Reader Mail

Dining Out

Ho, ho, ho from a Maryland Democrat. Also: Gerson to person. Barroom strategies. Minimum contacts. Is there a Mormon Church? Plus much more.

12.26.06

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THE AGONY OF DEFEAT
Re: Ben Stein's Dinner With the Bushes:

Dear Mr. Stein, Spectator Boys and Girls,

I saw your very nice piece on "Dinner with the Bushes" but it had me laughing in the first paragraph.

"...the chief of staff, and Michael Steele, lieutenant governor of Maryland, who just lost an agonizingly close race to now Senator-elect Cardin."

Since when is losing by a solid 10 points considered "agonizingly close" in politics or any contest?

But, hey. If you need to mislead in order to pump the man's ego, I understand. It's sort of like the misleading sample ballots he felt he had to use on Election Day where he and his Governor claimed to have support from high-profile Democrats that they never had.

That was shameful. Your piece is just inaccurate.

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes,
-- David Paulson
Communications Director
Maryland Democratic Party

GERSON TO PERSON CALLS
Re: W. James Antle III's Selfish Old Party:

The reason conservatives give is they recognize that they are blessed by their ability to create wealth, whether business owner or wage earner, have traded their time, skill, intelligence for money and cannot get it back, and know that misfortune and other situations require the need for a hand up to the community around them (local, state, national and/or global). They give liberally to causes they believe in to help their fellow man, woman and child. However, to a person or company, you can bet they give when they believe they have some say in what their money buys, in essence, they have some feeling of control. They give to the United Way (we can debate the merits of that later) because they "see" the effects of their giving, if United Way squanders the money, they give someplace else the next time around. They have some sense of ownership or control of the money they have given. When you earn the money the old fashioned way, you give the old fashioned way. No one likes the thought of giving to an amorphous, unaccountable, and uncaring behemoth like the government, but to a local charity, certainly. Americans will give to the Red Cross for disasters in record numbers, but let the Red Cross squander it, it will disappear. As the Gipper might say, Give, but verify.
-- Bill Elsasser
St. Louis, Missouri

I'm not an "antigovernment conservative" but my wallet can't tell the difference between a Liberal Democrat or Compassionate Conservative Republican government tax. My company gave me a $500.00 bonus for Christmas and I will get the use of 64% of that thanks to the marginal income tax rate I have and Social Security/Medicare taxes I pay. I've paid in over $140,000 to Social Security since 1968 and over $33,000 to Medicare having started out at Government-mandated minimum wage in my career field. The imputed compounded value of my Social Security taxes at 3% till I retire in 2018 would be over $500,000.00. At historical Market rates that would be almost $3,000,000.00. Likewise the money I've paid into Medicare and my own medical insurance programs by then would cover several families' life time medical bills. What the Social Security Administration promises back in return starting at age 66 plus the typical Medicare payout for retired persons redefines the word "thief".

Far too many people see Social Security and Medicare as investments in "their" future and not as taxes. They are taxes pure and simple. I and tens of millions of others who have worked their entire life to get where we are today subsidize the bulk of the Welfare State benefactors and there is no end to its increasing burden for generations to come. Somebody has to pay and I know precisely who is paying and who is getting the primary benefit of my labor.

Even with a house mortgage I paid enough in Federal and State income last year to fully fund a full time minimum wage worker or 2-3 illegal aliens. When I can marry my favorite Cat I'll cut my income burden 45% or enough to buy a new car every 5 years with cash, max out my 401K contributions and retire early, get the benefit of three years of post tax raises every year. Adopting the other two I have would drop my burden 55%. Only in Washington DC and various State Capitals is $5500.00 not real money.

No amount of economic growth is going to outgrow the increasing burden of all these creeping wealth transfer programs and the sloth that breeds in a portion of our citizenry. Somebody has to pay for all the wealth transferred to the tens of millions that didn't earn it. That seems to be lost on those elected to office that earn 4 times the median income, can vote themselves a raise and have the Golden Parachute of Retirement plans. I'm not anti-government but the financial burden all this compassionate government brings to my backside isn't being shared by those that receive the bulk of the benefits generation after generation.

I just can't wait till the Government mandates an increase in my wages to pay for all that it steals from me to give to others.
-- Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia

BRAWLER STRATEGY
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Barroom Reflections:

I am trying to understand the point of the column. Is it satire, or serious?

The reason I am confused is, my immediate response to the proposal was, "Let's go for it." So if it's not being seriously proposed, maybe it should be.
-- Susan Behrend

No need to waste precious ammo on the Syrians, Bob.

Merely whispering the threat to Bashar al-Assad, "we will do to you what the Sainted Reagan did to Khadaffy -- unless you intelligence service ceases working with former Iraqi regime elements against Iraq's people, and unless you arrest and turn over to us these people" -- will get the job done. The message needs to be delivered by a credible source, not a pantywaist from State, however.

The same goes for other heads of state, or rogues like the Saudi princes funding terrorism.
-- Jameson Campaigne
Ottawa, Illinois

Re: the references in Mr. Tyrrell's recent article to those who wish to terminate our current efforts in Iraq by comparing the length of this war to World War II.

A more apt comparison would be to World War I wherein the allies were stumped, stupefied, and stalemated in the trenches for four years. The advent of the machine gun and rifled artillery with sophisticated explosive devises had forerun infantry tactics, resulting in millions, not thousands, of deaths and no advance. Only with the infusion of new troops (American), and the development of the Tank was the stalemate overcome and victory finally achieved.

Likewise, can we not say, we are faced with a stumping situation of people willing to blow themselves up and create chaos as being our nemesis. We can also say we have not yet developed those tactics necessary to prevail over this phenomenon.

Those of us that are not blind to the calamity of a complete and total breakdown in Iraq and the consequences to the rest of the mid-east and the world should remain firm. There are answers to our predicament. We can prevail. Wars are not won by haste and hysteria, nor is peace achieved. Patience and Churchillian perseverance should control our actions at this pivotal moment in history.
-- Jeff Finley
Arizona

I totally agree. Tell Al-Maliki to step aside. Give the people in Sadr City 48 hours to clear out. After that we will obliterate about ten square miles of that city. After the dust clears pick another spot that is know to be a terrorist haven and again obliterate it with air power.

Hell, we had to fund the reconstruction of Europe after WWII and we are doing the same in Iraq. So bust the place up and give the terrorists something to think about.
-- Jack Miller
Arlington, Texas

Great article.

It might be productive to admit that we made a serious mistake concerning Pan AM flight 103 and Qaddafi. Then correct his error by showing up off the coast of Libya and announce that we are there to capture or kill Qaddafi. Then do it and leave. When other Islamic leaders see this it will give them pause to pursue terror activities.

No more of this unappreciated nation building.
-- Jim Whitener

MIXED MESSAGES
Re: Ben Stein's A Christmas Day of Peace:

It is always sad to see a commentator of promise reduce himself to the level of an insignificant superficial Monday-morning quarterback to get his screed out on time and sell his fish wrap. I hope he enjoys the rest of his hazy-soul life.

This mess is the result of Clinton's appeasement of the growing evil of Islamofascism.

Bush did the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason, which is the sine qua non of sanity.

This battle in Iraq is just one in the war against this evil. The battles for: 1. media awareness of the cost of selling fish wrap, 2. political correctness and in-fighting, 3. against the duplicity of leakers and 4. the bloated cowardice of a large part of the American population cost much more than mere material life. It is costing the fabric of the nation from which our freedom was cut.

The soldiers are being shot in the back by the media, elite snobs and others who fear for their life but not their souls. The enemy is betting on our lack of stamina and fortitude. Their increased efforts, which are costing the lives of better men than I will ever be, are due to people like Ben Stein.
-- Sylvan R. Ruark M.D.
Colonel, Army M. C. Retired

Indeed, Ben, let's honor and embrace the gift of the Prince of Peace. And let's pray not just for our leaders, generals and troops, but also for one another as well -- for unity, wisdom, protection and service one to another. For the strong to help the weak, the rich to help the poor. For all to respect one another.

And let's each remember daily -- and actually do our part in realizing this charge -- what King David wrote in Chapter 34 of the Book of Psalms in the Holy Bible's Old Testament: "Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it."
-- C. Kenna Amos
Princeton, West Virginia

THE GLOW OF SOLIDARITY
Re: Paul Kengor's The Candles of Christmas 1981:

Paul Kengor's column reminded us of the following letter which we wrote and which was published in our local paper and in OpinionJournal.com at the time of President Reagan's death. We would like to share it with your readers:

While thinking about the Reagan Presidency over the last few days, we keep recalling one incident which so beautifully illustrated the eloquence of his leadership. It concerns President Reagan's suggestion that Americans light and place outdoors a candle on Christmas Eve 1981 as a show of support for Poland's Solidarity Movement. A simple request.

Our family eagerly complied with the President's wish and placed a small white candle outside on the front steps of our home.

How good it was to look up and down the street later that night and see so many candles burning. How proud we later felt to think that this tiny gesture of support for our President on that Christmas Eve may have contributed , in some small way, to his success in bringing down the Soviet Empire.

President Reagan's ability to engender throughout his presidency the spirit of community that we felt on that night and the sense of some personal involvement in the life of the nation was surely one of his finest attributes and one of the hallmarks of great leadership.


-- Victoria and Daniel Gawiak
Wilmington, Delaware

LOST CHILDREN
Re: Lawrence Henry's Enfants Perdus:

Interesting timing. I read Mr. Henry's article after having returned from a commemoration service for my sister, who, earlier this year, committed suicide.

There can be no grief worse than the death of a child. Losing a loved one through murder or an accident in which one is at fault must be similarly painful. However, in the same realm is losing a sibling by suicide. With suicide, for those left behind the grief is accompanied by guilt.

In the case of my sister, among our family and within our circle of friends there is plenty of blame to go around and guilt aplenty. But among the contributing factors to her troubles was her embracement of liberal ideology. That, in turn, caused her to agree to abort her baby at her then-husband's insistence. Afterwards she was never the same. She struggled with depression and bipolar disorder for about five years before taking her life.

While some may pontificate about the nuances of constitutional penumbras or use code words such as "choice, "women's issues," etc. to justify infanticide, in reality no one is fooled about what takes place inside abortion facilities, least of all the mother herself.

Which brings me back to where I started. If there is indeed no worse grief than the death of a child, losing a loved one through murder, or through an event in which one is at fault, consider then the gravity of abortion: it is the confluence of all three of those horrors!

I write this to emphasize that the struggle we are in is a real one, the stakes are high, and real people's lives are involved. Thank you for the efforts of your staff and for your fine publication.
-- name withheld

It's early morning. A migraine has erupted. While calming it with coffee and migraine medicine I sat at the computer and opened TAS. Lawrence Henry's piece caught my eye. I opened and read and wept. Our beloved only son, Ben, leaves for Iraq next week for his fourth tour. We are not able to physically go see him off. So we will call and I'll pray with him over the phone and ask God to hold his hand and be ever present when he flies his missions. And I will wait 'til he returns.

I saw The Nativity Story a couple of weeks ago. It brought the reminder of Mary's gift to the world and her uncertainties and her insight. And Scripture says that "Mary pondered these things in her heart." We Texas ranchers use that word ponder a lot lately. We ponder the drought, the state of a nation whose leaders in Congress give aid and comfort to an enemy who would see us dead. We ponder the politicians and pundits, who don't send their offspring to fight for freedom but try to speak with moral authority. We ponder why other Americans are so casual this Christmas, as they shop and plan for the future. We ponder freedom and its price. We ponder and ponder.

I think Mary was wise. She kept things in her heart. And so will I, as my beloved son fights for a country, who seems not to always appreciate the gift of freedom and what happens if it is lost.
-- Beverly Gunn
East Texas Rancher

There is nothing more painful to me than to think of my own child's death. Reading about the death of other children can be just as excruciating. It just hurts.
-- David Skinner

REQUIRED READING
Re: Marina Malenic's That Was War:

The year 1916 could very well go down as the worst year in the history of Europe. I've read monographs of the Battle of the Somme (mainly Barbara Tuchman's and SLA Marshall's), but I think I will have to add Martin Gilbert's to the list. Marina Malenic's review really got my attention. It's easy to forgot, now 90 years later, that the British suffered 57,000 casualties (19,000 killed in action) the first day alone. We will never know the utter horror that the young French, British, and German soldier's suffered. The utter callousness of Haig at the Somme defies words, and could only be matched by General von Falhenhayn's on the opposite side. Between these two men over 2 million casualties resulted. Malenic's review highlighted the utter annihilation of an entire generation of Europe's manhood that took place that fateful year.

Books like Gilbert's The Somme: Heroism and Horror of the First World War should be required reading for anyone attempting to get a perspective on what ails Europe. It could be said that Europe died on 1 July 1916 when Haig began his "big push" at the Somme.
-- JP
Indiana

EARTHLY SHEPHERD
Re: R. Andrew Newman's Forgotten Joseph:

Thanks very much.

Indeed, that God hand-picked this common, yet remarkable, carpenter to raise the Son of Man, the Son of God and the Son of David so prophecy would come successfully to pass is worth remembering.

We should be thankful -- thankful that Joseph, who's genuinely been underappreciated, loved God as much as he did, was obedient and forgiving, and also had such favor of the Almighty. After all, the Lord, the I Am That I Am, chose Joseph to be Jesus' earthly shepherd until the Christ was ready to fulfill His divine destiny on earth.
-- C. Kenna Amos
Princeton, West Virginia

CELEBRATION
Re: Quin Hillyer's Life in the Stable: Rejoice:

Regarding the article about being joyful in our surroundings, I now cheerfully agree. My husband reminded me today that I have listened to too many talking heads about how awful everything is. I have my health, so does he and so do the members of our families. We cannot live like Donald Trump or Rosie O'Donnell but don't want to do so, we already have so much.

Christianity stripped of its pomp is a religion of celebration. We celebrate Jesus, our love for God, our hope for His love in return, our dreams of heaven and the idea of the Golden Rule. That is pretty much it. I don't know why that scares some people. I don't know why we don't remember it and gives thanks for it every day. I also like the idea of a Merry Christmas. We don't use the word "merry" except during this holiday but what a joyful sound it makes. I hope you and your readers have a Merry Christmas and a Merry New Year and a Merry life. For those holy days in other religions I hope they are merry as well. Peace on earth and goodwill to men.
-- A Daily Reader

MINIMUM EXPECTATIONS
Re: Ivan Osorio's Bad Politics at a Minimum and W. James Antle III's Selfish Old Party:

The observations of Messrs. Osorio and Antle reinforce my bewilderment that this President is so vilified by Democrats and defended by Republicans. How many times does George W. Bush need to cater to liberals before they realize he's one of them? And how often do conservatives need to be disappointed by him before we realize the same
thing?

Osorio notes how Bush caved on the minimum wage without even hinting for something in return. The minimum wage has always been an absurd concept so easily refuted it's trivial. The only reason a conservative might tolerate it would be as a political exchange for some concession like meaningful reductions in spending. But Antle demonstrates that spending curbs are alien to this President. How then, to explain, Bush's surrender without firing a shot? Is he a sheep in sheep's clothing, a liberal pretending to pretend to be a liberal? Is he secretly on the DNC payroll with orders to self-destruct and pave the way for President Rodham? I could not say, as she has not confided in me.

What I could say, however, is that if Bush were to announce he is switching parties, I would be hard pressed to tell the difference.
-- Jim Bono
Midlothian, Virginia

Over the years, I've heard my fellow conservatives say that hikes in the minimum wage lead to layoffs. As a one-time small business owner, I am skeptical of that claim -- simply because it implies that those on current payrolls don't have enough to do, and that when their cost increases, the work they perform somehow becomes unnecessary. My small business employed one teenager to perform assorted cleanup tasks, for which we paid minimum wage. Had that wage gone up, we probably would have tried to pare his hours, but ultimately his duties would have required a full schedule at the higher hourly rate. Then we would have passed the added cost on to our customers.

This leads to one other element that is never mentioned in this debate, something called "compression." This is the tendency of minimum wage hikes to push upward other wages. For instance, most fast food restaurants pay a couple of bucks more than minimum wage. In two years, they'll be paying around nine dollars an hour -- and charging more for that burger and fries.
-- Dennis Bergendorf

Mr. Osorio makes his case very nicely in this article. Unfortunately, he is preaching to the choir. As for Bush giving away the game before it even starts, where is the surprise? He gave away his education bill to Ted Kennedy to write, and this was the very first big initiative of his administration. He gave away a new entitlement when he opted early on to support the expansion of Medicare to include drugs. He has given away any pretense of controlling our borders with his illegal alien amnesty program. No matter what color lipstick you put on this pig, it is still amnesty. Essentially, he gave away part of our sovereignty to Vicente Fox. He has given away his chance to populate the federal Circuit Courts of Appeal with the number of conservatives that should be there now because he doesn't continually and consistently promote them until they are confirmed. The same applies to the federal district level courts. Oh, and he tried to slip in Harriet Meyers until he was forced to back down. He has given away the store in the growth in both size and budget for the federal government.

I could go on, but most everyone is familiar with the list. Heaven knows what he gave away in private when he lunched with Pelosi and Reid right after the election. Maybe that was when he gave away Rumsfeld. I repeat, where is the surprise?
-- Ken Shreve

George W. Bush is on the verge of accomplishing something historical. He is already the President most despised by the loony left and MSM since (and maybe even including) Richard Nixon. Now, with his announcement of his support of the Democrat minimum wage hike, coupled with his "consideration" of proposed Democrat tax hikes and his desire to have the country flooded with illegal aliens, he is right on the lip of the cup of becoming the President most hated by the conservative right as well.

Now, THAT'S something of which one can be truly proud!
-- Keith Kunzler

The expected minimum wage hike to $7.25 will not be the minimum wage I will be bound to pay. Right now in Hawaii the minimum wage is $6.75 and will increase to $7.25 in '07. Since Hawaii's minimum is normally about 40% more than the federal rate and because Hawaii is controlled by the unions and the Democrat legislature, I am sure that they will raise the minimum again above the federal level. Right now I start off my poorly skilled cashiers at $9.50 and my stockers at $10.00. If Hawaii does increase the minimum wage to be consistent with the past wage difference between federal and state, the majority of my employees will be given a raise by the government, not by me.

The dirty little secret in all of this is that increase in wages is also an increase in taxes. As an employer, I am bound by the payroll tax to match the Social Security and Medicare taxes paid by my employees and to pay state and federal unemployment tax. This minimum wage increase is also a massive tax increase as the more an employee makes the more Social Security, Medicare and unemployment they and I pay.

This increase will be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices which of course will lead to the scourge of any economy, inflation. I have already raised prices due to large increases in shipping costs and electricity. If I have to raise prices because of government mandated pay increases, I may not be able to stay competitive and run the risk of alienating my customers. Of course I could just lose money.
-- Donnie McGean
Hawaiian Moons Natural Foods
Kihei, Maui, Hawaii

If this minimum wage law passes, and I am afraid there is not much chance it won't, I will be watching to see if the next round of union talks include language that union workers need higher pay because the minimum wage has increased. This is one of Rush's talking points against raising the minimum wage and it really does make sense. That is why the unions are all for the
raise.
-- Elaine Kyle

OTHODOXIES
Re: Kent Lyons' letter (under "Strictly Neutral") in Reader Mail's Founding Mormonism, Kim Farah's letter (under "Strictly Neutral") in Reader Mail's Season's Jottings, and the Washington Prowler's Mormonism in the Spotlight:

Kent Lyons wrote on 22 December 2006:

"Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, is arguably the most creative religious figure since Martin Luther, or perhaps of the last 2,000 years."

For someone in the Orthodox Church, this is not what one would call a "ringing endorsement." In fact, the whole thrust of the Christian Tradition is NOT to be creative, but to preserve and pass on that which has been handed to us. We are stewards of the Tradition passed down from the Apostles, and though the expression of that Tradition may vary from place to place and evolve in its details, its essence remains unchanged. From our perspective, therefore, Joseph Smith may be a "creative religious figure," but like Martin Luther, he was not preserving the unbroken Tradition. In fact, Smith is far worse than Luther: Luther merely rejected elements of Tradition of which he didn't approve, and set one element of Tradition--Holy Scripture--above all others as the source of divine inspiration. Smith, on the other hand, invented something entirely new and alien, antithetical to the Gospel received from Jesus Christ and maintained through the Tradition from the beginning. Mormonism is but one more gnostic sect among many the Church has encountered since the second century, and like those sects, its main attraction is belief in a secret or hidden revelation known only to initiates. Yet everything Christ taught, he taught openly, hidden from no one. The world could use a little less religious "creativity," and a little more testimony to the truth. Especially now, as we celebrate the great mystery of God's incarnation.
-- Stuart Koehl
Falls Church, Virginia

I concur with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spokesperson's response to the Prowler hit piece, and add my disappointment in the editor's lack of research. Why you would simply take the word of some unnamed media consultant and not contact the church directly is incredibly irresponsible. If nothing else, and I believe even detractors would have to admit, the media department of the Church is made up of high integrity individuals who would happily answer your questions regarding media campaigns.

This is not the Democrat party or the Hillary campaign, this is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You know the ones with the choir and the Brigham Young University, where there still exists an honor code for students. Give them a call, you may learn something.

If Mitt Romney runs, good for him, but the Church really doesn't care one way or the other.

Oh and by the way, please stop with this age old tripe of calling it the "Mormon Church." There never has been and never will be a religious organization named "Mormon Church." Just because the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were nicknamed "Mormons" years ago doesn't now and never will make it the "Mormon Church." I am sorry that you have confused the nickname attributed to members with the actual church but just because Baptists belong to the Baptist Church and Methodists belong to the Methodist Church, doesn't mean that "Mormons" belong to a "Mormon church"; unless you are speaking to the physical church building that a local congregation meets in, the name just doesn't fly. Sorry.

I know you can do better than this. Try the www.lds.org website for the media contacts.
-- J. Epperson

HUMAN ACTIVITY
Re: Russell Seitz et al.'s letters (under "Sunken Ice") in Reader Mail's Founding Mormonism:

Just a note to wish you a merry Christmas, and express the hope that in the happy new year to come, Hal Colebatch may be blessed with the insight that the ground upon which shoreward parts of marine glaciers sit is a solid capable of supporting arbitrary thicknesses of the stuff, that Gary Clark will enjoy a Eureka moment in which he achieves the epiphany that adding more ice to a full glass of scotch on the rocks will cause dry things to get wet, and Roger B. McKinney will, however belatedly, discover that Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings view of the 1513 Piri Re'is portolan as a portrait of an ice-free Palaeolithic Antarctica makes 1421,The Da Vinci Code and Chariots of the Gods all seem models of conservative rigor. Until then, may your science journalism give them as much joy of the season as it affords scientists at large jollity the whole year round.
-- Russell Seitz

Mr. Seitz, because I have a day job and need to focus on the generation of wealth to pay all my taxes, can you layout the human activity that caused the warming period you referenced (4,000 to 6,000 BC) and what human activity caused it to reverse? At the same time could you reference the same with the Ice Age that covered most of North America 20,000 years ago and left Canada still under Ice 6000 years ago? It would seem if we can understand what Humans did to bring about these events we could quickly learn what we need to do without spending Trillions on theory.

In addition, where I live has sea shells sediments several feet above the current mean sea level from over 10,000 years ago and well before there is evidence of human habitation in the area. Do you think the minuscule human population of the world back say 30,000 years ago caused the Ice Age and then found a way to reverse it with the largest benefit being 6,000 -- 8,000 years ago during the Climatic Optimum?
-- Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia

STANDING CORRECTED
Re: Michael Gonzalez's letter (under "Bugged") in Reader Mail's Founding Mormonism:

That will teach me to proof read more closely. Obviously I meant "etymology." Thank-you, Mr. Gonzalez, for keeping me on my toes and giving me a good laugh.
-- Michael D. Harding

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