- The Washington Times - Monday, July 7, 2003

Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion’

Aside from a partial quote from the Anti-Defamation League, no critics of Mel Gibson’s upcoming Jesus film were quoted in the article “Mel Gibson looks right for movie on Jesus” (Front, yesterday). Instead, their views were merely alluded to and characterized.

Several of the film’s supporters were quoted, however, some at length. Charges of anti-Semitism in the film’s message were only noted, not explained. And the film’s advocates, including former New York Post movie critic Michael Medved, were allowed to opine freely without contrary voices being given equal space.

The article read more like a damage-control public relations handout than a piece of genuinely objective journalism — which, this reader concluded, probably was the intention.



DAVID LARSON

Waterloo, Iowa

Misplaced faith

In her column “Grateful for the Patriot Acts” (Commentary, Friday), Michelle Malkin dismisses those who seek to preserve constitutional limits on government poweras”civil-liberties alarmists.” To hear her tell it, Viet Dinh, an assistant attorney general in John Ashcroft’s Justice Department and principal architect of the Patriot Act, is an American hero simply trying to make us safe by enforcing existing immigration laws and revising “outdated rules that fatally hampered surveillance of suspected terrorists in America.” To call Mrs. Malkin’s characterization of the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies disingenuous is to be charitable. She conveniently glosses over Patriot Act provisions and presidential edicts that end run the Fourth Amendment, authorize military show trials of suspected terrorists, permit indefinite detention of “enemy combatants” (including American citizens) without charge or trial and confer other police-state powers on the executive branch. Apparently, those “outdated rules” to which Mrs. Malkin refers are the ones in the Bill of Rights. The truth is, the Bush administration has been slow to take common-sense steps, like arming pilots and securing our borders, and quick to unleash constitutionally dubious powers on the American people.

Mr. Dinh expects us to place blind faith in the benevolence of our protectors, asserting, “The threat to liberty comes from Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, not from the men and women in blue who work to uphold the law.” What he neglects to mention is that government agents are also supposed to uphold the Constitution, the supreme law of the land. When the government violates the Constitution, it subverts the rule of law and erodes the foundation of liberty. The notion that our freedom can be secured by giving the federal government unlimited powers is pure folly. The founders knew well, and the bloody history of the 20th century amply confirms, the dangers of unchecked government power. As we celebrate our independence from the tyranny of King George III, forgive me, Michelle Malkin, if I don’t join you in saluting those working to tear down the barriers to tyranny our forefathers wisely erected.

MATTHEW SARDI

Fort Worth, Texas

Nike and the U.S. Supreme Court

Contrary to The Washington Times position that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Nike commercial-free speech case was a positive decision (“Court gets it right on Nike,” Editorial, yesterday), the court’s decision was a setback for free speech. In an amicus brief to the court, my organization argued that allowing California anti-globalization activist Marc Kasky’s lawsuit against Nike to proceed was a violation of the right of free speech of Nike’s shareholders and employees.

Yet, rather than address Mr. Kasky’s challenge to free speech directly, the court decided to send the Nike case back to California for trial, even as it admitted that a ruling against Nike would not likely be sustained on appeal. In a victory for anti-corporate crusaders, the court’s decision to allow a trial means that at least for now, the right of a corporation to speak in its economic interest is in peril. Yet, just like political speech, which the court protects, economic speech is equally essential to the success of an individual’s life. The Constitution should not be interpreted to uphold the sanctity of an individual’s right to speak on issues affecting his political interests while simultaneously damning him when he speaks in order to advance his trade.

Until the Supreme Court recognizes the relationship between economic motives, individual rights and the Constitution’s protection of all non-fraudulent and non-defamatory speech, whether private or commercial, the threat to free speech remains active. The court had an opportunity to set the record straight. It failed. Rather than be praised for its decision in the Nike case, the court ought to be condemned.

NICHOLAS PROVENZO

Chairman

Center for the Advancement of Capitalism

Alexandria

The plight of good drivers

Elwood Zimmerman manages to put a lot of blame on various groups of drivers for their poor driving habits in this area (Forum, “A few other driving restrictions,” June 29). But how about blaming the system instead of all these different drivers? It doesn’t take a genius to realize that a majority of the aspiring drivers are ill-prepared for the often difficult tasks ahead while trying to maneuver the roads in this area. For starters, we should fault the motor vehicle departments for letting people hit the roads with insufficient driving experience.

We should begin by taking the driving exams seriously and not have an applicant drive around a small lot, which, of course, doesn’t tell you anything about the applicant’s proficiency on the actual roads. I will never forget one Saturday morning when I had to do some business at the Motor Vehicle Administration in Gaithersburg. After I finished what I needed to do, I decided to take a peek at a driving exam that was taking place in a small back lot.

It was obvious that the majority of the applicants were of foreign origin. I struck up a conversation with one of the examiners. I asked him if he thought it was correct to let these people have driver’s licenses and then let them “loose” on Interstate 270 though none of them had proved that they could handle routine maneuvers on this often treacherous highway. His answer spoke volumes: “No, I don’t think it is correct, but there is nothing I can do about it.”

Therein lies the frustration of many good drivers. Why don’t we look at the Europeans and see how they do it? It is much harder to acquire a driver’s license in European countries. It is looked upon as a privilege and not a right as it is many times here. The applicant can take an exam only after a certain number of mandatory lessons have been completed using expert, strictly regulated driving schools. At the final exam, a mandatory part is spent on highway driving: Properly entering and exiting a highway (most folks here have no clue) especially has to be shown to the examiner, who is an independent government-appointed official.

Only when the applicant has shown after one hour of driving that he or she can properly execute all the common tasks required to operate a motor vehicle will a license be issued.

Mostcountriesalsohave mandatory testing for seniors after the age of 70, usually every three years.

So, Mr. Zimmerman, instead of mentioning all the poor drivers out there, why don’t you join me in helping change the system so you and I, as good drivers, will be less frustrated going around.

A. MAARTEN SINGELENBERG

Chevy Chase

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