- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 28, 2005

NBA refs blinded by stardom

I had to laugh at the article “Prime beef: Riley mulls weighty idea” (Sports, Tuesday), which reported that Miami Heat head coach Pat Riley is considering employing sumo wrestlers to help Shaquille O’Neal train for play around the basket.

That wasn’t the funny part of the article. The funny part was the allegation that NBA refs somehow discriminate against Shaq when he’s on offense. What a joke. The reason I and many other fans consider the NBA to be little removed from professional wrestling is that for as long as anyone can remember, NBA refs have employed the star system of refereeing.

An action for which a rookie is called for a foul never is called a foul for the likes of Shaq, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, etc. Shaq can have a defender planted between him and the basket, and if he goes straight to the basket through the defender, he rarely if ever gets called for an offensive foul. If a rookie tries the same maneuver, it’s a foul every time.

Shaq commits at least six fouls every quarter that are not called. Other NBA stars get the same treatment. That’s why, to many potential fans, NBA basketball is barely a sport and more accurately described as entertainment.

If the NBA would decide finally that fouls will be called equally regardless of the player involved, more teams would stand a fighting chance of succeeding. The NBA fan base would increase dramatically.

I enjoy catching an NBA game or two from time to time, but I have learned not to get excited about the Wizards’ chances in the playoffs, particularly if Miami is on the docket. It’s tough enough playing five on five — but when Shaq is involved, the refs are members of the Heat.

H. JAY SPIEGEL

Mount Vernon

Saying goodbye to the three R’s

Timing is everything, as I am reminded by the Dec. 23 article “Group derides ‘bizarre,’ ‘leftist’ courses” (Nation). The traditional three R’s are enlivened by courses in sex, racism and Marxist politics. My classmates, decades ago, appreciated diversity by studying history and literature and learning foreign languages. How dull.

Our class included a number of lesbians, but we had no course in the Psychology of the Lesbian Experience, as offered at the University of California at Los Angeles. Come to think of it, we didn’t study the heterosexual experience, either. Our music course covered Mozart, Bach and Beethoven. We missed out on the current Johns Hopkins rock ‘n’ roll offering, which is reported to include a slide show of Egyptian women vomiting on each other. It surely would have been a popular class at my all-women school.

An article days earlier in another newspaper lamented the decline in the literacy of college graduates. Literacy “experts” were reported to be stunned by the decline in reading proficiency, saying they could not explain the drop.

Well, duh, might there be a connection between curriculum and competence? Class time today includes a lot of the entertainment media. Is it possible that students have low reading proficiency because they don’t read?

We had to slog through chapter after chapter of history, political science, literature and philosophy. It was grueling, but it did teach us to read. If I hadn’t had to spend so much time reading, though, I would have had lots more time to spend at the local pub, maybe even vomiting on my fellow students. What fun. And I missed it. All I got was reading proficiency.

How dull.

ANNE ALLEN

Washington

Wiretaps essential for national security

Clarence Page argues that President Bush does not have the right, in wartime, to activate wiretaps without approval under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“Oath fulfilled … with snoops?” Commentary, Tuesday). Mr. Page fails to mention that other presidents also have defended (and used) this right, going all the way back to Jimmy Carter and including Bill Clinton. It’s clear they did so with less justification

When a terrorist is picked up, there clearly must be an immediate attempt to examine his paper records, computer files and cell phone records, among other things, the point being to identify other terrorists in his cell. There is a brief window, perhaps just an hour or two, perhaps less, to take advantage of this information before the terrorist’s confederates begin shutting down. Any such links uncovered must be wiretapped immediately, and these taps probably will lead to further links. The wiretap activation may have to chase down several paths. Only listening to the subsequent taps can determine which are useful and should be pursued further. Some taps, perhaps many, may lead to innocent people. These can be dropped as soon as that becomes obvious. There obviously is no time to obtain prior (and meaningful) court review and approval.

What exactly is a court supposed to do with this kind of activity after the fact? About all that can be done is to give blanket approval, which, by definition, obviates the need to obtain such approval. Besides, most of us probably would prefer to trust the president rather than a faceless bureaucratic court system. Unless and until it becomes obvious that such wiretapping has been used purposely to prey on innocent U.S. citizens, we pretty much have to count on the president acting responsibly. A considerable number of voters did, after all, elect the man, and there are procedures available, including impeachment, if it is determined that the president has not used this power responsibly.

DENIS ABLES

Vienna

Regarding Bruce Fein’s piece titled “Within…or outside the law” (Commentary, Wednesday), it appears that Mr. Fein — like most liberals — doesn’t believe we are in a war to the death with an enemy that would remove much more than our “right to privacy” during phone conversations with an overseas number identified as terrorist-related.

Personally, I welcome President Bush’s action. It makes me feel safer.

DAVID BEAUDIN

Odenton, Md.

Bruce Fein ought to take a breath. When he says President Bush ordered the intercept of international communications of U.S. citizens, he fails to mention that the person on the other end of the line was an operative of a foreign entity intent on damaging the United States. Congress cannot pass a law that infringes on the president’s constitutional powers. Surely Mr. Fein understands that. If he is so concerned, he should advocate amending the Constitution to bar the practice, but he should not try making policy by hyperventilating. It’s not very becoming.

TOM DEPEW

Lewisville, Texas

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I am dismayed and surprised at the attitude of Bruce Fein. He uses such phrases as, “Mr. Bush’s defiance…”, “Mr. Bush has adamantly refused…”, “war powers nonsense…”, and “flout congressional limitations….” Is he not aware that we are in a war, the winning of which will assure us of continued democracy here at home? He overlooks the established precedents and legitimate interpretation of the Constitution. I personally worry when the mainstream media and persons like Mr. Fein seem to believe there is no real danger to us. Was September 11 not enough of an awakening, or has September 11 ceased to be important?

Even former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has endorsed the president’s courageous decisions to safeguard the properties and people of this country.

We must take every opportunity to thwart the activities of the enemy, and knowledge of what conversations take place in that regard is vitally important.

JACK DORWIN

Livingston, Texas

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