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Plain Truths

Re: Doug Bandow’s Losing a Giant of Liberty:

Thank you, Doug Bandow, for your exceptional tribute to the late Dr. Milton Friedman. I have read a number outstanding tributes to the Professor at various sites on the Internet, but yours has been the best.

While I affirmed my thinking as a political conservative in high school, I paid scant attention to economics, political or otherwise. In college, the only time I stepped foot in the business department was to take a course in statistics. I and a fellow biology major took the only A’s in the course, while the business majors were gaining C’s and worse, which led me to question what kind of business people we were turning out. I became rather apolitical until the late ’70s, when I renewed my interest in the few conservative publications out there like National Review, and came across and got hooked on the newspaper version of The American Spectator. My feeble interest in economics grew a bit, but it received a major stimulus when I happened across Professor and Mrs. Friedman’s PBS specials, Free To Choose, and the accompanying book (which topped my Christmas list in 1980 and to which my wife complied). That was followed by Friedman’s excellent Capitalism and Freedom, and frankly, I had found a guide to liberty and freedom in economic thought. I even delved into the Professor’s magnum opus, Monetary History of the United States, 1867 to 1960 (with Anna Schwartz) and managed to make some sense of the matter. His Essays in Positive Economics still remains a bit daunting, but I have managed to pick up useful tidbits from time to time. His weekly columns in Newsweek were mandatory reading for me as have been other writings over the years. Professor Friedman’s work has established for me a foundation from which to pursue the works of other notable free market and liberty-loving economists, such as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich von Hayek, Henry Hazlett, J.B. Say and Murray Rothbard.

Yes, we have lost, as Mr. Bandow states, “a Giant of Liberty.” But we have also lost an outstanding gentleman, teacher and scholar. It has been our distinct fortune to have had him for 94 years, and his works will continue to live on to influence other economists and individuals like myself who enjoy and defend the great liberties which we have.
James J. Bjaloncik
Stow, Ohio

Thank you, Mr. Bandow, for your article on a true giant of our age. No one, in my opinion, can truly encapsulate the life and times and importance of this great man. I first read and studied Mr. Friedman during the second half of the 1960s when his book Capitalism and Freedom was relatively new, out in paperback, and a required text in one of my classes at the Univ. of Maryland. Today I question whether anyone at UMD knows anything about capitalism, freedom, or Milton Friedman. Anyone who is even a casual student of economics simply must know Milton and Rose Friedman, or they know nothing about the subject. Many truly great folks have passed from the scene in the last couple of decades or so, people that were giants intellectually, morally, and substantively. Will we ever see the like of them again? The jury is still out on that question. RIP, Milton Freidman.
Ken Shreve

Re: George H. Wittman’s Plan Speaking on Iraq and Iran:

I am sure Mr. Wittman has vastly greater information resources than ordinary lay-people like me. The fact that I am limited to (dubious) news accounts, studies of 19th and 20th century history, and the first person statements of the principals themselves may excuse my observation that his proposed course of action is patently insane and probably suicidal.

Ever since the worst president in the 20th century, James Earl Carter, put the mad mullahs in charge in Iran (by betrayal of the Shah) they have been engaged in an unrelenting battle against Western civilization. The latest Lunatic-in-Chief in Tehran is merely the most sharply defined of the breed. With his self-proclaimed objective of hastening an Islamic Armageddon, does Mr. Wittman seriously propose we abandon our efforts, feeble as they may be, to stop Iran’s nuclear armament program? Alternatively, what possible incentives could we offer the Russians or Chinese to abandon Iran that would not cripple us for decades or generations to come?

Mr. Wittman has done a service, though, in pointing out what should be obvious, but isn’t to many people. There was the Iraq War, which was a brilliant success by any standard, and the on-going pacification effort which clearly isn’t. The fact is that we are paying a butcher’s bill in Iraq that, after two generations of wishful-thinking Mideast foreign policy coupled with the disastrous bungling of the aforementioned J.E. Carter, has come due as it was bound to sooner or later.

Finally, may I suggest that any citation of Henry Kissinger as an authority only diminishes the argument. It is hardly inspirational to consider that his major achievements have been bargaining away development of a missile defense system for a generation and negotiating our abject surrender in Vietnam, finally ratified by a Democrat controlled Congress in 1975. The combination of another Democrat-controlled Congress and a re-emergent Kissinger declaring we cannot win does not bode well for Iraq or the future of the West.
John Jarrell
San Antonio, Texas

Mr. Wittman’s “Plain Speaking” was refreshing and insightful — if a view of this hideous war can be refreshing. His recalling for us the demise of playboys Uday and Qusay, ending their reign of terror ,was certainly worth mentioning. In this era of warp-speed news cycle, if it didn’t happen in the last 24 hours, in the minds of most, it didn’t happen.

As I read his analysis of our position today, I thought of learning to ride a bicycle before training wheels were invented. Child wobbled along with weary adult running behind, hanging onto the back fender, steadying the terrified learner. When child gained a little balance, adult let go. Often the child looked back in panic when he saw he didn’t have his protector — but then he realized he was independently operating. What a rush!

It may be time for the United States military to let go and let Iraq wobble or fall or feel the freedom of going it on their own.
Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California

What makes anyone think we are entitled to get out of Iraq/Iran/ the whole Middle East thing?

The USA, by intention or default, act and omission, helped mightily to make the situation what it is today, good and bad. For reasons of our national interests and honor, we have been up to our elbows in the Near East since Harry Truman was President.

Would Israel exist without our continual support? Would Saddam have lasted half as long without our help? Would the Saudi kingdom still be there? Jordan? For that matter would Egypt be ruled by Mubarak or the Muslim Brotherhood? And even if our troops left Iraq, would we not still expect to be a major player and a deciding influence on the course of events over there?

No, the point of no return is behind us. The die was cast long ago, and the Rubicon crossed, though it was probably a dry wadi at the time. Get used to it. We are part of the deal over there, like it or not, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. The only way “out” is through.

And if the taxpayer and the soldier bear the brunt of the policy makers’ stupidity and indecision — well, what else is new?
Martin Owens
Sacramento, California

Let’s see: Iraq is under attack by Baathist diehards (supported by the terrorist, Baathist government of Syria) and fundamentalist Shiite militias (supported by the terrorist, fundamentalist Shiite government of Iran). So whom should we turn to for help in preventing the Baathists and Shiite militias from taking over Iraq? Why, Syria and Iran, of course!

If we plan on surrendering, I would prefer just to admit we got beaten by the terrorists and leave. That way oleaginous diplomats couldn’t gloat over some bogus “grand bargain” that was nothing more that a fig leaf for defeat.

How’s that for “Plain Speaking on Iraq and Iran”?
Jeff Powell
West Covina, California

Re: Tom Bethell’s The Great Stem Cell Error:

As Tom Bethell’s predictable denigration of the secular promise of molecular biology continues, his installment plan auto-da-fe has started recycling non-scientists he has foisted on us before. Scott King is now introduced as a “biotech” authority and research entrepreneur, rather than the insurance adjuster turned health magazine publisher who has long featured Tom’s views.

Bethell is at liberty to ignore the progress achieved by thousands of honest to God biotech researchers, and to focus his writing on a handful of entrepreneurial fraudsters, but the success of forensic science in exposing them tells us little about progress in molecular biology. If anything “borders on the fraudulent” it is TAS‘s deliberately ignoring how the substrate of progress in molecular biology is accelerating out of its infancy as more genomes are mapped and their evolutionary context determined.

What mechanisms of cellular differentiation and signaling will emerge from that vast plenum of knowledge remains to be discovered by those willing and able to read what scientists write for themselves — evidently not Tom or the Discovery Institute. It is painful to watch him in the throes of a sort of tunnel vision that focuses his reading on the catechism of his fellow theologists at the expense of his reporting on the scientific literature at large. If he recovers, he will notice that Nature, blind to his assertion that “scientists have not yet shown that they know how to nudge or coax or direct any given cell in a desired direction,” features fetal stem cell regeneration of lab mice retinas on the cover of its present issue.
Russell Seitz
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tom Bethell is a genius when it comes to debunking fraudulent scientific claims; however, many Californians were well aware that embryonic stem cell research wasn’t a proven path to miracle cures. To understand California politics, outsiders need to realize that there are two faces to the state’s political motivations. The obvious and oft presented visage is a caring, welfare state society that puts people first and money second. The real face is a “show me the money” mentality that effectively disguises itself with rhetoric and posturing.

Consider the 2004 California situation from a local viewpoint. The dot com bust had people seriously worried; computer businesses were folding, folks were out of work and low tech industries were leaving the state in droves due to governmental policies. To support our booming population, California needs new business ventures, but prefers so-called “clean” industries. Bio-technology seemed a good solution in line with California’s basic political culture, which is to buy votes with government handouts and services funded by taxes. Without industry, there are no taxes, no jobs and no means to influence voters.

The purpose of funding stem cell research was to enrich certain special interests in return for drawing the talent and foundations for new business to California. No one who understood the science expected the taxpayer funded research to cure Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. But, it would provide free R&D that leads to new techniques, new insights and ultimately to commercially viable products. Since the money was borrowed, the taxpayers also financed a windfall for bankers and lawyers.

Our state’s leading scientists, Michael J. Fox and Nancy Reagan, assured us the claims of cures were real and the media jumped at the bait. Homeowners understood that their grossly inflated home equity depended on attracting residents to the state while politically controlling open land available for new housing developments. It was a win-win situation for everyone, but few educated Californians believed it was about developing miracle cures. It was always about the money.
Patrick Skurka
San Ramon, California

Re: Jay D. Homnick’s O.J. Is Good for You:

I read your article with interest; however, must differ with you on the conclusion you’ve reached re-the kid glove. You state, “A man could lose one glove in a violent altercation, but would he walk for blocks wearing just the other? If he had, wouldn’t he discard it along with the weapon? If he hadn’t discarded it, it wouldn’t fall accidentally in his property. Nor would he throw it there intentionally.” How do you know? This is your opinion, obviously; but, it’s just as easy to lose a glove as it is to toss it away. O.J. absolutely could have lost that glove in his yard, nonetheless you bought into the race card played by Cochran and the O.J. defense team. You concluded Mark Fuhrman put it there in order to find because he is a racist. Simply put, O.J. could have lost the glove in his yard and was too busy to go find it because he was otherwise occupied hiding the knife he used to slaughter two people, and washing their blood from his body and clothing. How long after the crime were the bodies discovered? Not long, right? In the time frame between crime and discovery of the victims, that glove would still be wet and soggy with the blood it was soaked in. If Mark Fuhrman had pocketed the glove, then tossed it into O.J.’s yard to find later, why didn’t he have the victim’s blood on him? Fuhrman surely was investigated sufficiently and thoroughly enough for the police to have discovered blood on him, right? Johnny Cochran’s team tried the police, didn’t defend O.J.; however, based upon your article, you’ve got to be one of the very few people in this land that doesn’t think O.J. Simpson murdered his former wife and her friend Ron Goldman. Simpson’s guilt was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt with the overwhelming and abundance of evidence found at the scene and at his home. Jury nullification did not change that, nor will it ever. He’s safe from being tried again because of “double jeopardy,” but that doesn’t mean he’s innocent, and you know it.
Fred Thomas

Jay D. Homnick replies:
It is clear in my article I believe O.J. is guilty. That is why I said: “Less is more.” Fuhrman, in an effort to lock it in, weakened the case. Of course, he did not yet know at the time how much evidence they would find later inside O.J.’s house, including bloody socks.

I doubt racism entered into it. There was definitely a culture among certain cops that when they felt morally certain someone did a crime, they would plant some extra evidence. Sometimes this pattern has been discovered department-wide.

Re: Jeffrey Lord’s Nancy Pelosi Carter:

Thanks to Jeffrey Lord and his walk down Memory Lane to the disastrous years of Jimmy Carter, whose only achievement was the fair parceling of White House tennis court time. I read that he personally oversaw who got court time, part of his Fairness Doctrine. My clearest memories of his tenure was watching the gradual re-structuring of Rosalynn’s eyelids and Jimmeh’s having to fire his good friend, Burt Lance. I was lucky at the time that I lived five blocks from a gas station. I didn’t even have to leave my driveway to get in line on gas day. Ah, those were the days.

Perfect title — Nancy Pelosi Carter. In less than two weeks we have been treated to a veritable rainbow of stylish suits accompanied by, alas, one vacant stare. Perhaps she is thinking back on the early Humvees, ill-equipped for what lay ahead in Iraq, and wondering what it costs to up-armor an Armani. Bring on the Alcee Hastings appointment.

One thing she may have inadvertenly taken care of, however. In a stand-off Nancy will not be the first to blink. Until things relax a little, she can’t.

Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California

Re: Doug Bandow’s A Pro-Life Revival?:

Looking at his voting record on life issues, may I be the first to call him “Obama Abomination” and to say that he is “Abomination Obama.” He has actually been accessory to the deaths of more people than has Osama. So has the Party of Death.
Richard L.A. Schaefer
Dubuque Iowa

Re: Andy Fuller’s letter (under “There Are Limits”) in Reader Mail’s Are You MAD?:

Andy Fuller writes that enacting term limits won’t work because it leaves an unelected bureaucracy in charge. Obviously Andy is completely clueless.

If elected officials can control a bureaucracy, then it doesn’t matter who is elected, they can exert that control. If we are to believe Mr. Fuller, then only those who have been in office for a certain number of years are able to control the bureaucracy and those with fewer years are powerless to do anything. That’s absurd. In fact, according to that logic, the voters would be stupid to ever vote anyone out of office because the clock would start all over again.

Bureaucracies are incapable of doing anything unless they are allowed to do so. If we have term limits, and the elected officials can’t (or won’t) control the bureaucracy, then throw them out and put someone in who will. It’s that simple, Andy…
Garrison Greenwood

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