For women, parallels to the Progressive Era


The Nobel Peace Prize recently was awarded to three women's rights activists from Africa and the Middle East. These women have been courageously ameliorating the oppression of women in countries where many still believe that a woman's job is to stay at home.

About 100 years ago, a similar movement, the Progressive Movement, occurred in the United States during which women gained the right to vote, became more integrated into the workforce and broadened their role in society.

The movements in Africa and the Middle East seem to parallel the movements during the Progressive Era. We can only hope that the results -- ones of success -- also run parallel.

And that one day, names such as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman will be synonymous with names such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.


* * *


Actually, we can and do legislate morality


Lori Sturdevant -- along with many other viewers, I'm sure -- has managed to discern the obvious (and reliably PBS) perspective that Ken Burns and Lynn Novick tried to drive home with their series on Prohibition: that self-righteous "moralists" cannot be allowed to impose their concepts of good behavior on everyone else (Short Takes, Oct. 7).

But a moment's reflection reveals what an odd idea that is. Are laws against murder, theft, lying in court and race discrimination the product of self-righteous moralists? If not, why not?

Simply because we happen to agree with them? Nearly every episode of the Burns and Novick series showed someone saying, "You can't legislate morality," but morality is the basis of most legislation.

The problem is you can't legislate enough of it, and people still break the laws. You might say that lying, stealing and murder affects innocent people, but so does alcoholism. Perhaps that's why many parts of the country still are dry.

The simple fact is that most of us are perfectly happy to impose our concepts of good behavior on everyone else whenever we think we can get away with it, and in some cases we're all better off, even when we find the regulations annoying.

Where, for example, are the denunciations of self-righteous moralists when it comes to smoking bans, seat-belt and helmet laws, and the mandatory purchase of health insurance? Figuring out when regulations make things better instead of worse is hard analytic work.

Using denunciations of "moralists" to promote our own preferences is just sloppy thinking and bigotry dressed up in politically correct wrapping paper.


* * *


Addiction is forgotten root of the problem


Today 1,000 people will die because they smoked cigarettes. Eighty or more people will die because of alcohol, on the roadways or from medical problems, and maybe 12 people will die because of all the controlled substances that are abused in the United States.

I am not an advocate of abusing any substance; I am an opponent of abusing common sense and logic. Prohibition of drugs has funded the government to give automatic weapons to drug cartels in Mexico so they can kill us, and then get caught. Prohibition does not help treat addiction.

Addiction -- that's the problem. You don't shoot it. You don't imprison it. You treat it. But abuse of common sense is running rampant in this country, pouring billions into a war on drugs that should be directed to helping those hooked on drugs overcome their dependency.

The three groups that benefit from our irrational drug laws are the dealers who sell at prices inflated only because of prohibition, the makers of automatic weapons, and the cadre of U.S. drug warriors with their entrenched budgets funding safe houses, fancy weapons, international operations and skilled statisticians who somehow have convinced Congress that our money is being well-spent.


* * *


Things have changed since the last century


It just occurred to me, after hearing about yet another student with a debt of well more than $100,000, that the situation is almost exactly the opposite of that during the days of the G.I. Bill. Then, returning vets were able to get sizable subsidies for higher education, and that often resulted in better careers and better lives for their families.

These days, intelligent young people are out of work (or way underemployed) for long stretches. Their college debts are way beyond the size of a down payment on a house, and the law prevents them from renegotiating, deferring or discharging these debts through bankruptcy. Basically, they're indentured servants, except without work.

I think this is one reason our economy is shot. Surely we can come up with a way to allow former students to manage this debt.


* * *


Subjects that should or should not be mixed?


Why would someone be stripped of rights given to every American citizen because of a certain religious or vocational endeavor ("Crackdown needed on pulpit politics," editorial, Oct. 7)?

Nonprofit, for-profit, bankrupt or prosperous, every American has not only the right but the obligation to do what he or she deems appropriate to make our political system function and move our nation forward.

Kudos to the Rev. Mac Hammond for taking full advantage of his rights ("Faith was never meant to be banished from our discourse," Oct. 7). Yes, he's the head of a "church." Yes, he may own a jet.

Yes, the IRS may be watching closely ... and it seems to me that what it will see is a man engaging politics the way our founding fathers established this system to work and in a fashion our government allows.

The political process and our nation can only benefit from people like Hammond who know their rights and act on them.


• • •

I resent the comments from Hammond and his ilk, implying that they have a better understanding of political procedure. As someone who is in church most every Sunday, I no more expect or seek political direction from my pastor than from my brain surgeon or my plumber.