- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2005

What William Bennett should have said

In her Saturday letter, “Bennett’s blunder,” Laura Gilbert charges William Bennett with “institutionalized, ingrained racism.” That is wrong. Mr. Bennett said, “You could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down,” immediately adding that such a thing would be “impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible.”

Mr. Bennett is not a racist, much less an abortionist. Unfortunately, Mr. Bennett unwittingly slithered back into his earlier role as a professor of philosophy, in which absurd hypothetical propositions are sometimes propounded to argue a point.

Academics do such things. The late Herman Kahn, an authority on nuclear war, once said that one way to induce drivers to be more careful would be to tie a baby on the front bumper of all cars. He was technically correct, but by no stretch of imagination was he advocating the absurd idea.

Robert Woodson, president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, who respects Mr. Bennett’s commitment to reducing urban crime and poverty, called Mr. Bennett’s remark “stupid,” adding that “sometimes intellectuals become detached from common sense.”

Mr. Woodson, Mr. Bennett and all decent Americans are deeply concerned by the interrelated problems of crime, poverty and race, especially in the inner city. Informed people know the stark facts.

Last year, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Statistics reported that about 44 percent of state and federal prisoners in 2003 were black, 35 percent were white and 19 percent were Hispanic.

Those stark facts alone do not tell us what should be done about the persistence of illiteracy, delinquency and crime in our large cities — but there is a growing consensus on how to deal with these interrelated problems.

Mr. Bennett, the late Sen. Pat Moynihan and actor-comedian Bill Cosby have addressed the core issue candidly. Citing common sense and many thoughtful behavioral studies, they have concluded that the single most effective deterrent to the problems of crime, poverty, drug abuse and illiteracy would be restoring the two-parent family in the black population. Most inner-city criminals come from fatherless families.

To put an even finer point on it, a loving two-parent family is the best antidote to crime, poverty and illiteracy.

ERNEST W. LEFEVER

Senior fellow

Ethics and Public Policy Center

Washington

‘Poor little monsters’

Ouch. Judging by the way the liberals are crying, the book “Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!” (” ‘Help! Mom!’ casts liberals as villains,” Page 1, Sunday) must have really touched a nerve. The knee-jerk reactions are unfortunately predictable.

The liberals want to do to the First Amendment what they are trying to do to the Second Amendment, and that’s ban it.

Poor little monsters — oops, I mean liberals — I guess they just aren’t as tolerant as they claim.

ROBERT E. BRAND

Frederick, Md.

Politicians, environmentalists and natural gas

Regarding your stated Katrina/Rita wake-up calls in the Friday editorial “A natural gas crisis,” I was not impressed with the historical account of how we arrived at today’s $14/MMBtu from $2.55/MMBtu in 2000.

In the 1970s, the gas industry quite handily replaced the additional gas required by converted oil-burning electric generators without any price increases because only about 4 percent of electricity was generated with fuel oil before the oil crisis created by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. The increase in natural-gas-fueled power generation from 4 percent to last year’s 17 percent reflects the more than 300 brand new jet-engine-powered turbine generators that have been installed nationwide in the past five years. (The Energy Information Administration’s estimated future increase in natural gas demand will be primarily to satisfy fuel demand for hundreds more yet to be installed.) This gigantic fuel switch was, and is, the electric industry’s pitiful attempt to appease environmentalists by shutting down coal-burning plants after activating their new generators.

For you to join the chorus of those so anxious to ship yet more tanker-loads of consumer dollars overseas for liquefied natural gas when there are adequate natural gas reserves within or near our borders to satisfy decades of sensible gas usage is deplorable. Generating electricity with natural gas is nonsense. If the money invested in these generators had been used instead to install scrubbers on coal-fired generators and build new nuclear plants, we would be well on the way to a cleaner environment without creating this crisis.

The reason for this natural gas crisis is that Congress and administrations both past and present did not have the political courage to confront the environmentalists — period.

Some of these same politicians still don’t get it, but I guarantee you — on Nov. 7, 2006, this upcoming winter’s gas bills will still be a vivid memory to millions of voters, and if no serious changes in United States energy policies are made now, some dramatic changes will be made in the seating arrangements in both houses of Congress.

DAVID F. FINCH

Parkersburg, W.Va.

McCain’s bill creates more problems than it solves

“Closing the torture loophole” (Commentary, Saturday) by Clarence Page is important reading for everyone because the description of the Stanford prison-guardexperiment matches reports of renegade guards’ behavior at Abu Ghraib prison. However, the remainder of the column, endorsing Sen. John McCain’s bill to prohibit cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment is filled with difficulties.

First, there is no torture loophole. Torture is a serious crime, punishable by 20 years to life, and if the victim dies, the death penalty can be invoked. The crime applies to all military personnel and all civilian personnel working for the government inside and outside this country. So Mr. Page needs to go back to Mr. McCain and ask him about this loophole.

Second, there is no actual torture. The prosecutors have combed the evidence at Abu Ghraib, Iraq and Afghanistan, and they have found crimes of assault, battery, manslaughter and various charges equivalent to “inhumane and degrading treatment” — but no torture. At Guantanamo Bay, there are a few assault problems. Nonetheless, we have been subjected to thousands of articles by journalists writing about torture that does not exist, and it is time for Mr. Page and the rest of the pundits to ask why this is happening because the coverage on this subject appears to be worse than that on Katrina.

Third, Mr. Page misrepresents the Bush administration and the convention to prevent torture by claiming that the laws regarding prisoner abuse don’t apply to people outside the country. This is false and misleading because the administration is simply stating that U.S. courts don’t have jurisdiction over the prisoners to grant them the same rights as common criminals in the United States.

Fourth, the Convention to Prevent Torture and Inhumane and Degrading Treatment of Prisoners is presented by Mr. Page as a binding law, and it is not. It is an agreement between nations, and the document is interpreted by the signing nation, which means that our Congress writes laws to implement the treaty. In this case, we wrote the laws preventing torture and dovetailed our existing laws regarding prisoner abuse under the constitutional category of cruel and unusual punishment. In the process, Congress rejected the language “inhumane and degrading treatment” because the problem was already addressed and on the books and there was no clear definition for these terms, so it would lead to endless litigation.

LARRY ESPENSHADE

Silver Springs


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