- The Washington Times - Friday, February 10, 2006

Release the Barrett Report

Why has the Barrett Report been redacted by about 120 pages (“Flourishes and flubs,” Commentary, Jan. 27)? Why are the American people not being given access to this information? Who decided that the information was to be kept from public scrutiny? Why hasn’t the media shed some light on this, exposing judges who are obviously complicit in covering up by denying the public the right to know?

This is unacceptable and disgusting. Those in Congress who are hiding this information, and the judges who facilitated this crime against the right to know, should be reprimanded or removed from office. They talk about President Bush’s secrecy while doing everything in their power to keep some actions of the Clinton administration a secret. As a taxpayer, I demand the right to read the entire report, not just what the activist judicial and legislative branches want me to see.

ROBERT L. DI STEFANO

Abingdon, Md.

‘Wiretap’ hypocrisy

I am appalled by the hypocrisy of some members of Congress, the news media and some individuals in their sudden concern over the privacy rights of American citizens (“Politics in the NSA hearings,” Editorial, Tuesday). Their focus has been on “wiretaps” conducted by the National Security Agency, supposedly for “unauthorized spying” on citizens. The NSA has conducted electronic surveillance for many years. It is not “wiretapping.” There is a program called “Sigint,” or Signal Intelligence, which monitors microwave transmissions with computers programmed to recognize key words and phrases, that has been conducted for many years.

With the present hysterical concern over individual rights to privacy being invaded by these so-called wiretaps by NSA, I wonder why there is no outcry to stop the collection of detailed personal information by individuals, private organizations and businesses. Banks, credit reporting agencies, credit card companies, telephone companies, hospitals, collection agencies and many others collect detailed information, including Social Security numbers, on all of us. This information is exchanged with other businesses, used to harass us with telemarketing calls or sold. There is no indication that anyone is serious about stopping this blatant invasion of privacy or requiring that the information is properly protected against improper disclosure, theft or illegal and improper use.

My wife and I have been fighting identity theft since 1997. We have spoken at symposiums, testified twice before Congress, appeared on NBC’s “Dateline,” testified three times before the Economic Matters Committee in Annapolis, been interviewed by The Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, radio and local TV stations and others. Nothing ever happens.

No meaningful legislation protecting our rights is ever passed. There is no indignation that our privacy has been invaded and that we have been through hell for the past nine years with no end in sight. We have been advised that we are fighting “the big guns” and should not expect anything ever to be done.

I can only conclude that some members of Congress, some individuals and much of the news media believe it is OK for businesses and certain individuals to invade and misuse our privacy for monetary reasons, but it is not OK for NSA to monitor microwave transmission of terrorists determined to destroy us. There is no privacy left to invade.

LT. COL. JOHN T. STEVENS JR.

Air Force (retired)

Upper Marlboro

Don’t hype ADHD deaths

The headline “25 deaths linked to ADHD drugs” (Page 1, Thursday) clearly was meant to imply a dangerous new scandal. The article, however, reports that over five years, 26 deaths occurred in an estimated population of 6 million people who take such drugs. That means there is a .0000043 chance that someone might die because of the medications. Considering the enormous benefits of the medications — academically, socially, psychologically and in the arena of self-esteem — that minuscule chance seems worth it.

It is much more risky to ride a bicycle. Should we outlaw bikes, as well?

Then, buried near the end of the article, is the fact that in “some of the cases, the children who died later were found to have had undiagnosed heart conditions.” Some of the adults also had pre-existing hypertension.

That those patients died is not the fault of the drugs, but of the prescribing doctors, who were careless or negligent.

I’m not employed by the pharmaceutical industry. I’m just a home-schooling mom with family members who have been helped almost miraculously by these medicines. Should we monitor them closely? Yes, as with any powerful medicine. Should we try to persuade people who need the drugs to be frightened needlessly of them? No.

LYNN W. LEWIS

Vienna

Oil bashing

Clarence Page writes that “Americans are not so much ‘addicted’ to oil as dependent on it for lack of better alternatives” (“Oil addiction double-speak?” Commentary, Wednesday). Indeed, the alternatives that have been imposed on them by government planners, such as ethanol, have been tried and found wanting.

It takes gobs of energy to produce hydrogen or ethanol, which receive a 50-cent-a-gallon tax subsidy that in fact is a political bribe to corn growers in farm states. Ethanol consumes more energy in its manufacture than it provides in its use, much less energy than the same amount of gasoline.

When an alternative to oil is both economically competitive and energy-efficient, then you can call it “better.” It serves no purpose to whine about dependence on Middle Eastern oil and oil-company profits, especially when vast domestic supplies go untapped.

The fact is that the two largest oil exporters to the United States are Canada and Mexico, in that order, and as for reducing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, we already are.

The Persian Gulf accounted for just 16.3 percent of total oil imports in November, down from 19 percent last year and 22.3 percent in 2001.

Mr. Page complains that “Exxon Mobil Corp. had reported what analysts called the highest profit in U.S. history …” He does not mention that according to the Tax Foundation, Exxon, ConocoPhillips and Chevron paid a combined $44.3 billion in corporate taxes in 2005, or 49.2 percent more than the $29.7 they paid in 2004. Windfall taxes?

Moreover, the average effective tax rate on the major integrated oil and gas industry is estimated at 38.3 percent, considerably higher than the 32.3 percent for the energy market as a whole, which undoubtedly yields more than enough money to finance Congress’ 14,000 spending earmarks in the last budget.

Out of their profits, the three largest energy companies alone are projected to make capital expenditures of $43 billion this year, up from $33 billion in 2005. Build nuclear power plants and drill for domestic energy. Let the wood chips fall where they may.

DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI

Chicago


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