Letters

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The commentator made it clear not only that many had derived their livelihood from this illegal manufacture and sale but that the cat-and-mouse game with the Revenuers was a serious one, pursued with vigor by the forces of the law.

Somewhere in the middle of the segment they happened to mention that the reason for the virtual disappearance of moonshining is that there are few if any dry areas anymore, and legal liquor is available everywhere. There was no attempt to suggest an extension of this successful method of eradication.

Avery R. Johnson

Milford, NH

There's Defensive And Then There's Defensive

I commend Mr. Poole for his generally excellent pro-SDl editorial in your January edition ("Don't Trade SDI-For Anything"). However, parts of his closing remarks make hash out of sound strategic principles. He contends that even though we must "not ignore" the nature of the Soviet Union, we must "at least try to reduce" the numbers of "terrible" nuclear weapons; and he insists that defensive systems such as SDI "cannot be a bargaining chip" and "must become our primary form of protection in a dangerous and risky world."

First, nuclear weapons are not terrible except in the context of use-any more than is a pistol; for defense and protection of liberty, any weapon is a wonderful invention. Second, I submit that an accurate estimate of the nature of the present Soviet government means that we most certainly must not try to reduce our nuclear arsenal. Third, nothing-including offensive systems-should be bargained to the Soviets. Fourth, wise strategy requires a flexible mix of offensive and defensive weapons. That mix can change over time, and no one can say a priori that defensive systems such as SDI must be "our primary" emphasis.

Well-intentioned people often feel this way, though, because of a common yet crucial equivocation between technically defensive systems and morally defensive systems. For a nation dedicated to protection of individual rights, any technically offensive or defensive mix is morally defensive; for an aggressor, the opposite. This is akin to it being morally defensive for a mugger's victim to use either punching or blocking, moves that in boxing are technically offensive and defensive, respectively. But since the mugger's intent is assault, his use of either punching or blocking is morally offensive and unjustified. It's devastatingly confusing to fail to distinguish between the technical and moral contexts of defense.

E. G. Ross

Eugene, OR

Vonnegut's Brains Too Large?

While "It's No Sin to Like Vonnegut" (Dec.), neither is it a virtue. Despite Jeff Riggenbach's assertions to the contrary, Vonnegut's latest novel Galapagos is hardly an appropriate entree on a liberty-minded bill of fare. The entire thrust of Galapagos is that human brains too large for their own good, fueled by capitalistic greed, cause the destruction of the human race. Vonnegut's utopia consists of a modified human race incapable of intelligent thought. (Is it conscionable that a book such as this received a favorable review in a magazine entitled Reason?!) Lest we forget, Vonnegut sums up his view of life in his novel Sirens of Titan through the words of Malachi Constant, "I was a victim of a series of accidents as are we all."

As an antidote to the literary ptomaine served up by Mr. Vonnegut, I direct readers to this rejoinder issued by Tom Robbins in his wickedly funny novel Still Life With Woodpecker: "Don't let yourself be victimized by the age you live in. It's not the times that will bring us down, any more than it's society. When you put the blame on society, then you end up turning to society for the solution. There's a tendency today to absolve individuals of moral responsibility and treat them as victims of social circumstance. You buy that, you pay with your soul. It's not men who limit women, it's not straights who limit gays, it's not whites who limit blacks. What limits people is lack of character. What limits people is that they don't have the -ucking nerve or imagination to star in their own movie, let alone direct it."

A dash of Robbins's verve will leave you in much better spirits than the most innocuous slop served up by Mr. Vonnegut.

Christopher Bedore

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