- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2006

Overturning bad precedents

Although I am pro-choice, I see a potential bright side to South Dakota’s abortion ban (“South Dakota OKs a broad ban on abortions,” Page 1, Saturday). Roe v. Wade is a perfect example of a ruling made to reach an outcome rather than on constitutional principle. If the court is not so beholden to (bad) precedent, as it would demonstrate by some modification to Roe, it might signal the justices’ willingness to revisit other, arguably more important, horrible prior rulings.

For example, we might hope to see them reconsider the clearly unconstitutional McCain-Feingold campaign finance act and the outrageous Kelo eminent domain decision. The court might reassess its explicit abdication of responsibility when (in the 1938 Carolene Products case) the justices decided to presume the constitutionality of federal legislation regarding commercial or economic matters, thus allowing the massive welfare state we have and Congress’ nearly unfettered ability to regulate anything under the sun as “interstate commerce.”

Court rulings based on desired outcome rather than principle are a big step on the road to tyranny. So, though I like the practical result of Roe v Wade, I gladly would give it up (and take our chances with the states) if it means the court would stop viewing precedents, no matter how bad, as inviolate.


Boulder, Colo.

Successful public-diplomacy radio

The recent article (“Time for a plan to undo Iran” Commentary, Thursday) unfairly characterized the broadcasts and popularity of Radio Farda, a joint project of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the Voice of America (VOA).

According to the latest available audience research, 13.6 percent of Iranian adults listen to Radio Farda programming on a weekly basis, making Radio Farda the No. 1 international radio station in Iran — in spite of continuous jamming by Iranian authorities. And research shows that these listeners trust Radio Farda’s news and consider the station reliable.

Radio Farda does broadcast music (most of which is banned in Iran), as have both VOA and RFE/RL over their history. But the commentary fails to note that Radio Farda airs eight hours of news and information per day, including four 30-minute in-depth news magazines, and that its 24/7 format affords the ability to carry breaking news and live special events.

Radio Farda’s programs address many of the issues referred to in the commentary as critical information for the Iranian people: news of official corruption and brutality; violations of human, ethnic, gender, labor, religious and media rights; the flouting of international covenants by Iran’s government concerning the country’s nuclear program; the misappropriated history and culture of the Iranian people. It is this combination of news, analysis and entertaining music that has made Radio Farda so appreciated by its audience.



U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors


As an Indian radio listener of VOA in New Delhi, who has a wide range of news sources like TV, FM radio, Internet, newspapers etc to get my daily news, I am shocked to hear that the U.S. government thinks of saving money by stopping its English language VOA broadcasts across the world (“Spreading the word,” Op-Ed, Feb 15).

I wonder if the U.S. policy-makers ever knew that the total population of shortwave radio listeners in India alone is more than total number of U.S. voters on any given day. Unlike me, most of these listeners live in areas where they have just “zero” or not enough access to TV, FM or Internet. Shortwave radio has, for decades, been their main source of information. And it is going to stay with them till the day technology offers them a low-cost battery-operated direct to home TV.

It may be news to U.S. policy-makers that thanks to radio networks like VOA, millions of these listeners world over are better informed about America and the world situation as compared to an above-average American citizen.

They must be wondering how “prosperous” or “resourceful” a country like United States must be if its administration fears going bankrupt in running a radio network like VOA?

Your news item suggests that the Bush administration wants to focus more on “Middle East and countries central to the U.S. effort against terrorism” (read “Islamic” world). While I appreciate the enthusiasm of the policy-makers in confronting terrorism head-on, I fail to understand why should they leave the rest of world as an open game to the communist Chinese, fundamental Islamists… and all other opponents of America, human rights and democracy? Ever heard of Japanese term “hara-kiri”?


New Delhi

Thoughts on Rumsfeld

Normally I like Arnaud de Borchgrave’s writings. Unfortunately, this time he is wide of the mark (“Rumsfeld’s complaint,” Commentary, Thursday).

Most of what Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld wrote is absolutely true. The planet is full of “America bashers” who are willing — and for various reasons more than willing — to blame America first for every real or imagined ill. The mainstream media goes out of its way to spread those words to every corner of the globe as rapidly and profitably as electrons can fly.

It needs to be recognized that many of the things Mr. de Borchgrave noted were said about this country during the Cold War and most loudly during the Vietnam War. Same distortions, same in-depth reporting on the tiniest little misspeak by some general or defense official. Bash, bash, bash. No help in addressing the issues at hand — just bashing America, all under the banner of “pointing out” some “critical flaw” in administration policy. Such hooey, as former Sen. Alan K. Simpson, Wyoming Republican, would say.

This administration may not be doing everything right, but it has taken the most positive steps ever attempted to clean up this rotten mess in the Middle East. More than any administration — ever.


U.S. Air Force (retired)

Intelligence Studies Department

American Military University


I take issue with Mr. de Borchgrave’s column regarding Mr. Rumsfeld’s comments concerning our reactive media cycle. Mr. de Borchgrave appears to take personal offense that Mr. Rumsfeld is critical of how we in the United States view our media and our news cycle. As a member of the military and someone who is familiar with the concept of “information operations,” I think Mr. de Borchgrave misses the secretary’s point that we are losing the war of information on a global scale because we are not proactive in how we approach media operations, particularly with our public affairs officers in the military.

Too often our public affairs personnel are reacting to incidents and inquiries rather than proactively promoting the message we want to get across. We in the West are operating with an outdated paradigm that is counterproductive to what we are trying to accomplish. Please don’t misread this; I fully recognize that the media is not a vehicle of the government — at least not in the United States.

Nevertheless, ask members of the military who have served in Iraq, and they will tell you that the Iraq story being presented in print and on TV is not the Iraq story they know.

This isn’t about the media undercutting the administration or U.S. efforts at large by highlighting the atrocities of Abu Ghraib prison or the shocking revelation that the military was paying for positive press in the Iraqi media.

It’s about the realization that too few positive media stories are presented concerning what America is trying to do in its endeavors around the world.

To speak in layman’s terms, I have a “news flash” for Mr. de Borchgrave: The United States already faces a wealth of unfavorable coverage in the world. We are represented unfavorably (and arguably lopsidedly) by our own media. This means that “we” are feeding the fire of international resentment in a manner that must tickle Osama bin Laden pink.

Am I arguing that we should print only favorable stories that distort reality? Absolutely not. However, the long-held journalistic mentality of “if it bleeds, it leads” needs an overhaul.



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