- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2005

The color of talent

I’m sure Joe Morgan was a great baseball player, but I’m puzzled by the account of his veiled suggestions of racism in baseball (“Astros bucking history,” Sports, Wednesday). Professional and collegiate athletes share a common desire to win games, as Mr. Morgan knows. The lack of talented black players in baseball has nothing to do with racism.

High-school coaches in the inner city complain they can’t get black kids to turn out for teams. Maybe this problem has to do with chaotic home life, and not with racism. Blacks represent the vast majority of NBA players and significant numbers of NFL players, too. They are completely unrepresented at the top levels of skiing, skating or sailing. If The Washington Times wants to devote space to an examination of this, it might be interesting, but please don’t devote space to empty charges of racism. Good players are always welcome on any team.

BERT LOMAX

Bethesda

Radiation fears unfounded

In his letter responding to my Op-Ed on the remarkably low casualty count 20 years after Chernobyl (“Radiation poses a real threat, Letters, Friday), Dick Bulova says my arguments are “disingenuous” and then restates the increasingly discredited assumptions underlying U.S. regulatory policy: “Radiation causes cancer by damaging living cells. The more radiation, the more damage. Quite linear.” Succinctly put, but he might be interested to know that not even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission believes this. According to its fact sheet Biological Effects of Radiation, “There are no data to unequivocally establish the occurrence of cancer following exposure to low doses and dose rates — below about 10,000 mrem (100 mSv),” though despite this admission the NRC continues to regulate to limits 1/100 that amount. (Average U.S. background radiation is about 300 mrem.)

While the NRC discusses recent advances in radiobiology demonstrating that low doses of radioactivity stimulate natural repair mechanisms within the cell, a recent report by the French Academies of Science and Medicine goes even further, not only slamming “linear no-threshold” theory but pointing out that natural cellular and systemic immune responses to radiation have been shown in animal studies to actually decrease cancer incidence. This is in line with a multitude of epidemiological studies of humans exposed to varying amounts of radioactivity.

The recent U.N. report on Chernobyl emphatically states that the fear engendered by exaggerating the dangers of radiation has had devastating negative health effects on the surrounding population, leading to increased rates of suicide, depression and alcoholism. What’s disingenuous is for the NRC to impose huge regulatory costs on our society — and scare people off needed radiological treatments for cancer — by “protecting” them from safe levels of radiation.

JOSHUA GILDER

Visiting Fellow

Lexington Institute

Arlington

Questions for Macedonia

Your paper’s readers may wonder why Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski’s self-congratulatory piece (“Macedonia’s journey,” Op-Ed, Thursday) omitted labor rights among the list of democratic achievements of his country. Clearly, the Buckovski government opposes any democratic reform of its national trade-union movement. It prefers to maintain the corrupt labor federation that one Macedonian newspaper labeled “the last gasp of communism in Macedonia.” Mr. Buckovski notes that Macedonia isn’t exactly on the front burner for Americans, but that doesn’t mean that his omission about trade-union rights should go unchallenged.

The end of communism in Macedonia brought many positive changes, but the national federation of Macedonian unions (CCM) and the government have continued to manipulate the worker movement much as they did in the old days, through repression, undemocratic practices and payoffs.

Earlier this year, the 37,000-member Macedonian Trade Union of Education, Science and Culture (SONK) said that it had enough of the old ways and declared independence from the unreformed CCM. Mr. Buckovski’s government did everything it could, short of imprisoning SONK’s leaders, to crush the union. The government announced it would only negotiate with the old federation. It condoned the forging of union seals and the illegal freezing of union bank accounts. Individual teachers were told that they would be fired — a serious threat in a country with a 38 percent unemployment rate — if they continued to support the reform-oriented SONK. When the union president asked the government to look into a death threat he received from unknown parties, the government representative simply replied: “You asked for it.”

We know the shameful details of the Macedonian labor situation because representatives from the American Federation of Teachers have witnessed most of it firsthand over the past year. The fundamental problem is that the Buckovski government doesn’t protect trade-union rights and continues to threaten union leaders and members who are seeking the democratic reform of an outdated and corrupt labor-relations system.

Mr. Buckovski paints a rosy picture of today’s Macedonia, but he is guilty of sins of omission. He is correct that the country stood on the edge of civil war just a couple of years ago and that great progress has been made to de-escalate the conflict with its ethnic Albanian population. But Macedonia is not yet the democracy he would have us believe it is. And, as the government policy toward union pluralism and democracy becomes more widely reported, his country’s suitability for membership in the Euro-Atlantic community will be questioned.

DAVID N. DORN

Director, International Affairs

American Federation of Teachers

Washington

The Libby indictment

There is a bitter irony in I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. being indicted (“The Libby indictment,” Editorial, Saturday), accused of lying about events surrounding Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame. Mr. Wilson, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, demonstrably lied, repeatedly, in a New York Times Op-Ed and elsewhere, about his trip to Africa and about who sent him there.

Discrediting a liar is not a crime. Neither is saying Valerie Plame was a CIA employee. Who says so? Victoria Toensing, former deputy assistant attorney general, who helped write the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Mrs. Plame arguably blew her own cover when she gave Al Gore $1,000 and listed her CIA cover company as her “employer.”

Under the 1982 law, the “outed” agent must have operated outside the U.S. within the previous five years, and Mrs. Plame had given up her role as a covert agent in favor of a desk job at Langley nine years earlier, according to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

If anyone needed discrediting, it was Mr. Wilson. On July 9, 2004, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued its report on the CIA’s prewar intelligence on Iraq, concluding that Mr. Wilson lied when he denied his wife got him the Niger assignment, writing in his book, “Valerie had nothing to do with the matter.”

The report also said Mr. Wilson lied when he said the Niger intelligence had been based on forged documents. The CIA didn’t obtain the document said to be a forgery until a full eight months after Mr. Wilson’s return from Niger.

While Mr. Wilson was found to have lied repeatedly, an independent British investigative committee on WMD intelligence headed by Lord Butler found “the intelligence was credible” and President Bush’s statement was “well-founded.”

Since there was no original crime worthy of investigation, there should have been no grand jury to entrap Mr. Libby. Interestingly, no one has been charged, or likely will be, for the actual “leak.”

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, even for a special prosecutor.

DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI

Chicago

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