- The Washington Times - Friday, December 13, 2002

‘Neither noble nor peaceful’

First, there are no necessary evils. If something is truly evil, there’s no way it can be necessary, and if it is truly necessary to the well-being of a rational man’s life, it’s not evil, but good.

Second, there is such a thing as a good war. The war against Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was good. A war to decimate Osama bin Laden and others of his ilk is equally necessary and good.

Given the premise that evil exists and that certain people will act in an evil and violent manner, a rational and just war is synonymous with self-defense. Self-defense is good. Only someone like Mr. Carter whose policies nearly lost the Cold War against the Soviet Union and contributed to the establishment of the No. 1 sponsor of terrorism in the world today (Iran) could utter such a statement. With him, they’re not merely platitudes. He really believes this nonsense. His four disastrous years in office prove it.

To honor him with this prize shows that the true motives behind the award are neither noble nor peaceful.


Chevy Chase, Md.

More on the cable crunch

Tuesday’s editorial “Comcast’s gamble” said that if local Comcast cable customers are upset that their rates are going up again, they should simply drop Comcast and sign up for satellite TV, and the government should do nothing about cable rates climbing year after year.

While we agree that some consumers could save money by choosing satellite and our Consumer Reports magazine has urged consumers to consider switching, the editorial is missing some important facts.

In many areas, satellite companies do not offer local broadcast channels, the channels most desirable for most consumers, because of technical limits. Satellite dishes do not work in homes that lack a clear view of the southern horizon. For the more than 40 million households that mostly purchase basic and standard cable television, satellite tends to be more expensive when its installation and equipment costs are added.

Clearly, satellite is not yet a true substitute for cable in enough areas to pose a serious competitive threat to cable monopolies. That is why cable rates have increased 45 percent nationwide nearly three times the rate of inflation in the six years since Congress passed the Telecommunications Act, the law that initiated deregulation.

The government granted cable companies their monopoly franchises, but it is not doing enough to encourage meaningful competition to challenge the government-granted advantages of those monopolies. That is why government intervention is not only appropriate, but necessary. Cable deregulation has failed to deliver on its promises of greater competition and lower prices. Unless Congress and the Federal Communications Commission go back to the drawing board and fix the law, cable rates will continue to rise.


Senior director for public policy and advocacy

Consumers Union


How to fight Gordon Gekko capitalism

Lawrence Kudlow got things backward when he stated that the stock market collapse destroyed wealth (“Dividend Rx for the economy,” Commentary, Sunday). The stupendous misappropriation of resources in a speculative market is what destroyed wealth.

People escalated stock prices way past their actual value in the belief they could quickly unload them at an even higher price. When those stock prices inevitably fell, the drop in price was not a loss in value but a return to the real value of the stock. The loss occurred when $1 stocks were bought for $10, not when the mistake was discovered. The value of $1 remains $1 even if you are silly enough to pay $10 for it.

The speculative misappropriation of wealth inherent in such a gambler’s market has put much of the available investment wealth into the hands of those who successfully gambled on temporarily ascendent stocks. They did not accumulate their wealth by successful investment in industries that created wealth and thus are not likely to know how to actually create wealth for our economy.

Unrestrained speculation produces a hot economy for as long as it can be sustained, but it eats the meat of the economy as it progresses every bit as much as does unrestrained taxation or unrestrained government regulation. It’s like a credit card binge that ends with you living on rice and beans till you pay off the accumulated debts. The trick is to live high on the hog and have the next administration be the one living on rice and beans as former President Bill Clinton did to President Bush.

Speculation should receive unfavorable taxation in inverse proportion to the rate that transfers occur. Favorable taxes for long-term investments, unfavorable taxes for quick flips. That will force investment in industries that actually produce wealth and profit, once making quick bucks independent of company viability is no longer the only consideration. A formula can be devised that allows the growth of new businesses but prevents runaway speculation. It’s just a matter of not going too far in either direction.

Lowered tax rates targeted to long-term investment would be a plus for the economy, while the opposite treatment for short-term investment would cancel out any gain.

Short-term investors should be left to twist in the wind, as should all gamblers.


Annandale, Va.

Overblown missile threat

If the SA-7 surface-to-air missile (SAM) is a significant threat, why did two SA-7s recently fired at an Israeli 757 aircraft fail to explode and/or damage the aircraft? Was it just luck, or were there valid reasons for the terrorists’ failed effort? Has a shoulder-fired SAM ever caused the destruction or crash of a large commercial airliner? Where’s the evidence?

Shoulder-fired SAMs pose a threat, surely. The degree of that threat is what I question. It is inappropriate to make this threat appear bigger and better than reality, which I believe the media have done. Rather than possessing death-ray characteristics, shoulder-fired SAMs have significant limitations versus a large commercial aircraft. Yesterday’s editorial “Airplanes and the terrorist threat” presented the worst-case scenario. Perhaps you should present a more balanced view.

Indeed, a variety of countermeasure systems have been installed on various military aircraft, but that doesn’t prove the systems will work effectively on an airliner. Have tests or a cost-benefit analysis been accomplished for countermeasures installed on commercial airliners? I have read nothing but wild estimates for the costs to build and install the systems and nothing but guesses as to their effectiveness.

How long would such a study take to accomplish? Have the systems ever been installed on a commercial airliner, and will they work? Would a countermeasures system pose hazards to the installed aircraft and its passengers? Would the systems pose a threat to people and property on the ground? If systems are built and installed, should we expect the early estimates to significantly underestimate the actual costs and effectiveness? Might we waste millions, even billions, of dollars for systems that do not provide the effective solutions we were promised and expected?

We are much more likely to be killed or injured driving our cars to the airport than killed by an SAM destroying a commercial airliner on which we are flying. Why is it that relatively minor risks that we can’t control cause us greater fear than more substantial risks that we can control? The risks posed by shoulder-fired SAMs are real, but overblown. We need a balanced discussion and assessment of the risks before we rush to judgment regarding solutions.


Former Navy pilot, current commercial pilot

Fairfax, Va.

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