- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 4, 2005

Not really like Woodstock

As a young Catholic who was not able to attend World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, I appreciated your coverage of the event. However, I was disappointed when I saw the headlines on the front page referring to World Youth Day as a “Catholic Woodstock” (Pope leads ‘Catholic Woodstock,’ Page 1, Aug. 22). Far from being a celebration of “free love” with a reputation for drug dealing, World Youth Day was instituted by Pope John Paul II nearly twenty years ago as a gathering for young people alive with faith. A unique experience, World Youth Day shows proof of an increasingly generous spirit in young people throughout the world. I hope a more imaginative and appropriate term can be found for World Youth Day 2008 in Australia.


Brookeville, Md.

Oppose the Akaka bill on principle

I oppose the Akaka Bill for the same reason given by America’s founders for shedding King George and the old world’s royalty-ruled system: The creator of the universe equally endowed all rights and power in individuals, not in a monarch, king, chief, ali’i or other “sovereign” (“Backsliding in Hawaii,” Commentary, Aug. 27).

That means American nationality is based on shared ideals, instead of a shared bloodline, and in America power will forever be shared equally by all current citizens, not vested forever in the descendents of the bloodline that first grabbed it by force.

Principle-based citizenship lets me, the grandson of four immigrants, stand in a room of people whose bloodlines do not cross mine until Adam and Eve, and say “we Americans.” I would not enjoy that acceptance today had my grandparents chosen any other country — Japan, Africa, France, etc.

It let America embrace Einstein as an American and benefit from his brilliance, while Germany drove him away because his blood made him a Jew. It lets Americans readily unite to demand severe justice for crimes by a skinhead despite some Americans sharing his bloodline, while people who choose to associate by ancestry often seem pressured to defend, or excuse, indefensible crimes. Association by shared principles permits a more moral nation.

American principles declare that power will forever be shared equally among Americans alive at the time. They deny special rights for the first to arrive, and deny special rights for any privileged bloodline. They also guarantee Americans tasked to fight, struggle, suffer and sometimes die, to protect the nation, and their descendents, will share equally in the rights they defend, and the nation they build. They will not return in second place to a group anointed with unearned privilege.

Therefore, I do not see the Akaka Bill as a debate but a choice between first principles, and first principles are a line beyond which debate is no longer useful: I only hope it will be as self-evident to Congress, as it was to America’s founders, that a society organized around shared principles, instead of a shared bloodline, and in which power and rights are shared equally by all forever, is best for humanity.


Honolulu, Hawaii

False conceptions of the draft

While I found Geoff Corn’s piece (“The draft, a ‘peace movement,’ ” Op-Ed, Wednesday) intriguing, I must state flatly that the banshee wails of Cindy Sheehan do not “touch” the same chord with me; nor do Mr. Corn’s comments on the draft.

Mr. Corn’s so-called “crusade for democracy fought in an undemocratic way” is anything but — this war was voted on and approved by Congress, as any future conscription would be. Surely a professor of national security law isn’t afraid of countering these facts? I could understand such omissions coming from lesser educated, but perhaps less addled, leftists.

Mr. Corn maintains that “[t]oday, for the first time in our history, a president is relying on a large all-volunteer force to fight a sustained, indefinite and costly conflict.” What about Bosnia, where we’ve had troops since the mid-1990s. But we all know the difference in that war is that responsibility for our involvement rests on a Demcratic administration.

I suspect Mr. Corn is intent on tampering with a military that is not broken; at least, not in the way he describes. He should be prevented from doing so.



Mr. Corn is wrong about the draft. The volunteer army provides recruits who have the aptitude, skills and motivation to become effective soldiers. Because of its quality, the volunteer army takes fewer casualties than a disinterested army of draftees.

Mr. Corn claims that in large wars conscription is in the American tradition. The obligatory militia was only to be called up to help enforce the law, put down domestic rebellion and repel foreign invasion. Foreign wars like the expeditions to the North African coast in the early nineteenth century were fought by volunteers. It was President Wilson’s intervention into World War I that broke the pattern.

Mr. Corn claims the draft would mean more popular control over war and peace decisions. Mr. Corn is again wrong. The Vietnam War was instigated without either a declaration of war or great demand from the public. The war was not ended before thousands of American deaths and the tearing apart of American society.

Mr. Corn invokes the Democratic canard for his draft. But democracy was not developed as a means for leaders to force kids to fight in some overseas, often no-win war.



Oil refining capacity

The editorial “Oil-Refinery Capacity” (Friday) has pointed out a problem that has been obvious for several years now — the United States does not have enough refining capacity to provide for its needs, even without the disruption of refineries by a natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina.

President Bush foresaw this problem as early as 2001, and tried to address it then in his proposed energy program, which was filibustered by Senate Democrats who didn’t want oil refineries in their backyards. With $3-a-gallon gasoline, we are all now reaping what they have sown.

The editorial is mistaken, however, in claiming that the difference between the price of a barrel of gasoline and a barrel of crude oil represents a $40/barrel ($0.95/gallon) profit for the refineries.

Crude oil is a mixture of many different products of varying usefulness, some of which (asphalt, for example) cannot economically be refined into fuel, some of which are used as raw materials for the plastics industry, and some of which are burned to provide the energy needed to run a refinery. In addition, refineries must pay operators, perform required maintenance and spend money on pollution control to meet environmental regulations.

All these costs cut into a refiner’s profit margin, which is in reality much less than the $40/barrel implied by the editorial. We do need more refineries in the United States, but the public should not be misled into believing that the refineries make huge profits at their expense.


West Hartford, Conn.

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