- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006

The right to burn the flag

Some veterans want to saddle the country with an unworkableconstitutional amendment and feel that because they fought for the American flag, it means more to them than it does to the average American.

Certainly most Americans have inspirational images of our flag during wartime. Every time we sing the “Star Spangled Banner,” we are paying tribute to the American flag that survived the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.

Joe Rosenthal’s famous photograph of the five Marines and one Navy corpsman raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi during the battle for Iwo Jima is the most recognized photo of World War II and has become a symbol of the United States Marine Corps.

Sen. John McCain tells the story of his fellow prisoner of war during the Vietnam War who fashioned an American flag that boosted the morale of the other prisoners. Even after the flag maker was beaten brutally by North Vietnamese guards, he started right in making another flag.

However, we ordinary ex-grunts shouldn’t allow our memories to play tricks on us years later. We fought not for a flag, but for simple survival. Civilians might picture war as the movie “Glory,” in which Union troops follow a flag-waving American soldier as they charge the Confederate breastworks, but that hasn’t happened since the Civil War.

In Vietnam, we hugged the ground during firefights, held our breath as we walked along mined rice-paddy dikes and hunkered down during North Vietnamese mortar, artillery and rocket attacks near the demilitarizedzone.Many thoughts passed through our minds, but the thought of the American flag wasn’t one of them. So I don’t buy into the claim of some veterans that their allegiance to the flag is greater than that of most Americans.

As for opposition to the flag amendment, freedom of speech doesn’t even enter into my reasoning. Anybody who ever was stopped by a cop for no apparent reason knows that if this amendment is passed, police are going to decide what desecrating the flag means.

Is it all right to sew a small American flag on a policeman’s uniform but desecrating the flag if a teenager sews it onto the seat of his pants? The flag amendment will not define the endless possible interpretations of desecrating the flag. Furthermore, what is the penalty for desecrating the flag? Pay a $5 fine or do five years hard time in a state prison? The flag amendment will not determine what the penalty will be.

It is impossible to define what desecrating the flag means, and any state or federal laws that are passed as a result of a flag amendment will not be enforced fairly.

Veterans should move on and fight for issues that make sense.


Shelton, Conn.

CAFE’s harmful effects

It’s not surprising that Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Olympia Snowe would call for harmful increases in Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards (“Raise fuel economy standards now,” Commentary, Sunday). For years, CAFE — probably the most misunderstood and ineffective energy policy in our nation’s history — has enabled politicians to horsewhip the auto companies while avoiding the real solution — higher gasoline taxes — like the plague.

Before the senators ban today’s American family vehicle of choice, the sport utility vehicle, they should consider that once in a while, parents like to gather up the children and the dog and drive to Yellowstone National Park or Aunt Betty’s home in relative comfort. For that matter, if consumers want fuel economy, more than 100 car models are available that average more than 30 miles per gallon on the highway.

Importantly, every credible study on the matter shows that excessive CAFE standards lead to more highway fatalities because they force automakers to build smaller and lighter cars. Unfortunately, the anti-car crowd has worked so hard to discredit this argument that most “mainstream” editors today are unwilling to mention it.


West River, Md.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Olympia Snowe have been in Congress too long if they think the Senate can repeal the laws of physics.

Everyone wants better fuel economy — but hocus-pocus legislation is not the way to achieve it in California, Maine or anywhere in between.

Given that $3 per gallon gasoline makes marketplace conditions ideal for a sport utility vehicle that achieves 35 miles per gallon, the first company to produce such a dream machine without sacrificing utility, comfort, cargo space or safety would crush the competition and profit massively. So why hasn’t any auto company done it?

The answer:The laws of physics dictate that (without employing very expensive technologies that don’t pay off through savings at the gas pump) SUVs can’t get the same mileage as economy cars without making them smaller, less powerful and less safe and stripping them of features that make them so popular.

SUVs began changing and getting better fuel economy long before Congress Motors was invented to get into the motor vehicle design business. Legislating SUVs to get the same miles per gallon as cars is about as ingenious as requiring jetliners to get the same fuel efficiency as small single-engine planes.

If Big Brother mandates this knee-jerk change, something’s got to give — and it will be the consumer giving up green from his wallet and many other desirable features in personal transportation. It even might cost a life as vehicles become smaller and less safe.

The market is full of choices and trade-offs, but consumers should decide. They are smarter than some think.



SUV Owners of America


Stopping tuberculosis now

Isn’t the more important message in “Saving the Cape Wind project” (Editorial, Wednesday) that working across the political aisle to achieve the common good is how our legislators should act while doing the peoples’ business?

Another example is a House bill (HR 5022; Stop Tuberculosis Now Act of 2006) introduced by Rep. Sherrod Brown, Ohio Democrat, and co-sponsored by 42 representatives across the political spectrum, from the liberal Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington state and Rahm Emanuel of Illinois to Republican Reps. Don Young of Alaska and Christopher Smith of New Jersey.

This bill would authorize funding to provide our fair share to the Global Plan to Stop TB, the 10-year business plan announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January.

The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published a study last September showing that U.S.-funded efforts to expand the anti-tuberculosis programs in Mexico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic could reduce tuberculosis-related morbidity and mortality among migrants to the United States, producing net cost savings to the United States.

As an ordinary citizen, I am gratified to see our legislators set aside narrow partisan politics, do the right thing and also save money. Cooperating more often just might restore the voters’ confidence in the legislative process.



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