GOP leaders chose the best-qualified candidate as...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 19, 2000

GOP leaders chose the best-qualified candidate as chaplain

The Sun's article "Speaker rejects panel's choice for chaplain, stirring tempest" (March 8) incorrectly accused House Speaker Dennis Hastert of nominating a Protestant minister as House chaplain instead of a Catholic priest who was the top candidate of a bipartisan search committee.

I served on the chaplain search committee. It recommended three candidates to the speaker for his consideration. The candidates were not ranked.

The Sun ignored the chaplain search committee's report, written by the committee's Republican and Democratic co-chairmen, which states, "The committee understood that it was not asked to rank the final candidates. The committee discussed the matter and agreed not to rank the three finalists."

After interviewing all three finalists, House leaders chose Rev. Charles Wright based on his three decades of pastoral experience.

In contrast, Father Timothy O'Brien has spent most of the last two decades as a professor and political consultant.

Since last December, congressional Democrats have attempted to exploit the selection of the House chaplain to gain the support of Catholic voters.

I believe Catholic voters will reject this cynical ploy.

Catholic voters are more concerned with the protection of unborn children, school choice and legislation that strengthens families.

Instead of attacking the speaker on a bogus issue, I suggest that those Democrats making the most noise about the House chaplain go home and explain to Catholics their votes against banning partial-birth abortion and school choice.

Joseph R. Pitts, Washington

The writer represents Pennsylvania's 16th District in the House of Representatives.

Punitive damages needed to stop corporate misconduct

Doug Bandow's column was the most one-sided article on the tort system I have read ("Liability payouts wager stability," Opinion Commentary, March 13).

Mr. Bandow offered no facts, just numbers -- as if the very size of punitive damage awards makes them unjust.

Corporations would love to have punitive damages tied to compensatory damages or some other predictable formula. Why? Then their accountants can do the math and the risk of a jury trial is gone.

It becomes a simple accounting procedure: attorneys will cost this much, pain and suffering is capped (here in Maryland) and punitive damages will be this much.

Once damage awards are a known quantity, there is no disincentive to avoid the behavior these awards address.

This is the stability that is desired -- known penalties and consistent profit.

As a society, we've become increasingly ready to lock up criminals and throw away the key. But if the criminal is a corporation, which has the money and lawyers to successfully defend itself against most criminal charges, the only unknown is the punitive damages a jury may award.

Michael A. Pichini, Baltimore

The writer is a trial lawyer.

Don't wait until summer to impose water-use limits

With the warnings of a possible drought again this year in our area, why don't lawmakers put some restrictions on us now ("Drought forecast in much of U.S.," March 14)?

I would suggest that in early spring we start water restrictions on certain days -- say, on odd and even days according to one's address.

This would make more sense than having more strict restrictions when the time comes that the drought is severe.

Come on, lawmakers: Wake up and smell the drought.

Shirley V. Holgate, Baltimore

Reporters labored mightily, but brought forth very little

After months of exhaustive legwork, investigative reporters Dan Fesperman and Ann Lolordo created a mountain of sheer nonsense out of a molehill of no consequence ("Families, old loyalties abandoned," March 6).

By artfully blending segments of fact and fantasy, they painted an intriguing portrait of Scott A. Caruthers.

My name is Scott Caruthers, with no middle name or initial. Perhaps the name switch was a simple faux pas, yet it points to a serious issue: Journalists have a moral obligation to get the facts right.

Maybe the reporters should have paid closer attention to the Army, whose silence was far more eloquent than any information or rumor the investigators stumbled across.

Scott Caruthers, Westminster

Making schools caretakers won't improve achievement

According to The Sun's editorial "Ready for kindergarten?" (March 8), more money must be spent to prepare children in pre-kindergarten and day care for kindergarten.

If the money is to be spent, it should be spent providing public boarding schools.

As it is, public schools are providing breakfasts, lunches, day-care facilities before and after school, not to mention counseling and educational services.

Why not go all the way and provide care from the moment the children are born, night and day?

There is no easy solution for changing non-achievers into achievers because the root causes are attitudinal and behavioral.

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