- The Washington Times - Friday, September 6, 2002

Reviewer, infatuated with Fukuyama, misreads book

Having just finished reading Peter Lawler's remarkable work of social criticism, "Aliens in America," I was startled to read Steven Menashi's review, in which it was unrecognizable ("Comfort's costs," Books, Sunday). Reading the review alone, one would think the book is an extended if somewhat fevered commentary on the work of Francis Fukuyama.

In truth, only one of its many chapters is dedicated to a discussion of Mr. Fukuyama's work. Mr. Lawler is, to be sure, a critic of the "conservative" attempt to defend the permanence of human nature on the grounds of sociobiology or evolutionary biology, precisely because such "naturalism" cannot account for what is distinctively human about human beings. However, he is neither a fundamentalist nor even a traditionalist, as Mr. Menashi irresponsibly suggests.

Mr. Lawler draws on the writings of a remarkably diverse series of thinkers Leo Strauss, Pascal, Alexis de Tocqueville, John Courtney Murray, Walker Percy, etc. to criticize both libertarian complacency and the pretense of a certain kind of scientism to make human beings completely at home in the world. Mr. Lawler's reflection is firmly rooted in the Western tradition of reason and revelation and thus affirms the possibility of universal truths available to man as man. This distinguished Tocqueville scholar is the furthest thing from the theocratic, irrationalist critic of political liberty portrayed in Mr. Menashi's strangely warped review.


DANIEL J. MAHONEY

Assistant professor of political science

Assumption College

Worcester, Mass.

'Our diseased health care industry'

Paul Greenberg's column "A plague spread by fee-bitten lawyers" (Commentary, Aug. 30) provides an extremely simplistic perspective to a complex problem, namely the "health" of the U.S. health system.

A significant reason for high medical malpractice insurance premiums is the high rate of medical errors. Studies have shown that 50,000 to 100,000 Americans die each year because of preventable medical errors. In other words, the yearly death rate from medical errors is higher than that from breast cancer, motor-vehicle accidents, AIDS and guns combined.

In addition to the tragic loss of human life, preventable medical errors impact other sectors of society, in turn costing the nation billions of dollars. The epidemic of medical errors along with ever-rising medical malpractice rates are just two of the many symptoms of our diseased health care industry.


MICHAEL N. MERCURIO

Columbia, Md.

Generic is good

Peter Ferrara's Aug. 29 Commentary column, "Poor prescriptions for health prospects," has done American consumers a great disservice. He erroneously suggested that generic drugs place consumers at risk and that the Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals Act (GAAP) alters intellectual property rights and federal approval requirements for generics. The facts prove Mr. Ferrara wrong on both counts.

GAAP, a modest piece of compromise legislation, levels the playing field between powerful brand companies and pro-consumer generic companies by closing the loopholes that some pharmaceutical companies have exploited to prevent consumers from having timely access to more affordable generics. GAAP will save consumers, employers, taxpayers and federal and state government programs as much as $60 billion in unnecessary health care costs over the next decade. It creates these savings without threatening pharmaceutical innovation or altering patent or intellectual property rights.

For nearly two decades, FDA-approved generic drugs have been saving consumers billions of dollars each year without compromising patient safety. Every day, nearly one out of every two prescriptions is filled with a generic drug. An FDA-approved generic drug provides the same clinical effects and safety profile as the brand drug. Any statements suggesting that using a generic drug will endanger patients are simply wrong and irresponsible.

In the highly politicized environment of health care reform, GAAP was passed overwhelmingly (78-21) by the Senate July 31. GAAP has the strong support of a broad-based, nonpartisan coalition of American business, unions, governors, insurers and consumer groups.

Generics are one critical component of health care for many Americans. GAAP assures that consumers have the choice of a lower-cost generic, which Congress intended when it passed the Hatch-Waxman Act creating the modern generic industry in 1984.

GAAP is good for all Americans. Generics are safe for Americans. Generics save consumers billions.


KATHLEEN JAEGER

President and CEO

Generic Pharmaceutical Association

Washington

Bad ballots

As a resident of Montgomery County, I read with particular interest Phyllis Schlafly's column noting that my county is one of those mandated to offer ballots in Spanish ("Pitfalls of foreign language ballots," Commentary, Tuesday). Because only U.S. citizens are allowed to vote, I researched the requirements a naturalized citizen must meet before becoming a citizen. Not only must he or she possess "an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak words in the English language," but he or she also must possess "a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history of the United States."

It seems to me that someone who possesses such understanding and knowledge surely would be able to cast votes in an election using an English-language ballot. Unless, that is, the definition of "understanding" and/or the citizenship test itself has become so watered down as to make it irrelevant and not a true indicator of what it purports to show.

If that is the case, we need to upgrade the citizenship test, not facilitate the inability of persons in this country to speak English. There's an old saying, "Necessity is the mother of invention." Another is, "Where there's a will, there's a way." From these two adages, one could surmise that if someone wants to truly understand English and become a U.S. citizen, that person will make the effort to do just that.


MANUEL J. RIOS JR.

Rockville, Md.

The unsung Triumph

Having reviewed the list of some 700 automobiles that Vern Parker has presented in his wonderful weekly old-time auto review ("Out of the Past"), I note with concern that the once-ubiquitous Triumph TR-2/3 sports car has never been featured.

Manufactured from 1953 through 1961, this car represented the result of a unique effort on the part of British Standard-Triumph to develop a modestly priced sports car that could surpass 100 mph with an engine smaller than 2.0 liters. The entire project took about one year, and the first TR-2 was produced in 1953. Running on a four-cylinder Vanguard tractor engine, the TR indeed met the 100-mph goal, and proved able competition in races against the MGs, Healeys and even the Jaguars of the time.

Soon the unique, deep-throated exhaust note of an accelerating TR was common at road races in this country. Manufactured primarily for export, this sports car soon became immensely popular in the United States. Over its eight years in production, all of the cars in the TR-2/3 series maintained the same basic styling, equipment and features. Everyone who reached maturity in the late '50s has special memories of owning or riding in the windowless TR, with its rakish cutaway doors, side curtains, and elementary but functional instrumentation and controls.

More than 80,000 of the TR 2/3 series were produced, and I own TR-3A No. 54010, which I bought in 1987 when it had 55,000 miles on the speedometer. The previous owner had driven it a grand total of 600 miles. The car would barely run, and the odor of the fuel suggested that the gas may have been in the tank too long. After a tune-up and a few cosmetic repairs, the TR-3 proved to be a great looking and great performing sports car.

Given the number of middle-aged people who approach me when they see my TR-3, I infer that there would be significant interest in an article about the car.


DAN MCGRATH

Falls Church

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