- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 23, 2003

Consider the source

Wednesday’s Inside the Beltway column references the workshop Flirt, Date, Score — which you refer to as “flirting classes” — but it was not paid for by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the column claims. Designed to help men learn communication skills that will help them ensure that potential partners are equally committed to having safer sex — or to reject partners whose standards don’t meet their own — the workshop is based on sound behavioral models and has been fully approved by our local review panel. I think it is appropriate for you to run a correction regarding these important clarifications.

Moreover, Michael Petrelis — a man who has been sentenced to mandatory anger management counseling and still has restraining orders against him for having made threatening phone calls to public health officials — is hardly a reliable source for information, and the fact that Inside the Beltway would rate him a “stringer” is an insult to fair and balanced news gathering.

SHANA NAOMI KROCHMAL

Director

Communications & Public Affairs

STOP AIDS Project

San Francisco

In defense of Gen. Clark

I found Paul Greenberg’s politically motivated attack on Gen. Wesley Clark (“The new Wesley Clark,” Commentary, Friday), a man who proudly served his country in the military for 34 years, to be disrespectful and inappropriate for publication. As the supreme allied commander of NATO in charge of the Kosovo campaign, Gen. Clark had stared down a dictator.

Gen. Clark was also able to achieve his mission without a single American casualty. Gen. Clark’s point, which Mr. Greenberg ignores in his thoughtless attack, is that democracy demands accountability. When the president of the United States tells us that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and none materialize, it is our duty as American citizens to hold him accountable. Accountability of public officials is one of the fundamental principles on which our nation is based.

As a retired four-star general, Gen. Clark is profoundly aware of the hardships faced by American troops. Almost half of our military is now stranded in Iraq with no end in sight. It is not unsupportive for Gen. Clark to show concern for the situation of our soldiers who will be away from their families and under attack for a long time to come.

It is Mr. Greenberg, who, for political purposes, ignores the problems faced by our young men and women in Iraq whose patriotism is in question.

ITAI SHER

Chicago

Excuse the Excursion

Jeff Johnston is certainly impressed by size. In his Auto Weekend article about the Ford Excursion (“Motor Matters,” Aug. 15), he uses the word big or a similar word 12 times to describe this automobile. While it probably is a suitable vehicle for the few who actually haul a trailer, potential buyers could be swayed by his bigger-is-better philosophy.

He does a disservice, however, to those buyers by attempting to make the Excursion (and other such vehicles) something it’s not. According to Consumer Reports: (1) Excursion is not environmentally friendly — it gets 6 miles per gallon in the city, so even if it meets California emission standards, it burns four times the fuel of smaller vehicles, making it quite dirty, indeed; (2) despite his claim that it has bigger brakes that give him an “extra margin of safety,” he neglects to mention that it weighs 7,270 pounds and simple physics makes it an unacceptable vehicle in Consumers Union brake tests; (3) his “firm, well-controlled ride” that is “a joy to guide down the road” is, according to CU, “a stiff, bounding ride, [with] huge bulk, and lack of maneuverability [that] make driving it a chore.” Other sources support this data.

Mr. Johnston believes that “zealots” who dislike such vehicles are selective in their opposition to them. He’s not listening, or he doesn’t get it. Many thoughtful people are opposed to a tax structure that gives huge breaks for the purchase of these vehicles and others like them; they’re opposed to safety and fuel economy standards that apply to cars but not vans, sport utility vehicles and trucks. These folks want a level playing field upon which to compare vehicles, and they dislike tax breaks for the wealthy disguised as tax “incentives” for business.

Ford still would produce the Excursion if a market were there. It’s not. The real zealot is Jeff Johnston.

BRIAN HOLLEN

Leesburg, Va.

Forever hold your peace

The Roman Catholic priests in Milwaukee who are campaigning to be allowed to marry may be overlooking many practical problems if celibacy is made optional (“Milwaukee priests urge marriage be allowed for clergy,” Nation, Wednesday).

Millions more dollars would be required to support clergy families. A huge capital investment would be required for family housing, with provision for more capital expenditures as families grow.

Still millions more would be required for family operating expenses: clothing, food, entertainment, tuition, health care, etc. Optional celibacy could not be a decision by clerics only, as the laity would have a huge financial stake in optional celibacy.

The church’s ability to help the poor would be reduced, as so many more millions would be diverted to supporting priests.

Even more troubling are the scheduling and priority conflicts that would occur between family events and church duties. It would require additional priests (with even more of a financial commitment by the laity) just to provide the service level priests are providing now.

For example, priests with large families whose wives became incapacitated would have a difficult time caring for their families and performing their priestly duties.

Perhaps the most significant problem would be that the priesthood would be seriously compromised because a priest would not be able to devote his entire life to drawing others closer to God and helping them spread God’s love throughout society.

JOHN NAUGHTON

Silver Spring

Hospitals and inspections

A few words are in order concerning the problems Greater Southeast Community Hospital is having in being accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (“D.C. hospital vows to stave off closure,” Page 1, Wednesday).

Although I am not familiar with Greater Southeast, I am all too familiar with the joint commission. I am in favor of inspections that ensure the patient of competent care, but the joint commission has a history of carrying it to nit picking extremes in its search for irrelevant inadequacies.

In 30 years as a respiratory therapist in Missouri, many of them as a department head, I endured many inspections by the joint commission and found them to be extremely inconsistent. In some cases, changes in policies or procedures were made to comply with their recommendations, only to have those changes faulted in the next inspection and for us to be told that we should be doing what we were criticized for previously. In one case, the inspector spent all of 10 seconds leafing through my department’s procedure manual — he could not have possibly determined anything more than that it was, in fact, a procedure manual. In his report, I was faulted for not having certain information in it that, had he actually looked, he would have seen was there. At one time, a physician on the inspection team published a book that, at more than $100 a copy, told specifically what he was seeking. Hospitals due to be inspected snapped these up. He updated it annually to ensure continuing sales.

Before condemning Greater Southeast Community Hospital, a thorough examination of the joint commission’s report should be made to determine if the hospital is, indeed, deficient.

CHARLES R. RABAS

Buckner, Mo.

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