Saturday Mailbox


July 29, 2006

Column on rape sends wrong signals

Susan Reimer's column regarding the lessons from the Lamar Owens rape case seemed to send a familiar message: "When in doubt, blame the girl" ("The lessons to take from Owens verdict," July 25).

I can remember when the comments about rape victims included, "she dressed too suggestively," "her blouse was too low-cut," "her skirt was too short," "her morals are questionable," "she's not a virgin," "she shouldn't have been walking there at night," "she has a bad reputation" and "she got him too excited."

Let's add to the list, "she shouldn't have had so much to drink" and "she shouldn't have passed out."

Now maybe we should also include, "she shouldn't go to sleep in her dorm room without an armed guard."

Maybe this is the message for our daughters, "never let your guard down."

You can't relax, you can't party, you can't pass out, even if its in your dorm room, because someone -- maybe even someone you thought you could trust or once had a relationship with or thought you might have a relationship with -- might decide to rape you.

And, later, no one will take your side. They will dredge up every excuse they can think of and not even feel sorry for you, because you deserved it, you brought it on yourself and, although you were passed out and immobile, will suggest that your vulnerability was to blame.

Should our daughters really have to live with this fear? Is that the state of our society?

Is it a good idea for women to be aware of their vulnerability? Yes.

Is it OK to suggest that only sober virgins can be protected from rape or see their assailants convicted of the crime? No.

Christel Cothran


Trivializing dispute over the `flush tax'

To trivialize the disagreement between the Department of Defense and the state of Maryland over payment of the state's bay restoration charge, commonly known as the "flush tax," by describing it as, "A silly semantic dispute worthy of neither politicians nor lawyers" does the nature and quality of the issue a serious disservice ("Bay wins Pentagon treaty," editorial, July 21).

While it may seem to the editors of The Sun that Pentagon lawyers "quibbled about whether Maryland has the authority to impose its bay restoration fee," they have, in fact, been engaged in a very legitimate dispute over the basic relationship between the federal government and the states and a federal agency's ability to pay such a charge.

In deciding the case of McCulloch vs. Maryland in 1819, U. S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall observed that "the power to tax involves the power to destroy" and held that Maryland's attempt to tax the Second Bank of the United States, an instrument of the federal government, violated the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Consequently, he voided the tax.

Since then, it has been a well-established rule of law that a state may not impose any form of charge on the federal government without the prior consent of Congress.

Federal fiscal law makes the inverse true as well: Federal agencies may not pay state-imposed charges without Congress' permission.

In the major federal environmental statutes, Congress has generally agreed to the payment of "reasonable fees" by federal facilities.

And in the Clean Water Act, which is the relevant federal law here, Congress authorized federal facilities to pay "reasonable service charges" only.

So, whether the state's bay restoration charge is a fee or a tax does matter. It is not simply quibbling.

This so-called "matter of semantics" is a matter of constitutional importance and of practical significance to federal agencies, which can only pay legitimate, reasonable fees in return for some direct benefit from the state.

It is not a trivial matter and should not be represented as such.

Robert J Boonstoppel


The writer is a retired officer in the Judge Advocate General's corps of the U.S. Army.

Only healthier living can cut care costs

The desire of Jay Hancock and state Sen. E.J. Pipkin to put "consumers more in control of their [health insurance] fate" is noteworthy. But the proposal in question would simply rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic and fail to provide any true consumer control ("A Mass-style health plan merits Md.'s attention," July 23).

The best way to reduce the cost of health care is to reduce demand -- i.e., cut the number of insurance claims -- which would require us to reduce the incidence of the conditions which generate claims.

And the vast majority of care claims, particularly expensive ones, are attributable to chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and cancer.

That means that the key to reducing claims is preventing chronic diseases. And the key to doing this is good nutrition, exercise and other healthy behaviors.

Huge savings can be realized through coronary bypasses not performed, chemotherapy not received and drugs not prescribed.

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