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Whatever It Takes

Winning without ruthlessness? Military vs. TSA. Up to speed and insurance. A short definitive history of Miami. Plus much more.

8.18.06

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MILITARY PROFILES
Re: Jim Woodward's letter (under "Line 'em Up") in Reader Mail's Haylie's Comment and Doug Powers's Profilers in Discourage:

Jim Woodward's letter on Doug Powers's "Profilers in Discourage" makes the valid observation that it is possible for anyone to obtain a military uniform with full regalia, which can then be used for nefarious ends. I recall many years ago a foreign national at one of our overseas bases did just that and cashed fraudulent checks at the Base Exchange for several weeks before being caught.

On the other hand once a military member 1. in uniform, 2. shows a valid DOD identification card, and 3. a set of official travel orders, to a screener there should be no justifiable reason for further investigation. The issue here appears to be one of abuse of authority, excessive zeal and/or lack of judgment on the part of some (not all) TSA screeners. As it is impossible to set rules to cover every situation the solution might be hiring people who have the mental capacity to be trained to exercise judgment and restraint. This, unfortunately, is difficult because unlike in the private sector the public sector often lacks the customer service culture. It is also much more difficult to dismiss a public sector employee for substandard performance or rudeness to customers.
-- Paul DeSisto, Lt Col, USAF (Ret.)
Cedar Grove, New Jersey

REINVENTING THE WHEEL
Re: Christopher Orlet's War Eternal:

If debate is the purpose of Christopher Orlet's "War Eternal," then I too will state that I have no easy answers but I'm willing to continue this debate. The premise is that we've evolved, become too moral, too civilized, too humane to win wars. Comparisons were drawn to World War II, surmising that if excessive media coverage had taken place back then, we'd have lost our appetite for war upon seeing the results of the Dresden and Tokyo fire bombings.

That argument, if true, would indeed be a great philosophical debate but I see things differently. Our country is on no higher ground of moral evolution now than then (reference the statistic in Doug Bandow's article, posted the same day as Orlet's, about 45 million murders of unborn infants since Roe v. Wade before telling me how much more civilized we are today). The issue at hand isn't our morality, it's our backbone. We haven't gained humanitarian high ground, we've lost calcium from our spinal columns.

My father wouldn't have been swayed by the plight of Japanese civilians during the war (aside from the fact that he was serving in combat with our Navy and had other things on his mind) because he understood the importance of victory and had the fortitude to push forward. That didn't diminish his moral character. In fact, it probably added to it by demonstrating that the proliferation of evil requires untold sacrifices to stop it, and those sacrifices will more likely be made by men of high moral standing than by those at the low end.

Today we're too eager to only push forward with lives of luxury that were unimaginable a half century ago and the slightest interruption will get many of us to fold rather than hold. The agony of seeing those poor war refugees (wherever they are) is too much for us to bear, so please end this conflict and let us return to normal. Otherwise, we may end up with higher gas prices, travel delays, or more unpleasant news stories. Then we'll start worrying about things we'd prefer to be ignorant of.

The problem isn't one of empathy for those trapped in a war zone, it's one of inconvenience for those trapped in a comfort zone. It just sounds nicer when you say it the other way.
-- Tom Cook
Raleigh, North Carolina

Christopher Orlet asks whether Americans, if they had seen photos of Dresden, refugees etc., would have had the stomach to bomb Hiroshima, and then says "probably not." Wrong. The simple truth is that there were plenty of photos and information around about Dresden, German refugees etcetera because the war in Europe ended in May 1945, and the atom bombs weren't dropped until August 1945. It made no difference, the public attitude was that nobody cared about the Germans or the Japanese, they had started a terrible war and they got the hell beaten out of them for their trouble. There was more than enough concentration- and death-camp footage around in 1945 to make sure that there was no sympathy for Germans and Japanese. The currently fashionable, industrial scale sniveling about Dresden didn't start until well after the war, when people who didn't have to risk anything and weren't responsible for the decisions made at the time could afford the luxury of self-aggrandizing moral pontificating.

The men who bombed Hiroshima certainly weren't worried about it -- their conversation on looking at the mushroom cloud after the bomb had gone off was about relief that the bomb had worked as planned and their mission was successful and about whether it would be enough to end the war. The fact that there was a destroyed city at the bottom of the cloud meant nothing to them. Defeating the Japanese and ending the war through victory was the only important thing, all other considerations were beside the point. Harry Truman said he never lost a moment's sleep over his decision to drop the atom bombs. If he wasn't worried, why should anybody else?...

If Western democracy and civilization and the rule of law and protection of individual freedom and choice isn't worth dying for, then it is not worth fighting for either, and if it is not worth fighting for, then what is the point of it? The idea of death before moral surrender is central to the whole concept of Christian morality -- Jesus Christ died an agonizing death on the cross for his beliefs, he didn't say "let's just talk about this, guys, let's do lunch and look for a win-win outcome." If you aren't prepared to fight for your beliefs, or to protect others from attack and incur the pain and suffering that goes with this, then surrender now and let them kill us like animals and do whatever they like. It isn't moral courage to do that, it is failure, selfishness and cowardice....
-- Christopher H.
Australia

I sometimes think the administration uses the UN whenever it can until it is plainly obvious, after one more lethal massacre, that they simply can't be trusted by anyone, anywhere. No one except maybe Israel is going to make another major move until disaster speaks again. There's going to be one more sacrifice in order to destroy the UN --that's our policy. Let's hope it's worth it.
-- M. Scott Horn
Akron, Ohio

Well I should have read this article before I wrote the letter about "Come Home Democrats." This is why I am not happy with Bush's war in Iraq. He is too PC and not trying to win. I am glad to see Mr. Orlet putting this out, it needs to have wide coverage. Just go in and go to win, there would be less loss of life on both sides instead of dragging it out.
-- Elaine Kyle

GONE FISHING
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Come Home Democrats:

If a poll asked me if I was happy the way Bush was running the war in Iraq, I would say NO, but that is only because he is not really trying to win the war. He is pussyfooting around and not using the force needed to win and get out.

I am not pleased with his thoughts on illegal immigration or border control. He is all for the North American Union which would be a disaster for us.

Guess I will just give up on trying to stop the use of the term DEMOCRATIC PARTY when referring to the Democrat Party. Stop and think about it, there is nothing democratic about that party unless you agree with them totally.

Just look at poor Joe.
-- Elaine Kyle

Details, details...

Enjoyed the Tyrrell article entitled "Come Home Democrats," but where did he get that Wal-Mart posted a loss last quarter? Admittedly, this had little to do with the main thrust of the article, but $2.1 billion (in the black) is not exactly a loss. That WOULD actually be big news were it to be true.
-- Michael A. Fraley

Editor's note: Mr. Fraley is correct. Wal-Mart did not post a loss last quarter, but it did report an earnings decline.

MISSING VOTERS
Re: Doug Bandow's Liberalism Unbound:

Forty-five million abortions, hmmm let's see, that's about 22 million future Democrats, now if only there was a way to identify....oh well, it's not really a human being...just forget it!
-- Lew Rodgers Fulton
Maryland

The Rockford, Ill. Catholic Observer has an article that relates to Mr. Bandow's article. While I'm sure most Catholics agree, Bishop Doran leaves no doubt where he and the Church stand.
-- Jim Kelly

CRUISIN' SPEED
Re: Eric Peters's Statistical Shuck and Jive:

Eric Peters is quite correct in his statements regarding speed and safety. He is also right about the various lobbies who attempt to lower speed limits to suit their own agendas. While I agree with what he said, I believe something else needs to be added to the mix.

Fast driving isn't the problem. Careless driving however, is another story. I'm a 20 plus year cross-country trucker. Every day I find myself having to duck and dodge the drivers of automobiles who cut across four lanes of traffic to beat me to an exit ramp, drift across center lines, merge into freeway traffic at 20 mph below the speed of existing traffic, or make tail-spinning panic stops because the vehicle they were tailgating hit the brakes. It's amazing.

The trucking industry certainly has a few bad apples in its collective basket. But I daresay that the current crop of everyday motorists in cars, SUV's and RV's are by far the worst (and the rudest) I've seen since I started trucking back in the '70s. Law enforcement needs to concentrate more on careless and distracted driving and less on drivers who are doing nothing more than running down the highway at 5 or 6 mph over the speed limit.

We won't have truly safe highways until the tailgaters, the drunks, and the "stunt drivers" have been put on a short leash.
-- Alan Burkhart

Mr. Peters's article was, as usual, excellent. However, he only briefly touched on the issue that causes one of the worst driving hazards of them all. That is, the drivers' refusal to adhere to the principle that the slower traffic should move out of the way of the faster traffic. If drivers somehow have the inherent right to lollygag along in the passing lane at whatever speed they desire, dangerously clustering cars together and impeding traffic flow for miles behind them, then why not go whole hog and allow ox carts, cyclists, and skateboarders on the interstate highways? After all, they go slow and slow is good. Apparently.

Mr. Peters, for the sake of my blood pressure and the few remaining follicles on the top of my head, please write an article addressing this issue. Or actually, please do so for the sake of public safety and the children. If you need someone to type while you dictate the text I'll happily volunteer. As Ronald Reagan might have said, if not you, who? If not now, when? Remember, it's for the children.
-- R. Trotter
Carlington, Virginia

I applaud Eric Peters for continuing to whistle against the wind on the impenetrable subject of arbitrary speed limits.

Our leviathan mindset on the existence and inevitability of getting a ticket (a "summons") for driving faster than an arbitrary number is so ingrained as to be, I suspect, not only not subject to change, but not even subject to discussion. But I persist. The presentation of a speeding ticket is not happening because you have done something wrong, immoral, or unreasonable. It is based on a supposition that you will do something wrong, at some future time, as a result of exceeding the posted number.

Over my lifetime (now too long), we have seen a gradual shift in the blame game. Years ago, the bias was toward acceptance of personal responsibility when we were involved in mishaps. Today, the first inclination is to look around to see who else might be fingered. I point this out because, years ago, the relatively greater cultural prevalence of acceptance of personal responsibility acted as a brake on writing laws that presume we will do something illegal at some future time.

Arbitrary speed limits are daily visible evidence of government agencies that are unable and unwilling to adopt a legislative and regulatory attitude of absolute responsibility for negligence and damage committed by an individual. We suffer with the alternative: All citizens, including citizens who are reasonable and prudent, not just the minority of negligent individuals, are subject to arbitrary laws enforced on the presumption that we will at some time in the future commit acts -- that have not yet been committed. Presentation of a "summons" for speeding is one perfect example of this.
-- Lawrence James
Lost City, West Virginia

No one wants to put their fate in the hands of Traffic Engineers because of their past poor performance and lack of accountability. Traffic Engineering is the last of the legal blood sports. Fifty years ago, people who claimed to be traffic engineers stood back and waited for collisions to mount to an approved dollar damage amount before installing stop signs or actual fatalities before installing stoplights. Any bureaucrat could have done the same job cheaper and with less education. In some small communities, red, green and yellow time were set by the county grader operator since the easiest way to change the time was to drive under the light and scramble to the roof of the grader for access to the timers. (Pre OSHA times)

To fill the vacuum of the reasoned approach, self-anointed social engineers guided by intuition plus fantasies of social doom caused by sprawl and auto Armageddon have gained unjustified power over transportation decisions. Preemption requires more than ever that one is able to predict traffic behavior through reason. I see no breakthrough for rationality in the near future.

When we begin to see sprawl as a tax phenomenon, mobility, not economic development, as a main motive for construction, twentieth century passenger trains belonging in amusement parks and road construction recessionary for our real mass transit system, the car, we will be ready for the reasoned approach.
-- Danny L. Newton
Cookeville, Tennessee

Mr. Peters did not have a logical conclusion regarding the Pros and Cons of Safety, nor did he seem to present any statistics regarding accidents.

In Denver, we have had so many hit and runs lately, children on bicycles killed in 35 mph zones. It just rips your heart out to see a child killed. In the Denver area (that means Boulder) 35 mph means 50 mph to the police. I am from Kansas and 35 mph means 30 mph and the signs read 30 mph and the police enforce 30 mph. The number of hit and runs on I-25 with motorcycles is unbelievable, almost weekly. Do you think motorcycle drivers on I-25 are missing a few grey cells, yes!

I disagree with Mr. Peters. This week it took me abadditional hour Tuesday night to get home, there was a multi-car pile up. It is not just slow drivers. It is the entry ramps, where drivers need to change multiple lanes and overall highway design. In addition, aggressive drivers and cell phone users are more prevalent than drunken drivers. I had a drunken driver on I-25 for 15 miles, the most scariest experience ever. But consistently, I have aggressive and cell-phone users who are not aware of what is going on. I had two Honda drivers, I mean it was 5:30 in the morning, and I could hear the engines coming from the back -- they were racing down I-25 passing cars at 100 mph.

The problem is much more complicated than what Mr. Peters leads one to believe, he ignores cell-phone users and aggressive drivers. Finally, highway design that requires drivers to move two lanes in a few miles, or merging lanes that places too many cars onto the highway too quickly.
-- Barb Smith
Arvada, Colorado

But today's cars are safer. Today's small cars weigh as much as 60s full size cars, and it's not just mass. It's stiffness around the passenger compartment and collapsibility (to absorb crash energy before it reaches the passengers) at the front and rear. It's not science -- it's engineering, and it's not perfect -- we couldn't afford that. But it's real safety, and it continues to advance.

The extra speed we've been (legally) allowed since 1995 may or may not have had an effect on safety, but 1963 Fords, Pontiacs, Buicks, and even Opels, which my family drove hundreds of thousands of miles, are now museum pieces in every sense.
-- David Thompson
Bellville, Texas

ROOTLESS IN MIAMI
Re: Ivan Osorio's Miami Vice:

Read with interest Mr. Osorio's homegrown analysis of Jay Homnick's mystification regarding Miami. I was born in Hialeah and spent most of my young adult life in North Miami Beach, which is actually not very near the beach at all. That's okay, in billiard table flat south Florida we actually have subdivisions with names like "Canyon Lakes" and such. I lived and worked all over Dade county (I too will not call it "Miami-Dade") and know the county's byways like the back of my hand. I especially loved porking western Dade county in the Latin neighborhoods and stopping in at a typical Cuban business for cafe cubano, a delicious scalding hot espresso with lots of sugar. The Cubanos drink it in little 1/2 ounce cups but I drink an entire colado (about 5 ounces) in a sitting causing the locals to think I'm a crazy gringo who doesn't know any better. Those areas are a beehive of economic activity, a tribute to their appreciation of liberty and industriousness as evidenced by just about every business it seems, no matter its primary purpose, having a luncheon "cafeteria" counter staffed by the wife and kids. Picture "Jose's Auto Repair and Cafeteria" with a counter or bar opened to the street for customers to stop by for cafe, Cuban sandwich or good cigar.

Mr. Osorio does a great job detailing the roster of corruption but doesn't quite convey the why of it. It has always been thus because it's in the nature of the place. As I tell my transplanted friends, S. Florida, Miami in particular, is like no other place. There is very little sense of history, continuity or widely accepted customs. One must remember that Miami is scarcely one hundred years old and really didn't come into its own until after WWII. We have historical societies that try to save buildings less than 50 years old or so with the same fervor others seek to preserve Independence Hall or the old North Side. You can drive throughout the county and rarely set eyes on anything more than 30-40 years old. You can take a tour of Vizcaya, industrialist John Deering's gilded palace in Coconut Grove, reverently maintained as though it were the 500 year old Italian estate it was self-consciously designed to imitate. That it was built in 1916 on an uninhabited patch of dry land by the bay called a "hammock" (a raised dry spot of earth among the mangroves and swamps), acquired by the county in 1952 and nothing more than a wealthy northerner's second home tells you much about Miami's very roots. It's a vast, ostentatious mimicry of an imported style by a man who occasionally resided here but whose roots and heart were elsewhere. That he is held as an area pioneer, a veritable founding father, albeit an absent one most of his years, says something of the Miami psyche. One can picture Deering setting his jaw and proclaiming, "I go forth into the wilds to conquer and build...a vacation home!" That is the Miami at the beginning and very much the Miami of today. Unlike other areas of the country recently settled, so to speak, few people come to South Florida to put down real roots.

There is literally a "community" of just about every race and creed on earth, yet no one predominating culture. The old WASP cracker culture, the "founding" culture of Deering, is long gone and relegated to a handful of aged holdouts in Coral Gables. To understand think of an open city where there is a palpable spirit of "anything goes," a fictional Casablanca of the movies in culture and the real Dodge City in lawlessness, where everyone is from somewhere else and usually on the way to somewhere else, or more to the point, becoming someone else. Watch any old western, like the scene in My Darling Clementine when Hank Fonda first enters the town of Tombstone. One feels the town sprang up the year before yesterday and the responsible citizens are ad libbing the social niceties as they go. They come here ambitious and filled with the exhilaration of starting afresh in a tropical paradise where no one knows their name...or their past. The opportunities for reinventing oneself are seemingly limitless and even those of us born and raised here are imbued with the same spirit, the same restlessness, the same feeling of being in transit. I can ride through the neighborhoods I grew up in and see my family home, but there is almost no one there of the families I knew and the house where I spent 11 years of my childhood has been reoccupied some ten or fifteen times in the last 30 years. The whole suburb was built in 1964 as one of the westernmost developments and we were its first, and probably longest, inhabitants. It's very American, this perpetual upheaval.

Our state of flux is driven by very real demographics, a net inflow of some 600-1,000 people a day into the state from all points on the compass, a number that has remained constant throughout my life. The unending pressure of new arrivals drives us all to strike out anew every so often to find what we're looking for. For the very recent newcomers it's usually paradise by the sea, for us natives or those here a while it's usually open space and less newcomers. Even the other correspondent, Mr. Molyneaux, lives in an area that up until a few years ago was a tony (Polo clubs!) but small neighborhood on the westernmost fringes of civilized Palm Beach County. Today it's one of the fastest growing areas in South Florida, filling up fast with primarily Broward (Ft. Lauderdale area) refugees who remember and seek a less congested S. Florida. They too decided to pick and move to get back to the South Florida they're seeking, one county up. Ditto for me in my homestead just to the northeast of him. In a few more years, it'll be no different than the former neighborhoods we fled and we'll feel the wanderlust, yet again.

So our local politics are infused with this open city, a historical mindset with no memory. Lace them with a tinge of ethnic placeholders elbowing for position and you get very interesting headlines indeed. Down here nobody knows your name, who you are or from whence you came. Everything is forever new in South Florida and it seems absolutely everybody is...just passing through.
-- Mark Shepler
Jupiter, Florida

RISE AND FALL
Re: Brandon Crocker's Were the Dark Ages That Dark?:

One reason the Roman Empire in the West collapsed was that a significant number of her people lacked the will to resist the barbarian onslaughts and believed appeasement was the solution. Of course, there were the folks who knew how bad the barbarians were, but decided to stay home hoping gridlock in government would protect their homeland. Then there were the patricians who lamented that the Emperor didn't measure up to their ideal and decided cutting and running or appeasement was for them too. Deja vu.
-- Michael Tomlinson
A proud 21st century Legionnaire
Crownsville, Maryland

LUNCH AT THE ALBACORE
Re: Bill Croke's John Huston at 100:

Bill Croke's tribute to John Huston reminds me of one of his quotes as Noah Cross in Chinatown: "Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, public buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough."
-- Kitty Myers
Painted Post, New York

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