Barking up the Wrong Tree?
In the August/September issue you quoted from The Wall Street Journal, "There are people prepared to let women die to save trees." (See Balance Sheet.) As the environmental group leading the effort to properly manage the Pacific yew tree and the old-growth ecosystem in which it is found, we would like an opportunity to clarify the Journal's erroneous statement.

It is the goal of the Oregon Natural Resources Council (ONRC) to ensure that the maximum amount of the cancer-fighting drug taxol, derived presently from the bark of the Pacific yew tree, is made available for all those who need it, both now and in the future. To accomplish this goal, we need to exploit fully the available bark source, without waste, and immediately bring other natural or artificial sources of taxol on line. But most pressingly, we need to immediately change forest management policies that have been wasting vast quantities of yew trees and taxol on our national forests and other public and private forest lands.

The Pacific yew grows very slowly, principally in the shade of centuries-old Douglas fir forests in western Oregon and Washington. Currently, on federal forest lands, there are tens of thousands of acres of old-growth forests containing Pacific yew that are under contract to private lumber companies and are slated to be clearcut, and in most cases, to be later burned. While the Pacific yew can often resprout after it is cut, burning kills its thin bark, eliminating the Pacific yew from future forest stands and for future cancer needs.

This last spring, the ONRC threatened to go to court if the Willamette National Forest in Oregon did not go back and recover Pacific yew bark that was to be burned or wasted following clearcutting.

Conservationists believe the Pacific yew should be utilized and sustained. Because of the great human need, our priority has been to try to eliminate the waste of the yew tree in our national forests.

But the reality remains: Future supplies of yew trees for the production of taxol are finite. The good news is taxol and other similar compounds are also contained in the needles. If properly managed, the Pacific yew and its life-saving chemical taxol can be sustained.

Wendell Wood
Oregon Natural Resources Council
Eugene, OR

Unnecessary Procedure
Craig M. Collins stated in his review of The Litigation Explosion ("The Invisible Fist," Aug./Sept.), "Fix the substantive law, and procedural law will no longer be a problem." I disagree. Civil procedure is not alike in all jurisdictions. Like the frog that will jump out of the pot if dropped into boiling water, but will stay and be slow-cooked if the temperature slowly rises, California civil procedure has become a pressure cooker which slow-cooks alive all who must deal with it, including judges, attorneys and their staffsand most of all the legal consumers, who must not only wait longer for justice, but must pay more for the unnecessary and time-consuming paper shuffling. Like the doctor who must order every conceivable test to avoid charges of malpractice, so must the California attorney file every conceivable paper.

In addition to rules of civil procedure common in most states, local court rules can vary widely. In Florida the rule book, which applies uniformly to courts statewide, had about 28 pages when I left. By contrast, there is no one book and no one set of forms that can be used to practice in California. Not only can every county have different forms and rules, but branches within counties have different rules, and courtrooms at the same branch can have different rulesoften unwritten! The local rules for just five Southern California counties takes up an entire bookshelf. Replacing pages with the latest updates is a constant chore. Secretaries fill up entire notebooks trying to keep track of minor details, such as how to format exhibits.

But judges with fiefdom complexes are not the worst part of the problem. Large law firms control the state and county lawmakers. Forms that are required by only one county in the state have often trapped an attorney from a neighboring county, protecting the "local boys" and furthering injustice to the unwary attorney's client.

Legal consumers large and small are seeking out alternatives to litigation. I own a mediation business. I assist clients to resolve their disputes without litigation. My sole business objective is to keep myself and my clients out of the courthouse and its degrading and dehumanizing system of justice for which the California legal establishment should be filled with shame.

Dagny Sharon
The Mediation Alternative
Tustin, CA

The Natives Are Restless
James Bowman makes some good points in his comments on the lunacy of the politically correct crowd ("A Few Reservations," Aug./Sept.), but he might do well to check some of his sources before he makes broad, sweeping statements on native culture.

The Aztec religion was very brutal. But then, I seem to recall a thing in history referred to as the Inquisition. Were I to use Mr. Bowman's methods, I should then conclude that the Christianity of the time was universally acquainted with the use of the dungeon and the thumb screw.

His most interesting comment was, "No one pretends that…the Indians in general treated their women as anything but inferiors, if not mere beasts of burden." What a shock this would be to my ancestors. All that time the women thought they lived in a matrilineal culture that gave them complete control of the house in which they lived and the children to which they gave birth, while in truth they were mere beasts.

Perhaps when the British encountered the Cherokee they were drunk, for they were severely confused in their belief that these beasts of burden were warriors and participated in village councils.

Ah, and those beasts of burden in the Mohawk nation. What a grand deception the men must have been perpetrating upon them when they permitted them to elect the government.

But then, I guess I should welcome the changes. Surely the current leftist government in California is better than anything the Chumash or Yurok or other California peoples could have devised.

While Mr. Bowman justifiably laments the lunacy of the left, he adheres at the same time to the P.C. of the right when he mentions the "unspeakably brutal existence" of native peoples (a belief first expressed by Immanuel Kant, who had never been to this continent but hated the reports of limited government filtering back to Europe at the time).

My greatest sticking point with libertarians is their insistence that freedom was invented by Europeans. Those who adhere to this belief should consider the message of the head chief of Acuera to DeSoto: "I regard those men as vile and contemptible who subject themselves to the yoke of someone else when they can live as free men. Accordingly, I and all my people have vowed to die a hundred deaths to maintain the freedom of our land." And this was said in the late 1530s, more than two centuries before it would be echoed on the east coast of this continent.

The P.C. crowd has indeed latched on to the Native American in their headlong rush to obliterate freedom from this land. But this (hopefully short-lived) fad has nothing to do with the real history or present reality of the Native American. The politically correct merely substitute one myth for another, leaving their unwilling subjects incapable of being human.

When native peoples migrated into Florida (eventually coming to be called the Seminole), they had a motto that applies well here. "Poohaan checkish." "Leave us alone." A sentiment most libertarians can grasp readily.

Mark G. Avenell
Nacogdoches, TX

A Farewell to Arms?
Daniel J. Ryan's letter (Aug./Sept.) asked for a definition of "arms" as it is used in the context of the Second Amendment and asserted that the National Rifle Association wouldn't be willing to discuss such a "pivotal" issue. Not to worrythe Founders made it clear in their letters that their concern focused on the personal arms that a citizen-soldier would bear as a light infantryman. These included pikes, edged weapons, handguns and long guns, but not crew-served armaments such as cannon.

In Federalist 29, Hamilton wrote, "that army [the regular army] can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens." His words clearly indicate that if you could go back in time to ask whether he would extend the protection of the Second Amendment to selective-fire assault rifles and their semi-automatic look-alikes, he would answer, "If the government's infantry carries them, then the people must have them toobut in greater numbers!"

Because the Founders were wise enough to use the generic term arms, the Second Amendment's language will also protect the laser guns of the 21st century, and whatever personal weaponry might be developed after that.

The liberal press likes to lampoon the Second Amendment by picturing its defenders toting bazookas down Main Street, hunting deer with rocket launchers, and shooting tanks with pistols. But it will do no good to resort to slander and ridicule, or even to repeal the Second Amendment itself, as columnist George Will recently suggested. The right it enshrines is the basic human right of self defense, whether against oppressive governments or predatory criminals, and it transcends the paper documents on which it is inscribed.

Tom Burckhalter
Lake Bluff, IL

In today's environment, the Second Amendment justifies the private ownership of any military arm that can be carriedincluding its ammunitionby one man. The Second Amendment specifies "keep and bear."

In the 1938 United States v. Miller case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects those arms that have "some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia," and the militia is a fighting force, intended to "suppress insurrections and repel invasions." Thus, all firearms used by the U.S. military, our allies, and, under some circumstances, our enemies, are specifically protected. Until, or unless, the Second Amendment is repealed, it must be obeyed.

Wm. O. Felsman
Woodland Hills, CA

When the Second Amendment was ratified, single-shot muskets were the military equivalent of the "assault weapons" and machine guns of today. No controls on artillery, military aircraft, submarines, battleships, or other military gear existed until the National Firearms Act of 1934, and there were essentially no problems with their abuse by private citizens. Indeed, the 1934 act appears to have been passed because weapons were stolen from military armories by organized crime during Prohibition. Readers of REASON can no doubt make the connection between the current attack on constitutional rights, including the Second Amendment, and the current drug prohibition.

Those within the NRA tend to compromise the amendment a bit by suggesting that, in the Miller decision, the Supreme Court had the right idea: that protected arms are those which are militarily useful to a militia consisting of all people physically capable of acting for the common defense. Clearly, "assault weapons" would fit this definition while nuclear weapons would not.

Dean S. Weingarten
Somerton, AZ