KUDOS TO REASON
As a fan and writer of science fiction, I would like to say "thanks," "congrats," "kudos," etc. to REASON for John J. Pierce. "Science Fiction in Perspective" is a first-rate addition to an already fine magazine.
All of Pierce's columns have been very good, but being a Heinlein freak, the May piece tops 'em all for me. Two small nits though: Heinlein's interest in a scientific proof for personal immortality hardly mars his work (as for it being a "Middle American crotchet"…!?). In the case of BEYOND THIS HORIZON it was the extra spice for what, in my opinion, is one of his best works.
Nit 2: FARNHAM'S FREEHOLD a "dismal failure"? Hardly. FF is one of Heinlein's most exciting and entertaining books. At the same time, it is one of his most philosophically provocative, with a distinctly libertarian theme.
Karl T. Pflock
American Enterprise Institute
MR. PIERCE replies: (a) The closest glimpse we get of Heinlein's vision of the Hereafter is in "The Traveller in Elephants"—very, very Middle American. That seems to be the kind of immortality he wants.
(b) I didn't think the immortality solution did BEYOND THIS HORIZON any good; I thought it was a cop-out.
(c) I didn't like the narcissism of the hero in FARNHAM'S FREEHOLD, particularly since he wasn't all that competent; nor the clumsy satire-by-inversion on the race problem; nor the gaggle of "supporting characters."
I regret to inform you that Ronald E. Merrill ("The NEW Anti-science Movement," REASON January 1973) is dangerously confused. He looks around our democracy; notices popular hysteria over pollution, food additives and nuclear power; and concludes that the swelling criticism of technological endeavors is a formal anti-science movement under the bleeding heart guise of "environmentalism."
Mr. Merrill avoids the obvious in failing to recognize environmentalism as a movement from within the scientific community. Certainly such scholars as Garrett Hardin, Buckminster Fuller, Barry Commoner, Paul Ehrlich, Lamont Cole and many others can hardly be considered "anti" scientists—they are critical scientists, involved in controversies among themselves and others, as omniscience is a rare quality indeed.
Merrill makes the tragic error of adopting elitism when he views the rhetorical distortions of public controversy as a conspiracy—this is the old "expertise game" in which he chastises the public for failing to develop for themselves or yield to those who possess specialized technical abilities. Merrill himself commits several errors in tackling the diverse disciplines of environmental science; most notable being the reference to mercury poisoning—rather than industrial dumping, fossil fuel combustion is responsible for most of the mercury in the environment. This aerosol transport of heavy metals is a definite hazard to coastal eco-systems near dense urban areas—Merrill consistently (and erroneously) maintains such conditions to be harmless. He is equally negligent in stating the case that DDT is safe; the metabolic pathways of chlorinated hydrocarbon toxicity are hard to trace due to limited aqueous solubility—but persistence in the environment and correlation to species decline are serious observations which at least warrant caution and a search for alternatives. He also consistently misspells "Audubon."
It is almost amusing to plod through Merrill's extremely biased discussion of the dangers of bias—and find his conclusion to be correct. We most definitely need to divorce science from politics. But Mr. Merrill, it appears, also wants to divorce science from intelligence. He does not realize that Frankensteins have in the past and will continue to be discovered—it's an occupational hazard—and human beings who consider themselves scientists must make decisions that other human beings will have to live with. A laboratory and notebook doth not a god elect.
Environmental Quality Magazine
North Hollywood, CA
MR. MERRILL replies: Passing over various ad hominem attacks, I find that some of Mr. Ross's statements merit answer. I did not discuss the aerosol transport of metals such as mercury at all, and thus could not very well have maintained that it was harmless. (Incidentally, at present prices one does not "dump" mercury, any more than one would "dump" gold.) I have checked over my article carefully and fail to find any statement which could have led anyone to believe that I said "DDT is safe". What I did say is that DDT use is far preferable to any of the alternatives available at present. I must plead guilty to misspelling "Audubon"; I promise not to do it again.
I find that I disagree with Mr. Ross in defining "scientist". To me, a scientist is someone who does research. A person who devotes his full time to propaganda is a propagandist, and if that propaganda is anti-science, then his academic credentials or past research accomplishments—if any—are irrelevant. Mr. Ross's description of scientists as people who "make decisions" is also wide of the mark. Decisions in this country, as elsewhere, are made on political grounds, by politicans, usually overruling scientific advice.
Finally, I must comment on the charge of "elitism". I fail to see that it is elitist to advise the public that they should not blindly follow the leadership of a self-appointed elite and that they should instead acquire the competence to make their own decisions. Indeed, I would claim that it is the environmentalist establishment which is guilty. A system under which ghetto residents are taxed to provide wilderness areas for the upper-class members of the Sierra Club, and migrant farm workers are poisoned by parathion so that the brown pelican will be preserved from DDT extinction to provide edification for bourgeois birdwatchers, certainly would seem to merit the epithet "elitist".
8 CANDIDATES IN NYC
We very much appreciate Ed Crane's feature article on our first state convention [REASON, June 1973], but would like to make some additions/corrections.
We elected a Secretary as part of our Executive Committee: Mike Nichols (the computer specialist, not the director). We endorsed a total of 8 candidates this year: as well as Fran Youngstein, Bill Lawry and Tom Avery for city-wide office, the convention endorsed Gary Greenberg for Manhattan District Attorney, Lou Sicilia for Manhattan Borough President, Paul Streitz for Manhattan Councilman-at-Large, Ray Goldfield for Brooklyn Councilman, and Spencer Pinney for Queens Councilman. We expect our full range of candidates, with their geographical distribution, to give the Free Libertarian Party a tremendous amount of exposure, both to the media and to voters.
Since the office for which Sanford Cohen is running is not available until 1974, we of course could not endorse him this year. Sandy has announced his candidacy for the 25th Congressional seat (Poughkeepsie) and will request our endorsement at next year's convention.
I feel the LP News page is a valuable addition to an already valuable magazine, and look forward to future reports.
Free Libertarian Party
New York, NY
VIET CONG ATROCITIES
Murray Rothbard's accounting for Viet Cong atrocities is in error (REASON interview, February 1973). I do not speak from a vacuum. I am a former USMC officer and a Vietnam veteran. I am not a member of "the 'kept' press." My views are independently derived.
I submit that the VC systematically, methodically, in cold-blood, utilized terror and murder as a form of psychopolitical control over villagers.
I submit that the VC were deadly manifestations of religiosity, racism, barbarism, and cruelty, traits which are a consequence of faith and allegiance to tribal, collectivistic religions, ideologies, and political systems.
In Vietnam, life is cheap. And life is cheap, in part, because of VC ideology. I offer the following as evidence:
(1) The VC perforated the eardrums of school children, or split their tongues. The goal was to discourage attendance and support for Saigon-run schools.
(2) The Da Nang air base and the surrounding populated area were serviced by Vietnamese "ice-men." For nearly a year a 13 year old boy sold ice and soft drinks on a street adjacent to the base. He became a fixture; a sight to be trusted. During the heat of the day Americans and Vietnamese would purchase his products. One day, after a suitable crowd had gathered, the boy reached under his shirt and detonated a crude bomb. All those in close proximity to the boy were killed or wounded. The deaths included the boy and his Vietnamese neighbors. Here, the object was to teach Vietnamese that Americans could not offer continuous protection.
(3) Transformation of boys into human bombs was merely one tactic. Another was to use boys as probes or protective shields behind which more experienced and efficient combatants could advance. Moreover, this tactic was a form of psy-warfare. In terms of morale, the death of a boy could have a disastrous effect. A decrease in morale could lead to one's own death. One night, during Operation Prairie at Dong Ha, Marine units were forced to fight hand-to-hand. The NVA and VC had attacked using "human wave" assaults. The fighting was intense and lasted throughout the night. At daybreak Marines discovered that a significant portion of first-wave enemy dead were boys recruited and forced into service by local VC units. At the thought of having killed young boys many Marines sat down and cried.
(4) VC conscription was not, of course, limited to major operations. Throughout Vietnam the VC forcibly took pre-teens and teens from their parents, although these victims were primarily used as a source of labor rather than as combatants.
(5) It is true that in many areas the VC enjoyed village support and encouragement. Yet, there were "Viet Cong villagers" where the VC were known as confiscators and at best a lesser evil. In these villages, if voluntary contributions in rice and other foods were not forthcoming, the VC simply took what they needed. And it was the unfortunate village farmer that dared resistance.
(6) The VC did not merely "wipe out" government appointed chiefs. There were instances where the official's wife and children were dragged out, publicly executed, and intestines thrown to the pigs.
(7) In preparation for the 1968 Tet offensive, the VC practiced rocket attacks upon the Da Nang air field. Most of these rockets never reached the air strip. Instead, the rockets exploded in the populated areas.
(8) On one humid morning, approximately ten miles east of Dai Loc, a busload of old men, women and children met sudden death upon the explosion of a VC roadmine. These people were on their way to the Da Nang markets. Twelve died that day.
(9) Alongside Highway 1, a few miles south of Hue, a primitive shack became the home of four prostitutes. Their clients were South Vietnamese soldiers since Marines were strictly forbidden to pay these women a visit. One night, the VC threw grenades into the shack. All four were killed. The youngest was twelve years old. The oldest was seventeen. They were as innocent as any war zone child forced to steal for food.…
Libertarians should not perpetuate the myth that Hanoi through its VC representatives is a benevolent, freedom-loving government. However, in terms of fundamentals, Saigon is as despotic as Hanoi. And the South Vietnamese soldier can be as cruel as the VC.
Echoing the thought of David Shoup, former Commandant of the USMC, Vietnam was not worth the blood of a single American (NEWSWEEK, 29 November 1971, p. 11). Our government sacrificed 45,943 Americans in the name of servitude to God, Christ, the State and/or the "world peace" of barbaric philosophies. Yet, it is no less barbaric to imply that the VC were noble liberators worthy of a libertarian defense.
Warren Vining III
AID FOR NURSES
I am working to accomplish repeal of two laws (which complement each other) in California. These laws establish a council to set the standards and empower the State Board of Nurse Examiners to require proof of continuing education before renewal of the RN & LVN license will be granted.
Do you think that an article on the state's right to do this could be developed? I would like to enlist the aid of fellow libertarians in this endeavor.
1600 Grasscreek Dr.
San Dimas, CA 91773