Reader Mail, 11/21

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Re: Spiritual Vehicles (11/22)

A bunch of what-ifs

RE What would Jesus drive?: One thing about this campaign really disturbs me: If these people persuade auto makers to change their policies to accomodate their religious beliefs, isn't that imposing their religion on all car buyers? If the government starts setting fuel economy standards based on such religious arguments, isn't that a breech of the Wall of Separation Between Church and State? Where are all the stalwart defenders of religous liberty? Could it be … gasp … that mixing religion and politics is only bad when the outcome is conservative?

Jay Johansen

Larry loves Jesus, and he's got a lighter side

It's really sad that supposed Christians have so little faith in our Creator that they would worry about their future and future of the planet that He created. Jesus, himself, told us to not waste our time worrying about what we will wear, what we will eat, etc. It's in the lilies of the field allegory. God created the earth—He is neither in the earth, nor is the earth to be worshiped (see Commandments 1 through 3). In Genesis He told us to name the animals and take dominion over the earth. How much plainer can it be for these charlatans? God will bring an end to this planet, as we know it, according to His time table—not man's. By the way, I suggest that you read the Book of John in the new testament before He does end everything. I give that advice for your own good—pay particular attention to John 14:6. Anyway, I see Jesus in a 250 or 2500 series truck for work. It would be in the HD class, a 4-door crew cab, with 4-wheel drive and a diesel. That way,! he could get into and out of muddy job sites and carry his tools and helpers. When not doing carpentry, I see him in a RV so that He could haul all of his DISCIPLES (not apostles—they became apostles after he died and rose from the dead) and converse with them while on the go. He could also put the truck on a tow bar behind the RV, so some of the disciples could go into town and get provisions while He's busy at the well saving the soul of a Samaritan woman and her acquaintances. You'll also find that encounter in the Book of John, Chapter 4. As for saving the planet, George Carlin said it best when he said, "Ask the people at Pompei, or the Mexico City earthquake if they felt like they had any influence in saving the planet that day." Enjoyed your column as always.

Larry Newman

When there was only one set of energy footprints, that's when I carried you.

"It's true that SUVs tend to get lower mileage and generate more emissions than other cars. But all cars and light trucks (including SUVs, pickups, and minivans) together account for only 1.5 percent of the world's man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

"Looking just at motor vehicles, research by University of Denver chemist Donald Stedman has shown that 5 percent to 10 percent of cars are responsible for about half of tailpipe emissions."

Apples & Oranges—when you're talking about greenhouse gas emissions, you're talking about CO2–the production of which is a direct function of how many lbs of fuel are burned, regardless of how clean the car's engine is otherwise. The 5%-10% issue has to do with pollutants (carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, etc) which are produced by old, badly tuned cars (the kind blowing blue smoke). Replacing old clunkers won't do anything to reduce greenhouse emissions (even though it could help with smog).

A more significant problem with the 'What would Jesus drive?' campaign is that there are so many other choices that have as large an impact. What's the average occupancy of your vehicle? How many miles do you choose to live from where you work (or work from where you live)? How big is your house? How many people live in it? How energy efficient is it? Where do you set the thermostat? Do you travel to distant locations on vacation? And do you really NEED to—after all, transatlantic flights, and cross-country car trips burn a lot of unnecessary fuel, don't they? And how much energy was required to transport that fillet of salmon from Chile? Would choosing a domestic fish be more energy conscious? Or do the domestic fisherman use more energy running their boats compared to energy efficient Chilean fish farms? Or *are* the fish farms really energy efficient? Where does that fish food come from anyway?

It all gets to be absurd because there are thousands of decisions, large and small, that people make all the time that effect their 'energy footprint'. But expecting people to try take the energy use into account when making all those decisions (given that they generally don't have the necessary information to do so–let alone the time to do all the calculating), is not a recipe for making society any more energy efficient. What's needed is for societal decisions about energy efficiency to be priced into all these decisions, so people won't have to try do all the calculating. If we determine that we need to reduce fossil fuel usage, we don't need WWJDrive campaigns (or CAFE laws)–what we need are carbon taxes to which people can adapt to in any number of ways (drive more fuel efficient vehicles AND/OR live closer to work AND/OR share rides AND/OR, etc).

Mark Weaver

Truck specs

Regarding "what would Jesus drive" I like to answer that question. Jesus would drive a pickup truck probobly a four wheel drive one and a club cab too boot. Why do I say this. Jesus was as your friend stated a carpenter, well in His days a carpenter not oly worked with wood He also worked with stone. The foundation of a house was layed down in large stone blocks, some as much as 200 pounds in weight. Well anyway He would have to carry around a lot of tools so there would probobly be at least one large tool box in the bed, there may be a cap on the bed or just a set of ladder racks. He would need a club cab because any good carpenter had apprentices and Jesus would have been the best. So the club cab to carry his crew around from job to job. Also He probobly would have a heavy duty trailer pulled behind the truck for hauling building supplies, sand, gravel, stone, boards. And a four wheel drive, after all Jesus would often go out in the dessert alone to pray……

J. Tedeski

So Abel would drive the PT Cruiser?

What Would Jesus Drive? The more I think about it, the only car Jesus would drive would be an SUV. Let's say you want to make a weekend trip to Jerusalem with 12 of your best friends. 13 guys, you probably want a Ford Excursion, a Suburban, or a Hummer. SUVs are popular with fisherman. And if you're a carpenter, they're good for getting supplies to your work site. There weren't many paved roads between Nazereth and Jerusalem, so we're talking an off-road vehicle. It's over the busy Passover weekend, so you want something that can get you through crowds. And having an SUV would save him the effort of dragging that cross through town. He'd be the first one to Calvary. With the heat in the Holy Land, you might want a diesel. They work better with the AC on during a 100 degree day. I think Moses would drive an SUV as well. After parting the Red Sea, it's probably pretty muddy, so you'll want 4-wheel drive. Solomon was big with the babes, he would probably drive a Ferrari. Abraham might drive a sub-compact. He had a small family. Methusaleh probably drove a Volvo, they last forever.

C. Fischer

Jesus didn't worry about safety!

Very good article today on the SUV's impact on the environment. I think the debate over SUVs has become more of a symbolic issue rather than a factual one. Unfortunately the SUV bias seems to be getting stronger in general. I was disappointed that the latest research you were able to reference in your article was from 1997. There was a study published back in August:

Researchers at the University of Michigan and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have found that SUVs are just about the most dangerous cars on the road for all drivers—a not-so-surprising conclusion considering the size of the vehicles and the impact they have on smaller vehicles in a crash, Reuters reported.

This came from on August 29, 2002. I was not able to access the text of the article anymore, however I remember it fairly well and it made some interesting points:

1) It noted that SUV were not necessarily any safer for their occupants than similarly sized cars or minivans, due to the slightly higher roll-over risk and the added risk these types of crashes posed for unbelted drivers (emphasis added)

2) Some smaller cars were in fact safer for their occupants than some sport utility vehicles, the differences apparently due to better design.

The scary-sounding headline of the news blurb indicates the conclusion you are intended to come away with, however two other conclusions could be drawn from this as well:

1) Given the lack of any evidence presented to indicate that SUV drivers are less likely to wear seat belts than car or minivan drivers, one would suppose that for a belted driver an SUV should be safer than a car, if the only factor that made their safety equivalent was a greater risk for unbelted drivers (roll-over risk, by basic physics a greater risk for high center of gravity vehicles like trucks and SUVs, apparently alone is not enough of a safety hazard for belted in passengers to outweigh the safety benefits an SUV may confer in other types of crashes); and

2) A better way to make the roads safer for everyone would be to improve the design of the smaller vehicles. If some smaller vehicles can be as crashworthy or better than some SUVs, it would stand to reason that better engineered small cars would reduce the apparent 'kill ratio' of sport utes against cars without depriving consumers of either vehicle type choice.

The study brought about both its points in relation to a seeming refutation of the 'mass = safety' argument. It is true that better car design (and we are looking at 13 years of additional car development being reflected in the numbers today than in 1989) may have reduced the meaningfulness of this conclusion. Advances in materials and in computer modelling of crashes have gone a long way towards making cars that are both strong and light. However these very same advances are going to have the effect of reducing the significance of this issue.

Advances in automotive engineering that are occuring right now (anti-roll-stability control, hybrid and clean diesel powertrains, on-demand cylinder displacement, advanced high strength steels, etc.) are going to render most of the arguments against sport utility vehicles relatively meaningless in the next five to ten years. I just wonder if their critics will notice.


Jim Nelsen

Re: E Pluribus Umbrage (11/18)

Irish on the outside

A small point related to your claim that "Irish" is nowhere recognized as a racial category. It is recognised as an ethnic category on almost any official form in Britain, such as the census or university application forms, where you are asked to describe your ethnic identity. There are several categories for white people including white Irish.

Aoife de Faoite—actual Irish person in Ireland.


Why is there no group to combat stereotypes of WASPs or the continual portrayal of Englishmen as effete but nasty villains in Hollywood films? Only joking, and its probably better than being the token ethnic who gets wasted by the bad guys.

I liked the article.

Dr Toby Mottram
Silsoe Research Institute

Why we don't call Ph.D.s "doctor"

You are probably right that Nor is there incentive to declare victory and go home, even when victory clearly has been won

But "penny press" or "penny paper of the penny press" might have been more accurate and evocative than… AHAD is a penny stock, with no paid staff, office, or telephone. AHAD convenes

I don';t think teaching about attempted genocide is a "gratuitous curriculum requirement…see Lynn CHeney if you want to see gratuitous curriculum requirements… gratuitous curriculum requirement that Empire State public schools teach the Irish famine as an attempted genocide by the British government

WHat do you mean by "cool"—linguistically speaking, of course. I don't get it how La Raza gets cool money and everyone else gets something else. D'ya have a yardstick or something? And what about the lobbyists for pharmceuticals and the Enrons of the world. Does their take also get to be characterized as "cool"? The National Council of La Raza rakes in a cool $16 million per year, a combination of government grants, public support, and other revenues. The

The only strong-arm tactics I am interested in are from the Ashcroft Justice Dept., the IRA and the Pentagon's new privacy invasion security system (PISS for short). STrong-arm tactics by anti-def non-profits really in the same league as what the NAzi's did to Anne Frank? Really? Watchdogs, which details incidents of strong-arm tactics by anti-discrimination groups.

DIdn't get very far in your piece. It looked and sounded good in the beginning—I thought it was going to be about the hair-trigger overreaction of so many of the groups like the Catholics over Hank's wife dressing as a nun and other stupidities.

But you really reveal malignant bigotry in your lengthy piece, and that is too bad and so sad.

Thom Prentice, Ph.D.
Austin, Texas

Likes Goodfellas, not Sopranos

As a libertarian, I don't agree with Ted Grippo's attempt to silence The Sopranos. The best way to fight stereotypes is with real life accomplishments, which Italian-Americans certainly have exhibited in this country.
However, you are wrong on three counts. First, the charge that the show regularly portrays "Italo-Americans as uneducated, low life brutes" is true. Come on, really. I don't know what episodes you've been watching, but the few–admittedly–that I have watched were overwhelmingly full of such characters. Fine, I don't have to watch the show and I don't.
Secondly, as a weekly program it has more "influence" than, say, a truly intriguing and artful work about the mafia, such as the film Goodfellas, and so it must shade the rest of America's perceptions about Italian-Americans. Terrible? Not compared to what other ethnic groups undergo, sure. But stereotypes are still wrong so don't slough it off. Why not a show, then, that suggests all Arab-Americans are terrorists. I'm sure it would satisfy a popular taste for stereotypes. Why is one acceptable and the other not?
Thirdly, from what I've seen, this TV show isn't much good on merit. The Sopranos glorifies violence for its own sake, which is, of course, a right of the show's creators. Goodfellas shows the violence in the context of what the mafia is: a sad group of bullies who'd rather break heads than use their heads, not The Sopranos bunch, who are portrayed as generally regular, if rough, guys in the garbage hauling business with psychological problems just like the rest of us.

Vito Racanelli
Brooklyn, NY

Re: Spoiling Things for the GOP (11/19)

No balance of power

Mr. Doherty,

Others have noticed. There is also Rachel DiCarlo of the Weekly Standard who notes several major races involving Libertarians. In the recent Oklahoma Governor's race, she cites as a factor "Independent candidate Gary Richardson, who ran on a Libertarian platform. Richardson collected an astounding 14.1 percent of the vote, to Henry's 43.3 percent and Largent's 42.6 percent."

May I suggest that in some future column you address two other aspects of the Libertarian/Republican voting debate? I've been a Libertarian for the past 30 of my 51 years and was active for about ten. One issue is that many Libertarians believe that showing the "balance of power" in elections would persuade major parties to become more libertarian—but I'm not seeing this happen. The other issue is that, at least in the short run, a Republican loss means a Democrat win. As disappointing as the Republicans are—for increasing taxes and spending and for limiting personal freedom—they are less socialist than the Democrats.

These issues trouble me. What really seems to move the major parties towards free markets is the advocacy of new ideas from sources such as Reason, Cato, and free-market economists such as Milton Friedman. The votes for Libertarians don't seem to matter, at least not yet.

Until major parties respond to Liberatarian votes, in the short run a vote for a sure-to-lose Libertarian candidate is a choice of idealism over pragmatism; worse, it may be the mistake of forgoing the good in pursuit of the perfect. That said, I remain optimistic for the long view. I will continue to vote Libertarian because I cannot support the philosophy of the major parties and I believe that "free minds and free markes" are the best choice for the country's future.


John Marovich

Republicans want bigger government.

Good article.

I ask the following question to my GOP friends.

Can you name one single city, county, or state controlled by the Republicans, that has reduced the size of government, as measured by the budget, year over year? Just ONE!

I am from Florida and usually go on to say. In Florida, the Republicans control the state house, the state senate (both by a wide margin) and we have a republican governor. Last year the budget went up by $2.2 billion to $50.4 billion.

The republicans can do anything they want in Florida, and what they want is bigger government.

Some republicans respond by saying that the number of state employes has declined. This is true but still just a ploy used by the GOP to placate the "useful idiots" among the GOP faithful. For instatnce, the state of Florida has outsourced the payroll department. Instead of writing many checks to the state payroll department employees, the state just writes one to the company that now has the same employees working for them.

Name just ONE!

Tom Lundy

Why not Libertarians for a change?

Dear Mr. Doherty:

One big difference between the Libertarian Party and the Green Party and how they respectively compare to the Republican and Democratic Parties is that the Libertarians differ from Republicans qualitatively whereas the Greens differ from the Democrats primarily in what could be considered a quantitative manner. That is, for the most part (one can always find exceptions, but of course they don't make the rule) Greens are merely a more extreme version of Democrats, a far left party compared to one that is slightly left. The same cannot be said of the Libertarian relationship to Republicans, at least not across the entire spectrum of issues.

Two conclusions result. One is that while I would suspect the vast majority of Green voters would prefer most Democratic candidates to most Republican candidates (exit polls for the 2000 election confirmed this somewhat, and I suspected ahead of time that many Nader voters would keep their preference for Gore a secret from pollsters–consciously or otherwise–in order to help justify their maverick ways), while it is a much more open question regarding whether Libertarian voters would necessarily prefer Republicans.

The second conclusion is more intriguing. The Democrats would have a very difficult time appeasing Greens without losing the greater number of voters in the political center, unless perhaps if they were to accomplish this through PR rather than substance (such as distancing themselves from corporate sponsorhsip, for instance). Republicans, on the other hand, have the potential to address at least some of the concerns of Libertarians without appearing to be moving to the extreme right.

Of course, that doesn't mean that Republicans have only to gain by moving to a more libertarian viewpoint. Votes can be won and lost in any shift of platform, and the relatively few libertarian votes that could be gained by, say, speaking the truth about the drug war, could very well cost a greater number to a centrist and demagogic Democrat. Only the actual numbers would tell. But at least it makes more sense for a Libertarian ambivalent about the Republicans to register a desire for a significantly different path than it does for a Green to simply grasp for an unattainable whole loaf at the risk of losing the half a loaf that may have been within reach.

Thanks for listening,

Dave Lichtenberg

Re: Machine Gun Delivery (11/4)

Crazy optimist

While I agree with much of Tim Cavanaugh's article, I would like to make a few points. First, he states that between 25 and 35 percent of the public supports marijuana decriminalization. That sounds more like the number of people who favor full legalization, according to a recent Time/CNN poll. This poll shows 72% in favor of not jailing pot users (decriminalization), and 80% for medical cannabis.

Second, Mr. Cavanaugh assumes that technological advances like the THC inhaler will take the issue of medical marijuana off the table. Perhaps. But perhaps the mix of substances in cannabis will show a more beneficial effect than THC alone. (I assume here that the government will actually allow someone to do the research. I'm a crazy optimist sometimes.)

Third, the article calls marijuana a substance with no redeeming social value. I could argue the point, but it seems more relevant to ask about the social value of switching from alcohol to marijuana. Or, in some cases, switching from heroin to marijuana.

Oh, and about the quote from Keith Stroup: I wouldn't call marijuana harmless. I just point out that you'd have an easier time killing yourself with dihydrogen monoxide.

Daniel Keys


Justice for Justin

I see that your letters column has now become a place for people who have personal (not political) disputes with other to make snide remarks made with no political content (Anti-Raimondist speaks out, Letters 11/21).

I realize that many people have disagreements with Justin. But this letter brings up no points except that a vote against Justin Raimondo is a vote for sanity. I assume this is a private joke between you and Gene, and that any actual ideas that might have been brought up would only serve to weaken the insult.

Lately Reason has been moving more in the direction of commentary relating to the real world. But I see you are putting a stop to that.

Eric Garris

Well it's not like we're sitting on a stack of Nabokov-Wilson correspondence.

You seem to have turned your online letters section into a menagerie for all the nuts in your readership. Very interesting and entertaining to see that such people exist and (at least to some degree) read Reason. But I also wonder if such selection serves to insulate your writers from reason-ed debate.


Dave Lichtenberg