- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Free speech right not absolute

I understand the left's requirement to misread the Constitution intentionally, but why do conservatives such as Paul Craig Roberts, for whom I have the utmost respect, insist there is a "constitutional right to free speech" ("Constitution loses to political forces," Commentary, Saturday)?
The First Amendment to the Constitution reads, "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech ." It does not say Michigan or Idaho or the District of Columbia shall make no such law. It does not even say that university and college administrations shall make no such law. It is quite explicit that "Congress shall make no law."
Most important, the Constitution does not say conservatives cannot use an unfortunate remark as a means of ridding themselves of a mediocre, go-along-to-get-along limousine liberal from the Senate leadership.
The First Amendment does not and was not intended to confer a constitutional right to free speech. It was intended only to ensure that the federal government would not pass legislation that would restrict free speech. Many, including those with impressive scholarly credentials, including Robert Bork, maintain this clause was intended only to protect the free exchange of political ideas.
Does Mr. Roberts' citation of the 14th Amendment in an attempt to draw a parallel with his free-speech thesis indicate he believes in the thoroughly discredited incorporation theory? I certainly hope not. To do so irreparably harms his credibility.

JOHN A. BEARD
Gambrills, MD

Symbolic burning is more than speech

Court cases and cross burnings in Virginia have rekindled the smoldering debate on just what should or should not be considered constitutionally protected speech. It's an interesting discussion that has columnists, correspondents and constitutional academicians agog with opinion, nearly all of which makes a correlation to flag burning.
Interestingly, three camps of opinion appear to be emerging. There are those who believe neither cross burning nor flag burning merit constitutional protection; those who believe both acts should be protected speech; and those who, like Bruce Fein in "The unique evil of cross burning," (Commentary, Dec. 24), want it both ways.
Mr. Fein opines: "Cross burnings may resemble expressive conduct like flag burning that have received free speech protection, but a few pages of history is worth volumes of logic in justifying a distinction." Really? In Texas v. Johnson (1989), Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist argued against the legalization of flag burning by recalling the history of the flag of the United States, how it had been protected for so long a time, and why. To support his opinion, Mr. Rehnquist borrowed from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes just as Mr. Fein has done that "a page of history is worth a volume of logic" (New York Trust Co. v. Eisner, 1921). If history is the foundation for finding cross burning unworthy of constitutional protection, the same should apply to flag burning.
If there is a distinction to be made in this debate, as Mr. Fein suggests, it is not one between the burning flag and the burning cross. The distinction to be made goes to the heart of the debate. The distinction and an overwhelming majority of Americans can make it is between speech and conduct.
Cross burning and flag burning are actions, not words; conduct, not speech. They both are hate crimes. One targets a specific group; the other is leveled at all of America. Neither act deserves the free-speech protections of the First Amendment.

MARTY JUSTIS
Executive director
The Citizens Flag Alliance
Indianapolis

Papier-mache argument on privatization

I just finished reading "Government workers less productive?" (Commentary, Dec. 24) by Richard W. Rahn, and I was offended. I believe Mr. Rahn is less informed than he should be. He lumped all federal workers into one group when comparing employees at the Immigration and Naturalization Service and Internal Revenue Service to all federal workers. Let me explain.
I have worked for the Department of Army in one capacity or another since 1981. I have run into my share of those who should be fired, but I also have seen those who never asked to be compensated in any way for the extra work they do. I mean the extended hours they spend at work because it is the right thing to do or because of pride in what they are doing. What about the Department of Defense employees who were deployed to the Persian Gulf during Desert Shield/Storm? They went into harm's way in support of our troops, and they will again if we go to war against Iraq.
Contracting out federal jobs to private industry may look good on paper, but I am not convinced it is the right thing to do in the long run. Sure there are problems with the way federal employees can be fired, but maybe we should change some of the rules instead of contracting everything out. I, for one, am proud of the work I do for the federal government as a federal employee.

MICHAEL A. NICKLES
Wasilla, Alaska

'Life is a creation, not a commodity'

If the Raelians and their cloning company, Clonaid, have not actually cloned a human baby ("Proof lacking in baby cloning," Page 1, Saturday) it will happen, but just because we can do something technically doesn't mean we should. It is time to resurrect the bipartisan bill sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, and Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, that would bar any attempt to clone a human embryo for any purpose.
President Bush has rightly noted that "life is a creation, not a commodity" and that "the most fundamental principle of medical ethics [is] that no human life should be exploited or extinguished for the benefit of another." Indeed, these embryos are human and alive, consisting of 46 chromosomes, and are therefore unique human life.
Supporters of cloning create false hope for cures that are neither imminent nor inevitable. Remember all those amazing cures that were supposed to come from rare plants in the rain forest? After decades of looking, no one has found so much as a decent weed with which to make tea. Cloning is not only ethically unsound, but medically unproven.
Cloning also may be unnecessary. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that adult stem cells circulating in the blood are able to differentiate into a number of organ-specific cells and that they essentially are floating repair kits that play an active role in replacing normal tissue or repairing injured tissue of various organs.
As Dr. Martin Korbling, a bone-marrow-transplant specialist at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and lead author of the study, says, "we can prove the existence of a systemic supply of stem cells distributed via the blood that are capable of tissue repair." The next step is to figure how to trigger these cells to do what we want when we want.
There is no need for experimentation on human life on the grounds that it is going to be "discarded" anyway, words that could have come from the mouth of Dr. Josef Mengele.

DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI
Chicago

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