- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 9, 2003

No evidence of Iraqi threat

I must take exception to Thursday's editorial, "Smoking intercepts." It does not answer just how Iraq presents "a lethal threat to the United States." This is simply an unfounded assertion, and I believe that such statements do a disservice to this country by whipping up war fever.
All that is true is that Iraq does not like the United States. Then again, so do a lot of other countries. Some even have mustard gas and germ bombs. Yet, we are not prepared to invade any of them even North Korea, which openly flouts international agreements and pursues a nuclear weapons program.
Also, it strikes me as a little odd for the editorial to place such faith in "the revelation of a senior al Qaeda operative now in custody." Come on, the man is unnamed, trying to find a way out of jail and perhaps trying to curry favor disingenuously. Of course, these are assumptions I am making, but they are no less assumptions than those made by your newspaper and others.
There's an all-important question here. Based on all the assumptions in the editorial, and even presuming they are mostly correct, do they truly warrant killing 260,000 people, an estimate of the number of Iraqis who could be killed in event of a U.S.-launched war, all in the service of eliminating one man, Saddam Hussein? Is all of this killing what The Washington Times wants?


MADD about drunk driving

Steve Chapman's column "Drunk driving collision" (Commentary, Jan. 25) ignores the rights of taxpaying citizens to drive on public roadways without the threat of being run down or maimed by a drunken driver.
After years of battling politics in state legislatures, Congress in 2000 passed the federal law setting the drunken-driving limit at .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and for good reason. The .08 BAC law is a reasonable, commonsense law that has been proved to save lives. The federal law requires states to adopt this standard or lose highway funding. To date, 17 states have not yet changed their BAC standard accordingly.
It takes a lot of alcohol to reach .08 BAC. You will not reach a .08 BAC level by just drinking a beer or a glass of wine with dinner. An average 170-pound man must have more than four drinks in one hour on an empty stomach, and a 137-pound woman must have about three drinks in an hour on an empty stomach to reach a .08 BAC. This is not social drinking.
Regardless of how many drinks it takes to reach .08, everyone is impaired at that level. Critical driving skills, including attention, speed control, judgment and reaction time, are affected. A driver's risk of being killed in a crash at .08 is at least 11 times that of drivers without alcohol in their systems.
Studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show a 6 percent to 8 percent reduction in alcohol-related traffic deaths in states following the passage of .08 BAC. A 2001 CDC study showed a 7 percent decrease in alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities in states that implemented a .08 limit.
If every state passed .08 BAC, about 500 lives a year would be saved.
When one considers the more than $114 billion annual cost of alcohol-related traffic crashes to society, including economic and human losses, the issue becomes even clearer as to why it is necessary for the federal government to enforce sanctions against states in order to prevent death, injury and exorbitant costs that are carried over to every taxpayer.
When others make choices that endanger the lives of everyone else, there should be penalties. If the public can accept the government's regulation of other, more statistically safe modes of transportation such as airline travel, highway safety makes even more sense. Each year, Americans travel more than 2.5 trillion miles on the roadways, and during that time, more than 17,000 alcohol-related traffic deaths and half-a-million injuries occur.
Drunken driving knows no boundaries, so it is imperative that states follow Congress' lead and bridge the gap to pass .08 BAC legislation. The right to be safe on our roadways is more important than squabbling over who sets the safety standards.

National president
Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Irving, Texas

Taking the tax-and-spenders to task

To achieve the kind of fiscally responsible climate that Grover Norquist advocates in his column "Don't mess with taxes" (Op-Ed, Tuesday), one has to deal with one of the tax-and-spend crowd's favorite ploys: proposing the elimination of the most popular and important state programs as the only alternatives to tax increases.
A recent example of this is the proposal by Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski to reduce the state's school week to four days. This presents the voters with a false choice, but the tactic is often effective because it is not rebutted. The result is often voter acquiescence to higher taxes.
To avert this outcome, those who favor fiscal restraint should mount a vigorous campaign to make it clear to the administration and the public that failure of the governor to find any but the most painful cuts in programs proves him to be incompetent and the wrong man for the job.
If that doesn't work, a recall petition might be in order.


Poetic license

After reading Andrew Sullivan's the Weekly Dish Op-Ed column Friday, I visited poetsagainstthewar.org. The Web site is filled with the usual (although particularly hateful) diatribes against President Bush. What struck me was that, at a site created by people for whom the First Amendment is sacred, there is no place for anyone to post any sort of response to their poems. The only way to enter any feedback is to submit a poem and, of course, as the submission rules state: "All poems must be against the war; no pro-war poems, no hate-filled poems, no obscene poems will be published."
The political left's well-chronicled intolerance for dissenting opinions is again exposed. And how about all the hate-filled poems about Mr. Bush? Oh, I get it, that must be "good" hate.

Malvern, Pa.

Malpractice reform good for elderly, taxpayers

The article, "GOP senators promise to cap physicians' liability premiums" (Nation, Wednesday), underscores the fact that two of our Pennsylvania lawmakers Rep. James C. Greenwood and Sen. Rick Santorum, both Republicans have emerged as key national players in the battle to pass federal medical malpractice liability reform.
Just as the battle to pass civil justice reforms is gaining momentum in Washington, efforts to do so in Harrisburg, Pa., are also advancing in a manner that is great news for the elderly, whose access to quality long-term care is increasingly compromised by the liability insurance landslide.
To keep making advances on the federal and state legislative fronts, we must also zero in on the fact that medical malpractice reform laws will not only protect the elderly, but will also provide additional accountability to taxpayers, whose money increasingly goes toward paying lawsuit costs, but not for improved care of patients.
During a time when the federal budget is again in the red, and when Pennsylvania and states across the nation are facing the worst fiscal crisis since World War II, it is essential we stem the tide of public resources that should be used for patient care, but instead are going to pay for insurance, lawyers and judgments.

President and chief executive officer
Pennsylvania Health Care Association
Harrisburg, Pa.

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