- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Heartless neighbors

Your article “Couple told to raze Chevy Chase home” (Metropolitan, Friday) and the following letter “With neighbors like these” (Letters, Saturday) tell a very sad tale. I feel very sorry for the family and was among more than a dozen residents who wrote to ask that the family’s variance request be considered sympathetically. This was not against a background of the family petitioning the neighborhood.

Not mentioned in the article was the preparation and distribution of petition letters by the principal objectors — a Realtor, journalist neighbors and the socially and politically influential — of what seemed distorted information and a disposition totally lacking in the spirit of compromise. These petitions from the objectors were pressed upon local residents by door-to-door calling.

I was moved to write this letter only when I read in the article that the objectors’ lawyer, David W. Brown, had told The Washington Times that the family had tried to manipulate the neighbors by sending letters that included an outline of the younger daughter’s handprint among the signatures. I recall a letter with the child’s handprint, but I don’t remember the note as being manipulative. I was just deeply saddened to have to compare it with the letter to residents sent by the objectors, who heartlessly insisted that the property must be torn down regardless the financial hardship to the family concerned.

In future years, when the family has to reflect on this terrible ordeal, they may feel that their best luck was to avoid being neighbors to cruel, heartless and unsympathetic people they had the ill fortune to find next door.

FAROOQ HUSSAIN

Chevy Chase

Susan Sarandon dons Fonda habits

When I read “Sarandon unhappy with centrist Hillary” (Nation, Tuesday), I thought of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s complaint about “the irrational fringe,” which apparently is responsible for death threats to herself and former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (“Ginsburg’s complaint,” Inside Politics, March 16). The distinguished Justice Ginsburg undoubtedly is correct in warning us of domestic extremism.

The reason I link the reference to Miss Sarandon to Justice Ginsburg’s well-placed concern is that Miss Sarandon is one of many celebrities who signed a remarkable document, a “Call” titled “World Can’t Wait/Drive Out the Bush Regime” that appeared as a full-page ad in the Washington City Paper on Feb. 3. Among the other signers are Edward Asner, Harry Belafonte, Jane Fonda, Sean Penn and Martin Sheen.

This “Call” says that “People look at [listed government actions] and think of Hitler — and they are right to do so. The Bush regime is setting out to radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come ….” The “Call” says our government “tell us to seek common ground with fascists and religious fanatics.” There is a reference to people who passively wait, “only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined.”

The comparison to Hitler is obscene. How can these renowned signatories be so oblivious to the real horrors of the Holocaust?

The “Call” says: “There is no escaping it: the whole disastrous course of this Bush regime must be STOPPED. And we must take the responsibility to do it.” To the normal ear, this sounds like a call to mob rule.

Paul Krugman, the liberal columnist, wrote in the New York Times on March 29, 2005: “America isn’t yet a place where liberal politicians, and even conservatives who aren’t sufficiently hard line, fear assassination. But unless moderation takes a stand against the growing power of domestic extremists, it can happen here.” We must be alert to domestic extremists of both the left and the right fringe.

NATHAN DODELL

Rockville

Don’t bet on Congress

Members of Congress are blatantly ignoring what international law has said about Internet gambling, even as they work to clarify U.S. laws (“Odds favor Internet gambling,” Page 1, Sunday).

Last year, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that the United States was violating international trade rules by allowing U.S. companies to offer online betting on horse racing while prohibiting foreign operators from doing the same. The United States faces an April 3 deadline to comply with the ruling.

Rather than fix this discrepancy and bring the U.S. in line with the WTO, Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte’s bill would codify U.S. violations. Instead of attempting to ban Internet gambling, Congress should provide a solution that respects international trade and recognizes the global nature of the Internet.

Sensible regulation of Internet gambling allows for the best way to protect children and problem gamblers, and it would provide valuable tax revenues to our states.

FRANK CATANIA

Catania Consulting

Former assistant attorney general

North Haledon, N.J.

Though I was pleased to read “Odds favor Internet gambling” (Page 1, Sunday), I was disappointed that the article failed to include the perspectives of 70 million American poker players and how overreaching legislation attempting to stop online gambling affects them.

I’m continually baffled by how some in Congress insist that when you put the word Internet in front of poker, this game of skill becomes unacceptable. What is more outrageous is that all of these bills hypocritically restrict online poker while giving the green light for selected types of Internet gambling such as horse racing, state lotteries and fantasy sports.

Apparently, playing hold ‘em or Omaha over the Internet is so pernicious that the government must deputize financial institutions and Internet service providers to censor personal financial transactions and Internet content related to certain forms of online gaming.

These prohibition bills make for bad public policy not just for poker players, but for all American citizens. Increasing the level of government surveillance of individuals’ private affairs without sufficient cause is an affront to our civil liberties. Whether they play online or at home with friends, people who enjoy poker should not be subjected to heavy-handed government intrusion into personal decisions.

MICHAEL BOLCEREK

President

Poker Players Alliance

Washington

Smoking on the left

I wonder when the enlightened leadership exhibited by the mayor of Calabasas, Calif. will spread throughout our nation (“Calabasas clean air Cossacks,” Commentary, March 16).

Calabasas, much to its credit, recently enacted the most stringent prohibitions in the nation on smoking in public places. Naturally, the pro-tobacco forces have come out swinging, enraged that their “right” to inflict their stinking, harmful addiction on others whenever and wherever they choose, is being further challenged as the public health hazard that it is.

If there were courtesy and respect for others, the smoking prohibition issue would not ever have come to prominence. The smoker, however, is focused not on the rights of others, but on his or her addiction, an addiction which appears to cause smokers to conclude that they have all the rights and that those who object to taking their smoke home in their lungs and on their hair and clothes are being unreasonable.

Once again, California has shown that it is a trendsetter for the nation. Could we ever enjoy a national ban on smoking in public places similar to that which Calabasas has seen fit to bestow on its people? It will certainly not happen in this administration, which regards the killer tobacco industry as its dear, deep-pocketed friend.

OREN M. SPIEGLER

Upper Saint Clair, Pa.

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