Chavez and Ruff

The article by Patty Newman on Chavez and the Farm Workers was superb. I saw the "Prime Time Saturday" television show January 26 based on REASON's data, and thought they did a fine job.…

As for Mr. Ruff's explanation [Feb.] for his call for all subscribers to sell their gold when it hit $444 and subsided to $428 an ounce the same day, his explanation to you is a bit different from what he said to his membership. The headline was "Everybody Out of the Water." The gist was to keep only survival coins and sell all the rest of one's gold because this abrupt rise was obviously due to speculation, and gold would drop to $250 an ounce when it could be re-bought. He proceeded to liken it to the South Sea Bubble and the tulip bulb affair. What was important to me in that issue of Ruff Times was that he made none of the differentiations for his readers that he did for you in REASON. In short, I was shocked. In mid-October there was plenty of reason, in Iran alone, for gold to go up. Furthermore, it was no South Sea Bubble because the gold actually existed, unlike the saleable land in the South Seas. As for the tulips, had the Dutch increased the prices of the bulbs, instead of over-selling, there would have been no problem. That makes three differences I had with Mr. Ruff. The fourth was that he addressed himself only to the gamblers among his membership. I am an investor, which means I never sell a good thing, but buy on the dips, and he gave no choices in that issue. It was a flat dictum based on spurious reasoning.

I still subscribe and enjoy the Ruff Times, but I'm sorry that Mr. Ruff has never admitted or apologized for an enormous booboo.

Madeline Gilbert
Stamford, CT

Air Bluffs

In general I agree with the letter from Mr. Curtis L. Messex [Feb.] concerning "Which Airlines Violate Safety Rules" [Dec.], but his statement "one must not forget that the FAA man is inspector, prosecutor, judge, and jury, and constitutional protections don't apply" is totally false.

First of all, constitutional protections do apply. No FAA inspector will read a pilot the Miranda rights, but the pilot (or mechanic, or airline, or whoever) is free to remain silent, and the burden of proof is totally on the FAA (see Federal Aviation Regulation Part 13 and FAA internal handbook 8030.7A).

The FAA inspector's role in enforcement of the Federal Aviation Regulations is strictly that of investigator and reporter. He does recommend the sanction, but the attorneys in the FAA's regional counsel's office are the prosecutors. If the pilot desires a hearing, an NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) law judge will hear the case. If the NTSB law judge's decision is adverse to the pilot, he can appeal to the US Circuit Court of Appeals. Some do, but the majority don't because, like most citizens, they do not know the law. Like most citizens, people in the aviation community feel they need a lawyer to go to an NTSB hearing. If they would study the law a little, they'd find they not only don't need a lawyer, but will be better off without one! NTSB law judges are not pro-FAA—in fact, the FAA loses almost half of the cases that go to an NTSB hearing.

I can understand Mr. Messex making the statement that he made because most pilots' only contact with the FAA is with an inspector, and inspectors tend to wield a bigger stick (bluff) than they actually carry. Like most bureaucrats they are overly impressed with their own importance, and they bluff their way through a lot of situations because the aviation community lives in some fear of them.

Robert T. Smith
Smyrna, GA

Amazing Women

Jim Davidson has apparently never heard of, or recognized, the Women's Movement, otherwise he would not have omitted from his list of amazing books [Viewpoint, Jan.] Elaine Morgan's The Descent of Woman—a superb account of the development of the human species from its origin as The Water Primate. All questions about human physiology, psychology, and sociology are finally answered, once we realize that we are descended from a small ape that took to living in the ocean off the coast of Africa about 15 million years ago, and then, after partial adaptation to that environment, returned to land. We learn why we have language (for communicating over the waves), and why we are nearly hairless (hair is a drawback in an aqueous environment), but why women have long hair (for the baby to hold on to).

Lots of good speculation about sex: female orgasm (which kind is "real"); which position is natural (missionary, of course, like whales); and rape, and love, and even why women like to have sex with the light off. They do? Evidently, for it is a reaction against the sun shining in their eyes.

Just goes to show that women can be just as creative as men in the field of amazing writing—and make more money, too—for Morgan's book made it to the bestseller list.

Sarah E. Foster
Los Angeles, CA

Diamond Doubts

Steven Beckner's column "Precious Stones" [Feb. 1980] seemed a bit murky and prejudicial. He made reference to a dozen firms "hawking" precious stones at a monetary conference, but no mention was made of the multifarious brokers "hawking" gold.

Mr. Beckner indicated that GIA-certificated diamonds sell at a premium over those graded by EGL, and that diamonds under one carat should be graded by EGL. This dubious reasoning escapes me, except if the author is under the erroneous impression that GIA does not grade diamonds under one carat, or the seller is trying to hide the poor quality of his diamond. GIA certifies all sizes of diamonds. EGL certificates bring a lower price compared to the GIA certificate because of the lower quality of the EGL certificate. GIA standards are the most rigid and exacting in the world.…

People could be better informed by reading the REASON article [June 1979] by John Matonis, which explains how to buy and sell investment-quality diamonds.

Gerry Hauser
La Jolla, CA

Postal Pains

In your December 1979 issue, Joel Stewart, a reader from Van Nuys, spoke of the US Post Office as not being a money-losing proposition. I never saw any rebuttal. Is Mr. Stewart aware that the 1979 subsidy of the US Mail was over $900 million?

James C. Wood
Sacramento, CA

Federal Inflation

I'm pleased to see candidate Ted Kennedy making such a fuss about inflation. He has voted for it ever since he reached Congress and is an expert on the subject.

The bulk of present inflation comes from the government's printing tens of billions of dollars of worthless additional money each year to pay off deficit spending requirements. Carter's previous chairman of the Federal Reserve, Miller, at the end of 1978 said he had printed 9% more money and expected inflation in 1979 to be 8%, apparently expecting some offset from weakly rising productivity.

The actual total rate of inflation was 13.3% so, roughly, OPEC and unions pushed up the 5.3%. When you know that a large part of OPEC's boosting is done to offset dishonored American currency in their hands, you figure that the federal government is directly responsible for 10.5% and OPEC and other fiends for 2.8%.

Thomas S. Booz
Plantation, FL

Defense Predicament

I must disagree with several key points raised by Editor Poole in "SALT and Defense" [Feb.]. Poole bases much of his posifact that CEPs are obtained from the results of actual missile flight trials. Such trials are commonly conducted by the United States from Vandenberg AFB. The Soviets also conduct these trials, often from Tyuratam, a site near the Aral Sea. As of April 1978, tests of the SS-18 had demonstrated a CEP of 0.1 nautical mile (Aviation Week & Space Technology, Feb. 19, 1979). The vulnerability of an installation such as a Minuteman silo is determined by three factors: the CEP of the attacking warhead, its yield, and the hardness level of the silo itself. For an SS-18 Mod 2 ICBM, carrying 8 warheads of 2 MT yield apiece, the kill probability of a single warhead against a Minuteman silo (hardened to 1,500 psi overpressure) is somewhere between 99 and 100 percent, provided the 0.1 nmi CEP was available. If the CEP were to be doubled, the kill probability drops to about 80 percent. The mitigating factors Poole cites are not very strong in modifying CEP values: the earth's gravitational field structure is fairly well known, the winds are a trivial matter for a reentry vehicle traveling at hypersonic speed, and air density variations tend to be important only in a meteorological sense and are accounted for by suitable inefficiency factors during force planning. We have 1,054 Minuteman and Titan II silos. The SALT I treaty permits the Soviets to emplace 310 SS-18s. With the warhead load described, this makes 2,480 warheads available for a preemptive strike. By any reasonable criterion, this amounts to a serious threat to Minuteman survivability.

Regarding point (2), Poole refers to the possible advent of laser weapons and/or advanced missile interceptor systems. Having worked for the past year and a half on the preliminary design and strategic mission analysis of high-energy laser weapons, I consider myself close to the subject. Regrettably, the only unclassified response I can give to Poole's optimism is that he does not know what he is talking about. The only demonstrations of laser lethality to date amount to shooting down an antitank missile…and this took tons of machinery. A similar situation exists with the advanced missile interceptor concept: it looks great on paper. What Poole does not mention is the fact that these technologies would require nearly a decade of development to reach the prototype level, and that the cost of such development would be quite as high as for the MX or the Trident programs.

The fact remains that a period of vulnerability to preemptive strike will commence roughly by 1983, some 3 years before the earliest MX deployment. Poole should not be so unconcerned about the number of warheads an SS-18 can carry. If a preemptive strike were to be carried out, and the bulk of our land-based ICBMs were negated, it does not follow that we could safely retaliate. The Soviets have deployed the SS-18 in a cold-launch mode, which means that no silo refurbishment is required after a launch—permitting the relatively rapid reloading of those same silos with similar missiles. The Soviets could threaten the United States with a second strike following the first, if we chose to retaliate. Because such a second strike would effectively be murder of many millions of American citizens, no rational policy could embrace anything other than surrender.

I am not saying that we should not strive toward many of the goals that Poole advances; quite the contrary. But I do want to emphasize that no benefit is to be gained by underestimating our current plight or indulging in wishful thinking.

Mike Dunn
Federal Way, WA

Mr. Poole replies: First, since a missile's CEP can only be measured over known trajectories, it remains unknown how much "bias" there will be when launching warheads over previously unflown trajectories (such as Tyuratam, USSR, to Grand Forks, Montana). Moreover, extrapolating to a whole field of silos the results of the calculated vulnerability of a single silo leads to misleadingly high estimates of the field's vulnerability. Nevertheless, it is certainly true that Soviet missile capabilities are increasing steadily, making US ICBMs less survivable with each passing year. The key question is: what should we do about this?

My fundamental point is that the resources available for military purposes are necessarily limited. The likelihood that adequate billions will be devoted to the development of needed defensive capabilities against Soviet missiles is quite small if $40 billion is to be soaked up by MX and another $30-$40 billion on Trident. What is required, instead, are interim measures to prevent a drastic shift in the strategic balance until laser weaponry can be developed and deployed (very likely, by the end of the decade).

One such measure was made public in the Feb. 25 Aviation Week. A $7-$10 billion program could modify the Minuteman 2 missiles so that they could be launched into parking orbits as soon as warning of an attack was received (i.e., within a minute or so, sufficient even to escape submarine-launched missiles). The missile would remain in orbit until directed either to attack targets or to return safely to the ground. This system could be operational by 1986—and at a fraction of MX's cost.

Lastly, opinion within the defense community differs as to the date by which laser ABM weapons can be available. According to Aviation Week (Oct. 22, 1979), one "faction in the Pentagon and the services believes that a 5-megawatt high-energy laser…could be placed in space for either satellite defense or ballistic missile defense as early as 1983 if adequate funding is provided for systems integration work in the next fiscal year." The Air Force's KC-135 flying laser laboratory will soon be used for tests of a CO2 laser against air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has a competition under way to select a contractor to design and build both an experimental laser suitable for space (known as Alpha 2) and an aiming system (known as Talon Gold). Thus, an operational date of 1986—or 1990 at the outside—does not seem fanciful, given adequate funding.

Price vs. Value

In your notes on "Gold Remonetization" [Trends, Jan.], you used the word "value," indicating that US gold reserves' "value" had risen over the years. Their price had risen but their value still buys about the same amount of basic goods and services as before.

As for Carter's doing anything about remonetization, as long as the government prints paper money, it can't. You have to look to a balanced budget to halt inflation, and then you won't need remonetization.

Thomas S. Booz
Plantation, FL