informed decisions. Curtailing information sources limits the populace's ability to make the best electoral choices, and that is something to which I object.


JEFF TRAVIS

Chicago

The moral dimension of politics

Tod Lindberg makes a good point in his column "Hawks in a flock of candidates" (Op-Ed, Tuesday), which speaks to a tragic reality of life. That reality is that whenever a political leader destroys human life by attacking another country, he usually is rewarded with very high public approval ratings. Other politicians, valuing political power more than they do moral values or human life itself, feel that they have to support their leader in whatever he does and even promise to do the same if they ever find themselves under similar circumstances.

Tragically, this is the case even if the destruction of human life is unjustified from a moral standpoint. In other words, if President Bush kills thousands of his fellow human beings bombing Iraq even if they are not a direct and immediate threat to others (the only moral justification for killing human beings) he may have the political support for actions that properly would be considered mass murder if committed by others.

Even if it is politically justified, why do we continue to accept the incredibly dangerous and utterly immoral argument that political and military leaders and military personnel can commit crimes no one else is allowed to commit?


JOE ARMOUR

North Potomac

Sanctuary in a ring of fire

Thomas M. Bonnicksen, the so-called father of "restoration forestry," once again has gone to the media to criticize the Sierra Club ("'Fortress' mentality won't stop wildfires," Commentary, Tuesday).

This campaign of misinformation does not lend credibility to the Bush administration's insistence on logging the forests to save them. The administration and its political allies need to look to basic scientific research.

In drafting our Community Protection Fire Plan, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups consulted the same research used by the federal Firewise program and developed by the Forest Service Fire Research Lab. The science shows that quarter-mile zones around communities should be the priority for hazardous fuel reduction. As Jack Cohen, research scientist and manager of the Forest Service Fire Research Lab, says, "We can have high intensity wildland fires without necessarily having a residential fire disaster."

Despite the science, the administration insists on wasting time and money logging the large, fire-resistant trees the only ones profitable for the timber companies deep in the backcountry.

As the forest service struggles with decreased funding and increased fire risks, it makes sense for the agency to dedicate these limited resources to protecting communities.


JENNIFER FERENSTEIN

President

Sierra Club

Missoula, Mont.

The heart of Oregon's assisted-suicide controversy

The short article about Attorney General John Ashcroft's appeal in the Oregon assisted suicide case ("Ashcroft pursues ban on assisted suicide," American Scene, Tuesday) missed the point of the controversy. The only issue in Oregon vs. Ashcroft is whether Oregonian physicians can prescribe federally controlled substances for lethal overdoses to those who want to kill themselves.

The Drug Enforcement Administration in 1999 determined that prescribing fatal overdoses was not a use permitted under federal restrictions on narcotics. Former Attorney General Janet Reno overruled the DEA's determination during the Clinton administration, but Mr. Ashcroft restored it under President Bush.

Thus, this case is about federal drug laws, not Oregon's suicide statute. No provision in the DEA ruling prevents Oregonian physicians from prescribing rat poison or any other toxic substance to kill people, so long as the drug is not a federally controlled substance.

Oregon sued Mr. Ashcroft, not because he seeks to "strike down" Oregon's misguided law, but because Oregon believes its state policy should trump federal drug law. California tried that with "medical marijuana" and lost. Oregon's plea for "killer narcotics" should fare no better.


WALTER WEBER

Senior litigation counsel

American Center for Law and Justice

Washington

Maryland takes it nice and easy

F. Gary Garczynski, president of the National Association of Home Builders, is right that too many groups that say they are for "smart growth" are really for "no growth" ("'Smart growth' often means 'no growth,'" Letters, Sept. 9). From its inception, Maryland's Smart Growth initiative has supported growth, but only in those areas designated for growth and where the infrastructure and services are in place or planned to support it.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and other advocates of the Maryland Smart Growth initiative have urged environmental and other groups to support well-planned, well-designed and properly located new development. We have encouraged these groups and others to testify at public hearings in support of such projects.

If Smart Growth is to succeed, it is clear that we need more YIMBYs ("Yes, in my back yard") to counter the often parochial voice of NIMBYs ("Not in my back yard"). The Governor's Office of Smart Growth is trying to lead by example by appearing at public hearings and sending letters of support to local governments in favor of projects that are consistent with Smart Growth principles.

Maryland's population will jump from 5 million to 6 million during the next 20 years. The growth is going to come no matter what. The choice we face is whether to allow that growth to go anywhere and everywhere, as it has for the past half-century, or to do a better job planning for it. We certainly need to permanently protect some of our best remaining natural areas from encroaching development, but we also must find ways to encourage well-designed, more compact, mixed-use and infill development within the neighborhoods of our existing cities, towns and designated growth areas.

In many neighborhoods, infill can mean more convenience, with sufficient population to support local groceries, dry cleaners, pharmacies and coffee shops and more transportation choices, with enough people to support more frequent transit service and more destinations within walking distance. And, of course, houses must be built that working families can afford.

We agree with Mr. Garczynski's statement, "When we all share the land smartly, we all will be able to afford to live on it, enjoy it and benefit from its use for generations."


JOHN W. FRECE

Communications director

Governor's Office of Smart Growth

Annapolis


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