Code of HonorEllen Goodman's excellent article in...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Code of Honor

Ellen Goodman's excellent article in The Sun July 13 makes the point that the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy won't work. She's right, but saying it keeps gays in the closet (a place, polls indicate, the majority of Americans think gays should be anyway) doesn't go far enough to explain exactly why it won't work.

It won't work because, as we all know from past experience, young people are keenly interested in each other's sexuality.

It's not difficult to imagine a situation where talk in the barracks turns to something like, "What did you do Saturday night?" A gay soldier must either come up with a very creative and convincing lie or keep silent.

Either way, people begin to notice that someone who never does the usual things on Saturday night has something to cover up.

Then the question becomes more direct -- "Are you gay?" In answer to this, military policy requires that a person lie. A yes answer can get one booted out.

And a non-answer? Besides being laughably unbelievable after a while, the military system, we are told over and over again by the top brass, is based on a code of honor. It begins with the honor code at West Point and goes all the way down to watching over a buddy's wallet while he or she is in the shower.

Any honor code, in order to work, must be based on honesty -- that is, on not lying. The policy won't work because it puts the military in the position of explicitly encouraging its people to lie under certain situations.

People, of course, lie all the time. But I don't know of any agency of the government that has an official policy encouraging people to lie.

Where should the lying stop? Should one lie about his or her performance on the rifle range or on the yearly physical exams? How about lying in the supply room? The possibilities are endless.

Unfortunately, it's a fact of life in the military that one is provided with many opportunities to lie. What keeps the military honor system going at all is the penalty for lying, which is dishonor and discharge.

If this is true, then it's obvious that "don't ask, don't tell" is a stupid policy which can only undermine the morale not only of the gay soldiers but all the soldiers serving in the armed forces.

"Don't ask, don't tell" means the closet all right. It also means lying as an official policy and the end of the military code of honor.

J. R. Conrad

Sparks

Right of Way

I read with interest your coverage (July 15) of the collision between the Moran tugboat Cape Romaine and the sailboat Lady Jane. I hope you will continue to provide follow-up coverage of this case.

I am afraid you have been misinformed, or that you have misunderstood your "several sources" from which you obtained the misinformation that "a 'steamship' over 66 feet in length has the right of way over all vessels." The closest thing I can find to this in federal law in Inland Rule 9(b), 33 USC 2009: "A vessel of less than 20 meters in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway" (emphasis added).

It will be interesting to see whether this rule applies to the facts of the case. However, the rule clearly does not give any vessel over 66 feet in length a blanket right of way over all others.

William M. Riley

Bowie

The writer is a forensic examiner for the American Admiralty

Bureau, Ltd.

Shaky Statistics

When one has a valid argument, as Jessica Monthony does in her letter of July 14, and when one builds a solid case for it, as Ms. Monthony did, and when one presents cogent and convincing evidence to buttress her points, as Ms. Monthony has, then why, after doing such a good job of getting everyone with half a brain on her side, does she want to risk blowing the whole thing by spouting totally ridiculous, spurious and unsupportable statistics?

No one with any sense, outside of a lunatic fringe who will take as gospel anything they see in print, believes that "25 percent of women are raped while in college" or that "at least 13 percent of all women have been forced into prostitution in their lifetimes."

Even the most committed feminist must question both the size )) and the precision of such numbers. By making such eyebrow-raising statements, which defy belief and cannot possibly be verified or proven, Ms. Monthony detracts from the weightiness of her argument and causes herself to be taken less seriously than she deserves.

The reader who wants to nod his or her head in agreement with the points in Ms. Monthony's letter and in support for the thrust of her arguments instead is tempted, because of those common-sense-defying statistics, to shake the head and say "Jessica Monthony is full of baloney."

Harris Factor

Columbia

Non-Sportsmen

There are some notable people in sports who are not sportsmen. Three names that readily come to mind are Robert Irsay, George Steinbrenner and Cito Gaston.

Geoffrey W. Fielding

Baltimore

The Complex Web of Gun Control Arguments

Wallace Carroll's July 4 Perspective article, "To End the Gun Terror, End the Second Amendment Hoax," is a representative sample of what passes for debate where the issue of the rights of citizens is concerned.

As long as such demagoguery is represented as being objective, the debate will produce no acceptable results. In addition, as long as one side persists in treating its opponents as stupid and insensitive, the debate will continue to be blurred by attacks on the debaters rather than the issues at hand.

Mr. Carroll states that U.S. vs. Miller is the "classic case" regarding the Second Amendment. But Miller is by no means considered as clear-cut a refutation of the individual's right to keep and bear arms as Mr. Carroll might wish to believe . . .

Mr. Carroll proceeds from his questionable conclusion that the Second Amendment ". . . simply banned the national government from interfering with the state militias" to the irrational implication that the National Rifle Association and its members "contributed to the deaths of 33,000 Americans by gunfire each year and raised a pall of fear over communities across the land."

In the process of deriving this conclusion, Mr. Carroll tantalizingly alludes to evidence that citizens want control of firearms, ignores all equally weighty evidence to the contrary and even manages time for a gratuitous swipe at Charlton Heston, who to my knowledge did nothing to deserve it and does not represent himself as a "renowned constitutional authority," as Mr. Carroll // snidely labels him.

Mr. Carroll implies that the Constitution does not establish the right to keep and bear arms, and on this point he may very well be closest to the truth, albeit from the wrong direction.

Most defenders of individual rights assert that the Second Amendment merely affirms a right that transcends the Constitution itself, a common law right to self-defense against personal attack, insurrection and "government gone bad" that exists throughout civilization.

Next on Mr. Carroll's agenda is the obligatory assault on guns in schools.

Certainly no rational person wants school kids to live in such fear that they feel the need to carry guns for defense, and addressing that problem is well worth the effort.

It would be wise to focus on the causes of violence that force school children to feel the need to carry a firearm to school for protection, since it is already illegal for them to do so.

Firearms violence is a cause of less than one percent of all deaths of children under 15 years of age, and is at its worst among inner-city black males aged 16-19.

This indicates that the problem is not firearms in the hands of children, but a problem related to the conditions that cause certain groups to grow up feeling that their lives and the lives of others are without worth.

If prohibition has not reduced the availability of drugs in the inner cities, why expect anything different from prohibition on firearms, especially since in the worst inner-city crime areas those prohibitions already exist without effect?

We should be addressing the social causes of crime and should be treating juvenile violent criminals as criminals and not as wayward youths who are sent back to the streets without being punished for their transgressions.

Mr. Carroll includes the mandatory endorsement for the Brady bill. Like so many other prohibitionists and their apologists, he acknowledges that the Brady bill will do little if anything to affect violent crime, but, also like the others, he persists in demanding its passage anyway, perhaps to quiet the still small voice inside reminding him that he's taking the easy way out.

In the ultimate irony, Mr. Carroll cites things "our troops may be doing in Somalia, or for that matter Bosnia" as examples of actions equally vital to America's peace and security as firearms prohibition.

He may well be right here, too. Disarming the Somalis has proved to be an apparently impossible task. And as for sending our troops into Bosnia, the last I heard we all agreed that was a bad idea and we weren't about to do it. I heartily endorse that approach to Wallace Carroll's proposals as well.

John C. Taylor

Columbia

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