MPAA Should Get with the TimesEditor: The...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

MPAA Should Get with the Times

Editor: The adoption of a new rating (NC-17) for the motion picture industry, a few months ago, has brought some questions to mind.

It seems to me that when someone screams "censorship!" in this country, everyone seems to listen. Most people are quite protective of their first amendment rights, so why hasn't anyone made more of a fuss over the ratings that are issued by the Motion Picture Association of America?

Haven't people noticed that this is an antiquated form of non-governmental censorship? Should a board of nine people (consisting mostly of parents between the ages of 40 and 60) decide for the public what is viewable for a general or restricted audience?

It seems to me that the MPAA is trying to act as a collective parental unit for the nation's youth, rather than allowing the thrust of responsibility to lie in the hands of the real parents. The MPAA, the Big Brother of the film industry, claims that its ratings are mere guidelines, but how many theaters have you patronized that will allow just any child into a R-rated movie?

There is no law preventing that child from entering at will, but the establishments are usually quite strict.

For over 20 years, the MPAA has been "advising" producers to compromise their art in order to make it marketable. In other words, the producers can either release the films as are, or they can edit them to suit the standards of the MPAA to attract an audience in order to make a profit.

Is this not hypocrisy? I mean, compromising the right of freedom of expression in order to make a fast buck?

I think that the motion picture industry has fallen prey to its own capitalist ideals, especially with the new NC-17 rating. It was adopted, in essence, so that producers would not have to edit as much as previously to release their films to the public in a tasteful manner without the stigma of an X ratings. All this with the assumption that most reputable theaters will show NC-17 rated films without the fear of deterring potential audiences that would not consider venturing into the sandy part of town, or the "adult" video stores to find the film as it might have previously received an X rating.

Having been an avid movie-goer for many years, I don't mean to attack the entire film industry. I simply want to suggest that the MPAA should get with the times and allow the public to make its own choices. Young people today do and know more at a younger age than the people who are rating these films #i viewable.

Who knows, I mean with the MPAA as a nice precedent, some radicals may even get the crazy idea to burn books, put labels on music noting explicit lyrics, or even label other fine arts as obscene.

Kathy Ratchford.

Baltimore.

No 'Joy' for Him

Editor: President Bush spoke March 1 about the outcome of the Persian Gulf War. In his remarks he alluded to "the joy that all Americans feel."

Joy? Hardly. Relief that the killing is done. Yes. A deepening quiet, surely, that our men and women will be coming home safe and soon. But Joy? No, no joy.

This American feels no victory, no joy in the slaughter we called a war (100,000-plus to 105!). How in the world can this good nation, so adept in times past at building up nations and at finding patient, wise and long-term solutions to cruelty, ever find joy in 100,000 slain Iraqi people? How find delight knowing that many thousands more of "the enemy," men, women, children, will go on dying from starvation, ruined water, cholera and its pestilential cousins?

How discover joy in a nation laid low so we could get the "Vietnam syndrome" behind us? So we can strut again with renewed machismo on the world stage? Sorry, Mr. President, manhood and womanhood, courage and resolve, are made of sterner stuff. Smarter stuff.

No, Mr. Bush's 100,000 dead of a people against whom "we have no quarrel" (his words) in order "to kick the ass" of one ruinous dictator who still goes free, is no cause for celebration or joy, -- I get no kick from shooting fish in a barrel, do you?

I believe in the American people. I believe in our courage as I believe in our incredible genius and imagination. The president may have run out of ideas to correct the gulf injustice, but a lot of other American men and women did not. Our national wisdom could have found a way short of massacre to reclaim Kuwait from an enslaved nation run by a bully.

Frederick C. Ruof.

Baltimore.

Gun Vote

Editor: The Sun has sunk to a new low in its ongoing attack on our Second Amendment rights. In their dismay that yet more firearms have not been banned, the editors of The Sun have personally attacked in the March 9 editorial, two of the senators who voted against the bill to ban military style rifles. Seven senators voted against S.B. 267 in the Judicial Proceedings Committee, despite intense political pressure from Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who was sponsoring this bill.

These senators did not cast their vote lightly. Testimony against the gun ban came from the full spectrum of law enforcement personnel, including a Baltimore City police officer; Joe Constance, the Deputy Chief of Police, Trenton, N.J.; and Tom Hickman, the Carroll County states's attorney. Conclusive proof was shown that outside of television shows like Miami Vice, military style rifles are not favored by drug dealers or are a major factor in crime in Maryland.

Testimony was given that nearly 1,000 "assault rifles" were legally sold through gun shops since the seven-day waiting period and police background check went into effect. Not one of these firearms has been used in the commission of a crime. Not one!

I believe that a public apology is in order to Sens. Walter Baker and Janice Piccinini and every other senator on the Judicial Committee.

'Michael A. DiPangrazio.

Mount Airy.

Marsh Revisited

Editor: Your March 6 editorial supporting the bills on Black Marsh in Baltimore County, now being considered by the legislature, does not well serve the cause of preserving this state park as a natural and educational resource, a position you have previously supported.

Your editorial states that this bill should not be confused with the Department of Natural Resources draft plan, endorsed by the Citizens Advisory Committee, which includes commercial and recreational facilities to be located in the critical waterfront area in the southern portion of the park. There is, however, a direct connection between the two, which you did not mention.

Although these bills do indeed provide additional environmental protection for the 550-acre marsh, which is already designated a Natural Heritage Area, and for an additional 117-acre buffer zone, it also excludes from the wildlands designation a 60-foot right-of-way right through this buffer zone.

The Natural Resources draft plan proposes to use this right-of-way for a 24-foot-wide paved road and a 10-foot-wide paved bicycle path, with a landscaped strip between. It is not clear that this road through the proposed wildland is necessary, since it parallels existing North Point Road, which could be improved to handle additional traffic created by the park.

These bills bypass normal park planning processes and allow the Department of Natural Resources, by law, to bring the bulldozers right through the land the wildlands designation is intended to protect. This is the primary reason that these bills, as they are now constituted, are opposed by environmental advocates.

As you have suggested in your March 4 editorial, the Department of Natural Resources plan for the development of the southern end of the park should be revised. Likewise, the department's plan for a major access road through the proposed wildlands should be revised, and should not be allowed by the passage of Senate Bill 417 and House Bill 596 as they are now constituted. These bills should be either revised or rejected.

Richard O. Schurmann.

Baltimore.

The writer is president of the Chesapeake Audubon Society.

A Visionary

Editor: It appears to be the in thing to beat up on Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Those naysayers are extremely unfair in criticizing his trip to Kuwait.

If Maryland firms could land even a small portion of the reconstruction contracts in that country, it could be a windfall for everyone. It could well provide the impetus to "jump start" our moribund economy.

These contracts would translate into jobs and tax revenues and make the current state budget crisis only an unpleasant memory.

Let's give the governor credit where it is due. He's a visionary when dealing with economic development issues, and everyone in the state stands to benefit.

homas T. Koch.

Baltimore.

Abortion Law

Editor: Distortions abound in the highly misleading column on abortion by Gary Bauer.

We write to set the facts straight about Maryland's newly enacted law.

The difficult and very personal decision whether or not to bear a child remains that of a woman and whomever she chooses to consult, free from unwarranted government interference, until there is a reasonable likelihood of the fetus' sustained survival outside the womb.

In those rare instances when an abortion is performed in the latter stages of a pregnancy, it must be necessary to protect the life or health of the mother, or the fetus must be affected by a genetic defect or serious deformity or abnormality.

The new law requires a doctor to give notice to a parent or guardian of a woman under the age of 18 unless doing so may lead to physical or emotional abuse of the minor, the minor is mature and capable of giving informed consent, or notification would not be in the woman's best interest. Mr. Bauer uses the inflammatory term "abortionist" in describing the notice provision when, in fact, it is physicians who are authorized to exercise these professional judgments.

Mr. Bauer goes on to misleadingly state that medical professionals will no longer be able to refrain from "offering" abortion-related services. Under Senate Bill 162, health care practitioners would not be required to perform abortions. However, they would be required to refer an individual for an abortion in a limited set of medical emergencies.

"In rare instances, a physician may feel morally unable to cooperate in pursuing the medical goals of a particular patient. In such a case," says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, "appropriate alternatives for care should be recommended."

People of deeply held religious and moral beliefs disagree on abortion. Mr. Bauer's distortions debase the public debate on this issue.

Samuel I. Rosenberg.

Lawrence A. LaMotte.

Annapolis.

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