Reader Mail

Pines and Needles

What makes a Christmas tree? A special exchange. Plus much more.


Oh, Christmas Tree
Re: Ralph R. Reiland's
Season's Greenies:

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that on December 24, 2009, Christmas Eve, I was featured by one your authors in the "Among the Intellectualoids" series. Ralph Reiland, wrote an article about Christmas trees. In the article he wrote the following:

The problem with live Christmas trees, says Ohio State economics professor Brent Sohngen, is that profit-seeking landowners in the U.S. are knocking down stands of carbon-retaining hardwoods in order to increase the number of less-carbon-retaining pine plantations, increasing carbon dioxide levels, a greenhouse gas.

This paragraph is misleading. The original article did examine hardwoods versus softwoods in the U.S. South, but that article did not address Christmas trees. Further, in the press release about the article, I did not say anything about Christmas trees, and I certainly did not state there that the conversion of hardwoods to softwoods, due to an increase carbon dioxide levels, was, or is, a problem with "live" Christmas trees.

Reiland misquotes me without apparently reading the original research article published in 2006, and without reading the Ohio State University press release about that article. Neither of these says anything about Christmas trees. 

Reiland should have just contacted me. If he had, he would have learned that Southern pine trees are not used as Christmas trees. I have bought quite a few cut (but previously live) Christmas trees in my life. I also have planted Christmas trees, pruned them, and sold them to the public. Christmas trees are firs and spruces, with some Scotch pine and white pine mixed in. Few, if any, landowners commercially grow and sell Southern pines for Christmas trees. Where exactly does Reiland get his Christmas trees?

It is of course possible that Reiland just assumed that the article was talking about spruces and firs and other Christmas tree species along with Southern pine. But rather than assuming, he could have just picked up the phone and asked me. Our study did not consider Christmas trees. They don't even grow on the sites analyzed in our study. Some of them do grow in higher elevations in the South, but Christmas trees are Northern species, not Southern species. 

I realize that from Reiland's perspective, to get published in the Intellectualoids series, it is easier to just make assumptions when he has what he thinks is a juicy detail. But you at The American Spectator ought to be interested in at least getting the story right. Reiland's story is not honest, and his dishonesty impugns his work in general and taints your series, where I see he has published several items. Reiland needs to be a lot more careful when he makes assumptions without checking the facts. 

The American Spectator should be embarrassed. You should demand that Reiland rewrite and repost his article. If Reiland wants to provide information on my study and then state that he believes the study implies that Christmas trees contribute to climate change, he can go right ahead. That would be stated as his belief, however stupid it is. At minimum he should rewrite that statement quoted above to attribute those points to himself rather than to me. If his point is to make fun of those you call "Intellectualoids," then you at least ought to get your facts right.
-- Brent Sohngen
Ohio State University

Ralph R. Reiland replies:
Brent Sohngen, professor, Ohio State:

Sorry, I got it wrong. I didn't know that "few if any" Southern pine trees ended up as Christmas trees. They all look the same to me, i.e., evergreens, with permanent needles, not like cherry trees or oaks with falling leaves.

Where do I get my Christmas trees? I used to get them from a local gas station. One year there was an owl in the tree and we didn't see it until we started to string on the lights. He must've been in there from he beginning, maybe all the way from the Carolinas, or China. In any case, he just stuck in there while we threw the tree on top of the station wagon, stopped to get some cheeseburgers, drove it home, threw it in the driveway, got it upright in the tree stand, etc. I was in high school at the time. My girlfriend (now my wife of 46 years) was with me when we picked up the tree and she was the one who spotted the big eyes looking out at her from inside the tree when she started to decorate. She screamed like a high school girl, which she was.

This year, one of our sons volunteered to get our tree. I asked him to get an artificial one, something I could put a big garbage bag over when the holiday was over and use again, already decorated, next year -- or to get a really small one if he got a real tree, those pencil trees, thin. He did get the tree and was nice enough to put it up while we weren't home. But when we got home it was gigantic -- and square. We have high ceilings but the tree was so large that he had to cut many feet off the top to get it in the room, so it ended up as a big square. "They had it in the wrong pile," he explained. "It was gigantic and in the small tree pile, the cheap pile, so I couldn't pass it up." I should take a picture of it. It might just be one of those tall Southern pines, one of the "few if any."

In any case, none of this was my key point. I don't know a fir from a spruce, but my main point was that I don't like those parents who tell their little kids to draw a Christmas tree on an old shopping bag and pretend it's the real thing. I think those kids, forced too much into denial and guilt, might grow up to be crotch bombers. That's what happened to the Detroit Mohammed or whatever his name is --zero sex, just guilt, and he ends up with a bomb in his underpants. Too bad that Freud isn't still around to see all this. 

Re: The Prowler's The Politics of Incompetence:

Two words sum up our national problem from economics to national security -- Barack Obama.

Semper Fi
-- Michael Tomlinson

Jacksonville, North Carolina

Having taught middle school through college, I have learned that younger students need a different discipline than the mature scholars. When addressing a child about a mistake, often the first words out of the student's mouth is "Other kids did it too." Students, as they mature, leave this response behind. Staggeringly, often this child-like retort seems to be the Obama Administration's first response.

The economy? The One inherited it. The (former) War on Terror? Bush started it. The TSA's incompetence? Well, under Bush...

In these dangerous times, a real adult is needed in the White House. Sadly, none is to be found.
-- I.M. Kessel

Re: William Tucker's "Better a Hundred Terrorists Go Free...":

Could it be that Obama & Co. want the KSM trial to inspire another terror attack, thus giving them the excuse to declare Martial Law, suspend the Constitution and cancel the Congressional elections? Obama, Holder, Reid, Pelosi, et al. aren't going to relinquish their stranglehold on Congress without a fight to hold on to power. It's the only way to explain the otherwise inexplicable -- moving the KSM trial to New York City. (Hasn't NYC suffered enough at the hands of KSM and his goon squad?)
-- Gretchen L. Chellson
Alexandria, Virginia

Re: Bill Croke's Don't Save Me the Aisle Seat:

I too avoid new movies like the plague. The "trailers" furnished to promote most new films seem like TV previews anyhow. I can watch Ben Hur or the Godfather, at least once a year, but won’t give new flicks any consideration. I know I am giving up many hours watching the aforementioned classics…again, but am wary of giving up 90-120 minutes on the new stuff.

Most television dramas are also avoided for the same reasons; they are too "message" oriented and only entertain certain groups (IE: Law & Order), to name one.

If I want to watch television or go to the movies, it is to relax and be entertained. If I want my values re-affirmed, I’ll read the Spectator, watch Glenn Beck & FOX News Special Report.
P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan

I never got into the habit of going to movies -- movies were something I saw when they came on television, and, later, pay cable...and, still later, videotapes and laserdiscs and DVDs.  I can't say it's a lack of appeal for me in the last decade or so of theatrical movies.  The last movie I went to was Up, and that only because I enjoyed Wall-e so much on disk.  Nothing much coming up generates that kind of interest.  Still, once every two years I go to one or two movies.
I can recall only one moviegoing experience that severely disappointed me.  I went to see Pearl Harbor and exited thinking "there's three hours of my life I'll never get back."  It wasn't that From Here to Eternity and Tora!  Tora!  Tora! did it so much better, it's that Pearl Harbor did it so poorly.
I only went to see Titanic because the subject has long been of interest to me. It was pretty good, though the much-praised acting of Leo and Kate wasn't much to look at.  Pretty good, but no A Night to RememberAvatar doesn't have that kind of resonance to put me in a theater seat -- and reports of anti-conservative and anti-American slants, as well as ripping off half a dozen written SF classics, puts me off further.
Of the movies Mr. Croke lists, I could see remaking at least two, maybe three -- if the first version (or first of several) wasn't very good, why not try again? -- but why remake something they got right in the first place?
-- Robert Nowall
Cape Coral, Florida
The last thing we need is another film version of Moby Dick. The Huston/Peck/Bradbury movie version completely failed to grasp that Moby Dick is a hilarious satire, and a remake would be sure to be another travesty. Of course, that would suggest that generations of readers are idiots. (By the way, Dostoevskii creates the same problem.)


Re: J.T. Young's Leftist Intelligentsia Dementia:

Josef Stalin called these people out long ago as the "parasite intelligentsia" -- and he knew just what to do with 'em, too. After a stretch in the gulag, mining coal with their bare hands,  the survivors were so glad to have a place to sit down they didn't make trouble for anybody.

Which brings up my own modest suggestion.  Let's rescue "alternative energy"  by using its advocates. Since  almost every actual attempt to put up new  facilities has foundered on a  lawsuit (wind farms, solar arrays) or physical reality (geothermal), what's left?

Simple -- we set up a series of camps -- perhaps on the Great Plains. Each camp contains dynamos powered by treadmills, which are in turn  powered by human muscle.  Renewable, sustainable. And  for the raw material of this Brave New World,  we draft the  people who have been demanding it for so long: activists, consultants, crooked scientists,  carbon con men, preachers, screechers, crusaders, planners, uplifters, leftover pop stars,  nannies, act-out neurotics and assorted other  pains in the neck who are hell bent on giving orders to the rest of us, invariably at our expense. Who needs mean old  fossil fuels when we  will have literally,  people power? Provided by the Best People, no less.

But we're not done! Want to cut health care costs?  Even a few weeks of pumping a treadmill all day will do  wonders for obesity, especially if the diet is  restricted to oh-so-healthy tofu and grass juice.  Instead of years of  useless hand-holding, we'll have effective rehab programs at last,  that sweat the coke and cleaning products out of the Hollyweirdos in a matter of days. Want to cut prison budgets? Then heed the advice of those enlightened jurists who suggest "community service" instead of jail. Really, what better serves the community than keeping the lights on?

Ah, but how to recruit you say? Why, that's easiest of all. Simply expand the definition  of "hate crimes" just one more notch, to include unpatriotic or anti-American utterances/ activity ( thought crime? True, but it's practically there already). Tapping the kinetic potential contained in our newsrooms, faculty lounges, and think tanks would lead to actual energy independence in no time at all.  Saudi Arabia indeed!

Seriously, why not?  Our rulers are bound and determined to Sovietize the USA, after all.  Let's do it like Uncle Joe did, and make  him proud of us.
-- Martin Owens

Re: William Tucker's Avatar: No More Rooting for the Cowboys:

I'm inclined to agree. But: You could view the natives as the Americans, who as underdogs, defeat the godless, Marxist, and overly-destructive invaders. In fact, the natives appeared to be loyal to their own kind, family-oriented, and even hunting meat-eaters. The producer just got the casting reversed. An honest mistake, surely. This was probably due to the substances enthusiastically ingested by the Hollywood elite. Very valuable substances [from far away places] collected and trafficked to this country by murderous brutes and their cartels.
-- Rich White

Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell's Obama's Second Systemic Failure:

I believe Mr. Tyrrell is way too easy on our un-educated, inexperienced, and now clearly ineducable
president. This individual is a left-wing Marxist ideologue but is also incompetent. In addition, watching a video on Fox News last week of Obama addressing and preparing to hit a golf ball and then seeing his awkward swing, I realized just what he is. He is what we in high school of my youth never wanted to be called: a sissy.

Surely he must have been the subject of multiple wedgies in high school and now we are paying the price for such indignities. I do not say this lightly or with any animosity to our president. To be honest with myself I was only a couple of steps from being a sissy in my long ago high school days in the 1950's. My marks (B Plus) were too high to be a real jock but being the regular second baseman on the varsity with a batting average of .280 (not great but not bad either) was probably the only thing that saved me from being considered a sissy. So, Mr. President, I share your pain but it is still no reason to get even with us by changing our government into a Socialist one.
-- Jack Wheatley
Royal Oak, Michigan

Re: John R. Guardiano's Media Warns of Grave GOP Danger:

"Indeed, with or without Iraq, the Democratic Left opposed the Patriot Act, opposed Guantanamo, opposed enhanced interrogations, opposed profiling, opposed preemptive military action...."

Don't forget that on Christmas Day, the system worked! All in-flight commercial jets were notified that there might be a problem. Crack investigators quickly adduced that the actor was an isolated extremist. The legacy media were alerted to be on the lookout for the inevitable backlash of anti-Muslim hate crimes. The machinery ran so smoothly, there was no need to disturb our vacationing President Obama for 2 hours.

The system continued its flawless operation in the following days as expert medical care was administered, and a public defender assigned to, the idealistic but alienated youth. Rule-making bodies throughout Washington sprang into action. And now that President Obama has ordered a full report, we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

While it is true that Leftist Democrats opposed the Patriot Act, that too, is a system that has worked. Democrats feared that electronic eavesdropping on Americans, when communing with terror suspects abroad, might lead to abuses. They feared it would lead to anti-Muslim profiling. They feared it would lead to restrictions on our  Constitutional rights. Would that it had, fourteen lives would not have been lost, dozens wounded, and hundreds of lives shattered, at Fort Hood. Sadly, the system worked.
-- Dan Martin
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Re: Ben Stein's A Ron Paul Moment:

I've been a fan of Ben Stein for 10-12 years. Ben's discussion/argument with Ron Paul left me embarrassed. There were many sad aspects to Ben's words and conduct but the worst was that Ben was so cavalier with the term "anti-Semitic" -- he utilized it as a child might use the term "poopy-head" on the playground.

And Ben's "explanation" here is worse yet! After having time to reflect (?), Ben explains that:

(1) yes, he failed to respond with any care to an intelligent point, and
(2) yes, he did suggest to the world that a U.S. Congressman is an anti-Semite and
(3) yes, he hasn't been reading or thinking enough to know who Ron Paul is, and
(4) yes, he truly did make the anti-Semitic remark for no good reason....

.....but Ron Paul is at fault because he so quickly took offense at being called an anti-Semite.

Is this the conclusion of a thoughtful man? No, that's more of the child on the playground.

A New Year's resolution for Ben: videotape a real apology (to Ron Paul, and the rest of the world), and put it on the internet.
-- Peter Favorite, Esq.
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Ben Stein is wrong on nearly everything he talks about from foreign policy to financial markets.

By giving him air time - or print space - it only undermines your own credibility (as if you have any).
-- Jeff W
West Palm Beach

Re: Quin Hillyer's Thermopylae for Health Care:

Now you're talking, Quin. Hey, Senator McConnell, what country do you live in, again? God that's a good article.
-- Mike Showalter
Austin, Texas

Re: Ben Stein's We've Figured Him Out:

Obama's success was also a referendum, if you will,  on the utter disdain for John McCain by the conservatives. We had a horrible choice for a Republican president. I might add, Crist of Florida is cut from the same cloth.
-- David A. Canfield

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