- The Washington Times - Friday, March 10, 2000

Editorial written under influce of alcohol industry

In response to your March 6 editorial "Power MADD," I have canceled my subscription to The Washington Times. Never have I read a more fact-twisted, mean-spirited, off-the-mark, yellow-journalist piece of, uh, fiction. I thought I was reading straight from an alcoholic beverage industry publication.

If medical reality is the measuring stick, you should know that the American Medical Association supports a .05 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) as the legal definition of drunken driving. Virtually the entire health, safety and law-enforcement community is urging Maryland and all the states to draw the line against drunken driving at the very reasonable .08 BAC level. This is the same standard used in the big beer- and wine-producing and -consuming countries of Europe, including Italy, France, Germany, England and Ireland.

The enormous progress in the war on drunken driving over the past two decades has been achieved largely through the work of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). MADD does not have the political action committee money or the political influence of the alcoholic beverage industry, but the voices of victims have made our streets safer for all of us. The organization deserves our praise rather than baseless, insulting and ignorant attacks.

Once again, The Washington Times has strayed far from truth and reality. Your publication appears to be under the influence of the alcohol industry's propaganda peddlers. As I sign off as a subscriber, I guess you could say that I have had one too many of your flat-Earth-viewpoint editorials for one lifetime.



Maryland House

of Delegates


Your editorial is misleading and laden with factual inaccuracies and unsupported claims that unfortunately repeat the slogans of the alcohol industry.

The scientific evidence that at .08 BAC an individual is too impaired to drive safely is overwhelming. All reputable experts agree at .08 BAC, vision, coordination, reflexes and attention, the critical skills for safe driving, are all diminished.

Ask yourself this question: Would you allow your child to carpool with a parent who regularly drives at .08 BAC with blurred vision, slow reflexes and divided attention?

Let's keep our eye clearly on the ball. At .08 BAC, a person is too impaired to drive safely and should not be driving. Strict laws and visible enforcement are the practical and prudent ways to keep such a person off the road.


Acting administrator

National Highway Traffic

Safety Administration


Did it occur to you that the criminal defense lawyer and Maryland delegate who is skeptical about driving-while-intoxicated (DWI) laws and their "presumed impaired" alcohol levels (which the editorial called "arbitrary") was speaking against his own self-interest?

The editorial quotes Maryland Delegate Joseph F. Vallario as follows: "I was there when the reading was 0.15 and the doctors said, 'Look, when you're at 0.13, you're intoxicated.' Then a few years went by, and the doctors said, 'When you're 0.10, you're intoxicated.' But now, I haven't heard anyone come forward to say that, medically, at 0.08, you are intoxicated." MADD counters that Mr. Vallario has a vested interest in keeping the BAC level higher to protect his clients.

The statement attributed to MADD is not well thought out. The lower the alcohol level limit, the more cases and more money for criminal defense lawyers. Indeed, that appears to be the reason criminal defense lawyers are mostly silent on this issue, even though they are in the best position and have the most expertise to know.

Nice article though, overall.


Minneapolis, Minn.

Editor's note: Mr. Gallagher is a criminal defense lawyer.

It's nice to see a little balance on the driving-while-intoxicated issue, but it's probably unfair simply to cast MADD members as neo-Prohibitionist fanatics. MADD is a large organization that has grown plump and prosperous by beating the drunk-driver drum. It has become addicted to attracting, consuming and digesting millions upon millions of dollars every year.

The people who benefit from this bounty are not about to go quietly into the night just because their proposals are mostly meaningless demagoguery. They have to keep the money pumps primed, and .08 BAC laws are one way to do that.



National Motorists Association

Waunakee, Wis.

Don't ignore all the good that Pinochet did for millions of Chileans

I was pleased to read Georgie Anne Geyer's March 7 Commentary piece on Salvador Allende and Gen. Augusto Pinochet, "Pinochet-Allende conflict revisited." As a graduate student in 1991, I wrote a paper on Chilean history. The last part of the paper focused on Gen. Pinochet's overthrow of Mr. Allende and the economic miracle that ensued after Gen. Pinochet instituted free-market reforms (often known as the "Chilean Economic Miracle"). My classmates chastised me, and my professor was dumfounded to see such a vigorous defense of Gen. Pinochet.
Too often people only talk about the human rights abuses that occurred under his regime. What people don't understand is that Gen. Pinochet's free-market reforms will have positive human rights effects for centuries to come as Chile continues to be a dominant player in the world economy. For example: Chile reformed its pension system so workers can actually expect to have money waiting for them when they retire (unlike the sorry excuse for Social Security we have in the United States). There is no way a socialist government would have instituted that kind of reform. While we cannot ignore the human rights abuses by Gen. Pinochet, we also must remember the good that he did for millions of Chileans.

U.S. must support democracy not just the military in Colombia

The March 7 article "Homes, land abandoned as civil war continues" makes reference to how Colombia's civil war between leftist guerrillas and government security and paramilitary groups has expanded to the point where noncombatants are being affected.
According to the late Gen. Edward Lansdale, a U.S. expert on counterinsurgency warfare, citizens initially join guerrilla movements against their own country for idealistic reasons, such as to fight social injustices.
The Colombian people view their own government as corrupt. That is why the government has found itself in a protracted battle with the guerrillas. As Sun Tzu stated in "The Art of War": "The people must agree with the goals of the government before they will be willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the country."
The U.S. government provides aid to the Colombian government in the forms of military hardware and assistance. America essentially has neglected the social, political and economic dimensions of this conflict.
The U.S. government needs to do two main things to help deal with these additional dimensions.
First, the United States needs to work on fostering more democracy and justice in Colombia through conditional aid based on those principles. Second, the United States must lessen the plight of the people. This can be done by sponsoring aid programs and resettlement projects, bringing in additional medicine, promoting crop substitution and building basic infrastructure, such as wells and roads for villages.
Research assistant
National Defense Council

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