- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Iraqis and U.S. polling sites

Your article “Iraq expatriates want vote” (Page 1, Saturday) makes unfounded insinuations that Iraqi Kurds are seeking to marginalize expatriate Iraqi Christian voters. The article reports the complaint about the lack of a voting station for Iraqis in San Diego as if it were an anti-Christian measure.

Similarly, you uncritically cite the bizarre views of Nina Shea of Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom, who believes the U.S. government is involved in discriminating against expatriate Iraqi Christians as a reward to the Kurds.

The facts tell a different story. First, the expatriate voting program in the United States was drawn up by Iraq’s Election Commission, the Iraqi Embassy in Washington and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), not by the Kurdish parties.

Second, the absence of a voting station in San Diego disadvantages all Iraqis living in Southern California, including the area’s 6,000 Kurds. Indeed, 15 Iraqi organizations held a press conference at the offices of Kurdish Human Rights Watch in El Cajon, Calif., Jan. 13 to protest the lack of a local voting station.

The real story here, which your reporter missed, is that the IOM, like the United Nations before it, has acted to the detriment of the Iraqi people. Iraqis everywhere — Christians in Modesto, Calif.; Kurds in Dallas; Shi’ites in New York — have again suffered thanks to the incompetence of an international agency.



Washington Kurdish Institute


‘Nothing to dance about’

Rob Benson misses the point in suggesting that trial lawyers should be dancing in the streets because of the medical-malpractice legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly and sustained by overriding the governor’s veto (“Trial lawyers should be dancing,” Letters, Friday).

How can a trial lawyer dance in the process of explaining to a widow and her young children, whose husband and father was harmed by a physician’s malpractice and suffered months of horrific pain resulting in an agonizing death, that Maryland law caps their compensation for the human pain and agony and the loss of their loved one at $812,500? This is regardless of the circumstances of the case, the grossness of the malpractice, and the extent of the agony and loss.

There is nothing to dance about when legislation caps human rights.

I will feel like dancing if and when the public finally realizes the facts of the malpractice-insurance problem: Maryland Medical Mutual lost money on its investments. Maryland Medical Mutual in the past few years gave dividends to its physician owners-insureds that need to be credited against the premiums to get the true net premium figures. Maryland Medical Mutual has amassed huge reserves. The 2 percent HMO tax is merely a repeal of an exemption that was given to HMOs on a tax that other insurers have to pay.

When the public understands these things, then we should all dance.


President, principal trial lawyer

Olender & Associates


Federal sentencing guidelines

In response to Bruce Fein’s comments about the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (“Mandatory sentencing frustrated,” Commentary, Tuesday): I believe that the use of federal sentencing guidelines for the U.S. court system was a response to the lack of judicial restraint and was not implemented to reduce crime per se.

Judges had been using their personal preferences in dispensing justice and were unprepared or unwilling to censure others or set standards for themselves. Congress, in response to public outcry, provided a legislative solution. For the record, I’m against the legislated guidelines because they do not give judges or juries sufficient leeway to consider the special circumstances of each case.

The problem with juries is not dissimilar to the one with judges, in that they sometimes act irresponsibly in executing their duties. In those cases, the remedy is to attempt to retry the cases.

America has the best judicial system that money can buy. The courts are not prejudiced against black people, but many of the black criminals on death row lacked the proper color for their cases to receive better justice. The color they lacked is green, as in money, not white as in skin color.

The larger danger facing the judicial system is that if the American public loses faith in the system, it will increasingly take matters into its own hands. No self-respecting drug dealer would expect to get justice from the court system. He will take the matter to the streets and dispense his own brand of justice. More and more, the average person feels that lawyers deceive, police are corrupt or inept and justice cannot be found in the system.

It is up to the courts and police departments to restore the people’s faith in their ability to obtain justice. If Congress can be helpful in this endeavor, then it should find ways to improve the judicial process, police departments and not by passing sentencing guidelines. If the judicial system doesn’t work any better in the future, then we are headed down the road to anarchy and revolution.

No one wants an innocent man or woman to go to jail, but failure to lock up criminals for their murdering, robbing and fear-mongering ways leads to a society that is out of control. We are a free people when there is mutual respect among us.

Retreating each evening to a gated or guarded and constantly surveilled community is not the future that the “greatest generation” envisioned.


Fort Belvoir

Ashamed of Sen. Boxer

As I watched the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s confirmation hearing of Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday, I was ashamed that, although the senators grilled the future secretary of state with hard but fair questions (even including John Kerry, who seemed to be making his first 2008 campaign speech), one senator, the junior senator from my state, California, was a glaring and unfortunate exception (“Rice targets 6 ‘outposts of tyranny’ ” Page 1, yesterday).

Although it was most proper for her to question Miss Rice on foreign-policy matters, Sen. Barbara Boxer, by accusing Miss Rice of displaying a lack of “respect for the truth,” aka being a liar — as well as lacking “candor” — displayed a distinct lack of good, old-fashioned class.


Palm Desert, Calif.

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