- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2007

In defense of the ACLU

Joseph Caouette and Joseph Infranco (“Public money and the ACLU,” Letters, June 3) have it wrong about San Diego’s Mount Soledad Cross and the American Civil Liberties Union. The legal challenge originally was filed by Vietnam veteran Philip Paulson and sought not to have the very visible cross torn down but rather to have it moved to a nongovernmental location in keeping with the First Amendment’s religious-freedom clauses. The courts involved agreed with the Paulson-ACLU position. At least one church offered to accept the cross, but local politicians nixed the arrangement.

The ACLU is not opposed to monuments honoring veterans but seeks only to have religious-themed monuments located on nongovernment properties, of which there are plenty. Nor does the ACLU oppose religious symbols on grave markers in military cemeteries. As a minister, I have officiated at an interment at Arlington National Cemetery.

I do not always agree with every position taken by the ACLU, but it is a privately funded volunteer organization dedicated to defending the fundamental rights of all Americans. As for attorney fees, litigation to defend civil liberties would dry up if attorneys were not to be paid for their work when they win cases.



Americans for Religious Liberty

Silver Spring, Md.

A government of laws

Lee Casey and David Rivkin, in the latest of their many apologias for the Bush administration, again urge the theory of the unitary executive (“Where’s the beef?” Op-Ed, May 29). In the scheme of things, the presidency is an elective dictatorship, and subordinate officers, including U.S. attorneys, once the formality of Senate confirmation is over, are removable for any reason or no reason, and Congress has no business complaining of exercises of this power. Leaving aside the deliberately sought “stealth” legislation designed to relieve interim U.S. attorneys of the requirement of Senate confirmation and the politicization of career appointments, which even Mr. Casey and Mr. Rivkin do not try to defend, there are problems with this formulation.

Public officers take oaths to uphold the Constitution, not the personal oaths of Hitler’s generals. Senate confirmation, as Alexander Hamilton observed in Federalist 76, was designed to guard against officers “possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of [the president’s] pleasure.” The unprecedented attempt to remove select U.S. attorneys in the middle of a presidential term to make way for apparatchiks assumed not to require Senate confirmation was objectionable because it subverts the constitutional scheme.

Public offices, contrary to Mr. Rivkin and Mr. Casey’s assumption, as 19th-century Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story said, are “not for cringing favorites or court sycophants,” like our current attorney general, but “to give dignity, strength, purity and energy to the administration of the laws.”

Congress may, as it has with the Federal Reserve Board and the FBI director, provide federal officers with fixed terms. It has every right to consider similar or milder guarantees for those wielding prosecutorial powers that, in essence, are unlimited. We do not want prosecutors who are laws unto themselves, but still less do we want one-man rule and the impairment of freedom from fear. Previous administrations have dealt with U.S. attorneys at arm’s length. This one has not, and its actions threaten to replace constitutional with personal government.



DDT saves lives

Abou Thiam’s June 4 letter helps explain why a million African children still die needlessly every year from readily preventable disease (“DDT is unsafe”). His facts are wrong, and his policy prescription was a disastrous failure during the three decades it was employed. Billions got malaria, and millions died who likely would have lived if their countries had been able to use DDT.

The World Health Organization reinstituted DDT use for malaria control because it recognized that no other chemical — indeed, no other intervention of any kind — does so much for so long at so little cost. Sprayed in small amounts on the walls of wattle or cinder-block houses, it repels mosquitoes, keeps the few that do enter from biting and kills any that land for up to a year.

Some within WHO are unhappy with this policy change, but it is supported by science, WHO health directors and the Stockholm Convention — which specifically permits DDT for disease control (and not only in emergencies) until equally effective alternatives are readily available. Thus far, there are none.

DDT is not a silver bullet, but it plays a vital role in controlling malaria and other killer diseases. Unlike anti-pesticide activists like Mr. Thiam, we in the “DDT-promoting” community recognize that every weapon must be used against malaria: nets, education, sanitation, modern drugs, larvacides, insecticides and spatial repellents such as DDT.

We also know chemotherapy drugs cause anemia, diarrhea, increased infection risk, birth defects and hair loss. Anti-malaria drugs can cause severe vomiting, lung and liver damage and other harm. Bed nets are impregnated with pyrethroid insecticides. All must be used carefully, but their benefits clearly outweigh their risks.

DDT is the most studied chemical in history. Decades of research have found no proof that DDT directly harms human health, says Donald Roberts, a professor of tropical health who is one of the world’s foremost authorities on malaria and DDT. Some studies have found possible links between DDT and various minor health issues; others have found no such connections.

“There is extensive evidence, however, that DDT reduces disease and saves lives,” Mr. Roberts emphasizes. “Unfortunately, Pesticide Action Network is so focused on speculative risks of using DDT that it ignores the horrific dangers the chemical prevents.”

Uganda’s Diana Komuhendo has lost many relatives to this disease and just received her degree in public health.

“These activists are more concerned about birds and hypothetical health effects than about children’s and parents’ lives,” she says bluntly. “That is immoral and wrong.”


Senior policy adviser

Congress of Racial Equality


Mobility facts

Alan Reynolds is entitled to his perspective on the merits of various economic agendas (“A progressive backlash?” Commentary, Tuesday), but I take exception to his assertion that the Economic Mobility Project’s nonpartisan research amounts to “alarming rhetoric.” It reports facts — facts that we hope are just the beginning of a broader conversation about a concept that has united our nation for centuries. That the discussion should occur within the context of a presidential campaign should come as no surprise, given how central the issue is to all Americans.

We agree that many elements other than income influence economic mobility in the United States. For that reason, the project is working in partnership with leading ideologically diverse policy thinkers to provide rigorous data about the state of mobility in America and factors that may promote or hinder it.

In a too-often-polarized policy environment, economic mobility offers a unifying lens though which to analyze and discuss a key national issue. We encourage all Americans — left, right and center — to join this conversation on the health and status of the American dream.


Managing director

Planning and Economic Policy

The Pew Charitable Trusts


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