Reader Mail

Readiness Matters

Bye Bye Bernie. Bottles of the century. Armored for war and other mouthfuls. Black box cars. Plus much more.

12.13.04

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BYE BYE BERNIE
Re: The Washington Prowler's Kerik Moves:

I disagree with your reference to Bernard Kerik's earlier life as varied and colorful. It appears he was an adulterer. As an average citizen, that is an unfortunate fault, but as a potential Director of Homeland Security it reflects the extremely poor judgment of a person with power. Even more troubling is that he thought he could slide by the confirmation process. I understand that everyone makes mistakes throughout their life. However, Kerik's decisions earlier in life reflects a skewed moral compass by which he makes decisions. Good for the country? I think not.
-- Shelly F.
Denver, Colorado

BOTTLE AXIS
Re: Shawn Macomber's Redemption Center:

Massachusetts runs one of the most cynical of all recycling regimes. I studied it in the mid-1980s as I was developing a dissertation topic on deposit-refund systems. It suffers huge transactions costs, and it is designed to do so. Why? Because that way the beverage distributors, and not consumers, are forced to bear the cost. They have to pay redemption fees out of whatever revenue they can glean from unreturned containers. They break even only if redemptions, plus the cost of managing "redemption centers," is less than the value of deposits collected on unreturned containers. Retailers who must accept returns are paid a pittance of the cost of managing them. So they make it as inconvenient and unpleasant as possible.

Who bothers to return empties under this sorry regime? The upper middle class Volvopia and the men Shawn Macomber encountered. For the latter, this is a high valued use of time. It generates tax-free cash and an obvious place to spend it. For the former, it is a hugely inefficient use of time but it yields warm feelings about having contributed toward saving the Earth. Vast amounts of Volvo fuel are consumed carting the empties to suburban "redemption centers" -- all in order to save resources. That which is sociologically sad on skid row is positively amusing in Lexington and Concord.
-- Richard Belzer

Just finished Shawn Macomber's piece "Redemption Center". Wonderful! Welcome, brother and comrade, to the world of Dumpster Diving! We accept you! We accept you! One of us! One of us!

Even Jesus said that the smelly bums will always be with us. Something like that.

Stay away from the Sterno.
-- Street name "Sarge"

WHAT YOU HAVE
Re: Jed Babbin's Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels:

"The whole armor question could be solved almost immediately if someone would sort out what's needed and when (like, now for instance?), get the army procurement weenies to get off their butts, and buy what we need. What's the big deal?"

What's the big deal? As the economist Thomas Sowell would say, "There are no solutions, only trade-offs." A thousand pounds of armor added to a vehicle reduces its ability to do its intended mission. A few weeks ago, a soldier refused to drive a supply truck because he felt it did not afford enough protection from enemy fire. We could armor those trucks, too, but that would mean less supplies (read: ammunition) per truck to the troops. Can you imagine the uproar from the media if the troops were not getting enough ammunition?

The "someone to sort out what's needed" are what the DOD calls "in-service engineering" agencies. These DOD engineers work with the military units who use the equipment, and determine what modifications/upgrades are justified based on many factors involved in the unavoidable trade-offs. I worked for such an agency for the Navy for 30 years. A modification made by a sailor acting on his own was called a "sailor alt" which was strictly prohibited because of the possible degradation of the mission and supportability of the equipment. A soldier doing essentially the same does not have the legal or moral right to make whatever modifications he wants to his equipment at the risk of jeopardizing the rest of the fighting forces. This is what Rumsfeld meant when he said, "You go to war with what you have."

Rest assured that some "Army procurement weenies" are "off their butts" determining "what is needed," because that's one of the reasons the United States wins wars; it incorporates lessons learned from past wars.
-- Gordon Paravano
Sedona, Arizona

While Jed Babbin's contempt for the UN is well-justified, he repeats the longstanding conservative fantasy that, if only we limited the UN to democracies, it would be so much better. Excuse me, but even under the strictest entry terms, wouldn't we still have to let in France, Germany and Russia? France, in particular, is not lacking in democratic tradition. The French are the way they are for the straightforward reason that they choose to be that way.

Admittedly, a slimmed-down UN where we no longer have to be lectured by the likes of Fredonia and the Central Leprotic Republic would be a marginal improvement, but is there any real prospect of it accomplishing something useful?
-- Glen Hoffing
Shamong, New Jersey

What a mouthful of a column. I appreciated everything you said, especially about what William J. Clinton taught the Democrazies, that the campaign never stops.

It won't ever, I think. Not until the Democrat/liberal/leftist axis-and that includes the anti-Bush, anti-Republican, anti-Christian, anti-American factions in America, as well as the mainstream media-returns to the majority in the White House and on Capitol Hill, whichever century that may be.

I really do think they've gone crazy, poisoned by their own hatred and lust for power. There's a Biblical analogy. (Yes, I'm a Christian Jihadist, an American Taliban from Red-State America.) God hardened the heart of the pharaoh when Moses was trying to get the king to let him and the Israelites out of Egypt. What happened? The king's heart gets so callous that he chases the Israelites to the Red Sea-after having let them go-where his army is destroyed as that sea consumed them.

I'd say at the pace and rhetorical speed with which the Democrats are going, either 2006, but certainly 2008, will be the time of their political drowning.
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

OHIO UGLINESS
Re: Paul M. Weyrich's The Ohio Recount Outrage:

The whole point is to discredit Ken Blackwell -- an "African-American" conservative. Blackwell has been staking out positions as a low-tax conservative. It would drive the black politburo crazy to have a high profile conservative black governor in a state that is as high profile as Ohio now seems to be. The next gubernatorial race might one between a black Democratic mayor--Coleman of Columbus and a black Republican--Blackwell.
This is one to keep an eye on.
-- Roger Thompson

Hmmm, Bush "lost" Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Hampshire by significantly fewer votes than did Kerry in Ohio. Bush "lost" Michigan and Pennsylvania by about the same amount of votes as did Kerry in Ohio. I think a recount and investigation is warranted in Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Michigan and Pennsylvania!
-- John Dyslin

HARRY EXPERIENCE
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Obscure Minority and Jerome J. Brick's letter (under "Harassing Harry Reid") in Reader Mail's Sparks Flying:

I heard the senator on the radio the other day "articulate" his position on Justice Thomas. Even before I realized the content of his comments, I was irritated by the obvious sneer and condescension in his voice. Good golly, do these people really think their arrogance is making points with the American people, I mean those that don't already hate all things American?
-- Randy Armstrong
Portland, Oregon

Sen. Harry Reid may be able to "herd cats" as Jerome J. Brick stated but the Senate Democrats resemble cattle more than cats. President Bush will wave his Red State cape and Harry will lead the charge that turns into another stampede over a cliff for his party.
-- Geoff Bowden
Kalamazoo, Michigan

SECRET AGENDAS
Re: Doug Bandow's Busybodies on Steroids:

I have obtained secret copies of John McCain's future agenda from his inner sanctum organization Headlines 'R Us. It reveals that the senator will not touch Viagra, Face Lifts, Face Time, Trophy Wives, Hair Pieces or SUVs but next will go after Icy Roads In New Hampshire, Texas Tornadoes, Florida Hurricanes, the word "Dude" and Mondays. In uncovering these things, what one needs to ponder about McCain is that he himself is the precise issue. Not Mr. McCain, Lt. McCain, Mayor Congressman McCain, Senator McCain, President McCain, Master of the Universe McCain, or even McCain Almighty. It is always about MCCAIN, forever and ever, amen. I mean Amen. Hoping McCain never learns about the inability of the Whatever Angels to find a city after which to name their Southern California MLB team, or that my Lovely German Shepherd, Graefin, is more adept at getting attention than he is.
-- Gene Wright
Laguna Niguel, California

BOXED CARS
Re: Jim Harper's Thinking Out of the Black Box:

Jim Harper's complaint about Event Data Recorders in automobiles misses two paramount advantages of these devices. First, by providing accident data they prevent operators who make driving errors from making successful claims of product liability against the manufacturers. Have you forgotten the "sudden acceleration" hoax? 60 Minutes has been in the libel business for decades! When such a case get to a jury, a person tends to be granted much more sympathetic treatment than a hunk of metal. So there is a bias toward the pretty blonde who ran over her son accidentally, as she stated in the police report. The EDRs will mean the manufacturers are not so vulnerable to the plaintiff bar's depredations (remember the exploding gas tanks at Dateline NBC?). We don't think of these lawyers as ambulance chasers for nothing.

Which brings us to the corollary, that hard data tends to undermine those exaggerated claims of the plaintiff bar, thereby exposing their mendacity and tendency toward barratry. That will help the passage of liability reform with myriad benefits including lower healthcare costs due to lower insurance premiums for doctors. The economic benefits of EDRs in the products of the largest manufacturing business in America will be huge. They have long the targets of lawyers for the they represent the same thing to lawyers as banks did to Willie Sutton, who famously said he robbed banks because "that's where the money is."
-- Bruce Thompson
Berwyn, Illinois

By what basis do people assert that they have a right to privacy in a public venue? If a man decides to walk down a busy street and take off his clothes, is his privacy being violated when we don't look the other way? No, in fact he is violating our right to walk the street unencumbered by the sight of his ugly behind: Which is why he is immediately hauled off to jail and fined.

In much the same way, aggressive driver's who like to speed and tailgate and zigzag their way to work and nearly kill everyone around them have no right to complain about being monitored so that police can stop them and their egregious, rude, and selfish behavior before they get someone killed. And that is the problem with the privacy idea, their behavior doesn't just affect them, it affects everyone else in the cars around them. If bad drivers only got themselves killed I wouldn't care how badly they drove.

They may think they can handle their car safely at 20 miles an hour over the speed limit, but as an engineer, I know better. Speed limits are not set for normal driving conditions. A speed limit is the fastest speed at which engineers have determined that a car can be safely maneuvered to a safe stop in the event of an emergency such as a blown car tire or a large piece of debris laying in the middle of the road. This analysis assumes that the cars are not tailgating.

Good drivers, who obey the speed limit, stop at red lights, change lanes carefully, and respect the rights of others to drive on the same road, have a right to drive down the road without fear of being killed by some know-it-all idiot who thinks he can channel Dale Earnheart and drive like him.

They have places where driving aggressively is appropriate and well appreciated. It's known as a race track.
-- Charles Sampson
Melbourne, Florida

I predict a big increase in the sale of used cars if Big Brother's boxes become standard car equipment for future automobiles.

When do they cross over the line and infringe on the rights and freedom, declared by our country's forefathers and fought for by so many dedicated Americans?

Re: some other "rules of the road" I look at what makes sense: car seats for young children, seat belts (pain in the neck), but if I had the misfortune to hit another car, the occupants wearing seatbelts might avoid injury or even death. No one wants to live with that. And thanks to the seat belt, I survived an accident which totaled my car but spared me more serious injury.

Another law, which may have changed in some states, required helmets for motorcyclists. Within the last month, we and hundreds of others were brought to a halt on a busy road...for at least an hour. A deer had run out in front of a motorcycle. Police cars, ambulance, rescue squads, fire engines, you name it, made their way through the mass of stopped cars to get to the accident. A helicopter eventually landed on the highway to pick up the injured motorcyclist. Was he wearing a helmet? I don't know. Is he okay? Don't know that either. All I can do is say prayers for him. The deer didn't make it.
-- Edward L. Williamson, Jr.

This is another example of the rest of America looking to California For trends and innovations that seem to be accepted as the standard to achieve. I can't understand why we do that when the state has so many problems.

Their schools determine trends in education. (I'm a teacher.) Test Scores show their students behind much of the rest of the
nation -- including podunk Idaho. Teaching methodologies are a dime a dozen and lack staying power. My brother-in-law doesn't know from one ear to the next if he'll have a job a teaching position. Their education finances are a mess.

They were suckered into embryonic stem cell research that they are Locked into paying for. The language doesn't limit the development of blastocytes and opens the door for cloning. The whole document is ethically challenged. The research doesn't really support where the research is going. The cells themselves develop little cancers. The action is in adult stem cells.

They are paying for government and medical programs and privileges for illegal immigrants.

Paris Hilton and movies are morally skewed but well marketed and we look to them as the pacesetters for social standing and values -- especially our young people. Sex, drugs, and the f-word litter Hollywood productions.…

You'd think the liberals and their ACLU would come alongside the conservatives and be outraged at the invasion of civil liberties and the big brother infringements presented by black boxes.

California is the wrong beacon. What's the matter with people??!??
-- Sue Ellen Hirtle
Eagle, Idaho
(Thanks for what you do.)

SONG OF THE DAY
Re: William Tucker's Unlike a Rolling Stone and Reader Mail's The Answer, My Friend:

Reading your article "Unlike A Rolling Stone," I am struck with horror at this line:

"Shaun Considine, coordinator of new releases at Columbia in 1965, breathlessly recounted how he rescued "Like a Rolling Stone" from the slush pile and introduced it at a popular East Side disco."

You know, the concept of a dance venue (and what else could a "disco" be fairly described as, even pre-seventies?) where people get it on to Bob Dylan is just plain grotesque. Even in 1965. What did people do when "Like A Rolling Stone" landed on the turntable? Shuffle their feet respectfully? Stand to attention? How can anyone dance to what is, in effect, a dirge?

This terrifying scene from the past is just one more reason to destroy all hippies.
-- John Sabotta

Raspy, whiny voice. Never did like him. Don't understand how anybody could.
-- Doug Welty
Arlington, Virginia

None of the editors of Rolling Stone, nor any of your readers go it right. The greatest all-time song is the one you're enjoying right now.
-- Paul Kotik
Plantation, Florida

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