Letters

|

Prohibition Returns!
Shame on Reason for featuring an article (which, by the way, was very well-written and very right-on) even suggesting that prohibition has ever been absent from this "land of the free" ("Prohibition Returns!," November).

Prohibition regrettably has been very much alive and well all these years in the form of our little "war on drugs."
Gordon Wilson
Laguna Niguel, CA

'The Trouble Is the West'
As the former executive director of the Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Society and an open advocate of Islamic apostasy, I nonetheless take strong exception to Ayaan Hirsi Ali's call to close down Muslim schools in this country by force of law and, in effect, by force of arms in Reason's interview with her ("?'The Trouble Is the West,'?" November).

For one thing, as someone with far more firsthand experience than Hirsi Ali with American Muslims and their institutions, I can say with some confidence that her categorical identification of Muslim schools with jihadi activity is embarrassingly ill-informed. If she has evidence to support her claims, she should provide it, but I am not aware of any, and I don't think any informed observer would agree with what she has to say on the subject.

Second, it is a basic principle of classical liberalism that force may be used only in retaliation against the initiatory use or threat of force; force must never be initiated. In a police context, searches, seizures, and closures must be based on evidence of criminal wrongdoing, not whims or insinuations. Where there is no evidence of such wrongdoing, there can be no legitimate use of the police power. In the case at hand, there is no conceivable justification for closing down all Muslim schools in the U.S. simply because it's possible that some individuals in some of them might be engaged in criminal activity. After all, if the mere capacity to commit a crime were itself a crime, we would all be criminals.

The principles to which I've alluded are nonnegotiable features of the U.S. Constitution and of liberalism. If Hirsi Ali regards them as somehow dispensable in the case of Muslims, her views express not "classical liberalism" but its abrogation, and she ought to defend them under their proper description.
Irfan Khawaja
Glen Ridge, NJ

CSI: Mississippi
As a retired crime scene investigator and fingerprint specialist, I read Radley Balko's "CSI: Mississippi" (November) with great interest. Balko's article illuminated the major problem facing forensic science today, namely, a gradual but continuing deterioration in ethics, honesty, and integrity.

When I entered the field in the early 1970s, the most important concept I was taught was that my allegiance was to the evidence—not to an arrest, not to a prosecution, but to the evidence. In those days, those of us on the police side and those on the crime lab side strongly believed in this. I have known several professionals who endangered their careers by maintaining their allegiance to this concept.

In the last 30 years, I have watched a change in the field. In areas like crime scene investigation and fingerprint science, many agencies have begun assigning otherwise broken personnel to these positions or, more often, cheapening the job by bringing in untrained personnel at low salaries and turning them loose. I was brought into a system that oversaw my activity and ensured that, even if on the job, my training demanded continued improvement in my knowledge, abilities, and skills.

Today many small and even medium-sized agencies employ CSI and latent fingerprint examiners whose entire training consists of some junior college courses and self-training on the job.

Within crime labs, the changes are different but just as hazardous. Where once criminologists were devoted to the evidence, many have now become more prosecution-oriented. At the same time, the entry of the newer generations, with the changes in ethics that are seen elsewhere, has endangered the quality of impartial results.

And then there's the "CSI effect." Since the advent of CSI, its spin-offs, and series such as Crossing Jordan and NCIS, television shows have "educated" the public in forensic science. That they are fictitious renditions is lost on too many viewers, who have taken cases to task in court for not meeting the standards established by Gil Grissom and his team.

There needs to be outreach to truly educate the public in what forensic science can and cannot do. While "every criminal leaves something and takes something" from every scene, it is not always possible to locate this evidence, especially within the limits of science as we know it.
Paul R. Laska
Palm City, FL

Eight Million Sots in the Naked City
I enjoyed Jackson Kuhl's review of books on alcohol prohibition ("Eight Million Sots in the Naked City," November). Greater wartime centralization of power in Washington, along with hostility to the Irish and Italians, surely helped fuel Uncle Sam's willingness to declare alcohol verboten. But the spark that ignited Prohibition goes unmentioned by Kuhl and, apparently, by the authors whose books he reviews. That spark was the national income tax.

Prior to the 1914 creation of the income tax, taxing alcohol was second only to taxing imports as a source of federal revenue. So when, during World War I, the income tax proved to be a revenue-gathering megastar, Congress finally could afford to cave in to the dry lobby. By 1919 the sacrificed liquor tax revenues were only a tiny portion of the budget.

By 1933—the year Congress successfully proposed repeal of the Prohibition amendment—the revenue situation was reversed. In that Depression year, income tax revenues had toppled by more than 60 percent from their 1930 level. Addicted to revenue, Uncle Sam ended Prohibition so that he could again tax alcohol.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Chairman, Department of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA

The Day of the Flying Fish
I enjoyed Katherine Mangu-Ward's article on sushi in the November issue ("The Day of the Flying Fish"). I spent many years cooking in high-end French-Asian fusion restaurants while that trend was in its heyday.

Having spent considerable time on the front lines of the "authenticity" debate concerning sushi and traditional French forms as well, I could not agree with Mangu-Ward more on the actual roots of sushi, but I would extend that analysis to most "traditional" cuisine.

Before this modern age of nearly instant global transportation of goods and services, sustenance was a result of availability and necessity. The idea that cooking used to be an intentional representation of a region and its culture is truly a recent, albeit very powerful, development. While some regions do rightly hold onto the traditional methods of preparation (French wines, Italian prosciutto and parmesan), the mentality that frowns upon experimentation and new combinations of ingredients is unfortunate.
James Valvo
Washington, DC

CORRECTION: "No Money, No Justice" (December) referred to the former governor of Illinois as Jim Ryan. He is in fact named George Ryan.

Intern at Reason

Reason is accepting applications for the 2008 Burton C. Gray Memorial Internship. The intern works 10 weeks during the summer in our Washington, D.C., office and receives housing, a $2,000 stipend, and up to $400 in travel expenses.

The job includes reporting and writing for reason and reason online, helping with research, proofreading, and other tasks. Previous interns have gone on to work at such places as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, ABC News, and Reason itself.

To apply, send your résumé, up to five writing samples (preferably published clips), and a cover letter to:

Gray Internship
Reason
1747 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20009

The deadline for applications is March 23, 2008.