Reader Mail

Rudy International

The world comes first -- or does it? Also: Physician-assisted fantasyland. Rocky Mountain hikes. An AmSpec treasure. Plus more.

8.20.07

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COMMANDER GIULIANI
Re: Philip Klein's Rudy's War on Terror 2.0:

I think this statesman has a clear vision for international diplomacy and would make a fine president.
-- Dennis Rueffer

Philip Klein has sold me. After months of sitting on the fence, I am now in Rudy's camp. After all, the so-called domestic issues are nothing but distractions to keep us from focusing on the real issue: Us versus Them. Fred could do a good job, but Rudy has the fire and the focus.
-- Robert Barninger

I really support Mr. Giuliani on his terrorist stand, but don't know if that is going to be enough to counter his illegal immigration, abortion and gun control stand. Way too early to make a choice until Fred Thompson throws his hat in the ring.
-- Elaine Kyle

Philip Klein writes an incisive article about Rudy Giuliani that I have not found elsewhere. Several subjects are not addressed by any candidate:

1. The 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Center affected the international community.

2. The Iraq War can be strategically resolved before the election with the right leadership although Giuliani is correct that the War on Terrorism is long term. Where has he been and what has he done since 9/11?

3. Addressing the Middle East Crisis (including Darfur) and radical Islam, including Iran. As the article suggests, NATO has an even greater interest than Afghanistan because of Turkey and Europe's history in the Middle East.

4. Experience counts; a plus for good experience and a minus for bad experience. A comfortable, ineffectual Washington Senate seat that has not moved national policy is a bad experience.
-- Bruce Daniels
Running Springs, California

You quote Rudy Giuliani saying, "We are all members of the 9/11 generation."

You also suggest that the American occupation of Iraq is related to what happened on September 11, 2001, and that Giuliani's plans for the next phase of the "war on terror" are a direct outgrowth of 9/11.

Interesting.

Can you tell us, specifically, what Iraq had to do with the attacks of September 11, 2001? Were there any Iraqis responsible for what happened that day? Were any of those individuals from Iraq?

If you have any information that explains what Iraq had to do with 9/11, please share it with us. Or, since you've spoken with the man responsible for Rudy's foreign policy positions, perhaps he can provide this information.

Many Americans would love to see any evidence you might have about this.
-- Steve Nesich

I have to admit that I am a big Romney Fan. I think he is an awesome guy and the more I learn the more I am impressed. The guy just looks Reaganesque.

When you look at what Giuliani did in New York that could also be considered a great turn around. Reading this article about Giuliani makes me feel comfortable that our side has some top notch candidates this time around. Though many in the media are still trying to play the "Is this really the best we've got?" card, which I fully agreed with in 2000 and 2004, just watching the Vice Presidential debates made it incredibly clear that Cheney was the smartest and best candidate in the room. Anyway, whichever we end up with, Rudy or Romney, I feel pretty safe that the country will be in good hands. I just hope that some of our friends in the party will play a little nicer to the guys on their own team before handing the Democrats too much ammo.
-- Rob Andrus
Provo, Utah

Giuliani has it exactly right. His vision is so clear, and so clearly necessary, that if America does not elect him, and thus refuses to pursue his vision, the likelihood of America's survival will be seriously jeopardized.
-- Kent Lyon

DUMBING DOWN DUMBLEDORE
Re: David Haddon's Correction: J. K. Rowling Advocates Physician-Assisted Suicide, as well as David Haddon's J. K. Rowling Condones Euthanasia in Latest Book, Reader Mail's Dumbledore's Dilemma, and the "Shopping at Voldemort" letters in Reader Mail's Too Hot to Handle:

And Jesus was a homosexual because he was a "lover of man."
-- John Gridley

To all those who say "lighten up," I say "wise up!" When a child builds a (guided) fantasy-world that endures through the telling of many stories (particularly when that world is shared with many others), the events that transpire in that world can influence a child's mental and moral development as surely as anything that happens in the so-called "real" world. If you have no concern about the influences that shape our children's development, then you have no concern for our future.
-- Brooks Alexander
Berkeley, California

David Haddon seems intent on proving the truth of Evangelical scholar Mark Noll's aphorism, "The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that there is not much of an Evangelical mind." At the very least, Haddon shows that he allows his preconceptions to get the better of his reading comprehension skills. Haddon insists that Dumbledore's request that Severus Snape kill him is an endorsement of "physician assisted suicide." But the truth is considerably more complex. Dumbledore has been poisoned by an insidious potion of Lord Voldemort's. Snape manages to treat him with a potion that will keep the lethal effects at bay for a limited time -- about a year. Dumbledore accepts that verdict with equanimity. He then tells Snape that a time will come when Snape should kill him.

But this is not to spare Dumbledore the agony of slow death from the curse. Rather, Dumbledore has foreseen the unfolding of Voldemort's plan to seize power in the wizarding world, and recognizes that it encompasses Dumbledore's own death. For a variety of reasons -- all clearly laid out in the plot of the previous books, but only fully illuminated in Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore requires that his death not be at the hands of Voldemort or one of his true followers. When, towards the end of Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore finds himself enfeebled by his deliberate drinking of another of Voldemort's poison potions, disarmed by Draco Malfoy, and at the mercy of Voldemort's Deatheaters, he calls upon Snape to fulfill his promise, which Snape does, reluctantly.

Note that Dumbledore was not dying at that moment, but was certain to be killed by the Deatheaters. To the extent that they would have used very painful and prolonged methods to kill Dumbledore, Snape's work was a mercy -- akin, say, to a soldier shooting a buddy who is trapped in a burning vehicle with no chance of escape. Beyond that, though, Snape killing Dumbledore has nothing to do with "assisted suicide," but with the working out of a long conceived plan. By killing Dumbledore, Snape appears to become master of Dumbledore's powerful wand -- a wand that Voldemort eventually will want for himself. More important, in the near term, it cements Snape's cover story as a devoted Deatheater, which eventually ensures his appointment as headmaster of Hogwarts, from which he can protect the innocent students and teachers from the worst of Voldemort's henchmen, as well continuing to be in Voldemort's confidence and providing covert assistance to Harry Potter.

If Haddon could simply transcend his own simplistic and superficial reading, he would understand then that Dumbledore's death is a double act of self-sacrifice for the good of others. Dumbledore lays down his life, voluntarily, in order that Harry Potter might have the best possible opportunity to succeed in killing Voldemort. Snape reluctantly kills Dumbledore at great cost to his own soul, in order to help Dumbledore succeed, and to protect Harry Potter, the son of the woman he had loved and then condemned to death. Snape later atones for that sin with his own redemptive death. Dumbledore's death being inevitable -- because of the action of the Deatheaters, not because of the curse on Dumbledore's hand -- Snape does what is necessary to give that death meaning and advance the cause. It is quite simply a stock situation of spy fiction: the double agent (Snape) must kill his friend/mentor/ally (Dumbledore) in order to maintain his cover and accomplish the mission.

Haddon writes that a murder-suicide pact is never morally justified. Perhaps. I go back to the example of the man trapped in the burning vehicle who asks his friend to shoot him. Maybe Haddon is made of sterner stuff than I am, but I think I would take that shot. However, the whole point is moot with regard to physician-assisted suicide, since, as I have shown, we aren't dealing with that phenomenon here. Haddon has read his own mistaken assumptions into the situation, most likely because he disapproves of the entire genre of fantasy, a not uncommon position among some evangelicals of an overly-literal mindset.

Fortunately, there is a long history of Christian fantasy, of which Harry Potter is firmly a part. And like all Christian fantasy, Harry Potter is a story of sin and redemption, death and resurrection. It is, in short, a retelling of the divine history of salvation, which, as J.R.R. Tolkien noted, is behind every good story. Too bad Haddon's literalist blinders prevent him from seeing beyond the superficial to the greater depths beyond.
-- Stuart Koehl
Falls Church, Virginia
P.S. In regard to the scornful screed of R. Trotter, I can only respond that "reality is a crutch for people who can't handle fantasy."

David Haddon's insight into the scrambled "morality" in the Harry Potter series is right on the mark, specifically in volume seven, where we learn that Severus Snape was a kind of double-agent, secretly loyal to Dumbledore and Harry, and that Dumbledore had asked Snape to kill him (which occurs in volume six). Their dialogue about it (unfolded in a magical flashback) sounds very much like justification for euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. As with other sub-plots of the series, death is the solution to insoluble problems, and the mastery of death's tools and strategies brings about the highest good. It is nasty Snape who is against the killing at first; Dumbledore, the wise sage and Harry's surrogate father-figure, is all for it. Along with numerous other moral erosions in the series, this confirms what Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) warned a number of years ago: that the Potter books contain "subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly." (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, March 7, 2003, letter to the German sociologist Gabriele Kuby).
-- Michael O'Brien
Canada

Geez, Mr. Haddon, you just don't get it, do you?

Dumbledore could have committed suicide by himself -- he didn't need anyone else's help. Likewise, I don't believe that, ethically, this is anywhere near a murder-suicide pact or otherwise unjustifiable (FWIW, I'm a pro-life, staunchly conservative practicing Roman Catholic).

Dumbledore's action was selfless, a supreme sacrifice made in time of war to further the cause of absolute good over absolute evil. By instructing Snape to kill him at the appropriate moment, he accomplished two vital things -- he ensured that Snape would be in place and trusted by Voldemort when the time came for Harry to make his final move (and for Snape to help him on his way), and denied Voldemort the power of the one instrument -- the Elder Wand -- that conceivably could have made his defeat impossible.

"Greater love hath no man than this , that a man lay down his life for his friends." -- John 15:13
-- Peter J. Lyden, III
Rumson, New Jersey

Several of the aggrieved responses to David Haddon's article compared the death of the Dumbledore character to Christ's sacrifice. Readers should beware: the devil's M.O. is to copy God as closely as he can. You have to look to the little differences that turn out to be not so little at all. Whereas Christ in His passion accepted salvific suffering (including humiliation) that He could easily have avoided, the Dumbledore character's death is a purposeful avoidance of suffering (according to both side's descriptions; I have not read the book and do not wish to). Whereas Christ's sacrifice wins eternal life for His followers, the Dumbledore character apparently dies to bring about a worldly salvation.

This smells of gnosticism, and I do not care to welcome such ideas into my mind. Reading about such ideas in non-fictional writings is fine. But it is during the reading of non-fiction when our minds are more susceptible to such ideas, since we are relaxed. Being entertained, we are not on our guard.

Some may laugh at my naiveté. But they would better off to search themselves for hubris. Do they not know that the spiritual beings (the demons, as well as the angels) are much smarter than us?

Thank you, Mr. Haddon, for the warning against these books.
-- R. Hunter
Falls Church, Virginia

I'll be honest; this is getting a little tired. I was a true skeptic of these books when they first came out. I stood in the middle of arguments on both sides of these books. After a while, I figured the only way to really understand them was to read them. I did and I have truly fallen in love with them. I am also a Christian, not just in name only, but a true hard core Bible believing Christian.

That being said, I think this article was really, really stretched. J.K. Rowling has created a great story with many different characters and situations that could be misconstrued into a number of different things. I find it hard to believe that David Haddon could take one page of text from children/youth age book and decide that J.K. is an advocate of euthanasia. I think that is stretching it a bit. Why don't these guys just ask her "what is your stance on euthanasia" instead of assuming that they can interpret a fictional character and situation.

Is J.K. political in her books? Absolutely she is. There is a story line in the Deathly Hallows book about a rogue radio station spreading the truth about Voldemort and his evil deeds. I attribute that as a positive way of stating talk radio is the only source of truth we have here in the states. I could be wrong about this statement but I still like to think of it that way. The point is, one could take the entire series and make it into something it is not. What it is, is an outstanding story that I will be able to read to my kids, yes I said read to my kids, when they get a little older and hopefully they will enjoy it for the first time as much as I have.
-- Travis Windrow

Mr. Haddon's treatment of Harry Potter is nothing less than proof texting by surgically slicing away two key points. First, when Dumbledore died, he was confronted by several evil characters and he was in a severely weakened state --someone was going to kill him and Dumbledore had exhorted Snape to do so on the grounds that if not he, then the young student Draco would have been forced to do so. Dumbledore stated that he did not want the young student's soul to be damaged -- and in the epilogue one finds Draco alive and well and apparently reformed. Snape recoiled in horror at the prospect of killing Dumbledore, as opposed to the cold and clinical physician portrayed in Mr. Haddon's latest article. A horrible ethical dilemma, but hardly an endorsement of euthanasia. It could remind one of Bonhoeffer's belief that to murder Hitler would be a mortal sin, and his decision to try to do just that. Second, both Snape and Dumbledore, we learn, are deeply flawed characters. Dumbledore's fatal illness came from a greed for power, which had previously resulted in his sister's death; and Snape's life-long torment came from betraying the only one he had ever loved. In the end, both are tragic figures, not gold-plated role models.

In the early books there were hysterical claims that they were demonic. The sorcery condemned in the Bible is the conjuring of spirits to do one's bidding--not even the villains in the stories do that. Now in the final book one finds scripture quoted, respect for the dead, everlasting souls, forgiveness, sacrifice, Heaven and Hell, even a bodily resurrection. No doubt Mr. Haddon was sorely disappointed to have to flip all the way to the end of the book to have to settle for something that could be twisted out of shape to look like euthanasia.

There is much to concern a parent today regarding one's children. Materialism, hedonism, and post-modernism in particular. The Harry Potter series of books are antidotes to them all. Surely there is a better outlet Mr. Haddon's amateur Comstockery than The American Spectator.
-- D. Lewis
Nashville, Tennessee

I must take issue with your description of the Snape/Dumbledore affair as "physician assisted suicide." The metaphor might stand under a casual scrutiny -- but a more apt metaphor is the heroic "falling on the grenade" concept, which is a form of suicide as well, but one that is generally recognized as an exemplary, rather than repulsive, behavior. Physician-assisted suicide, or murder as I like to think of it, can be thought of as the ultimate in narcissism and cynicism; Dumbledore's activity -- and the actions of those soldiers who accept physical mortification or destruction to prevent their comrades from coming to harm -- is the ultimate in nobility and self sacrifice.

It seems clear to me from the text, which I admittedly read for entertainment rather than a moral lesson, that Dumbledore selected his approach only due to the extreme circumstances of what amounted to actual physical combat. Outside of that context, he probably would have followed a different path. Indeed, one can imagine that given his active mind, the incontrovertible fact that he was going to die presented him with opportunities to use that death to thwart his enemies in ways that they would not be well equipped to even understand. The fact that this is what ultimately occurred I enter as evidence towards my position.

Looking for things that are corrosive to our culture is a useful exercise, but the zeal to do so can sometimes lead one down a foolish or embarrassing path and I fear that this enthusiasm got the better of the author in this case.
-- Christian Gates
Fairfax, Virginia

As another reader so aptly stated, Mr. Hadden, lighten up! I was raised in a Christian family, and have been a devout fan of fantasy since the age of 11. I have never encountered anyone that so seriously tried to link faith and fantasy! If this book gives you such ethical fits, I shudder to think of your reaction to Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land!
-- Bill Haney
Boerne, Texas

The poor sap just won't give up, will he?
-- Doug Gibson
Ogden, Utah

PRICELESS
Re: George H. Wittman's A Musharraf Surprise:

I find the columns by George Wittman among the most insightful I've read anywhere. His scope is broad and his seeming connections to sources excellent. He gives the reader (me!) the sense that we are one step ahead of the news -- or one step deeper into it. Thank you for running him.
-- Joyce Lasky Reed
President
Faberge Arts Foundation

TAKE A HIKE
Re: Bill Croke's Don't Go Hiking With Captain Pain:

Please more articles by Bill Croke, I went with him to all the places he went and loved every word. I would hike with him again.
-- Elaine Kyle

It's been too long since I allowed my subscription to TAS to lapse. Far too long. So I thought you'd like to know that when I read Bill Croke's latest column that also appears in the July/August issue of TAS, I subscribed (print with online access).
-- Kitty Myers
Painted Post, New York

No pain, no gain. Have you climbed in Colorado? We have 54 Fourteeners.

Happy climbing and hiking.
-- Myrna

CASINO ROYALE
Re: Barron Thomas's The Coming Hedge-Fund Earthquake:

I see that "Helicopter Ben" Bernanke has his helicopter fleet out in full force dropping liquidity on the banking system -- repurchasing 20 billion in mortgage-backed securities from the banks here and lowering the discount rate to the banks by 50 basis points there. Apparently the hope is that the banks will use this newly minted "Fed Money" to rescue all those 26-year-old hedge fund managers who have been playing fast and loose in the casino economy they have created. This tactic would have undoubtedly worked well in the 1930s, when thousands of banks failed because they lacked liquidity to meet depositor demands when panic was growing in the economy.

Today the scenario seems to be the same but the players are different. Instead of bank depositors lining up at the door, we will have well-heeled hedge fund investors seeking redemption of their hedge fund placements. My guess is that the hedge fund managers will be hard pressed to unwind many of these flaky hedge fund investments in order to satisfy demand for redemptions. Will the banks ride to the rescue or will the Fed itself be forced to play the role of "Lender of Last Resort"? Stay tuned.
-- J. Brick
Beaver Dam, Arizona

THE WAGES OF DIVERSITY
Re: Lars Walker's The Race and the Not-so-Swift:

In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, one has to endure a regular series of embarrassments from the various divines who inhale whatever enthusiasms occupy the left that year. When it comes to diversity-on-the-mind disease, Lars Walker has it right.

At the 1987 constituting convention in my own synod, it became clear that quotas were being written into the foundation of the new Lutheran body. Aside being an attack on democratic representation, it had ramifications in the day-to-day nuts and bolts of church life.

In 1989, my family became charter members of a new to-be-built congregation. Before one piece of lumber was cut or one inch of concrete was poured, the bishop's office required a discrete "census" of the 49 families who were paying for the purchase of the land and raising the structure. In spite of the fact these families were stepping out on a limb, apologies were exchanged all around because we were white and largely of German and Scandinavian stock.

Ten years after the Church set a goal for itself to have 10% of its membership to be minorities, not only did it fail miserably, the national headquarters had to sheepishly admit it had been unable to persuade and recruit "minority" Lutherans to serve in its top leadership offices. At the same time, I attended a Jimmy Swaggart "service" (another story entirely) where I was flabbergasted to find out in Swaggart's mind Lutherans were in the same category as Muslims and Hindus. Before my skin burst into flames, I looked across the audience and the unusually high presence of "people of color." The irony struck me that this "red neck" achieved more integration by accident than my Church did on purpose.

Unlike some, I would like to think the Holy Ghost hasn't left the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America just yet. Other than sniffing the vapors arising from the New York Times, there is a deeper affliction. One of the first things an outsider notices is that Lutherans are terribly self-conscious about being Lutheran in America. Even though Lutherans fought in the revolution and shared American's bread every step afterward, they tend to feel that their forbearers were outside the American story and certainly out of step theologically from other American denominations. To surmount these "flaws," Lutherans (particularly their leaders) often over-compensate. Hence the obsession with "looking like America" in its membership and the unintended message to the laity that the Church wished they were someone else. It doesn't take a Dr. Phil, however, to realize that it is destructive to yearn for a church of your dreams while failing to love the one you have.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has spent a lot of time and money attempting to transform its membership. Ironically, what it has done in its fixation with inclusiveness is tear down community. Even so, the Gospel is not lost. The faithful may not like this current manifestation of the Lutheran Church; but the message of "Christ Alone, Grace Alone, and Scripture Alone" will be preached by the very stones themselves--if by no one else.
-- Mike Dooley

Lars Walker is too kind to ELCA. I appreciated his commentary.
-- Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
Glendale, Arizona

BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL
Re: Pastor Shafer Parker's letter (under "Speaker No Ill") in Reader Mail's Too Hot to Handle:

Not that I am an expert on this, but Pastor Shafer Parker's letter Thursday, whose only purpose seems to be to point out how fat Dennis Hastert is, strikes me as somewhat un-Christian.
-- Glen Hoffing
Shamong, New Jersey

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