- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Competition and cooperation

In his Thursday Commentary titled “Undependable Europe,” William Hawkins implores the Department of Defense to steer clear of European defense firms and concentrate its investment on domestic industries in order to maintain our military superiority. While he makes a compelling case that Europe has not always been the most reliable strategic partner, at least since the rift over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, his protectionist policy recommendation is ill-advised.

Europe’s ideological differences with the United States about the use of force are an unwelcome byproduct of our past success as allies and partners. While the NATO alliance stood strong in the face of the ominous threat of communism from the Soviet Union, many Europeans used the umbrella of security that the United States provided to focus on their domestic agendas and European integration. Despite these current, sometimes overplayed, divergences in opinion, the new reality of the global threat of Islamic extremism, as well as the challenges of responding to natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes, require us to look for opportunities to rebuild the alliance instead of weakening it further.

The national security argument for restricting free trade is a textbook example of masked protectionism. This argument is overused and often exaggerated, such as the case of the U.S. watchmaking industry warning the government against losing the vital skills and technology associated with domestic watchmaking firms if it allowed unrestricted trade of watches with Europe. While it is absolutely critical to maintain a technological edge and equip our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines with the best equipment on the face of the Earth, we can better guarantee this edge in military capabilities if we harness market forces instead of working against them.

The main reason for Europe’s anemic growth and high rates of unemployment is the lack of competition in its coordinated market economy. So, let us compete. Let us harness the power of free markets. And for the sake of our military, let us look for future opportunities to rebuild the transatlantic alliance and share the burden of global leadership.

MAJ. JOHN P. COGBILL

Army

Instructor of economics

Department of Social Sciences

U.S. Military Academy

West Point, N.Y.

The spitting incident

I really disagree with Dan Daly’s analogy of the events that took place Saturday between the Washington Redskins’ Sean Taylor and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Michael Pittman (“Spitting on logic,” Sports, Monday). The comparison with the Marcus Vick incident is like comparing apples to potatoes.

First, there is no revealing evidence that Sean Taylor actually did spit on Michael Pittman. There is no evidence on replays and surely the referee Mike Carey did not examine Mr. Pittman to see where the phlegm was. Mr. Carey did not see the spitting, but was told that it did occur. The way that the two players were going at it, the exchange could have been accidental, regardless of what happened last year. You can’t honestly tell me that during a conversation you haven’t had a little wet stuff fly from your mouth. You haven’t seen preachers, singers, public speakers, etc., in action. It’s a human thing.

Second, Marcus Vick’s actionswerecompletely destructive to the well-being of a player in a vulnerable position — inexcusable and well-documented on national television.

No one is condoning the act of spitting on anyone, but a person is surely innocent until all the facts are in. In Mr. Vick’s case, the facts were live and not Memorex.

WILLIAM A. COATES

Washington

Drug trials are beneficial

Let me see if I understand the article “Using humans as guinea pigs” (Page 1, Sunday): People who volunteer for experimental drug trials are often in the United States illegally, use false identification papers, lie about themselves, ignore the consent forms and violate the safety rules about participating in multiple trials at the same time in order to make more money.

The part I’m having trouble with is how this is supposed to be the fault of the big, evil drug manufacturers.

Perhaps my perspective is a bit compromised, though. One of my adult children participated in a trial for a new attention-deficit hyperactivity-disorder medication a few years back. He had no health insurance at the time and was having a hard time finding a physician who would even attempt to treat him (he had outgrown his pediatrician’s practice and was too old for my insurance to cover).

Once the trial was over, the monitoring physician referred him to another physician along with some information on a new and non-narcotic drug treatment for ADHD that was not related to the trial. The result of this is that he is now getting the medication he needs and has a physician who is willing to work with him.

Oh, and by the way, the medication he is taking is being provided to him free of charge by the big, evil drug manufacturer, as he is young, of lower income, and has no prescription drug coverage through his own employer.

STEPHEN R. BROWN

Manassas

New and old immigration laws

With regard to “Hype, hysteria and immigration (Editorial, Saturday), thanks for a breath of fresh air in the media circus. For years, alien-smuggling statutes like Title 8 USC 1324 have been laws of this nation — and are treated as a felony: A $5,000 fine or five years in prison for any person with “knowledge or reckless disregard of alienage.”

As a former criminal investigator, I can say that both political parties have ignored the human trafficking crisis. Organized criminal cadres make millions yearly in smuggling “human cargo” — Mexican nationals and Asians — seeking a better life and higher wages. Since 1972, death, violence, extortion, kidnapping, rape and indentured servitude are documented in thousands of cases in the smuggling of human beings. Criminal cases in real life are far removed from the news or agendas.

In politics, churches that have been involved in violation of 8 USC 1324 since the 1980s are a sensitive issue. When U.S. immigration laws are, for the first time in 30 years, discussed by Congress, “hype” is the word: We’re either a nation of laws that apply to all, or a lawless nation. The statute of 8 USC 1324 should be required reading for all, including the House and Senate. That law was passed long ago.

JOHN W. SLAGLE

Tucson, Ariz.

Borrowing from Social Security

If anything, the survey “Social Security: Don’t touch the fund” (Op-Ed, Tuesday) demonstrates that the majority of the labor force has no idea of the financial structure of Social Security. Of course it took a 30-year snow job to train the entire labor force into believing that payroll taxes were insurance premiums buying an insurance policy based on a legally binding contract.

Excess payroll taxes have always come in the front door of the U.S. Treasury and gone right out the back door. The trust fund is nothing more than a bookkeeping mechanism, and any future Social Security claims above and beyond collected taxes will have to be paid for with real borrowing involving real government marketable debt. The insurance myth and the free lunch that it delivered will evaporate to reveal the uncertainty associated with any plain old government tax-and-transfer scheme. In the real world, risk is forever, and “social insurance” is for the first pig to the trough.

SAMUEL BURKEEN

Reston

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