- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 9, 2006

Protecting the rights of nonsmokers and smokers

Michael Fumento’s column on the surgeon general’s smoking report (“Passive smoke signals,” Commentary, July 3) is well-taken, but it unfortunately did not focus on the report’s specific conclusions regarding protection of nonsmokers from secondhand smoke. It is clear to me that by staying clear of any discussion of ways to separate and protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke, the report is incomplete and frighteningly biased against all smoking.

The report states that, “Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposures of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke.” This is an unwarranted alarmist conclusion based on incomplete analysis and reporting — it is not true.

The surgeon general seems to have explicitly excluded any presentation of existing systems that protect nonsmokers while allowing smokers the freedom to pursue their habits, harmlessly, in separated spaces. Without presenting such systems the report is purposely incomplete.

As an architect, I was drawn to the report’s section on Building Design and Operations (Chapter 3). It recites all sorts of engineering data, contaminant mixtures, air flow dynamics and the like, but never focuses on the simple notion of separating smoking and nonsmoking spaces from each other. It doesn’t present existing, working air-conditioning systems that do not mingle the air from the smoking areas with that of the nonsmoking areas.

All that is needed to effectively protect the nonsmokers from the evil of smoke is to exhaust all the air from the smoking room directly to the outdoors; in effect throwing it out of the building entirely. To make up for this a bit more fresh outside air must be added at the air intake louvers to make up for the loss of the smoke-contaminated air. Assuming that the smoking room is a small percentage of the entire area served by the system, the cost of treating the extra added outside air is minimal. To make it even more economical, the air supplied to the smoking room can come from cross-over ducts from the other rooms which, in effect, is pre-heated or cooled.

What alarms me most is the elimination from the surgeon general’s report of an alternate system that is protective of nonsmokers. Why didn’t the authors of the report present a comparative system known to anyone who works with building design? The only explanation is that the report was written with a predetermined conclusion, which is prejudiced and biased.

Smokers have rights too, and, had the surgeon general been honest and nonprejudiced in his report, he would have investigated and presented fair comparisons that take into account smokers’ rights as well as the protection of nonsmokers. Instead he posits an overall threat to nonsmokers that defies solution.

SEYMOUR AUERBACH

Emeritus Professor of Architecture

Catholic University

Chevy Chase

Maryland Democratic failures

The article about Maryland Senate elections, “GOP targets 7 Senate seats; Democrats scoff” (Metropolitan, Friday), listed seven seats being contested by Republican hopefuls.

The article failed to mention the competitive race in Legislative District 19 in Silver Spring for the Maryland Senate. It is likely that one of two Democratic delegates — Carol Petzold or Adrienne Mandel — will face a Republican and former FBI agent, Mike Ryman, for the seat.

Mr. Ryman, an underdog in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, has a chance because of the abysmal record of the Democrats. They have tried to bias the elections in their favor, which even The Washington Post editorialized against. They are responsible for the huge 70 percent increase being levied on customers of Baltimore Gas and Electric. They prevented Marylanders from voting on such a fundamental issue as same-sex “marriage.”

They approved funding of the despicable practice of cloning, gestating clones for two months, aborting and dissecting the clones for experimentation — even prostituting women and risking their health by permitting the sale of their ova for experimentation.

CAROLYN NAUGHTON

Silver Spring

Philanthropy and the estate tax

By hiding under the guise of the estate tax, Alan Reynolds’ column (“Foundations and the estate tax,” Commentary, July 2) attempts to justify a limited tax exemption for foundations and ends up missing the point of philanthropic giving entirely.

When you give the money to your child, it remains in the family to use for personal gain. When you give your money to philanthropy, you release control while dictating that it must be used for the common good.

I differ with my conservative friend in a number of key premises, but two in particular:

It is not their foundation money to spend as they wish. It is indeed the public’s trust once it goes into philanthropy. That is the sole justification for the tax benefit.

His assertion has a “the world will end tomorrow” ring to it. As any savvy investor knows, we should not just live for today, and that is why most foundations exist in perpetuity. The idea is to ensure resources are available to help not only the problems of our lifetime, but those that will exist in the lifetimes of our children and future generations. The same people who are bankrupting the government with today?s deficits now want foundations to practice the same fiscal folly. I think the true conservative philosophy is one that also conserves for tomorrow’s unknown needs.

This being said, I do want to assure you that we at the Council on Foundations strongly celebrate the right of every foundation to define its own mission and its own destiny. We will celebrate those that spend down, and we’ll celebrate those who manage their spending in ways that sustain their existence beyond the life of the initial donor/donors. That is part of the diversity of this field.

Mr. Reynolds also suggests that foundations “simply dispense funds” and “deliver money.” If only it were that simple. Had he recently listened to Warren Buffett or read about Andrew Carnegie he’d discover that “money can be harder to give away than it is to make it.” Foundations conduct research, provide technical assistance and education, develop infrastructure and seek solutions beyond merely providing funding.

In the end, Mr. Reynolds’ goal is to eliminate the estate tax, while constricting foundations. The ultimate result is an elite class with neither social responsibility nor obligation.

STEVE GUNDERSON

President and CEO

Council on Foundations

Washington

Needed: the right kind of line-item veto

I agree with Donald Lambro in “Pork binge remedy” (Commentary, July 3), that the line-item veto provision passed by the House of Representatives could be a valuable tool for trimming pork from the federal budget, but there is one key provision that needs to be added to make it truly effective. As it stands, the president will strike out the specific line items to be removed, thereby creating the rescission list, which then goes back to Congress for an up-or-down vote en masse. For this law to be truly effective, Congress must be forced to vote on each rescinded line item individually.

Under the law as currently configured, if the president wields a prolific line-item veto pen, he will create a very long rescission list that affects many districts, making it easier to generate the majority to override. If on the other hand the president singles out only a few bad spending proposals, it is unlikely to be overridden, but since the goal is to pare back pork to the greatest extent possible, the desired goal will be unmet.

If, however, Congress has to vote on each line item individually, very few earmarks will meet muster. Congressmen could band together to support each others’ pork, but the recorded votes would not go over well the next time they are up for re-election. Pork that is palatable while buried in a behemoth appropriations bill becomes quite unsavory when voted on individually.

We certainly need a line-item veto to arrest the runaway growth of government, but we need to build in accountability to make it a useful tool.

PETER LOCKE

Ashburn, Va.

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