- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Enough with the firearm restrictions

The article regarding the proposed assault weapons ban in the Maryland legislature doesn’t tell the whole story (“O’Malley aid called key to weapons ban,” Metropolitan, Tuesday). It quotes Neil Quinter, a former delegate, with emphasis on former, but he is also on the Board of Directors of CeaseFire Maryland a rabid anti-gun, anti-freedom organization working to transform the citizens of Maryland into victims.The ban would prohibit Marylanders from owning “an assault long gun, an assault pistol and a copycat weapon” which has so vague a definition as to be applied to almost any firearm. There are plenty of restrictions on firearms in Maryland, we don’t need any more and we certainly don’t need more infringements on our rights.


Frederick, Md.

It’s a family thing

Cheryl Wetzstein’s article “The life-script schism” (Culture, Thursday) on the books discussing the optimal life order of college degree-marriage-baby was perfect for starting a discussion of this subject with my 14-year-old daughter.

Thanks to The Washington Times for again spotlighting an important work of social science that offers hope for improving the lives of millions of people and moving our culture in a positive direction.



Prisoners of the current war

Bruce Fein (“Rule of Law crippled,” Commentary, Tuesday)is letting his idealism blind his view of reality. His comments about the “Great Writ” would be true if any of the enemy combatants being held at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere were U.S. citizens and subject to the rights and privileges of the U.S. Constitution. However they are not, and I resent his extending rights to the entire world which my ancestors fought and died for. This is a war of nation against nation, and in no war in history have prisoners been given the civil rights that Mr. Fein is trying to extend. At the very minimum, we — as the capturing power — have the right to hold prisoners until hostilities have ceased.

These prisoners do not even properly possess — nor are we mandated to provide — the rights granted under the Geneva Accords since they do not fight for a regular national army, under a chain of command, and in uniforms; the United States has every right to simply kill these prisoners out of hand as enemy agents. We also have the right to interrogate them by any means necessary in order to extract information that will protect our troops and civilians. By fighting with terrorist methods, they have forfeited any legal and moral protections which they might have otherwise enjoyed.

The rules of war exist because of the conditions of war, and to pretend that civilian law with its rules for gathering of evidence and treatment of prisoners can apply on the battlefield is ludicrous. I have no doubt that some innocent people have gotten swept up in the process — in any human endeavor there are inevitably mistakes. However, the military has no interest in holding innocents and reviews every prisoner’s case thoroughly. For Mr. Fein to suggest that President Bush would deliberately detain “bogus enemy combatants… to inflate public fear and to justify executive aggrandizements” is not only insulting to the president, but to the U.S. Armed Forces who carry out his orders (and who are specifically forbidden to carry out illegal orders). Would Mr. Fein bog our courts down with the tens of thousands of cases which would have to be heard? Would he force our military to follow proper civilian police procedures on the battlefield — where an enemy is lucky if our soldiers take him alive, much less read Miranda rights? Would Mr. Fein prefer to force our soldiers to fight the same people again and again, capturing them only to see them released on legal technicalities? (If so, then he only defeats himself, since the Army would rapidly adopt a take-no-prisoners policy).

War is a horrible enterprise, but we cannot make it better by trying to apply idealistic but inappropriate rules of civil behavior. To do so will only hurt us and make life easier for those who are trying to kill us and destroy our civilization.


Alexandria, Va.

Seeing is believing

The otherwise-excellent story on sex-selective abortions in India (“India’s imbalance of sexes,” Page 1, Monday) included the following material error: “The girls who are born often end up in orphanages like that run by Mother Teresa’s Missionary Sisters of Charity on the outskirts of the city. Of the 40 children there, 37 are girls and many are agonizingly small, their tiny bodies disturbingly still in wicker cribs, listless and unloved.”

Let me assure you, as one who has spent some years working with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, no child in the care of the sisters is ever “listless” or “unloved.” Quite the contrary, the very purpose of the Missionaries of Charity is to want the unwanted and to love the unloved. The care children receive from the sisters is exemplary. The picture of a smiling sister surrounded by children, published with your article, confirms this.



Up in smoke

The Washington Times may take heart from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision rejecting the $79.5 million punitive-damage award in an Oregon tobacco case (“Judicial progress,” Editorial, Saturday) but the ruling provides no comfort to the millions of people whose lives were destroyed by the lies and deceit of the cigarette industry.

The purpose of punitive damages, which usually are awarded in only the most egregious of instances, is to punish a wrongdoer for behavior beyond the pale. Such awards can be found in cases where evidence exists that the defendant caused the injury through fraud or reckless conduct.

The nation’s cigarette manufacturers will have to do a lot of tap dancing to explain why significant punitive damages aren’t warranted in this case. At trial, the facts established that Jesse Williams died of lung cancer in 1996 as a result of a two-pack-a-day habit that lasted 45 years. He often told his wife, Mayola, who brought the suit in Oregon state court, that he ignored warnings about health risks because tobacco executives had vouched for the safety of their product, much as they did during an appearance before the House Subcommittee on Health in 1994 when they claimed under oath that they believed nicotine was not addictive and that smoking did not cause any disease.

As we now know, more than 400,000 Americans die as the result of smoking-related diseases each year and thousands more succumb from exposure to secondhand smoke. The World Health Organization maintains that smoking will cause more than 10 million deaths a year worldwide by 2025. The consequences of tobacco smoking to public health are devastating, but tobacco companies soft-pedaled the consequences to individuals like Mr. Williams for years.

Punitive damages are necessary in cases such as this to punish outlaw corporations such as those in the tobacco industry and to change their behavior. Unless juries are permitted to punish defendants for lies and deceit that cause harm to the public, we can only expect a repetition of the same in the future.

The assessment of punitive damages is an important tool available to the public to punish and deter wrongdoers from engaging in reckless or fraudulent behaviors that harm innocent people. Their judicious use and application will help ensure that rogue corporations that are tempted to put profits over people will play by the rules of a civilized society.



Center for a Just Society


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