Reader Mail

Roger That

Pumped up readers. Trillions served. More on Mormons. Stop breathing for Lent. Plus much more.

2.17.08

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ONE MORE THING
Re: George Neumayr's By Obama We Were Saved:

Mr. Neumayr accuses Senator Obama of offering bogus hope and false promise. (Is it he alone who does this, do you think?)

But be assured that Hillary the policy witch cannot expose Obama's limitations by dragging him back to earth. Recall what happened when she said that Dr. King had the dream, but Lyndon Johnson delivered the goods. There was muttering, outrage and thunder; there was insurrection and the smell of sulfur; dogs formed into packs.

You don't seduce the public by making them read the fine print. They don't want to hear the facts from Lyle H. Barnstable, the shy fellow with a bachelor's degree in Urban Planning and a master's in Sincere. They want to be hugged by L. Harold ("Honest Harvey") Barnstable, the workingman's friend, democracy's last hope.

The only serious question about Dr. Obama's proposed new deal is this: Does he believe his own flapping gums? Is his hot air delivered willfully, or is it inspired by the fact that he doesn't know what such promises inspired during the 20th century? Are we watching a naif stumble into the spotlight, or is a child prodigy tickling the hicks as they have not been tickled since FDR died?
-- Edmund Dantes
Coshocton, Ohio

RARE BIPARTISANSHIP
Re: Michael Brendan Dougherty's The Waxman Cometh:

We can all be happy that Congress has nothing more pressing to do than get some face-time on ESPN. We can marvel that Mr. Waxman et. al. have solved our economic, social and military problems and now have time to kick back and investigate whether a few of America's most pampered people, right after actors and politicians, use performance enhancing substances.

I guess the VA medical care is fixed. Global warming, assuming it ever began, has now been halted. Finances are good and we'll all get free health care. I assume since Democrats can waste time on things like this, we can all stop working because heaven on earth has been created!

God Bless Democrats.
-- Jay Molyneaux
Denver, North Carolina

I like your articles, but think the steroid stuff in baseball is important enough for Congress to get involved. Baseball and the other sports have put up with it, kids copy these sports and it is very risky for them to take it. If Roger just won with spitballs and kids copied that I would agree Congress shouldn't get involved.
-- Kevin

The entire fracas with Clemens and McNamee on the Hill was an embarrassment for all involved: Clemens, McNamee, and the U.S. House of Representatives. And Andy Pettitte did not come out if this looking good either; he lied to the committee in his deposition and ratted out his best friend in a deposition so that he didn't have to face any questioning.

What you had was a proven liar in McNamee and a suspected liar in Clemens being grilled by publicity-seeking members of Congress, all of whom had taken sides long before the hearings started. This was not so much a hearing as it was a star chamber, where the Democrats had decided that Clemens was a liar and McNamee was some sort of flawed hero. But there were no heroes in this sordid mess.

As for the Mike Greenberg line about Shakespeare, he was simply trying to say that this situation had many of the themes that are evident in tragedy. Especially in the close relationship that Clemens and Pettitte had, and the seeming betrayal of one friend of the other for personal gain. And he acknowledged that his reference to Iago was not a good analogy and tried to find a more apt analogy. And the friendship angle was compelling, because it puts their relationship to the test: what lengths would a friend take to protect his friends?

All in all, this was a mess from the beginning and should never have been taken up by the Congress. I guess it is true of some of these members that the most dangerous place in the world is between them and a camera from ESPN.
-- Eric Edwards
Walnut Cove, North Carolina

I, for one, am eternally grateful to Rep. Henry Waxman for his dogged pursuit of the use of steroids by a few professional athletes. Had he not taken the time of the Congress with this matter, it might, even now, be watering down the protections for telecom companies in the new FISA extension, or raising taxes, or otherwise imposing itself in ways which would not be of benefit to the American people. The damage that they have done to the military every time that they have turned their attention to us is just one example of the mischief that a Congress run by liberal Democrats could make if it focused on its constitutional mandates instead of these sideshows. If, as Daniel Webster said, no man's life or property are safe while the legislature is in session, then these distractions serve a critical national interest, and they must continue.

Of course, the use of enhancements in baseball is but the tip of the iceberg. Baseball is a sport watched by millions of Americans, but Hollywood movies and television shows are watched by billions of people, and it is a rare starlet who has not had some form of medical intervention in order to enhance her performance, be it cosmetic surgery, pharmaceutical diet aids, aroma therapy or exotic colonics. Clearly, a Congress that has a mandate to investigate whether Roger Clemens was able to unnaturally extend his career with steroids has the same obligation to determine just how many times Cher has been injected with Botox, and for the same reason. I have no doubt that a serious, in-depth examination of the day-to-day changes in breast size among starlets would be the most compelling testimony since the scandals of the Clinton years, and would attract the same audience, not to mention the enthusiastic participation of many members of the Congress (Teddy Kennedy may have to be restrained). Tabloid speculation on the cosmetic surgery to the stars could be laid to rest with a few months of hearings, and the ratings bonanza could put C-SPAN into the black for decades.

Of course, while this is going on, serious issues facing the nation would remain unaddressed, but a bit of creative gameplay, a sort of policy version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, could be used to focus attention where it is needed. For example, FISA deals exclusively with foreign intelligence gathering. Most illegal steroids are produced by overseas labs, and the trafficking in steroids requires coordination between foreign and domestic smuggling networks, and terrorists are often involved in smuggling as a means to enhance their revenues as well as moving their equipment. Therefore, it is imperative that FISA be reenacted in order to track the flow of steroids from terrorists to our elite athletes. Once the case has been made that Al Qaeda was involved in steroid abuse, it's a simple matter to get congress to turn their
attention to national security instead of national pastimes.
-- Mike Harris
MAJ, U.S. Army

Am I the only person on the planet who believes Roger Clemens? I am sure he knew this was a perjury trap by a bunch of gasbags, and I applaud Dan Burton for his strong defense.
-- Tommy G. Bailey

REAL MONEY
Re: W. James Antle III's A Trillion Here, a Trillion There:

I would like to thank W. James Antle III for the Revenue charts that he linked to, because they remind things are somewhat better now than in the 1980s and moving in the right direction toward a balanced budget despite the seemingly outrageous size President Bush's proposal. He does overlook a major problem with the new budget -- many conservatives by choosing to focus their ire only on Republicans handed Congress and control of the Federal purse to the Democrats in 2006. All President Bush or Republicans in Congress can now do is fight Democrat efforts to increase the size of the budget. Hopefully, in the not too distant future a Republican President and filibuster proof majority Republican Congress can whittle away at budget outlays by doing away with waste such as PBS, Legal Aid and a host of Democrat and independent sacred cows and reforming entitlements as President Bush attempted to do with Social Security. Unfortunately, that day may be longer in coming than I hope since it is apparent many fiscal conservatives are happier attacking Republicans and insuring Democrats retain control of Congress than actually getting rid of tax and spend Democrats who are the worst threat to our pocketbooks.
-- Michael Tomlinson

I shuddered when I read Mr. Antle's "A Trillion Here..." essay. This budget will of course increase the national debt, which is now over nine trillion dollars. I am the grandfather of four, and I fear that their generation will pay for our profligacy.

Most people have no conception of how much one trillion anything is. For example, one trillion seconds is well over thirty-one thousand YEARS. Think about that. If you could count one number each second, it would take thirty-one thousand seven hundred years to reach the number one trillion. Don't believe me? Do the math.

There are 3,600 seconds in an hour. One million seconds is (I round up slightly) 278 hours, or 11.58 days. A billion is one thousand million, so one billion seconds is 11,580 days, or 31.7 years. A trillion is a thousand billion, so one trillion seconds is 31,700 years.

The bad news is that, if the government were to pay off the national debt at One Dollar per second, it would take 290, 200 years to do it. The good news is, that if the government were to pay off the national debt at One Thousand Dollars per second, it would take only 290.2 years.
-- James F. Csank

GET WELL SOONEST
Re: Lawrence Henry's Waiting:

This probably doesn't mean much coming from a stranger, but I hope you get your wish -- and soon.
-- Andrew J. Macfadyen, M.D.
Omaha, Nebraska

I hear you. I worked in a dialysis clinic for about three years over 20 years ago.

I watched patients hang in there, get transplants and be transformed. They had energy, they had life, they could get up and GO! Their time and schedules were their own, not the machine's.

And I watched patients who were not good candidates for transplants for one reason or another, ride the dialysis merry-go-round and eventually deteriorate. Traditional dialysis literally takes it out of you.

I'm glad to hear of procedures that make life maybe a little easier on you than traditional dialysis.

But I hope you get a transplant soon.

Best wishes and regards.
-- Anastasia Mather

Hope the new place does better by you. Keeping you in our prayers.
-- Anne & Ken Fox

INFLECTED
Re: Jennifer Rubin's Back to Michigan and Florida:

Won't it be a hoot if Hillary can coerce the Super Delegates to give her the nomination? Then we can all refer to her as the candidate who was,(all together now) "SELECTED, not ELECTED."
-- Randy Gammon
Drexel, Missouri

STAYING HOME
Re: Lisa Fabrizio's Dearest John:

McCain has not gotten my vote...yet. I just don't like him, he is a RINO and right now my feelings are if I am going to vote for a Democrat I might as well vote for a REAL one, not one running on the Republican ticket. At least with a Dem President the Republicans will block a lot of what they try to do, but with a Republican President they will feel they have to go along with him, just look at what Bush has gotten away with. McCain's policy on illegal immigration sticks in my craw, his bill gutting the First Amendment and his love of anything Kennedy just turns me off. He needs to go back in history and check out the periods of warming and cooling that has gone on FOREVER with Earth, not just in modern times. Global Warming is a hoax.
-- Elaine Kyle

I wonder how a man comes by the audacity to ask me to vote for him, when he values my franchise as a citizen, and my vote, not one whit. That you would deny me the right to speak out at any time about a candidate, and then tell me to "get over it"!!! I have a mound of sand you, Mr. Senator, are cordially invited to go pound on. That you would give the vote, via a bastardized version of citizenship, to anyone who can swim, is all the evidence I need to know you are not deserving of my vote. And you will not get it. All of you 'maverick' politicians think you can get away with anything because we keep electing the false conservatives among us. It is time to show you we mean business. Even if it costs us the election. What is the point of having convictions, if we are not willing to stand up for them. I have a family member who resigned a service commission (he too, was a Fighter Pilot) when Bill Clinton was elected. He could not in good faith serve with him as C-in-C. He was less than 2 years shy of retirement eligibility.

As a direct result of Senator McCain's actions, and those of far too many others like him, I am no longer a Republican. Why? Because they do not know how to lead when they win an election. And because they do not make the Democrats realize that they lost the election. The RNC, White House, and the Congress have squandered the greatest opportunity the Party has EVER had to make permanent and lasting corrections to the way of life in America that has proven time and again, to be the right way of things. But no, let's just give it all away. Oh yeah, after we take it all from the serfs first.

Senator, I hope you either drop out of the race, or lose the race. I have to tell you that I really would prefer the opposition trashing the Constitution, than to see it being done by someone who claims to be one of us. You sir, are no Conservative. Stop trying to act like one!
-- W. Radford

He can start by ridding himself of Juan Hernandez -- how does he expect us to believe even the bare minimum, pro-forma secure the borders first pablum he dribbles out with Juan on board?

He can announce McCain/Feingold has turned out to be a mess and that he will work for its repeal.

He can instruct his staff and reps to stop accusing people who disagree with him of corruption and venality and stupidity.

And last, he can explain why he joined John Kerry in betraying the families of Vietnam POWs/MIAs.
-- Mary McLemore
Pike Road, Alabama

OVER THE RIVERS
Re: J. Peter Freire's On the Rivera:

A quibble with an otherwise right-on article: the author mentions, "a man sporting two (fake) names ending in vowels."

If he's referring to the widespread belief that Rivera's given name was Jerry Rivers, wikipedia and snopes.com report that to be an urban myth.

He may be an idiot. He may be a Puerto Rican/Hispanic fifth-columnist. He may be a shameless dolt. But he apparently genuinely is Geraldo Rivera.
-- Larry Eubank
Bloomington, Indiana

STOP BREATHING FOR LENT
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell's Sharia-ing is Caring:

Dr. Rowan Williams's beclowning of himself in advocating Sharia Law in Britain is not an isolated aberration. It is only the latest episode in a continuing story of buffoonery.

In 2004 he claimed that: "every transaction in the developed economies of the West can be interpreted as an act of aggression against the economic losers in the worldwide game" and claimed in the Times of 25 November, 2007, that: "there is something [sic] about western modernity which really does eat away at the soul." This occupant of the Throne of Saint Augustine was reported shortly after as urging Christians to give up carbon emissions for lent.
-- Hal Colebatch
Australia

THE MORMON SPECTATOR
Re: Eric Edwards's letter (under "Benefiting From Doubt") in Reader Mail's The Mormon Ticket and Christopher Orlet's No Mormons Need Apply:

I just couldn't let Mr. Eric Edward's rationalization of the cold blooded murder of Joseph Smith go. Joseph Smith had indeed been arrested by his persecutors (as he had been many times before), but he had neither been tried nor convicted of any crime, let alone a capital offense. Mr. Olsen, however, seems quite comfortable with the mob acting as judge, jury and executioner declaring that Joseph Smith was no "innocent victim." I'm sure that Illinois Governor Boggs believed the Mormons well deserved his "extermination order", and I'm sure the mob that forced the Mormons to flee their beautiful Nauvoo while their temple burned slept soundly in the belief they too had been doing God's work. Mr. Edwards makes Mr. Orlet's point with spectacular clarity. Innocent til proven guilty? Religous freedom? Life, liberty and property? Mormons need not apply.
-- Jeff Lawrence

Isn't a "Civil War-era Humorist" sort of an oxymoron? Wouldn't it be better to refer to a "Nineteenth Century humorist"? Perhaps, given his tragic Civil War-era circumstances, Mr. Ward dealt mostly in black humor--or is that a racist comment? Or just a really bad unintended pun? I am a Mormon (a DNA Mormon, actually, per Jan Shipman's term, although not a practicing one), so it must be racist, as Mormons are inherent racists, according to Jason Riley of the WSJ editorial page, and as Mr. Orlet notes, officially racists per Christopher Hitchens, at least until the 1970's.

Mr. Orlet unfortunately omits mention of Mark Twain's humorous observations on the Mormons. Twain writes of planning a vigorous expose' of the reprehensible Mormon practice of polygamy before going to Utah, but then, once there, changed his mind, since with one look at the Mormon women, he decided that any man that would marry even one of them was a true saint. He also noted how easy it was for peddlers to make money off Brigham. All a peddler had to do was give a broach to one of Brigham's wives, and instantly he had 30 sales. Same with whistles for the children, only even more sales. And when the territorial governor of Nevada needed a couple of ne'er-do-wells off his hands, all he had to do was send them on a job surveying a telegraph line to Salt Lake City, and then send a message to Brigham that they were escaped criminals who should be executed, secure in the knowledge that Brigham would be happy to immediately carry out the sentence, no questions asked. Of course, with all the changes in mores since the late 19th Century, when the U.S. government was attempting to financially ruin and crush the Mormon church for the practice of polygamy, the subject is now topical on television. However, as a medical student at UCLA, I felt slighted during Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender week on campus as there was no category for Progeny of Polygamists (like Mitt Romney, I have both paternal and maternal great grandparents who practiced polygamy). The week was not a fully inclusive one, from my perspective!

One should add to Mr. Orlet's observations that Joseph Smith was the first American Presidential candidate in American history to be assassinated. At least, fortunately, Romney didn't suffer that fate, although who knows what might have happened if he had done better in his campaign, given the level of animosity toward Mormons from many quarters, including from Hollywood (September Dawn--although that may have just been pure economic and marketing opportunism), exposed in the campaign. One of the objectionable policy positions that Joseph Smith took, and one of the reasons that he and his followers were run out of Missouri and that he was assassinated in Illinois, was that the freedom of Slaves should be purchased by the Federal Government, financed by the sale of public lands (eventually of course the nation would pay a far higher price in blood and treasure to end slavery). How's that for racist? So Joseph Smith was in part assassinated for advocating the freeing of the Slaves (Smith's position on Slavery was later espoused by none other than Ralph Waldo Emerson), only about 120 years before Martin Luther King was assassinated for advocating equal rights for Blacks. In fact, the Mormon extermination order issued by Lilburn Boggs, Governor of Missouri, that any Mormon in Missouri could be shot on sight, was issued in large part because such pesky Mormons as W.W. Phelps were giving rousing sermons advocating the abolition of Slavery in a border state at the height of national tensions over the extension of Slavery. That was more than 20 years before the Civil War. Joseph Smith, also like King, foresaw his own death ("I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am calm as a summer's morning. I have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward all men..." and "I have been to the mountaintop... I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you...").

It is little wonder that, given the Haun's Mill massacre of Mormons in Missouri and Joseph Smith's assassination in Illinois, in no small part because of his position on Abolition, that Mormons would be chastened in regard to race issues, and over-react in the opposite direction after the death of Joseph Smith, who was no racist. As far as I'm aware, however, no Mormon ever lynched an innocent Black (although some killed a considerable number of innocent Whites at Mountain Meadows--interestingly to me, one of my maternal great grandfathers, William Bringhurst, hid under the floorboards of his house in Cedar City, Utah, to avoid being forcibly conscripted into the "militia" that perpetrated that atrocity), or tried to deny any Black their constitutional rights. One of my paternal grandfathers, in fact, Warren H. Lyon, was evangelizing Blacks in South Africa to Mormonism at the turn of the last century, in the maw of apartheid. And while America was pursuing a policy of genocide against Native Americans, Mormons were trying to evangelize them, too. (In fact as a descendant of people close to the Mountain Meadows massacre, I grew up with the Paiutes who descended from the very Paiutes the Mormons tried to blame for the massacre!). At any rate, in the context of all the bigotry directed towards Mormons, and all of the bigotry rampant in America (including the rabid anti-religious bigotry of Christopher Hitchens -- he does a distinct disservice to the memory of such genteel and civilized atheists as the great David Hume, his far superior antecedent, who certainly was no anti-religious bigot, even though he was tried for atheism), Mormons come out looking rather good in the bigotry department.

Romney's steadfast refusal to make his religion a defining issue in his campaign is an example, after JFK, of principled adherence to the concept of religious pluralism, including the right not to believe (compare Huckabee, who campaigns on his religion, and McCain who has unfairly criticized Evangelicals in the past and at times has seemed to have an almost visceral distaste for both Romney and Mormons --notably, both Evangelicals and Romney have evinced Christian forgiveness, the Evangelicals in South Carolina who contributed greatly to McCain's victory there despite his attacks on them by voting for him, and now Romney who is endorsing McCain and asking his delegates to support McCain--good Christians and patriots all--although Romney may stand to gain some personal political benefit by his endorsement of McCain). And, to their credit, not only talk radio conservatives, led most avidly by Hugh Hewitt, but also Douglas Kmiec, Rich Lowry and National Review, many Evangelical leaders, and many other conservatives strongly supported Romney regardless of, or perhaps because of, his religious values.

As to Joseph Smith being a con man: Not a lot of con men are willing to die for their convictions; not a lot of con men concoct a religion of such power that people leave home, family, and country, and traverse over half a continent on foot, to join themselves to the believers. Nor do con men attract what Charles Dickens called the "flower of the nation," the best of the citizenry of the British Isles, to their cause. Con men do not construct the great cities of the Nation (Nauvoo, Salt Lake City). Not a lot of con men devise a religion of such power that even critics pay homage to their achievement, as Richard Land, the great Baptist scholar, does to Joseph Smith (perhaps not intentionally) by declaring Smith's religion the Fourth Abrahamic Religion--e.g., he accords Mormonism, accurately, the status of one of the World's great religions. And if the fourth largest religious organization in the nation (after the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the United Methodist Church) comprising a greater percentage of the population than American Jewry, can be called a cult, then just about any religion can be deemed such. Nor does a con man devise a religious doctrine that values the human individual, not to mention the family, more highly than any other extant religion, as Smith did.

Mormonism is a quintessentially American religion, born and bred in this nation, espousing its founding principles as a part of its religious canon, and deriving doctrines directly from the American Founding. Mormons consider America a land blessed above all other nations. Mormonism is the essence of the American Gnosticism described by Harold Bloom, and an off-shoot and perhaps the most overt extant expression of the American Zionism of the Puritan Fathers described by David Gelernter in his book, Americanism, the Fourth Abrahamic Religion (it's not exactly a coincidence that Land and Gelernter use the same characterization for Mormonism and Americanism, respectively). Mormonism overtly equates America with the Shining City on a Hill of Winthrop and Reagan, and the Mountain of the Lord's House of Isaiah and Micah that in the latter days shall be established in the tops of the mountains, to which all nations would flow. Smith laid out the City of Zion in Missouri, and consecrated it as the center-place of the American Zion, to which all nations would gather, even as he and his followers were being driven out of the State. Now that's religious chutzpah! Whatever Joseph Smith was, a con man is hardly a good characterization of him. More accurately, he could be described as one of the most creative religious figures of the modern era (although of course many object strongly to his religious and doctrinal creativity). And a quintessential American who loved his country, despite the persecution and death he received at its hand. For Smith and his religion, Van Buren played the role of Pilate, when he said regarding Smith's petition regarding Mormon persecution in Missouri: "Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you."
-- Kent Lyon
College Station, Texas

Count me as one of those who ruled out Romney because of his Mormonism. I've never met a Mormon I didn't like, but having had some intimate acquaintance with another American-born cult (Jehovah's Witnesses), I'll always be creeped out by anything cultish. And you can't look at the history of Mormonism without seeing a cult screaming back at you. If you doubt me, just read through Mark Twain's take on Mormonism, which -- since all of Twain's books are online -- you can access simply by Googling these four words: twain roughing surety hefted. And for a bit of ill-remembered Mormon history, just Google these three words: twain mountain meadows.

Either Smith was a fraud, or Twain was a bigot. Which is it?

Cults can be big or small, and their members may in many cases be quite decent folks, but their common denominator is that they were spawned by a scheming, self-aggrandizing liar. Those liars' place in history may range from the great throne occupied by Mohammed (violence personified; today's massacre-makers and head-choppers rightly claim to be following their Prophet's example) to the little stools occupied by lesser cranks and charlatans such as the JWs' Charles Taze Russell, the Scientologists' L. Ron Hubbard, and the Mormons' Joseph Smith.

Since Romney was born into the LDS church and all his nearest and dearest are Mormons, his own humanity ties him to that faith, and he is not to be blamed for that, any more than a Muslim, all of whose nearest and dearest are Muslims, is to be blamed for his attachment to Islam. If a Mormon sought to be governor, senator, or Supreme Court justice, I could abide it. But a president to some degree personifies the nation, and to elect a Mormon as president would indeed add immense prestige and legitimacy to a church that anyone with a regard for truth must, on full investigation and reflection, conclude to be a grand edifice built on sand. It would hurt the spiritual lives of countless potential converts to Mormonism to lend the LDS church any such prestige. That was always an insuperable barrier to my ever voting for Romney as president.
-- Karl Spence
San Antonio, Texas

IT'S ALWAYS A FEW YEARS AWAY
Re: William Tucker's Biofuels Meltdown:

It was hard for me to decide whether to laugh or to cry after reading "Biofuels Meltdown" by William Tucker. Chock full of misinformation and last year's Ethanol technology, it is pathetic that this is a featured article of your magazine.

When Ethanol shows its economic viability, coming within the next few years, what will Mr. Tucker and Science magazine decide to pan in order to make their living? Sad, truly sad!
-- Richard Morlock

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