I must congratulate you for Cathy Young's article "Victors or Victims" (Oct.). It brings back fond memories of my early years as a feminist in the late '60s and early '70s, when feminists were easily distinguishable from wimps.
Back then, I dreamed the day would come when women could choose from any of life's opportunities, regardless of gender. But today we are still a tiny minority among business and political leaders. We have made some gains in our careers, but if husbands won't help with domestic chores—or are absent altogether—the source of inequality is mainly at home, not the office.
Regrettably, many women who label themselves "feminists" are seeking refuge in the victim role, as your article so eloquently points out. Women will make no progress so long as we expect government to "help" us out with "protective" legislation. I hope the hand that rocks the cradle will help the next generation do better. Then, perhaps, more men will help rock cradles, too.
Martha A. Churchill
Bart Kosko makes some excellent points in his essay on increasing the machine IQ of weapons ("Arms Wrestling," Oct.). But he commits a serious error when he advocates the currently popular notion that so long as state-of-the-art weapons are designed through the prototype stage, it is not necessary actually to produce them.
U.S. manufacturers traditionally followed a process of separating development of new products from production. After completing the development, the research lab "threw it over the wall" to production, and the production department tried to produce it. Most manufacturers have finally recognized this doesn't work. Unless producibility is designed in from the beginning, the production department literally has to redesign the product before it can be produced.
Many manufacturers are shifting to a process known as "simultaneous engineering" or "concurrent engineering," in which production people play as important a role in the design process as the researchers. The purpose is to ensure that the design reflects the actual capabilities of production processes.
Under the "stop at the prototype level" concept, this feedback from production to design would be lost. Indeed, there might not even be a production department to provide the feedback. The inevitable result would be that when an emergency arose and we tried to produce the latest, state-of-the-art but on-the-shelf design, it would turn out to be a production-line nightmare.
Col. Joseph P. Martino (USAF, Ret.)
Richard Miniter expressed skepticism regarding the National Park Service's claim that it is revising its National Natural Landmarks regulations to address landowners' concerns ("Trouble in Paradise," Aug./Sept.). The situation is worse than he realizes.
In response to objections that the government has been evaluating and designating private property as "nationally significant" landmarks without the knowledge or consent of the owners, the Park Service has proposed only token changes in the regulations: Property will no longer be designated as a landmark without the owner's consent, but the Park Service can still unilaterally designate property as "nationally significant" and continue with the attempt to gain control of the land.
Park Service Director James Ridenour said last year that he would like to "punch out" those of us who have criticized the landmark program, while praising his associates for their "restraint." Chief of Park Service Public Affairs George Berklacy said this attitude toward landowners results from our "harassment"—presumably, our persistence in monitoring and publicly exposing program abuses. He dismissed our concern for what he called mere "procedural matters" (our rights) as irrelevant compared to the Park Service goal of compiling a "comprehensive inventory of…important sites" in the "public interest," which he calls the "fundamental issue."
The agency's systematic use of outside, preservationist activists to nominate and "evaluate" their favorite spots for new sites without regard to landowners' rights was dismissed as just "sloppy record keeping and a naive assumption…that all property owners would welcome Landmark recognition." This is truly a case of fanatics with a "noble cause" who think they can do no wrong.
Maine Conservation Rights Institute
Ken Kasriel ("We Don't Explain," Aug./Sept.) takes one example of possible injustice (assuming that the article fully presented both sides of the issue) and makes an untrue, sweeping generalization about the present Hungarian government and its people. He attributes the attitude of former communist bureaucrats—that the government is not accountable to the people for its actions—to the present democratic government. Is the deportation of the Vietnamese from Hong Kong and of the Haitians from the United States also due to "ingrained xenophobia and authoritarianism" that is "tainting" these democracies?
Ildiko J. Bodoni
Hungarian-American Human Rights Council
Western Springs, IL
Mr. Kasriel replies: American and Hong Kong immigration officials at least enforce the law when deporting illegal entrants. Hungarian authorities haven't. Not only did they detain nine foreigners in the Kerepestarcsa camp for no legal reason at all; they also admit that, despite the law's six-day detention limit, the average inmate's stay is some three weeks.
One Word: Plastics
For the record, North American Plastics Recycling Corporation has never made packaging film from recycled material, as stated in Lynn Scarlett's article ("It's All in the Packaging," Aug./Sept.). Rather, our company reprocesses used plastic packaging into resin that our customers purchase for reuse. In most cases, this resin is less expensive than virgin material.
The crux of the recycling debate remains whether the benefits of recycling exceed its costs. Ms. Scarlett believes that "recycling does not necessarily save any resources." Unfortunately, no one has the facts to prove or disprove this thesis. For every study that can demonstrate that no resources are saved, one can produce a study showing substantial savings. What we need is a definitive study that will once and for all detail the total costs and benefits associated with our national and regional recycling efforts.
If recycling does save resources, we should not be satisfied with the proposed federal packaging regulations, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates would reduce the 200 million tons of municipal solid waste generated each year by less than 1 percent. Recycling could help improve our balance of trade and our balance of payments while reducing the budget deficit. Moreover, recycling creates jobs. Finally, the formation of a recycling infrastructure may lead to lasting social and environmental benefits.
North American Recycling Systems
Fort Edward, NY
Ms. Scarlett replies: My apologies to Mr. Tomaszek for misidentifying the activities of his company. The information was drawn from an industry trade magazine.
Mr. Tomaszek misunderstands the dynamic and contextual nature of resource use. Whether recycling will save on all resources depends on the material collected, the location and means of processing, and the remanufacturing process. This equation will change over time and will depend on the relative scarcities of different resources at any given time and place.
Mr. Tomaszek shows a similar misunderstanding of basic economics when he argues that "recycling creates jobs." The key question is not whether some jobs are created, but whether the funds invested in recycling activities, allocated to alternative investments, would have created higher productivity, more jobs, and more value.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".