Jan./Feb. Backtalk

Breaking Ranks

The tragedy of Gina Score’s death underscores the problems boot camps have experienced throughout the nation (“Camp Fear,” November/December). Boot camps were primarily installed by state governments as an economical solution to what was perceived to be a wave of juvenile violence. Unfortunately, experience has proven that boot camps cannot be successfully administered on the cheap. Once states recognized that the key to successful intervention with juveniles is long-term “aftercare” for those leaving boot camps, the facilities were no longer the bargain that politicians had hoped for.

The U.S. military arguably conducts the best boot camps in the world, with expertly trained drill instructors and highly motivated recruits. Even so, recruits have been injured and even killed. Given the underpaid, poorly trained staffs and the largely unmotivated youths at juvenile boot camps, no one should be shocked that tragedies have occurred.

Jerry Wells
Director, Koch Crime Institute
Topeka, Kansas

Road Rage

As a forester, I am very unhappy with Sue Halpern’s article (“Road Block,” November/December) on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Halpern wants us to believe that loggers are running rampant over the Tongass, spoiling it forever. Yet only 22 percent of the forest’s 17 million acres is open for logging — with restrictions to protect wildlife and water and retain diversity.

We Americans gobble up far more than our share of natural resources. If we don’t reduce worldwide demand for wood, then the only result of “saving” the Tongass will be the further pillaging of unregulated forests in Africa, Asia, or South America.

Bob Schumacher
Macon, Georgia

The preservation of the Tongass is essential to keep the environment in Alaska balanced. The forest is rich in wildlife, including bear, deer, bald eagles, and salmon. Halpern’s article is truly a wake-up call that something needs to be done. Hard to believe that half of the largest trees in the Tongass have already fallen. Alaska has some of the greatest wilderness. I hope we can keep it that way.

Paul Dale Roberts
Elk Grove, California

Editors’ Note: On November 13, the Clinton administration included the Tongass in its plan to ban road building in national forests. But the protections in Alaska will not take effect until 2004 — and activists warn that the entire plan could be reversed.

Paradise Lost

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is concerned about the growing presence of offshore tax havens (“Trillion-Dollar Hideaway,” November/December). Tax havens allow business and individuals to escape their tax obligations, which deprive countries, developed and developing alike, of revenues necessary to sustain economic growth. They are also often safe havens for proceeds of political corruption, illicit arms dealing, and the global drug trade, facilitating what Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers calls the dark side of globalization. To eliminate such harmful tax practices, our member governments are working with 35 jurisdictions identified as tax havens to reform their financial systems by next summer.

Will Davis
Public Affairs Center, OECD
Washington, D.C.

Troubled Waters

So now the fool environmentalists want to turn the Los Angeles River into a real river — with water (“The Same River Twice,” November/December). That’s a nifty idea, but the cost would be outrageous. Couldn’t we use the funds elsewhere and receive more benefits? In addition, a real river running through populated sections of Los Angeles could pose a safety problem, especially for children.

I, too, would like to see a green, lazy ol’ river meandering through L.A. But the city has skyscrapers and a real downtown — all the accoutrements of a world-class metropolis. Sad to say, there just may not be any room left for the kind of river environmentalists dream about.

Fred Bluestone
Lauderhill, Florida
Menlo Park, California

Red, White, and True

Bill McKibben’s article (“Patriotic Acts,” November/December) movingly describes how the heroism of America’s past is now manifesting itself in the struggle against corporate domination. Having helped organize the protest that ended in McKibben’s arrest, I can attest that many leaders of the current movement feel deeply patriotic about their work. Indeed, the best patriotism involves itself not in what America is, but what it can be.

Nick Penniman
Director, Alliance for Democracy
Waltham, Massachusetts