- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Children and drug abuse

On the 20th anniversary of the death of Len Bias from a cocaine overdose, I wanted you to know that I, as a parent who lost a very dear son to drug abuse, appreciated your article “Vigil to honor children lost to drug abuse” (Metropolitan, June 8). Your paper totally got it.

This vigil, attended by family and friends of those who died because of drugs, recognized that our world is less rich because the “flame of their talent was extinguished long before its promise burned bright.” Besides Lonise Bias and newscaster Jim Vance, who recognized that he could have been a lost one, other family members bravely spoke about their children who died from prescription drugs, steroid abuse, inhalants, ecstasy, heroin and alcohol.

I attended with three other mothers — all of our children died from heroin and were good kids from loving families. As Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said, addiction is a chronic disease similar to other chronic diseases, such as type II diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Thank you for recognizing that every loss of life to the disease of addiction is tragic.




Burning the flag

People who want to “protect the flag” from physical desecration are confusing the symbol with what is symbolized. Burning a piece of cloth damages a piece of cloth. Putting restrictions on our precious First Amendment rights damages the most important rights of all (“Panel advances Old Glory protection,” Nation, Friday).

Restricting unpopular political expression, such as flag burning, is playing with fire. If the person burning the flag owns the flag, let him burn it. That has no effect on what the flag symbolizes.

I remember reading a story of an American prisoner of war in Vietnam who said his captors showed him a photograph of a man protesting the war by burning an American flag.

The Vietnamese officer said: “See, people in your country protest your cause. This proves you are wrong.”

He replied, “No. That proves I am right. In my country, we are not afraid of freedom, even if it means that people disagree with us.”

A “flag amendment” is the sort of law that would be embraced in a dictatorship like Cuba or North Korea, but it has no place in a free society such as ours.

If some tax protester or militia nut wants to insult us and the country by burning a flag he owns, so what? He should have that right. Because most Americans find flag burning offensive, such protesters only hurt the causes they espouse. A flag-desecration law will only turn these exhibitionists into martyrs.

A lowlife who burns the flag is not a threat to the liberties the flag represents. Those who favor this amendment are. I’ll take a back seat to no one in my love of flag and country. Those in favor of a flag-desecration amendment just don’t understand that the flag stands for liberty — not fear of liberty.


Iowa City, Iowa

Politicians are again pushing for a flag-desecration amendment for one simple reason: to gain easy votes. It is always brought up in an election year as a wedge issue. To use the flag for this cynical political purpose is the true desecration.

The Supreme Court has ruled that flag burning is free speech because it is the message, not the act itself, that is being conveyed. Remember, the only honorable recognized method of disposing of a worn-out flag is by complete incineration — burning it to ashes. My local Veterans of Foreign Wars post collects unserviceable flags. Then, once a year, the flags are burned according to accepted practice with appropriate salutes.

To say that flag burning is permissible in one setting but not in another is to legislate intent, and that is a restriction upon freedom of speech. It’s ironic that politicians want to weaken our constitutional right to free speech in order to protect a symbol of our freedom.

What is and what isn’t the flag? Is wearing a flag bandana on your head while sweating profusely desecrating the flag? As a runner, I’ve seen American-flag running shorts and full uniforms. If these are considered representations of the flag and wearing one of these for a marathon isn’t desecrating the flag, I don’t know what is.

Republicans must be in a panic that bad news in Iraq, budget deficits and corruption scandals will cost them dearly in November. Why else trot out two tired old war horses — gay marriage and flag burning?

It’s painfully obvious that America faces more important issues. Running nonexistent threats up the flagpole is pure pandering, and we voters should demand better of our politicians.


South Bend, Ind.

Pelosi’s bad choice

What do you do with a federal judge who is impeached and removed from the bench? Why, elect him to Congress, of course.

With such being the case for Rep. Alcee Hastings, Florida Democrat, Rep. Nancy Pelosi then appointed him to the House Intelligence Committee. Now Mrs. Pelosi has announced that if the Democrats recapture the House, she will elevate Mr. Hastings over Rep. Jane Harman on the committee (“The Pelosi standard,” Editorial, Tuesday). How Mrs. Pelosi is driven by politics is her business. However, whom she appoints is ours.

Mr. Hastings has a proven record of bribery, perjury and leaking highly confidential information. Under any normal process, Mr. Hastings never could earn security clearance. Though there is no way to control whom voters elect, a person as ethically challenged as Mr. Hastings should not have easy access to highly sensitive information.

Mrs. Pelosi’s words and actions bespeak her deeply flawed judgment. The one piece of good news is that she may have revealed herself to be so incompetent that the Democrats, if they do recapture the House, will look for common sense in their next leader.



Cut-and-run Democrats

The underlying story within the article “Murtha claims support for Iraq pullout plan” (Page 1, Monday) is defined in the comments by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat. Her suggestion that the Iraq mission has taken too long reflects the mindset that infects not only rich politicos, but the man in the street as well. Democrats seem to need a quick fix to everything so they can move on to something less troublesome. If all of our troops had come home two years ago, Mrs. Feinstein would still be crying about something. If it takes more than a week, there must be a problem with the planning.

Placing Mrs. Feinstein’s wisdom and pontifications into historical context, Rome would not have conquered the known world, Lincoln would have given up in 1864, the Nazis would still own Europe, the Pacific would be a Japanese lake and the Chinese would be sitting in Pusan.

Mr. Murtha believes we should follow Ronald Reagan’s course in Beirut and Bill Clinton’s course in Somalia. Both chose to bail. Have you looked at Lebanon and Somalia lately? Despite their experiences and education, the Murthas and the Feinsteins of the world still believe you can push a button and everything will go back to the way it was. Why not try, just for once, to work toward a successful conclusion rather than just a conclusion.



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