Foiling the Rush Hour Remedy "Rush Hour Remedy" (Jan.) presented facts, figures, problems, and solutions in a very thorough manner. However, I—one of those drivers out there—am not totally convinced by the automatic vehicle identification (AVI) system. One very important problem overlooked was that AVI, like many other mechanically complicated systems, is susceptible to being foiled by people—especially when it comes to saving a buck. Remember what people did to antipollution devices when they first came out? What could be worse is that some electronics wizard will come up with an AAVI (anti-AVI) system, whereby the induction circuit is defeated, and market it like the "Fuzz-buster."…
Now, suppose there is a city somewhere that could utilize an AVI system where all technical details really are worked out—if that's possible. I'd still have a hard time believing that any such system could work flawlessly without the implementation of police force "reshuffle" during these peak hours.…Well, if the cops have to work extra anyway, they may as well work and save the taxpayer's money on the "other" scheme.
David J. Yena
Preconceptions I have difficulty understanding the cover story of the December issue ("Strangers in Paradise: Scientific Creationism Exposed"). Does REASON advocate that the State use its powers to force education upon children, many of whose parents demonstrably do not desire such teaching?
Even if I ignore that argument, I detect overt fallacies in Mr. Steiner's logic. For years I have looked askance at both the creationists and the evolutionists, have read literature of both, and have found them both wanting in an adequate approach to the mystery of origins… Steiner's claim that "'scientific creationism' starts with a conclusion and then engages in apologetics to justify that preconceived conclusion" applies to evolutionists as well as creationists.…
W. Alfred Spoor
In Defense of Reason I have been reading REASON for many years, and as I read your December article dealing with the creationist versus scientific approach to teaching the development of life on earth, I could anticipate a certain response in the letters column.
A bunch of readers will say that it should all be left to the free market, that the real problem is public education, so why bother with the substantive controversy. The answer to this kind of letter is that REASON, thank goodness, is interested not just in politics but also in other areas of culture, including education. In education it is always appropriate to ask whether something should be included in the curriculum.
Another bunch of people will claim that, when it comes to being a bona fide scientific theory, evolutionism is on par with creationism. These readers are willing to engage in a purely pedagogical, or curricular, discussion of the controversy, but they do not take seriously enough the fact that creationism is from the start antiscientific, rejecting the need for a rational, humanly accessible method for answering questions about origins. So even if the scientific status of evolution were as bad as some claim it is, it could never be so bad as creationism.
Of course, some readers will protest that REASON's dedication to approaching all topics rationally is itself a kind of dogmatism. But you can't help everyone.
Creation Stories The excellent article on "scientific creationism" in your December issue reminds me that for quite a number of years I accepted the fundamentalist view that creation and evolution are significant religious arguments, without ever examining the view rationally. When I did so, it became apparent to me that that view (which many scientifically oriented people accept) was, in itself, a flawed vision of reality.…
Clearly the creationists should be opposed in their mad dream of bringing the 14th century to full flower again, both for the good of society and for the sheer good fun of it; but they can be opposed, I believe, in the serene confidence that a rational genie—any rational genie—once out of the bottle cannot be thrust back in. It's like trying to shovel smoke. As intelligent young people reach the age of reason, they will search for a rational explanation of the universe, and they will find one.
The Unitarian Universalists (a rationalist religious denomination) have met the creation/evolution problem—which can be a problem for children, especially somewhat bright children—in a useful way. They have a Sunday school unit, at the fifth- or sixth-grade level, which takes up a dozen or so creation stories, from Babylonian to Navajo, including the Genesis story, and thus offers young people a broader view of the universal hunger for an explanation of "how we got here" and "how the world came to be." The unit also presents the story of creation held by scientists today.…Such a "stories of creation" approach should be considered by men of reason battling on that plain "where ignorant armies clash by night."
Green Springs, OH
More Accurate Info A note with regard to the Health & Welfare column in November (p. 54):
There is sufficient research to suggest that 3 to 10 grams of arginine taken daily might stimulate the growth of the herpes virus in persons who have a latent infection. For the considerable percentage of the population carrying the herpes virus, this dosage is reasonable only if they don't mind setting off an active infection.
L-Cysteine indeed does what the column says. However, it also is a rather powerful chelating agent and can remove from the body valuable minerals such as zinc and copper. Three to 6 grams of L-Cysteine taken daily is a reasonable dose only if one is keeping close track of the levels of these and other minerals in the body.
Fifty mg. of chelated zinc is certainly a reasonable dose. However, this reasonable dose may lower levels of HDL cholesterol (the so-called protective fraction), set off paroxysmal ventricular contractions, and over the long run cause copper-deficiency anemia in some individuals.
Freedom includes the freedom to self-dose or self-medicate with absolutely anything. It also includes the freedom to publish nearly anything, including considerable information in prior Health & Welfare columns which has been both accurate and informative. However, I'm sure that other readers, as well as myself, would like to see a little bit more information about potential side effects of various reasonable dosages included along with the benefits.
Jonathan V Wright, M.D.
Health Boost I greatly appreciate your Health & Welfare column by Sandy Shaw and Durk Pearson. I am a medical student currently and will be receiving my M.D. this year. The research being done by Durk Pearson et al. is fascinating to me, particularly the recent articles concerning antioxidants and the reduction of serum-cholesterol, cancer risk, and the immune system.
I enjoy the column, and I hope you will continue to run it. I am greatly in favor of individuals' taking responsibility for their own health and adjusting their lifestyles accordingly. This does, of course, necessitate a great deal of education for the lay person and is another reason why your coverage of these topics is valuable.
Salvadorean Riposte I have followed with some dismay the letters to the editor responding to Mr. Poole's editorial on El Salvador ("Facing Reality in Latin America," May). You should be aware that the only thing phony about the State Department's white paper on El Salvador was not in the few pieces of shaky evidence presented but in the fact that the department had massive additional conclusive evidence provided by both private and public Salvadorean sources on Soviet, Cuban, Nicaraguan, Red Chinese, and Socialist International involvement in directly aiding the guerrillas, most of whom are of foreign origin. This evidence includes hundreds of captured weapons of Communist manufacture or recent vintage, Red Chinese rockets and explosive charges, photographs of Nicaraguan aircraft unloading supplies in El Salvador, plus untold numbers of eyewitnesses and Communist defectors detailing all of their foreign training and experiences. For reasons known only to Secy. of State Haig and others in the State Department, they chose to forgo these heavy testaments in favor of a few captured documents, easily discredited.
For those of us who work or live in El Salvador, the questions bantered about in America about potential foreign involvement aren't even subjects of debate. They are facts.…
Your readers may also be interested to know that the present Salvadorean president-dictator, Jose Napolean Duarte, is not a rightist in any sense of the word. He has a long and easily detailed Marxist background, including exile for his role in an abortive Communist coup with fellow Marxist Ungo, now leader of the Communist guerrillas. Both are presently trying to outdo the other in seeing who can implant upon the helpless populace the most economic and political devastation. Even if the country survives the guerrilla attacks, it will never survive the economic destruction of Duarte's US State Department-mandated agrarian and banking "reforms."
Joel M. Skousen
Hood River, OR
Orange Arguments McMenamin and Connelly ("How Sunkist Put the Squeeze on the FTC," Nov.) present an interesting account of legislative maneuvering to use the political process to personal advantage. However, the thrust of their attack is misdirected at Sunkist and other agriculture cooperatives as if there were something anti-competitive about them per se.
Take each of the FTC's objections to Sunkist, which McMenamin and Connelly cite uncritically: first, "exclusive dealing" with 51 packing houses whom Sunkist insisted could not pack fruit for its competitors; second, withholding supplies to raise prices; third, refusing to sell its products to competing processors and marketers.
The contention that any of the above practices should be illegal can be rejected on grounds both of economic theory and of political liberty. Economic theory would predict that attempts to monopolize by exclusive dealing would simply result in competing packing houses, processors, etc., springing up to serve competing growers. Indeed, many, if not most, businesses are integrated over more than one production stage. McDonald's sells only to its franchises, Maxwell House packs its own coffee, etc. Furthermore, if either tried to raise prices by withholding its products, the market would soon be seized by competitors. And political liberty is, by definition, consistent with freely negotiated contracts—which is all the FTC is complaining about.
The question of monopoly arises not in any of the practices cited in the FTC complaint but from the legal privileges attached to cooperatives in the Agricultural Adjustment Act and similar legislation that requires licenses for packers, allots co-op growing areas, hikes prices, and has had the effect of ossifying much of agriculture in a marketing system appropriate to the era prior to refrigeration and the internal combustion engine.
Sunkist's political lobbying is simply a rational response to the unpleasant but nonetheless real state of affairs that government has the power to distribute an enormous amount of largesse to private groups who know how to lobby.…
Mr. McMenamin replies: There is something anticompetitive about agricultural cooperatives. For one thing, the practices cited by the FTC in its Sunkist complaint were and are effective in maintaining Sunkist's monopoly position precisely because of the artificial barriers to entry erected by the government's regulation of citrus-fruit marketing. The practices help plug any loopholes in the regulatory scheme through which competition might rear its ugly head.
More important, the history of modern agricultural cooperatives coincides precisely with. the growth in government regulation of agriculture. Far from being innocent victims "rational[ly] respon[ding]" to the evils of big government, agricultural cooperatives are the aggressors who lobbied for and helped initiate and maintain government's pervasive role in farming, to the ultimate detriment of all consumers.
Finally, we were hardly uncritical of the FTC in the article—for example: "the good it does by accident is more than offset by the harm it does intentionally." One good thing the FTC did do, however, was its 1976 study of all USDA Agricultural Marketing Orders and their anti-consumer effects. And it was because of this that the FTC became a target for Sunkist and its agricultural co-op allies.