- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Book 'review' is PC rant

After having read Erin Solaro's review of Mary Bandy Daughtry's book, "Gray Cavalier: The Life and Wars of General W.H.F. 'Rooney' Lee" ("Context lost in bio of dashing 'Rooney,'" The Civil War, Saturday), I must conclude it was not meant to be a book review. It was more like a politically correct essay.

Ms. Solaro unleashed her personal feelings in a rather vicious and tired rant about the South and its heroes, employing the standard "it was all about slavery" line to sum up the South. Gallant Southerners who fought for their states and, by the way, many of them held anti-slavery views are condemned for having "committed treason." In particular, she complains that the author fails to address the slavery issue. Excuse me, but I think the book's title makes it clear that it's a biography, not a sweeping history of the war. Before Ms Solaro blasts off with another diatribe about the wicked South, she needs to consider the fact that many of the reasons for the Civil War were political, cultural and economic, extending far back before slavery became a major dividing point.

I guess that, in a roundabout way, I do owe Ms. Solaro a "thank you." I had been coming to think that my rather large Civil War book collection might be getting too big. After reading this review, though, I've decided that my collection could use another book. Nothing like a good ol' bit of "hagiography" (Ms. Solaro's three dollar word) to git us "lost cause" rednecks to spendin' some hard-earned moonshine dolluhs on anothuh book on the Wah Between the States.


Chesapeake, Va.

Hip Hebrews

In Suzanne Fields' column, "Celebrating compassionate cool" (Op-Ed, Thursday), she makes the following statement: "Joe Lieberman is smart, but a yarmulke is not a ten-gallon hat. He's definitely not cool. (Jews rarely are.)"

I have never taken much issue with what Mrs. Fields writes, as I enjoy her column, but where does she get off saying Jews are rarely cool?

I have been a Jew all my life and definitely am cool. I think most of the Jews in the Israeli army are. I think Ariel Sharon is cool. It must be that the Jews Mrs. Fields herself knows are rarely cool.


Forest Hills, N.Y.

Anti-gun column misfires

Dr. Alex Gerber's column "Interpreting the Second Amendment" (Commentary, Sunday) would have been more appropriately placed in the Comics section if it didn't deal with such a deadly serious topic. His suggestion that the recently created Homeland Security Department be used as a vehicle to advance the national gun-control movement is precisely one of the worst fears law-abiding Americans had about the creation of this new government agency in the first place.

Dr. Gerber prattles on with the usual complaint by the disarmament crowd that the Second Amendment only grants the "militia" the right to own guns, not individuals. He backed up his argument by referring to a recent ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco saying just that.

Now, if memory serves me correctly, the 9th Circuit Court is perhaps the most left-wing court in the nation, located in arguably the most left-wing major city in the nation. It also has the dubious distinction as being the most overturned court in the nation. Recall, also, that this is the same court which ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional because it includes the words "under God."

Anyone who relies on any ruling coming out of the 9th Circuit Court for a reasonable and constitutional argument on just about any issue confronting the American people today ought to have their head examined and maybe even be drug tested.


Executive Director

American Conservative Union


Dr. Alex Gerber's argument for strict gun control is logical, but as it bears little resemblance to reality, does not make sense.

The Second Amendment is elegant in its simplicity, but can be parsed in a number of ways. Dr. Gerber correctly notes that the condition that prompted the Founding Fathers to frame the amendment the necessity of a militia no longer applies as it originally did. However, the reference to a "well-regulated militia" resides in the one-sentence amendment's dependent clause, and the "right of the people" to keep arms appears in the amendment's independent clause, thus giving it weight over the militia reference.

The Founders predicated the Constitution upon the guarantee of God-given rights to a people who, in turn, must then exercise them with civic responsibility. Hence, the right to keep and bear arms is tempered with the expectation that citizens will exercise that right responsibly. There are legal uses for firearms and there are illegal uses, and the distinction should be enforced by law.

The argument that a disarmed public will be a safer one is just plain fatuous. The 200 million guns that are in the hands of private Americans are durable goods that, with a minimum of care, will remain deadly instruments for a long time. Don't expect gun owners voluntarily to turn them in to be smelted down. Should "the people" successfully be disarmed, black market guns would still be readily available to criminals, who do not obey the law anyway. The experiences of Great Britain and Australia, which in recent years have strictly limited private gun ownership only to see an exponential rise in gun crime, should serve as fair warning.

Lastly, it is pointless for Dr. Gerber to compare Singapore (no guns allowed, low crime rates) to the United States. (guns allowed, but with inadequate enforcement of existing laws).Compared to the United States, Singapore has one-tenth the population and a tiny fraction of the land mass. More importantly, Singapore's history and culture differs so radically with that of the United States as to make the comparison invalid.


Arnold, Md.

George Ryan's killer compassion

Ironically, the decision by Illinois Gov. George Ryan to issue a blanket commutation of the death sentences of all 156 inmates on Illinois' death row because the capital punishment is "arbitrary, capricious, immoral," will result in the murders of more victims, whose deaths truly will be "arbitrary, capricious, immoral" and unfair ("Death row gets life in Illinois," Page 1, Sunday).

According to Dudley Sharp of the criminal-justice reform group Justice For All, "From 1995 to 2000 executions averaged 71 per year, a 21,000 percent increase over the 1966-1980 period. The murder rate dropped from a high of 10.2 (per 100,000) in 1980 to 5.7 in 1999 a 44 percent reduction."

Conversely, between 1965 and 1980 there were practically no executions in the United States, and for 10 of those 16 years 1967-76 there was a national moratorium, thanks to a Supreme Court decision that has since been overturned. Between 1965 and 1980, the number of annual murders in the United States skyrocketed from 9,960 to 23,040, a 131 percent increase. The murder rate (homicides per 100,000 persons) doubled from 5.1 to 10.2.

Was it mere coincidence that the steepest increase in murder in U.S. history coincided with the years when there was no death penalty? When the worst a criminal could face was life in prison with free room and board? When the absence of a death penalty perhaps enticed criminals to kill eyewitnesses to a crime they were committing? Indeed, murder may become more attractive when potential killers know that prison is the worst outcome they can face. And maybe there are some criminals who will not commit murder if they think it might cost them their own lives

Whenever anyone considers abolishing or curtailing capital punishment, they must reckon with the lives that surely will be taken if they succeed.



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