- The Washington Times - Friday, December 16, 2005

Asbestos fixes and failures

I was a little surprised by your recent Editorial (“Fix the asbestos trust fund,” Monday) regarding the pending legislation designed to stem the tide of ruinous asbestos-related court cases. The editorial raises three important questions about the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act, S. 852. Here are some simple, straightforward answers to those concerns from the perspective of the small business.

First, S. 852 contains provisions that exempt small businesses, as defined by the Small Business Act, as well as any business with less than $1 million in historic asbestos litigation expenses from ever having to pay into the fund. Second, the bill contains stringent exposure, medical, diagnostic and latency criteria as opposed to the lax standards employed inconsistently by the courts. Third, the bill makes it explicitly clear that taxpayers will not get stuck with the tab for the legislation, and the proposed reversion to the tort system, in the unlikely event of funding insolvency, precludes ever passing the buck to taxpayers.

Fundamentally, the FAIR Act addresses head-on the fraud that is rampant in the tort system. Under the bill, only truly sick victims meeting clearly defined criteria would receive compensation and, unlike the current system, victims would actually receive their award in a timely manner.

JAMES C. MUSSER

Washington representative

American Small Businesses

Association

Falls Church

In the recent editorial, you called for the Senate to “Fix the asbestos trust fund.” But the problem the Senate Judiciary Committee was supposed to fix was fraudulent asbestos claims. Instead, the Judiciary Committee drafted legislation to create a new federal entitlement to compensation and a trust fund to pay it. That legislation would do nothing to stop or discourage fraudulent asbestos claims.

Each cost analysis of that legislation confirms the gross deficiency of the funding provided for that entitlement. Because that entitlement holds no promise of solving the asbestos problem, there is no justification for funding it. Because there is no justification for funding that entitlement, there is no need for an asbestos trust fund. The asbestos trust fund is neither the problem nor a solution.

Rather, our hope is that the certainty of its bankruptcy will prevent its creation. But will it?

The baffling dedication of the Senate Judiciary Committee to the subject of asbestos is inspired by the unique opportunity it provides to massively expand the welfare state. Under this bill, even if you have no impairment, no asbestos injury or no occupational exposure to asbestos, you can still file a claim for compensation. And annually, the Judiciary Committee will review the petitions of the citizenry and consider changes to that entitlement. This bill and its illusory promise of asbestos reform is an extortion that would make a loan shark blush. Our risk is great here.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, modestly refers to the asbestos trust fund legislation as the Specter-Leahy bill. The ability of one of that team to explain the impossible is already well-known. Now, together, they do magic: Watching them grope in an elephantine mess, what you see is that asbestos litigation in court just isn’t all that bad.

MICHAEL MARTIN

Mount Lebanon, Pa.

Symphonic delights

With regard to “Young musicians lift Mahler’s work” (Arts, Thursday): The French horn was created to dare youthful instrumentalists. Since its creation, all who dared to enter the realm of the horn have found its response unpredictable, The charm of the horn is that it’s always a ready tool for critics when they make note of a strange sound in the complex embroidery of symphonic intellectual light.

Mahler’s use of the unruly horn is purposely included to let us know that romanticism is beautiful and, yes, unpredictable. The observation that a French horn, even in the most competent hands, can be a deviant, was a noteworthy comment.

Yes, Mahler is top-drawer in content and unpredictability. Only the able and adventurous leave the safe shores of comfortable compositions. The Juilliard Orchestra dared to challenge the boundaries, and set a new standard of exploration.

The violins, cellos, the violas and basses accepted Mahler’s dare with surprising ease and without compromise. The challenge was there, and they won. The horns, reeds, the percussions were more than comfortable in performance.

The Juilliard symphony and its confident and able conductor were able to give us a taste of good things to come. The Juilliard has arrived and is a contender.

Finally, the audience delivered a 10-minute standing and thunderous applause for a four-star performance.

LOUIS A. DVONCH

Manassas

Democracy: Iraq’s ‘bad’ news?

What your Editorial (“Democracy wins at Iraq polls,” Friday) presents as good news — which we’re all hoping for — will likely become the bad news. The most significant good-news factor properly noted by your writer was the “negotiated” “cease-fire” worked out by “U.S. field commanders.” It’s unfortunate that this was done without the request or approval of the commander in chief, President Bush.

It’s unfortunate that the military is now doing the work that politicians and statesmen should have been doing from the beginning; negotiating a cease-fire for clear political objectives. I’m not against the military doing this work, but it might have been more valuable to our national security for negotiations to be a priority before the 2,100-plus American deaths, many more casualties and estimated 30,000 Iraqi deaths — not to mention the dramatic decline in credibility and loss of friendly allies for which the Bush invasion is now responsible.

“Enlightenment” will come when all parties realize that democracy is not the solution to Iraq’s problem. A majority-rule government in Iraq will be the quickest route to a caliphate state in the Middle East, the worst-case scenario that this administration has been trying to prevent.

What is needed is the creation of a peaceful federation of Iraq that can effectively protect the security and equal rights of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds alike within the nation’s artificial political boundaries. An adequate military presence is vital to this creation. But a predominant U.S. military offensive presence only increases the possibility of destabilizing the entire region.

CHUCK WOOLERY

Rockville

Extend the Patriot Act

The extension of the Patriot Act must become the law of the land, and we must prevent the left wing democrats from destroying this legislation. After the bill passed by a vote of 251 to 174 in the House, the Democrats and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, are filibustering this important law (“Democrats plan to filibuster Patriot Act,” Page 1, Thursday).

The Patriot Act is an important tool, which enables law enforcement agencies to share information that is so vital and needed to disrupt potential criminal activities before they can actually be carried out.

The left-wing Democrats have already aligned themselves with the American Civil Liberties Union to block this legislation that is so vital to our national security and war on terror.

We must do everything possible to encourage the passage of the continuation of the Patriot Act and prevent the Democrats and liberal left wing from jeopardizing our security, and aid our valiant troops and law-enforcement agencies in the war against terror.

AL EISNER

Wheaton

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