Bill Forman ("Musical Aliens Keep Out," April) touched on a very important but overlooked issue, namely, the way the Reagan administration has been making it more difficult for business persons of all types to come into the United States.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has slowly changed its policy by claiming that visas were intended by Congress to be available only for large businesses. Not only were the H-1 visas for entertainers affected but also visas for intracompany transferees, investors, and treaty traders.
This problem goes beyond the INS. Visas are usually granted at American consulates, where the officials have almost unlimited authority. They can deny visas for any or no reason, and there is no practical avenue of review. The Reagan administration has appointed persons to these positions who deny visas whenever the opportunity arises. Persons wishing to do business here find it difficult to obtain visas unless they can prove that they are leaving substantial assets or family at home. Tourists may be inhibited from applying, since if you are refused a visa your name may be placed on a computer, which makes it even more difficult to apply again.
Visa refusals have also been used to exclude opponents of administration views. Congress has begun to address this issue, but it remains to be seen whether Congress will champion a cause that the voters do not notice.
America was founded on noble ideals. The very best way we can show the world the greatness of our ideals is to live by them. By treating the world's entertainers, business persons, tourists, and visitors as undesirables, we tell them that we do not practice and believe what we preach.
Harry A. DeMell
Association of Immigration Attorneys
New York, NY
Was Marty Zupan's editorial ("Beyond Contra Aid," April) an April Fool's Day joke? How else could she urge us to defend an anti-Sandinista line-in-the-dirt with "U.S. air and naval power" and simultaneously tell us that we must not "throw our weight around" and must refrain from using "the coercive power of our state" to undermine the Sandinistas?
Ortega will consider a threat of air and naval power to be both Yankee weight and an undermining of his state. Nor will he see a substantive difference between, on the one hand, U.S. planes and ships, and, on the other hand, our funding of the Contras with guns and Stingers—because there isn't any.
As to "drawing a line" that the Soviets and Sandinistas "must not cross," that's puffery. They long ago crossed it. The line was called the Monroe Doctrine. If that's too out-of-step with "noninterventionist" fashion, bear in mind that every president since Kennedy said we'd not tolerate another communist state in the Americas.
The problem isn't a lack of line drawing; it's the untidy action that follows—jerking a commie mugger off his victims and putting him away so he can't hurt even more innocent people.
Ms. Zupan's editorial is at best a terrible prescription for dealing with the Sandinistas. It is disgusting to imply that aid to the Contras is a form of welfare. The Contras are fighting to overturn a Soviet client state that is pointed like a dagger at the United States' border. In contradistinction (no pun intended), welfare recipients are simply parasites who drain the U.S. economy.
Ms. Zupan's call for keeping the government out of aiding the Contras and having private organizations fund both the Sandinistas and the freedom fighters is simply anarchism. Many libertarians do not realize that there is a difference between a government's proper function and the workings of a free economy.
The argument that we should not fund the Contras because Mr. Ortega might whine about it is ridiculous. Why should America worry about the bleatings of a bloody Marxist tyrant?
Ms. Zupan's call for an American draw-the-line solution is nothing less than asking the United States to fight a Vietnam-style conflict in Central America. She advocates a limited response to a Nicaraguan build-up, just as Presidents Kennedy and Johnson dealt with the North Vietnamese by waiting for them to cross the Cambodian and South Vietnamese borders instead of crushing the North Vietnamese once and for all. Just as the Vietnam conflict led to demoralization and war weariness, so Ms. Zupan's call for a limited, arbitrary response (read: bloody stalemate) will also lead to demoralization—except this time the enemy will soon be at our border.
The single but gaping flaw I find in libertarian thinking is the strange refusal to recognize the Cold War and its implications. Marty Zupan's editorial is a prime example. She writes: "Allow any and all private aid to the Contras. This will put them on the same footing as the Sandinistas, who are the beneficiaries of U.S. citizens' donation of funds, medicine, and other goods."
The same footing? The Soviets are aiding the Sandinistas at a rate of $1.35 billion in military aid annually, in addition to 3,000 military advisors. This—not the contributions of sympathetic leftists in America—is what Ms. Zupan's "private" contributors would have to match.
And while Ms. Zupan advocates private aid, she further writes, in apparent reference to government aid, that "we simply cannot solve this problem for the Nicaraguan people." If, however, government aid usurps Nicaraguan self-determination, then why doesn't private aid? The fact is that neither usurps when it amounts at best to only a fraction of what the Soviets provide the Sandinistas; it is necessary simply to balance the scales so that the will of those still in Nicaragua (500,000 have left) can best be determined.
Robert T. Peterson
Like Marty Zupan, I favor complete withdrawal of our government from funding the Contras. (If private citizens wish to support anyone, that is their business.) I like the idea expressed in the statement, "without throwing our weight around, use liberally the force of rhetoric and diplomacy to support regional efforts toward peace and freedom." Our reputation with oppressed peoples of the earth would be enhanced by use of such a principle.
However, I believe Zupan is misinformed on a few matters. For one thing, the defector from the Sandinista government either did not make it clear or lied when he said that Nicaragua was going to increase its troop level to 600,000. Nicaragua plans to enlist 600,000 reservists, not regular troops, which it intends to keep between 70,000 and 80,000.
Also, I am not sure what Zupan means by the "Sandinistas' oppressive regime." To be sure, La Prensa was shut down because of its attacks on government policy, and a few priests were silenced one way or another (not by torture or murder, which is standard operating procedure for Guatemala, Chile, and Paraguay). One can understand why the Sandinistas would not like such outspokenness while their regime is fighting for its life. But people travel in and out of Nicaragua with little problem, whether they endorse or oppose Sandinista policies.
It definitely is not true that the Sandinistas have put in place an all-powerful state more oppressive than its predecessor. Read Penny Lemoux's account of Nicaragua under Somoza's National Guard (who are the leaders of the Contras now) in Cry of the People. Her facts coincide with independent, not U.S. government, observations, like those of Amnesty International.
On the other hand, I agree wholeheartedly that the Nicaraguan people have to work out their own salvation without our heavy-handed interference.
Ralph Mason Dreger
Baton Rouge, LA
While I support your suggestion that our government has no business aiding the Contras, I feel you have substantially misrepresented the reality in Nicaragua.
The "Marxist regime," as you call the government in Nicaragua, was elected in November 1984 in an election described as fair by hosts of international on-site observers, including delegations from the United States. The Nicaraguan constitution, now in full force since emergency has been lifted, was drafted, evaluated, and adopted after input from hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans.
I lived five weeks with a family in a poor barrio in Esteli in the summer of 1985. I have maintained contact with Nicaraguans and many U.S. citizens who live and work in different regions of that country. My perception is that the majority of the Nicaraguan people perceive their government not as "dictatorial," as you describe, but as democratic—not only elected by the people, but responsive to them and working for their welfare.
Nicaragua's opposition press was shut down in time of war. In the neighboring Central American countries there is no opposition press. In Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, being part of an anti-government press has repeatedly and predictably led to death. It is not surprising that the public opinion molded by what press remains might have a distorted image of Nicaraguan reality.
For good reason, there exist laws in the United States against supporting the overthrow of other nations' governments. While these laws have been selectively enforced against IRA supporters in the United States, they have been shamelessly unenforced in the case of private U.S. citizens' support for the military overthrow of the Sandinista government.
C. James Bier
Richard Mitchell ("All the Books They Have," March) drew several erroneous inferences from my article "The Misreading of Literature" (Aristos, Oct. 86).
First, in the public school I referred to, A Day No Pigs Would Die was not the only work of fiction assigned to seventh graders. Other books studied included Shane and Sounder. (Mr. Mitchell's suggestion that Willa Cather's My Antonia be substituted for A Day No Pigs Would Die ignores the subtly introspective character of the Cather novel, which is surely beyond the grasp and interest of the average 13-year-old.)
Second, the books were not chosen to shock the parents (as Mr. Mitchell suggests) but to further the students' understanding and enjoyment of literature.
Third, parents who raised objections were not considered "yahoos." Nor were they answered with "weaseling or silence or politic obsequiousness or…pious slogans about 'censorship.'" In fact, the English teachers organized (on their own time and for no extra pay) evening sessions to talk about the books with parents. Moreover, teachers in that school (as in many others) assign alternate readings to any child whose parent requests it.
Finally, Mr. Mitchell's agenda apparently precluded his noting that my article was more critical of a well-known New York Times education writer and various politicized educators than it was of parents. (REASON readers may obtain a copy of my article from Aristos, P.O. Box 1105, Radio City Station, New York, NY 10101.)
Mr. Mitchell is right to question the principle of public education. But he should not make the mistake of inferring that teachers now working in the public system are, ipso facto, scheming "schoolers" bent on "intervening between children and parents."
Michelle Marder Kamhi
New York, NY
Correction: An error crept into David R. Henderson's column (April) "The Supply-Siders Were Right (Partly)" in the editing process. A 33 percent tax rate will apply to a few taxpayers not because of the alternative minimum tax but because of a "phase-out surtax" of 5 percent imposed by Congress on married taxpayers with taxable income between $71,900 and $149,250 and on single taxpayers with taxable incomes between $43,150 and $89,560. The alternative minimum tax is a completely separate issue.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".