Drivers Need Road Rules That Really Work

I disagree with the editorial "Safe Highways...," Nov. 28. During my 20-plus years of driving in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles-to-San Diego corridor, it has been my experience that outside of the commuter hours, traffic runs consistently much faster than the 55 m.p.h. speed limit. Yet the advocacy groups point to a reduction of average speeds over the years as a significant factor in lower rates of death and injury.

What has brought the average speed down is the degeneration of the commuter hours into the crawl hours. The "safety industry" will tell you that the crawl hours are now the most accident-prone times on the highways.

We don't need "drive 55" shibboleths; we need to know what really works on the road. When an advocacy group wraps itself in the mantle of safety, journalists should view it as they would politicians wrapping themselves in the flag.

Matthew Pierce

Palo Alto, Calif.

Stress democracy in Haiti

Regarding the editorial "Aristide's Promises," Dec. 1: While it is true that there were irregularities during this year's elections in Haiti, no credible observer found this to have been systematic, or to have affected the results in any significant way. Given Haiti's resources, the fact that elections took place at all is what should be emphasized when discussing the government's commitment to democracy.

The so-called "economic reforms" that the editorial encourages President Aristide to implement are exactly the policies that were rejected when pro-United States candidates were defeated throughout the country.

Our own Central Intelligence Agency played a role in subverting democracy, through contact with the pro-coup FRAPH organization. But Aristide's commitment to democracy is strong.

Aram Falsafi

Jamaica Plain, Mass.

Human rights violations hit home

Regarding the article "Grading Clinton's Human Rights Record," Nov. 21: It should be pointed out that human rights is not simply a foreign policy issue for the United States.

With a domestic policy that sanctions the execution of some convicts, the US remains a major violator of human rights. Any discussion of US human rights policies should include this reality.

The US should not, for example, condemn the recent executions of nine human rights activists in Nigeria while simultaneously remaining silent about its own use of the death penalty. More than 3,100 people in the United States await execution by electrocution, firing squad, gas chamber, or lethal injection. Many death-row inmates are mentally ill or mentally retarded. Others are juvenile offenders. Many are innocent, and yes, many are guilty of horrible crimes. The global community rightfully condemns executions in Nigeria, China, Iran, and Egypt, but it remains noticeably silent in the face of US executions.

This double standard is symbolic of the ethical crisis facing our country where human rights are concerned. As long as the United States uses capital punishment, it cannot speak with moral authority. The struggle for human rights begins at home.

Rick Halperin


Founder of Texans Against State Killing Former Board Chairman

Amnesty International, USA

Superb sermons always too short

I feel chastised by your front-page article "Sound-Bite Sermon for Busy Believer," Nov. 22. I am guilty of preaching brief sermons that relate the Scripture text to the common, earthly life of my congregation. But do you really mean to imply a positive correlation between quantity of time and quality of content? A dull sermon seems to last about two hours (regardless of the real length), while a good sermon always ends too soon.

Rev. Deborah G. Celley

Fergus Falls, Minn.

Pastor, First United Church of Christ

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