Not Making The Grade

By James Baxter, NMA President

A recent article in Slate Magazine by William Saletan was largely a hatchet job on one Rick Berman, who heads up a lobbying firm that represents all the “bad” industries and evil special interests. The specific target was Mr. Berman’s American Beverage Institute, a trade association comprised of chain and independently owned retail establishments that include beer, wine, and spirits in their offerings to customers. Many are restaurant chains.

However, to cement Mr. Berman’s personal qualities at two notches below tardigrade Mr. Saletan rattled off a list of unsavory clients and political agendas that would make Joe Stalin blanch. Berman advocates mercury in fish, torturing animals, promoting skin cancer through tanning, and of course unbridled drunk driving, just so his clients can make a buck off those who get blitzed and then aim their cars at school children and wholesome families on their way home from church. OK, these are my words, but they accurately represent what Saletan is implying.

But, you know what surprised me the most, the National Motorists Association did not make it to Saletan’s list of miscreants and whack jobs that are the antithesis of the public interest? Rick Berman was blasted for his anti-MADD campaign and his outrageous opposition to Interlock devices and MADD’s supposed campaigns against drunk driving. He had the audacity to promote the idea that the public stop supporting MADD with donations.

When self-appointed experts of William Saletan’s ilk have wanted to castigate the NMA they claim we:

  • Support and promote “speeding” (because we advocate reasonable speed limits, oppose speed traps, and encourage individuals to fight traffic tickets)
  • Approve of drunk driving (based on our support for more legitimate BAC limits, opposition to breathalyzer evidence, and our objections to distorted DUI statistics)
  • Condone running red lights (because we oppose red light ticket cameras and support engineering solutions to reduce intersection accidents).

NMA has repeatedly challenged MADD and the bureaucratic industry that has evolved on the back of the drunk driving “crisis.” To give credit to where credit is due this combination of puritanical and economic interests has just about convinced the American public that no one dies in this country unless they have been run into or over by a drunk driver.

Never mind that the overwhelming majority of fatal crashes are caused by sober drivers. Never mind that “alcohol related” accidents are frequently not caused by driver impairment. Never mind that breathalyzers can err as much as 50 percent in determining Blood Alcohol Content. Never mind that mandating interlock devices for first time offenders increases the accident rates in this population.

Never mind that jobs are lost, promotions are withheld, and scholarships are denied or withdrawn because someone was stopped f=or a technical traffic law violation, tested with a hopelessly inaccurate device, and convicted not because they were impaired but rather for exceeding a totally arbitrary BAC standard.

We’ve said these same things, scores of times, and admittedly, they have never been directly confronted or contradicted by the neo-prohibitionist community, including MADD. Still, to not make Mr. Saletan’s list of despicable organizations? Maybe he doesn’t know that we have actually exchanged correspondence with ABI? Would that information get us a mention? I’d sure hate to think we don’t stack up with organizations that want more mercury in our fish.

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