Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The red-light camera canard

Regarding the article “Camera nabs 788 speeders in 2 days” (Metropolitan, yesterday): Any camera that catches that many people in two days is being used only for revenue, not safety. One newsgroup on the Internet called this practice Wallet Rape, and that is an accurate evaluation. Setting the posted limit at, perhaps, 40 or 45 mph in that area would increase safety, and most people would be legal. The D.C. camera program is strictly a moneymaker, not a safety program, and it is not endorsed by legitimate safety organizations such as AAA.



JAMES C. WALKER

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Deja vu at the pump

It is not clear to me what the price of gas has to do with the president (“Prices of gas pump up rhetoric,” Nation, yesterday). Every year as spring approaches, the same hysterical story appears in the news: The price of gas is increasing dramatically just as the summer travel season approaches. This is quickly followed by doom-and-gloom predictions of Americans staying home, loss of income to tourist industries, etc. It never pans out.

It’s just the same old nonsense from the media.

SHEILA BLANCHET

Guilford, Conn.

No ketchup connection to Kerry

In reference to the editorial “57 flavors of hypocrisy” (Monday), I would like to offer two points of clarification.

First, in accordance with its corporate governance policies, H.J. Heinz Co. is a nonpartisan organization. It is not a family business. It is a publicly traded corporation with a diverse shareholder base of both individuals and institutions and a market capitalization of approximately $12.5 billion. Neither Teresa Heinz Kerry nor Sen. John Kerry nor any of the Heinz trusts or endowments — either individually or collectively — holds a significant percentage of shares of H.J. Heinz Co. In 1995, the Heinz Endowments and family trusts sold a large percentage of Heinz shares in a secondary share offering to diversify their holdings. As a result, their current holdings are less than 4 percent. No Heinz family member is involved in the management or board of H.J. Heinz Co. Family members have no involvement in the Heinz ketchup business or any of the company’s other brands or products.

Second, 60 percent of the sales of H.J. Heinz Co. are outside the United States. The company accommodates those markets by maintaining a number of overseas facilities that provide products for consumers in those areas. This allows Heinz to pack the freshest ingredients, tailor its recipes to local tastes and deliver the final products in a timely and efficient manner. In the United States, Heinz makes its flagship ketchup in factories in Fremont, Ohio; Muscatine, Iowa; and Stockton, Calif.

DEBORA S. FOSTER

Vice president

Corporate communications

H.J. Heinz Co.

Pittsburgh

Misspent perspective

Cal Thomas seems to be so ideologically aligned with the Bush administration that he has lost all perspective (“Misspent tax dollars,” Commentary, yesterday). He waxes poetic about unnecessarydiscretionary spending that accounts for almost nothing in the federal budget. He then states that we need not debate “curbs on tax cuts,” although those cuts are the biggest cause of the huge deficit.

Maybe Mr. Thomas should listen to House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican, who stated: “No one should expect significant deficit reduction as a result of austere nondefense discretionary spending limits. The numbers simply do not add up.” Cutting all projects that appear on the surface to be pork probably would save just a few billion dollars. President Bush’s drug benefit alone will cost about $50 billion per year. The tax cuts have already reduced government revenues by something between $100 billion per year and $167 billion per year. Where is Mr. Thomas’ perspective?

J.D. HEALY

Washington

United (yawn) they stand (cont.)

This is in reference to Bill Smith’s letter “United (yawn) theystand”(Tuesday).I watched the Democrats’ Unity Day dinner on C-SPAN, and I thought it was very interesting. Mr. Smith has to realize that a political dinner with speakers is different from a talent show at which you expect to be entertained.

Running for president is serious business, and I believe the people who attended that dinner were quite pleased with it. I do not base my vote for president on some applause meter.

JOYCE SMALL

Herndon, Va.

A world-class bad idea

I must disagree with the idea set forth by Daniele Capezzone and Matteo Mecacci that the United States should participate in some sort of “world democracy organization” (“The united states of Europe and America,” Op-Ed, March 23). Putting our nation under such an organization that would “set various standards … and to require member states to respect them… just as there is a [World Trade Organization] that regulates commerce according to precise parameters” would not only greatly undermine our national independence, but also put us under institutions and concepts diametrically opposed to our own.

Ms. Capezzone and Mr. Mecacci cite the U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as two documents that their proposed world democracy organization should uphold. These and the other U.N. documents (such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of DiscriminationAgainst Women, among others) are diametrically opposed to the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution. If we read the Constitution carefully, we find it does not grant any rights to anyone. Instead, it operates on the same assumption plainly stated in the Declaration of Independence, that people are granted their rights by God (and the historical record clearly shows that the Founding Fathers meant the God of the Bible). Because they were given to us by God, they are intrinsic to our humanity, and no one has any authority to infringe upon them. That is why they are “unalienable.” The purpose of civil government is to prevent anyone from infringing upon those rights.

The United Nations, by contrast, operates on the assumption that rights come from government. The corollary to this idea — and there is no way to affirm the one while denying the other — is that if government grants us our rights, government also can take away those rights. We see this idea reiterated clearly in all the documents of the United Nations that deal with rights. The United Nations will first give lip service to the idea that people have rights. Then it will turn around and assert that civil government has the authority to place restrictions on those “rights” or even to rescind them. The net effect is to render the entire concept of rights meaningless.

Not only should we not have anything to do with any world democracy organization, we should get out of the United Nations.

THOMAS M. CRAWFORD

Laurel, Md.

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