- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2004

‘Big brotherism’ a red herring

The real issue before Virginia’s General Assembly is not whether red-light cameras could be abused by police (“Delegate presses on for red-light cameras,” Metropolitan, Monday). What’s at stake is whether lawmakers will again sacrifice Virginians’ safety to concerns about “Big Brotherism” that can be addressed easily in the legislation.

AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Transportation Poll 2003 found that those who have seen the fund-raising priority Washington has set for the cameras were more skeptical than residents of communities that haven’t deployed them. The bills sponsored by both Delegate Michele B. McQuigg, Prince William Republican, and Sen. Jeannemarie A. Devolites, Fairfax Republican, establish protections motorists deserve. Their legislation is serious and deserves better than cursory dismissal on the charge that police might misuse the equipment.

It certainly can be abused and has been in Washington and elsewhere. However, the causes of the abuse — primarily contractor payments based upon charging a commission per ticket — can be prohibited in the legislation. AAA Mid-Atlantic has urged legislators to do just that.

By a 3-1 margin, drivers in both Northern Virginia and the Richmond area said they believe red-light cameras make the roads safer, according to our poll. Smaller, but clear, majorities also favor letting police pull over a driver if anyone in the car is violating Virginia’s seat-belt laws — evidence abounds that this authority would boost seat-belt use and save lives. Leaders who are serious about protecting motorists and making roads safer also would enact primary seat-belt legislation instead of again raising the “Big Brother” boogeyman.

Rather than indulging in another philosophical debate, Virginia’sGeneralAssembly should address real safety problems this session. In 2002, 914 persons lost their lives on Virginia’s roads. Seat belts could have prevented many of those deaths, and obeying red lights would have meant far fewer of the crashes that result in injury and death each year in the commonwealth. The fact is, driving is already a highly regulated activity; objecting to measures that are proven lifesavers and are widely accepted elsewhere will only continue to allow more Virginians to die needlessly on the roadways.

Virginia lags in protecting motorists. It’s past time that its leaders put this sorry fact ahead of the fantasy that denying police the use of proven tools to enforce the commonwealth’s laws is in the public interest.



Public and Government Relations

AAA Mid-Atlantic


‘There is only one China’

In his “Rebalancing China, Taiwan” (Commentary, Feb. 1), Greg Mastel labeled China “authoritarian,” criticized the Bush administration for its adherence to the one-China policy and called for establishing a free-trade area between the United States and Taiwan.

First and foremost, democracy is nobody’s monopoly. One of the objectives of China’s national development is to improve democracy and the rule of law so as to better protect the human rights of our people. To achieve this, we cannot simply cut and paste the systems of other countries. Fair-minded people will agree with us that we must proceed in light of our national reality and at our own pace. It is important for Mr. Mastel to recognize the diversity of the world and to understand that being different from you does not make us “authoritarian.”

Taiwan has been part of China since ancient times. It is recognized by the international community that there is only one China in the world, that the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and that Taiwan is part of China. This one-China policy, which also is enshrined in the three China-U.S. joint communiques, has been the consistent policy of the U.S. government, with bipartisan support. Adhering to the one-China policy is in the national interests of both China and the United States and is helpful for maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

The current issue surrounding the “referendum” pushed by Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan is not a matter of democracy. In the words of a senior U.S. official, the wording of the “referendum” questions is “neither divisive nor difficult,” and “it raises some questions about the motives of those who want to put it forward.” In fact, Mr. Chen’s real purpose is simply to use democracy as a cover for his pursuit of “Taiwan independence.” This has been the real threat to the peace and stability across the Strait, and that is why he has met with opposition from the international community, including the United States.

We have no objection to the development of unofficial relations between Taiwan and the countries that have diplomatic relations with us within the framework of the one-China principle. However, Chen Shui-bian’s attempt at a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the United States is aimed at acquiring the status of a “sovereign state.” Such an FTA is neither unofficial nor consistent with the one-China policy committed to by the U.S. government. It is another move by Mr. Chen to create “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan.”

No country in the world, including China and the United States, can put up with separatist moves to split its territory. Our basic policy on the Taiwan question has always been clear, i.e., “peaceful reunification and one country, two systems.” We will do our utmost, with maximum sincerity, to bring about reunification through peaceful means, but we are firmly opposed to any form of separatist activities for “Taiwan independence.”


Press spokesman

Embassy of China


Subsidizing starving artists

In the matter of the 15 percent increase for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the proposed fiscal 2005 budget, first lady Laura Bush said, “American arts are a reflection of our history and the creativity of the human spirit.” (“Medicare drug plan balloons,” Jan. 30, Page 1.)

That’s true, of course — in fact, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and some others did exactly that in, and for, the 1950s.

However, they did it without the benefit of any sort of government subsidy. Their movement of abstract expressionism succeeded because they and their patrons risked success or failure on the merit, or the lack of merit, of their art.

Though a $140.5 million government subvention to the NEA is a tiny part of the proposed budget, it is enough to corrupt “the creativity of the human spirit” of which Mrs. Bush spoke.


Virginia Beach

Stephen Moore’s discussion of President Bush’s budget makes strong points for fiscal belt-tightening, but one reference weakens the argument (“Pricey government prize,” Commentary, Feb. 3).

He writes, “Should the request for a $20 million increase in the National Endowment for the Arts budget, the people who funded a picture of a crucifix in a toilet infuriate us?” A cheap shot. The Andres Serrano photos date from 15 years ago, and the recitation is beyond stale. It’s uninformed. In recent months, the NEA has developed programs in Shakespeare, American masterpieces and standards-based education. No more shock art and no more adversarial posturing. That doesn’t mean the debate over government support for the arts should end, but it should be carried out on the ground of political philosophy, not long-past culture-war icons.


Emory University


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