REASON Indispensable

Thanks for your excellent cover article "Home Schooling: Up from Underground" (Apr.). And I am incredulous—no other word suits—that you and Sam Blumenfeld have made the unheard-of breakthrough of getting the facts about the real reasons for the mass illiteracy into American Education (see Notes, Apr.). That is the first time any "inside-education" publication ever has printed the truth about this in lo these many years, since the dawn of the look-say reading monopoly. Lies about it by the truckload—never before the facts. Congratulations. You are indispensable, clearly! I find the entire magazine very interesting and worthwhile.

Kathryn Diehl
Lima, OH

Tip-off Rip-off

Ted Carpenter's splendid article "Shalt Thou Bear Faceless Witness?" (Apr.) goes far in exposing the fraudulent hype currently being hustled by the law-enforcement bureaucracy with their anonymous reward programs. In this community, the media have swallowed the program like so many carp gobbling larvae. The local version of what Carpenter describes, here called "88-Crime," has manipulated through ego-stroking the editorial staffs and owners of the major media outlets, thereby sandbagging working press reporters who know better.

Carpenter did miss one additionally repellent aspect. A cop needs "probable cause" to get a search warrant. Having nothing but a desire for said warrant, and no evidence justifying it, the officer or his agent needs only the price of a pay-phone call to have an "anonymous tip." Said "anonymous tip" then goes to a "roll-over judge," worried that he'll be called "soft on crime" by a "tough, dedicated prosecutor." Said roll-over judge then signs a search warrant and de facto renders meaningless the 4th Amendment. Perhaps this explains why almost half the rewards actually awarded by Pima County's 88-Crime program remain unclaimed! In the meantime, while 88-Crime reports lots of busts and rewards (mostly on drug-related crimes), such items as rape and murder are up over 10 percent in the last 12 months in the Tucson area.

Isn't it great to live in a free America and not some Commie country where the government has people spying on each other for special favors?

Emil Franzi
Tucson, AZ

Tar-Brushed OPEC

Jack Douglas takes the US government to task in his "Arabian Nightmare" (Apr.) for preparing to fight a war in the Middle East, presumably in support of the leaders of OPEC. Though he makes some important points concerning the wisdom of military involvement there, I find myself troubled overall with his tone. There is a difference between morality and moralism, and I suspect that his instincts lie more in the latter direction than the former. Such tar-brush stereotypes as "economic enemies" and "greedy ringleaders," when applied to the OPEC sheikhs, add absolutely nothing to a complex issue.

Maybe our government should stand properly accused of taking its own propaganda too seriously. As Douglas suggests, the sheikhs are probably not quite the friends of Western democracy that some US leaders have labeled them. But to whom else can a US government turn for alliances in the region? If Douglas thinks the sheikhs are venal, he should try dealing with the religious paranoia of the imams.

Before we label the sheikhs our economic enemies, we should also remember that OPEC bears a "made in USA" stamp. It was the direct outgrowth of efforts by Texas oilmen to enforce a two-tier pricing system, to keep US oil cheap and Arabian oil out of the US market, during the 1940s and '50s. This arrangement only began to hurt after US oil production fell off.

Douglas seems bent on castigating the US government for its failure to plan ahead and to lessen US dependence on Middle East oil. I suggest that he has the cart before the horse. The government didn't do this to us. We did, through our economic choices. We weren't willing to pay for the creation of a strategic oil reserve in higher US oil prices or taxes, and we expressed this unwillingness through the folks we elected. We should be a little less critical of the government for taking the only alternative left to it to preserve our access to a threatened supply: military force.

Should our Middle East involvement be debated? By all means! But let's lay the tar brushes aside and look at real issues. Is it in the interests of Western democracy to permit (by default) the Soviets to press a military button in Arabia and put out the lights in the industrial power house of Japan? If we aren't willing to fight in Arabia, how are we willing to rearrange our lives at home?

Richard A. Lawhern
Springfield, VA

The Health of the Body Politic

Private health care is on the increase in Britain (Trends, Apr.). Great! Another ray of hope for liberty and the free market. Hopefully Britain's socialized medical system will collapse under its own bureaucratic inefficient weight, so that private health care programs can provide improved services to all Britons.

Jack L. Allard
Tacoma, WA

An Offer They Can't Refuse?

I have read with great interest the Trends item "Cab Curbs Cut," in your February issue. It is true that I have been quoted and still maintain that I can take 500 jitneys and serve the 403 square miles in Marion County, Indiana, which encompasses Indianapolis, and do this without a subsidy.…

At the present time our bus system is operating at a huge deficit, using up tax dollars. There have been no innovations in the bus industry for the last 30 or 35 years, and the concept of using vans with more frequent service running on fixed routes mixed with a door-to-door combination service is the answer to the problem.

There are thousands upon thousands of dollars being wasted in this country trying to provide an antiquated service such as local bus companies do. I am sure that people in California have not ridden a DC-3 from Los Angeles to New York lately. That is the same comparison to local bus situations.

Richard Hunt

Indianapolis Yellow Cab, Inc.

Vulnerable Thesis

It's an article of American militarist mythology that the Soviet Army is unbeatable. Unfortunately, REASON has shown a distressing tendency to subscribe to that faith, most recently in Jeffrey Record's review of The Third World War: The Untold Story (May). I don't defend either General Hackett's fantasies or the Soviet Empire, but the review perpetuates a myth that is extremely dangerous to our hopes of retaining what freedoms we have left in this country: the invincibility of Soviet arms.

Record tells us that the notion the Soviet Union would collapse from internal difficulties in wartime is "self-delusion." In support of this contention, he hurls Hitler and Napoleon in our faces. And, indeed, both those adventurers lost—and lost big—invading Russia.

That Russia's size and her populace defending its homes have traditionally stymied invaders doesn't imply that the USSR can win an aggressive war. When have Soviet forces succeeded on the offensive except against tiny Finland, or Hitler's crumbling Reich, beset on all sides by immensely powerful enemies and gifted with one of the most inept supreme commands in history? Ask the Afghans about the invincibility of the Soviet soldier.

The USSR is not just burdened by an unworkable economic system. It's a patchwork empire whose subject peoples grow daily more restive; much of the Warsaw Pact's paper strength derives from just these groups, who have even less to gain than ethnic Russians from a war of aggression. The Soviets are surrounded by hostile nations who possess vastly greater resources. Their biggest "ally" is Poland.…

The concept of Soviet invulnerability directly serves the interests of the state: the message is that we must sacrifice ever more of our property and freedom to buy security from the omnipotent Russian monster. It is a myth. I fail to see why REASON endorses it.…

Victor Milan
Albuquerque, NM

Road to User Fees

When I read "Charging What the Traffic Will Bear" (Trends, Jan.) I too was worried about the implications of such a system for government control and monitoring of our movements. I see by the letters in your April issue that I am not alone in this concern.

However, I've realized that there is a simple technological solution to the problem: put the transmitters in the road and the receivers in the car, not the other way around! Each road company could place a transmitter along the road that would broadcast to passing cars the current fees for road use and the company to which they must be paid. A receiver and microcomputer in the car would keep track of the bills owed to each company, and the data would be periodically pulled from the car and the bills paid.

This offers several advantages besides increased privacy. For example, newcomers to an area could learn the rates in effect on a particular road by consulting an optional display in their cars. This should also decrease possible problems with tightly packed cars' transmissions interfering with one another, as there are less roads than cars and a fixed number of road transmitters versus a variable number of car transmitters operating in any given area.

The only objection to this system is the increased opportunity for car owners to tamper with the records. However, this is also a possibility in the original system since sufficiently determined people could modify the transmitters to broadcast someone else's code. In any case, the receiver and computer can be made tamper-resistant, just as is done with postage meters and home electricity meters.

David J. Lindbergh
Holden, MA