- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2008


Chavez’s generosity

The Op-Ed “Shills for Chavez” (Tuesday) condemned the nonprofit Citizens Energy Corp. for accepting a charitable donation of oil to provide much-needed heating assistance to poor, elderly and American Indian families in 23 states — the same kind of help we have provided to poor families for nearly 30 years.

Because oil prices have tripled in five years and the federal government has cut its fuel assistance program by 20 percent, we wrote to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and oil companies asking them to provide a small share of their windfall profits — in just five years, the top 10 U.S. oil and gas companies alone generated $818 billion in earnings before taxes — to help ease the burden felt by consumers depending on this commodity to survive.

For three years, we have worked with Citgo Petroleum and Venezuela because they were the only company, and the only country, to respond. We acknowledge their generosity as we would recognize any company or country that answers our calls to help the poor.

Unfortunately, some find it more appropriate to direct their anger toward President Hugo Chavez by denouncing our work rather than providing some constructive alternative to help about 200,000 low-income households make it through the winter.

If there’s something wrong with poor Americans receiving less than one-half of 1 percent of the 500 million barrels of Venezuelan oil that is imported into the United States each year, then isn’t there something also wrong with American businesses and households consuming the other 99.5 percent?

We do not condone Mr. Chavez’s actions any more than we condone the actions of other foreign governments with which our country has business relations. While Citizens Energy is called upon to answer for Mr. Chavez, no one asked ExxonMobil’s CEO to justify Exxon’s extensive dealings with Saudi Arabia after its judiciary sentenced a gang rape victim to 200 lashes.

If we are truly concerned about moral purity, energy companies that pay to do business in oil-producing countries that do not share America’s views should be held to a higher standard. For further consistency, America shouldn’t import oil from such countries. But be careful — imposing such a doctrine means you’ll be getting out your walking shoes because there won’t be enough oil to drive or fly.

Those who claim to be truly concerned about morality should join us in asking Big Oil to share some of its bounty and calling on our government to fully fund the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

The only immorality worth discussing is why America would allow millions of its own to be left in the cold.


President, CEO and Founder

Citizens Energy Corp.


Self-serving patriots

Thomas Sowell’s column “The press and politics” (Commentary, Thursday) was very good. It certainly points to the central importance of the press in a free society. He argues that journalists cannot serve two masters: the complete truth and a political agenda. I agree. This is so important.

Mr. Sowell failed to mention, however, the third master: self-interest. Do you think our journalists’ professionalism might be ravaged by this master?

When I hear how Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh opine on how they will vote in the November general elections, I opine that these “journalists” are either on drugs or they are suffering from an overwhelming dose of self-serving interest. They have lost their authority to speak to the American people. The worst thing to be said about a patriot is that he was self-serving.


Avon, Conn.

McCain’s marriage

I can’t believe that the article “Campaigning with Cupid” (Nation) in Thursday’s editions of The Washington Times begins with the story of how Sen. John and Cindy McCain first met in May 1979 without mentioning that at the time Mr. McCain was still married to his first wife of 14 years, Carol Shepp.

On Valentine’s Day, I don’t want to read about a married man, especially one who will be the Republican nominee for president, saying of another woman: “By the evening’s end, I was in love.”

The accompanying photograph also shows the bride and groom on their wedding day in May 1980, just two months after Mr. McCain finally petitioned for a divorce from his first wife in Florida. Why did he wait 10 months after he “was in love” to ask for a divorce?

Mr. McCain and the second Mrs. McCain seem to have a very good life, but to totally ignore the fact of his prior marriage and concurrent affair is not accurate.


Fairfax Station

Visa caps harm competitiveness

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch’s Op-Ed “Meaningful patent reform” (Friday) painted a pretty picture of the Patent Reform Act of 2007. Not only did the senators neglect to mention several controversial parts of the bill, but they forgot the most important part of patent reform: inventors.

The senators are rightly concerned that American industry’s global competitiveness is affected by patent laws, but 25 percent of international patents filed from the United States in 2006 named skilled legal foreign labor as inventors. Foreign skilled labor is driving much of America’s technological progress.

Although the Patent Reform Act of 2007 has several negative and positive features, it fails to address inventors. Without talented and skilled people, the best patent law imaginable would be irrelevant. The United States could be denying the next Albert Einstein or Thomas Edison entry because there are too few H-1B visas issued each year. For the sake of American technological progress, we need to remove the cap on H-1B visas.


Research Associate

Competitive Enterprise Institute


Unscrupulous lawyers’ behavior

The head of the District’s trial lawyers’ association, Salvatore J. Zambri, made one thing perfectly clear: he disdains the business community (“Tort reform,” Letters, Wednesday). But, in the well-worn game of “shoot the messenger, not the message,” he never answers the allegation that some trial lawyers have provided Americans with dangerously biased health information to recruit plaintiffs for lawsuits.

The allegation stems from a study by the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest that says some trial lawyers have sponsored Web sites, without declaring their involvement, which hype side effects of important medicines. When patients or family members do research online, as I recently did about my father’s illness, these faux health care Web sites pop up first. Legitimate, unbiased Web sites are crowded out. When people make poor health decisions based on misinformation, whether too positive or too negative, results can be devastating.

In Washington, people can get so invested in their work that they lose perspective. Plaintiffs’ lawyers are important when seeking fair redress for legitimate plaintiffs; they do a disservice when they become anti-business reactionaries. If businesses were anonymously putting forth misleading information, personal injury lawyers would file lawsuits. Mr. Zambri should not defend his own kind when they engage in unscrupulous behavior.


Public policy attorney

Shook, Hardy and Bacon


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