Reader Mail

Liver Spots

Foie gras's cruel and unusual production. Also: Humility, honor, and Memorial Day. William Jefferson without the Clinton. Why Johnny and Joanie can't write. Quayle's missed opportunity. Carter redux yucks. Plus much more.

5.30.06

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DEFENDING THE DUCKS
Re: John Luik's and Patrick Basham's No Ducking the Issue:

In "No Ducking the Issue," John Luik and Patrick Basham claim that "it is science behind foie gras production that provides the best way of disentangling the factual, emotional, and moral aspects of the debate."

Science can indeed help... but certainly not if you make false statements about the scientific studies you cite to defend foie gras production, as these authors do.

1) The authors write that the "1998 report by the European Union's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare found "no evidence that intensive force feeding is stressful to the male hybrid duck."

In fact, the full quote of the European report is: "This measure, therefore gives no evidence..." (see page 37). Interestingly, the report was discussing a study, which had been ordered and funded by... the French foie gras producers association (CIFOG).

The European report never stated that there is "no evidence that intensive force feeding is stressful to the male hybrid duck." On the contrary, it reports, "When ducks or geese were in a pen during the force feeding procedure, they kept away from the person who would force feed them even though that person normally supplied them with food. At the end of the force feeding procedure, the birds were less well able to move and were usually panting but they still move away from or tried to move away from the person who had force fed them." (page 34)

2) The authors write: "Although mortality rates are higher than in comparable ducks, the overall death rate is less than that for farm-raised chickens and turkeys."

False again: they compare how many ducks die in the 12-day force-feeding period with how many chickens and turkeys die over several months! Refer to European report (page 47), and you'll see that indeed the mortality rates during force-feeding "compare most unfavorably with mortality rates for ducks and geese during normal rearing": it is 10 to 20 times higher.

All this explains why the European Report concludes: "The Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare concludes that force feeding, as currently practiced, is detrimental to the welfare of the birds." (page 65).

But this John Luik and Patrick Basham forgot to report about.
-- Antoine Comiti
President of the non-profit Stop Gavage
Bordeaux, France

While we appreciate the intentions of John Luik and Patrick Basham in trying to settle the debate over the animal suffering involved in foie gras production ("No ducking the issue," May 26), their creative misinterpretation of the European Union's study on foie gras production presents a flawed, one-sided view of the issue.

A more careful examination of the EU report on the welfare of birds used in foie gras production reveals another story: painful damage to the esophageal tissue, severely compromised liver function, difficulty standing and breathing, and demonstrable fear of the force feeder. Subsequent studies, pathology reports, and videotape evidence obtained from inside foie gras farms have all reinforced these facts pointing to severe animal suffering.

Indeed, far from condoning the practice of force feeding birds for foie gras production, as Luik and Basham would have readers believe, the EU Committee summarizes its report by plainly asserting, "The Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare concludes that force feeding, as currently practised, is detrimental to the welfare of the birds."

No matter how the foie gras industry apologists try to spin it, there is simply no humane way to produce foie gras. The fact that legislators in the U.S. are finally joining their European counterparts in banning it shows that U.S. laws are, thankfully, finally catching up with the humane views of the U.S. population -- 80% of whom support a ban on foie gras production, according to a recent Zogby International poll.

We invite readers to view the evidence on foie gras production for themselves. The full facts on foie gras, including the text of the EU's report, can be found at www.nofoiegras.org.
-- Gene Bauston
President
Farm Sanctuary
Watkins Glen, New York

MEMORIAL DAY HUMILITY
Re: Paul Beston's Neighbors on Main Street:

Thank you for thinking about us and please encourage your audience not to forget about our war veterans. May God Bless you ten-fold with what you give to others.
-- Sandra C. Blacksher
Baghdad, Iraq

Thanks, Paul, for telling us what most of us already know. You don't have to leave Manhattan at "middle" age to find this out. Unfortunately, the "illuminati" somehow need to "discover" these basic facts-of-life. How sad.
-- unsigned

In Paul Beston's "Neighbors on Main Street," filed 5/26/2006, the concepts of honor and sacrifice are well crafted. My father served in the Royal Navy towards the end of WWII, which despite his late arrival in that conflict nevertheless epitomised the long traditions of that self-less generation. He went on to live (still lives) those traditions bringing up and supporting a family during hard times so enabling the next generation â€" mine--â€" to benefit hugely. I journeyed with him to the Normandy beaches two years ago and we both stood, humbled and mightily grateful, at Utah, Omaha, Sword, Juno and Gold. We mentally and emotionally saluted those who gave their lives and marvelled respectfully within the grand and small cemeteries that preserve fallen dignity. Paul Beston reminds us well, indeed, of all those wandering and honoured spirits around the world.
-- Graham Constable
Oxford, England

Regarding Paul Beston's article on those who serve and have served. Although a Canadian, I would feel proud to include our Country in the spirit of this article.

So well written and absolutely true regarding those who sacrifice on behalf of the majority of our two great Countries. We also remember on November 11th each year the sacrifice made on our behalf as you will this weekend.

We are indeed fortunate to have those who take care of us at their own peril, including those in "coffee shops" would may beg to differ.
-- Stuart Carrol
Victoria, British Columbia

Thank you Mr. Beston. Well said. My own military involvement seems to mirror your own and with some two-thirds of my life behind me I too have come to find the humility you speak of. Never more so since September 11 when the fog of ancient wars on different continents was lifted from my vision. If we don't thank our soldiers, living and dead, who will?
-- Roger Ross
Tomahawk, Wisconsin

Mr. Beston writes an important column on the occasion of this weekend's Memorial Day remembrance. He has chosen humility as his theme. I congratulate him, for it is a very appropriate theme.

Mr. Beston notes that veterans scarred for life by their war inflicted wounds are among the first to acknowledge their humility in light of their brethren that lie in graves around the world. Mr. Beston admits to humility towards these wounded vets on his part.

Like Mr. Beston's father, I served a short time during the late '50s and early '60s, a time between Korea and Vietnam when no one was shooting at us. By the time President Kennedy started sending warriors to Vietnam, I was no longer welcome in the military for what I considered (and still do consider) trivial medical reasons. I can not get over the conviction that, somehow or another, I let down our side.

The roots of my family have served what became this country since the late 1600s, including on both side of our own little internal disagreement around 1860. My son retired a very few years ago as a Navy chief and submariner. So, I let my family down also. Irrational thinking? Probably, but it comes unbidden.

I can only say thank you and may God bless you to our military members and their families and the veterans of our wars and their families. Freedom is not, and never has been, free. I truly hope that a majority of us will always remember and acknowledge the men and women that paid the cost that we owed, that picked up my tab for me.
With respect and gratitude
-- Ken Shreve

Where did it go? This country we knew
When our world was red and white and blue.
Wasn't it clear what was right and wrong?
Didn't we strive to try to belong
To the legions of those who gave so much?
Where and how did we all lose touch?
When did the arrogant nudge the compassionate
Aside and offer a plan with flash in it?
Words over substance became the way
The new elites would carry the day.

"Tell them you care, and don't let them know
The machinations going on below.
We'll rule wisely because we're blest
With the knowledge of what is best for the rest.
We belong to One World, not the USA.
Ours is a more International way.
With superior intellect we'll never see
The old fashioned Red State morality.
Sophistication is the modern call.
United Nations over all."

But just when we saw our past slip away,
A new Generation, Great in their way,
Stormed the ramparts of Evil Ones.
Fathers, daughters, mothers, sons
Had no trouble defining the truth.
They donned their uniforms, needing no proof
Of what was right for the land they love.
Putting our country's safety above
What peace and comfort and safety they knew.
Painting us once again red, white and blue.
-- Mimi Evans Winship

Nice article by Mr. Beston. I, too, live in a city that is being taken over by refugees from Manhattan. This migration started back in the '70s, though, and it's starting to reach saturation point now. My city before the takeover was a very patriotic place. During WWII, Burlington sent to the Pacific, a National Guard company (Co. K, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Inf Reg, 43rd, Inf Div) which slogged it's way up the Pacific island chain under MacArthur (after having their transport sunk on the way to Guadalcanal) in addition to others who served in other branches and theaters of operation. It was typical small town America. I'm a veteran myself, having served during Vietnam but not in Vietnam and the tradition continues as my city has lost a few of its citizens defending freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we also have a strong enclave of those America bashers so prevalent from his (and others) neck of the woods. These people protest everything American, they actually despise being in this nation but they're not brave enough to leave it. They know they couldn't enjoy the same freedom to disparage the nation they are living in the way they do ours, especially if it was an Islamic nation. So while our brave warriors put everything on the line, these milksops from hell protest everything they fought and died for. While Mr. Beston finds the difference between the newcomers and the natives to be somewhat amusing, there is nothing amusing about it to us who have been invaded by this trash and see our local culture disappearing to the likes of the Manhattanites. A final point that is amusing (to me). One of the Founders of the Republic of Vermont made it a habit to chase "Yorkers" back across the border or "hanging" them up sitting in a chair so the mosquitoes could get them good, if they decided to stick around. I would say he had a lot of foresight.
-- Pete Chagnon

Great piece.

We should all be haunted, always, by our past.... They were so much more worthy than us.

Thank you,
-- Gene Hauber
Meshoppen, Pennsylvania

SEALED AND DELAYED
Re: John Tabin's Dainty Raid:

The President has ordered the Jefferson (D-LA) documents sealed in order to secure a cave-in by recalcitrant House members of both parties on the immigration bill now in conference.

Hasn't he?
-- Paul Kotik
Plantation, Florida

I wonder if Mr. Tabin's approval of this raid is based on his support of this administration generally. But for anyone thinks it's safe to let the Executive Branch have this scale of unanswerable power, do-what-we-want-and-you can-complain-later, I have two very scary words: President Hillary.
-- Martin Owens
Sacramento, California

THE HANDY PROD
Re: Christopher Orlet's Saturday Night's Massacre:

Actually Zach Wamp is a Republican Congressman from East Tennessee, and generally a pretty good one. How lame is your fact checking that you can't get something that simple right?

That being said, the Republicans ought to move away from this issue as quickly as possible and leave the Democrats, who aren't even trying to stand up for Congressman Jefferson.
-- Christopher D. Booth
Nashville, Tennessee

While reading the article about the Feds' seizure on Saturday night of William Jefferson's Congressional BRIBES, I can only say that I am sorry I didn't hand the Feds my cattle prod. You see, we were in Northern Virginia for a wedding of a "semi" daughter, a child we love who came into our home and our hearts, and contemplating my visit I thoughtfully remembered to pack my cattle prod to use on any errant politician that came my way. Most had left D.C. and headed home where they planned to lie to their constituents about the job they had done. That is, all except Jefferson, who had hidden the cold cash. The other politicians have had sense enough to hide the money the coyotes and their lobbyists gave to them for passing, yet another bill to be signed into an unenforced law.

We left D.C. and as the plane headed out West I thanked God that we were headed home to our herd of cattle. I know that if I step in manure there I will be able to clean my feet off before I head indoors. As it is in Washington, D.C., you can smell the manure all over. It is waist high and rising and sadly, it has already been tracked into all our homes. The stench rises and the politicians are in disdain for us common folk. They think they know more that all of us and are themselves above the law. They refuse to listen to those who elected them. They refuse to protect our country. They steal from our children and our grandchildren and smile while the lies continue to pour out from their mouths. And sadly, we have men and women in harm's way fighting for freedom while Rome burns.

Sadly in East Texas
-- Beverly Gunn
East Texas Rancher, Military Mom

Christopher Orlet mistakenly identified Zach Wamp as a Democrat. He was swept into office as a result of the" Contract With America."

He was a firm believer in term limits until such time as his term would be limited. Unfortunately I have to vote for this weasel because the Democrat opponent is a complete idiot and there is never a primary challenger. Why in the world Republicans like Wamp and Hastert would choose this battle is beyond stupid.
-- Steve Smith
Chattanooga, Tennessee

You're an inspiration, Mr. Orlet.

"I Left My Stash In My Old Freezer" (with apologies to Cory, Cross, Bennett, and Sinatra)

The quaintness of the Quarter
Seems somehow far away.
The glory of D.C.
Is of another day.
I feel terribly alone, kinda persona non grata
I'm going down, for my felony I will pay.

I left my stash in my old freezer.
Up on the Hill, they're calling me.
You see, there were some cablegrams
Stacked neat beside the hams,
And C-notes, too, were in chill air,

Wrapped with care.

Some 90K in my old freezer,
Among the beets and succotash.
If I come home to you, my old freezer.
We'll have some fun, just with NO CASH!
-- Mike Showalter
Austin, Texas

EMINENTLY CONGRESSIONAL
Re: John Tabin's Dainty Raid and Christopher Orlet's Saturday Night's Massacre:

I heard it reported that House Minority Leader Pelosi has called on Congressman William Jefferson (D-Louisiana) to step down from his position on the Ways and Means Committee. I believe, however, that Congressman William Jefferson (D-Louisiana) has shown that he is eminently qualified to be on the Ways and Means Committee. His actions in the wake of the Katrina flooding, commandeering two ground vehicles and one helicopter to rescue his "frozen assets," along with his ability to marshal the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader to his defense when the FBI searched his office shows he is very qualified in "Ways and Means."
-- Geoff Bowden
Battle Creek, Michigan

COLUMN ITCHES
Re: Lawrence Henry's "We Don't Read Political Columns Anymore":

My guidelines are simpler: If the source is Reuters, WaPo, AP, NYT, and a long list of others, I already know what will be said from the headline, so there is no need to wander down already well-trodden paths. When a news source is predictable, it becomes irrelevant.
-- David Govett
Davis, California

About your "We Don't Read Political Columns Anymore."

Good oh.

A few friends still insist on reading the editorials in the New York Times. I challenge them to sit down, take any three days of editorials from the NYT and the Wall Street Journal.

Then with a thick red felt tip pen, circle every fact they did not know before reading the editorials.

Result hint: the NYT is black and white, the WSJ is blood red. This must be added: the Journal guys use a type face two points larger than used anywhere else in the paper.

Nice piece. Thanks.
-- Doug Williams
Detroit, Michigan

I must be way ahead of our time, I gave up on those guys years ago to preserve my sanity and my own good judgment. I am still wondering, how or who, pays these so-called "consultants" on the tube. When I am watching the news and I see the face of one of them, they're off. They do nothing BUT insult my intelligence ...
-- Robert Abben
Largo, Florida

"Increasingly, I know what pundits are going to say after reading a few sentences.

Some columnists, I know what they're going to say without reading anything.
-- Jeff Faria

THE MISSING FIRE
Re: R. Andrew Newman's "You, Sir, Are No Jack Kennedy:

At the time, I immediately thought Quayle should have responded, "And my wife is eternally grateful that I am no Jack Kennedy." As it turns out, the Quayle response was what we have come to expect from country club Republicans. Where the heck is John Wayne when we really need him?
-- Jack Hughes
Chicago, Illinois

When, according to the drive-by media, your only notable action as a Senator is the put down of Dan Quayle during a 1988 vice presidential debate, it says volumes about your accomplishments in the Senate. Couldn't they come up with a more appropriate epitaph? It explains why the drive-by media is losing readers and viewers.
-- Steve S.
New Castle, Delaware

Excellent column by Mr. Newman re: Senator Bentsen and the "James Thurber" delayed response. (James Thurber wrote an extremely funny essay in the New Yorker about a milquetoast's musings re various things he should have said after being insulted but didn't).

My thoughts triggered by Mr. Newman were a little different. It suddenly occurred to me what lengths basically good men such as Bentsen and Lieberman will go to in order to be on a national ticket. I certainly remember the strange things that Lieberman said during the presidential election that were completely different from positions he had taken during his career in Congress. Similar things can be said about Bentsen not only during the national presidential election but also when he served in the cabinet of the sociopath and his "lovely wife." Abortion now and forever including the hellacious partial birth procedure is just one of the positions in which they sullied their reputations by advocating wholeheartedly.
-- unsigned

Everyone it seems but Dan Quayle had a snappy response to Senator Bentsen's famous scolding. My favorite was that of my mother, who was tuned to the dynamics of the Kennedy clan and saw a parallel in the Quayle family: "Gee Senator, I don't know how to answer you, I will have to ask my father about that one."
-- Paul Milenkovic
Madison, Wisconsin

Nice effort to blame the media for Dan Quayle's "deer in the headlight" moment during the Vice Presidential debates.

Like the current clown of corruption, cronyism and incompetence who occupies the White House, Quayle really was an empty suit. Hell, even the dumbass James Dobson has come to understand what a complete fraud Dubya is.

For a nano second I felt sorry for you that you had to take comfort in "blaming Carter" to get past the total betrayal of Republican values by Bush. At least it was a change from blaming Clinton

You are pathetic.
-- Michael Roush

Bentsen's put-down of Quayle defined Quayle for the tenure of his Vice-Presidency, mostly for his freezing on the national stage when the moment required a comeback, such as "Senator, you're no Lyndon Johnson." Really, would that have been so hard?
-- J. D. Piro
South Salem, New York

BOOKS, BOOKS, AND MORE BOOKS
Re: Quin Hillyer's Hey, Ho, the Battling Blogs:

The "epidemic of bad writing" that Quin Hillyer writes about in "Hey, Ho, the Battling Blogs," long predates the Internet and the phenomenon of blogging. I was a private school teacher in the early 1990s, at an "elite" boys' school in the South, where I taught American history and government to juniors and seniors. Even among a group of privileged students, very few were able to construct effective essays, with a clear thesis, specific arguments, and supporting evidence. Why not? It's obvious -- because they did not bother to read complex, sophisticated works of literature, history, current affairs, etc. It is the lack of serious reading by young people that causes poor writing skills (indeed, poor academic achievement generally). This lack of reading is fostered by a highly technological culture that offers multiple, easy distractions to young people, including television (still the greatest culprit), popular music, and now computers. Being a good writer is a function of one's thinking and language skills. These are developed through serious reading, not by watching television (even documentaries), listening to popular (or classical) music, or surfing the internet. So while I have no doubt that the blogging phenomenon contributes to this problem, the roots of the problem go back much farther, to the post-WWII transformation of our society from a "literature" culture to a "technological" culture.
-- Steven M. Warshawsky
New York, New York

SELF-PRESERVATION OVER SENSE
Re: David Hogberg and James Dellinger's The Price of Republican Gas:

Last time I read on the subject (yesterday's FT.com), Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) was still trying to persuade the Three Horseman of Florida (Bush-Martinez-Nelson) that exploration for oil and natural gas should be permitted at least closer to the Florida coast line than presently allowed -- especially as the Cuban government has leased sections of its portion of the Gulf of Mexico (nearer Florida than the sections Sen. Landrieu proposes) to Indian and Spanish oil companies. The Chinese oil companies are reported to be negotiating for leases.

Last time I checked, Governor Bush was a Republican as was Senator Mel Martinez -- their devotion to the environment is truly touching.

(The first well on the west [Gulf] coast of Florida was drilled in 1975 by Exxon in the Audubon Society's Corkscrew Swamp Wildlife Sanctuary -- while this precipitated an uproar amongst the AS membership, over the years that it pumped oil the wildlife was not unduly disturbed nor was any appreciable amount of oil spilled.)
-- John Williamson

COUNTRY PREACHERS NEED NOT APPLY
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Carter Wins Second Coogler:

I had a year and a half of my six-year enlistment to go in the Naval Reserve when Jimmy Carter became President. By the time my enlistment came due to either reenlist or get out I was more than ready to escape in part due to Jimmy Carter being at the helm. The drawdown after our "victory" in Vietnam was already making our active duty military dispirited in real terms and the Reserve portion even less than second rate. Carter didn't cause this but he added punctuation to the effect and took a state of dispirited to demoralized. In a real sense what Carter brought to the White House isn't as important as what he left behind when he got there. Courage comes to mind. The Office of the President is not and never will be that of a country preacher trying to tend his flock. Carter never understood that.

By the time of Desert One in the Iranian wasteland and his micro-management of that operation, you could not have drafted me back into the U.S. military. In many ways, Jimmy Carter personified Neville Chamberlain's 1930s view of the world with a southern accent. Willingly or not he played the part of the useful idiot during his four years in office and we could not afford that as a Nation. The Iranians never feared Jimmy Carter because he made it so.

Like most I suspect after he left office, I thought of Jimmy Carter as basically a good man but incompetent for the job of President. I gave him the benefit of the doubt for many, many years. It takes more than heart to be the Commander in Chief. As Mr. Tyrrell has concisely outlined, he has taken a track that is just rude on one hand but could also border on treason in my opinion. That is not to say that I think Carter would deliberately commit an act of treason against the United States but that he is willingly playing the part of a "useful idiot" for foreign interest in time of war and he is either too stupid to understand the danger in doing that or simply thinks he is above the law in such matters. The first three presidents of this nation kind of set the model for what has followed for most of the 214-plus years of this nation's history. Carter seems intent on writing himself into a different history than the one that is now part of the official record. The difference between the first three presidents and how they conducted themselves after leaving office and Carter is born of character and the belief that there are greater things than one's personal faults and ambitions whereas the Republic is concerned. Mr. Tyrrell sums up Carter's failures as being born of "bad character." I would suggest "no character." To me he has been a ship adrift since he left office and every now and then the wind and tide bring the rudderless Carter barge back onto the shore for us to smell for a while. To Mr. Carter I would say, "You were the President, you aren't anymore." Get a life Jimmy, go home and enjoy what is left of it.
-- Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia

And, for any of you who may still be undecided about the President's immigration plan, here's a headline for you, "Jimmy Carter Backs Bush Immigration Plan."

If that doesn't sober you up, nothing will!
-- Mike Showalter
Austin, Texas

Had it been possible, the Soviet Union would have recognized President Carter's numerous achievements in advancing totalitarianism worldwide by awarding him the Order of Lenin and the Hero of the Soviet Union awards. I believe Mr. Carter efforts expanded the borders of the Soviet Empire farther even than Stalin. Mr. Carter is America's Kim Philby.

In my opinion Mr. Carter was the opposite of Harry Truman. Mr. Carter was a small man of little merit who shrunk in the White House. He was not only our worst president in 200 years, but was also, and still is, our only anti-American president. Who knows, he may the only Soviet operative to ever be president?
-- Jay W. Molyneaux
Wellington, Florida

Methinks that Mr. Cahtuh's self-rehabilitation would have been better served had he continued hammering nails in the Habitat for Humanity program. At least there he accomplished something.
-- C.D. Lueders
Melbourne, Florida

In naming President Carter the worst president in American history, you clearly forgot about our alleged current president. Moreover, at least Carter can write.
-- Bill Waggoner
St. Louis, Missouri

For what it is worth, Carter's book is titled Our Endangered Values not Our Endangered Virtues. Either way, I'm glad he got the award.
-- Jeff Hahn

PROTECTION RACKET
Re: Paul Chesser's Democrat Deep-Freeze and GOP Brain-Lock

Excellent piece of May 25 concerning the troubles of Congressman William Jefferson.

I think I can see that the GOP and Democrat leadership is, in claiming the materials found stashed away by Jefferson should not have been seized by the FBI, trying to protect what they see as their sacred turf, their protected ground. I can sort of see their argument. But...

Why oh why the GOP continues to shoot itself in the foot over just about everything which crops up these days is beyond me. Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Dick Cheney...I do not recall seeing or hearing one single Democrat standing up for any of these Republicans, but, for some reason, as with this Jefferson issue, some Republicans have to throw a wrench into the works. Perhaps in so doing they are seeking to "take the higher ground" in these affairs, but, in the end, I can not see where it aids their cause. Only helps the Democrats. WHY???!!!

And, as you so eloquently state, how does the average Joe view such actions? Why should Hastert or any other pol suggest that the FBI should not have gone into Jefferson's offices (with a warrant)? No matter what political party he (or Jefferson) is from. Just the idea of it being stated. Terrible.

I am 56, have always supported the GOP, and, though I'd probably never vote for a Democrat at a higher level, I certainly am not excited by any Republican right now, anywhere. President Bush has done or attempted to do many good, correct things during his terms, but he (and/or his advisors) have pulled a few boners as well (hope that doesn't sound a way I do not intend!!!). Harriet Miers was such an obvious mistake...and to watch Bush as he staunchly defended her nomination for w-a-y too long. The Port Deal -- given the politically charged times we are in now concerning the Middle East, etc. -- never should have seen the light of day, should have been squashed immediately.

I hope the GOP retains the House and Senate in November, but, you know, I almost kind of hope that one -- if not both -- chambers goes back to the Dems. It will provide a serious wake-up call to the Republicans (maybe...) and will go on to illustrate to Americans just what a full-blown Democrat takeover (president, Congress) in '08 will appear to be like, how ruinous to the country such leadership would be were it allowed to come to fruition. Think we have high taxes now? Think our federal spending is over the top now? Think most Democrats are serious about terrorism now? Think most Democrats are serious about the war we are fighting in Iraq and world-wide now? I quake to think how all of that will "shake out" if and when the Dems take over Washington again. It may be sooner than we think.
-- Jim King
Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts

Exactly right, as Republicans manage, yet again to snatch defeat...

And it is a sad irony that, on the heels of all the caterwauling about the President "spying on innocent American citizens," without obtaining warrants, the first reaction, by Republicans of all people, is to bemoan the perfectly legal - by Congressional and Democrat complainers' standards - search, following the Constitution to a tee. What a talent for self-destruction. Thank you for your article.
-- Dennis Dilley
Oakland, California

READING GOOD
Re: Ken Shreve's letter ("Idiom School") in Reader Mail's Jimmy Wins Again:

Well Ken, I can tell you I also failed English in High School and made a B in Spanish. My mother was not pleased. My English teacher wanted every thing diagrammed which just did not make any sense to me and as for Spanish, I can count to 14 and say maybe 15 words. Now I wish I had paid more attention.
-- Elaine Kyle

(Hey, Ken, I'm a Texan, too) -- I would like to say here and now that anyone who takes me seriously about anything I write after midnight -- and that's what it always is here -- is on a fool's mission. I enjoy every letter in Reader Mail and am not just waiting to pounce on whatever strikes my eccentric tin ear on a clanging note. I was serious about "spot on" â€" where it came from. Some people collect sea shells. I collect the origins of words and phrases.

My personal favorite, and I should write and thank him some day, was in All Creatures Great and Small when the older veterinarian, in high dudgeon, roared "Why, I'll have his guts for garters!" That, I could visualize and I loved the sheer viciousness of the threat, the image of disemboweling an adversary and making better use of his entrails. Of course, it was written in a time when men actually wore garters. Today, few have guts and none wear garters.

But to add to things that puzzle me, why did I just say "Of course?" Rarely adds to anything said and yet it is always thrown in, like a bit of limp parsley decorating a dull plate. The only thing to make it sillier and more superfluous is to add "Why" -- "Why, of course." And why do we have two pronunciations of "why"? "Wye, of course." But "Why did you..." with a great wh-whooshing exhalation of breath, the "h" is pronounced. There may be a reason immigrants aren't bothering to learn English!

Back to "spot on." I did hear it spoken by Frazier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) on an old re-run recently. And we all recall what a prissy twit he was, don't we? Not that there is anything wrong with being prissy or a twit. I'll say this for "spot on" -- it beats "Ri-i-i-ight Aw-w-n."

We may be the only family in California who has a dictionary stand with a lovely leather bound 1930 edition of Webster's Unabridged with pages as thin as tissue and, gold leaf edged with full color illustrations of gemstones, birds, flags, etc. In it, "Jap" is defined as diminutive for Japanese. Makes you yearn for the innocent pre-PC days, doesn't it? I keep it there to remind my grandsons that there was a time when descriptive words besides "weird," "wow," "awesome," and "cool" were used. How cool is that? Never mind. Just shoot me now.
-- Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California

I was delighted to have spurred feedback with the phrase "spot on," although I might have been happier with glowing accolades about my incisive intellect rather than my Wodehousian wordplay.

In answer to Diane Smith's question, I am certain I heard "spot on" in an episode of Yes, Minister, although it may have originated decades earlier with Bertie Wooster. In any case, I am sure it's British. I freely admit, like fellow Britcom fan Ken Shreve, to embracing colorful expressions because I like the way they sound. Whether the color originates from across the pond or stateside or even Down Under, surely one of the glories of Western Civilization is the limitless richness of the English language. Its vocabulary is the world's largest by a wide margin, and it offers legions of picturesque terms which it seems ungrateful to leave unemployed.

I acknowledge that I violated some rules. Sentence fragments. Some lines ran too long and I goofed on several commas. Nonetheless, that people read my letter and were moved to comment made my day. If they found it entertaining as well, that is doubly gratifying.
-- Jim Bono
Midlothian, Virginia

I'm still doing a little research and will continue unless some one beats me to the answer.

I have always considered "spot on" to be a British euphemism I first encountered in novels.

I always interpreted the phrase as meaning: hitting the mark, a bull's-eye, the ten ring, reducing to the bottom line, making a point convincingly and accurately right out of the gate. Just one man's opinion.

I love "Reader Mail"; all of you illustrate Descartes' maxim: Cogito Ergo Sum!
-- Jim Woodward
Fruitland, Maryland

CULTURE SCAN
Re: Jeffrey Lord's Newsflash for the Dixie Chicks, R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Carter Wins Second Coogler, and Ken Shreve's letter ("Idiom School") in Reader Mail's Jimmy Wins Again:

1. The Dixie Chicks. I didn't buy their music before they decided they were intellectuals so I don't plan on doing so now.

2. Jimmy Carter. Why do people continue to believe in the goodness of human beings? Did he not read the history of the last 100 years, 1000 years? How many people around the world died from wars during that time? Nothing has changed and nothing will. We are extremely aggressive animals and have no hesitation in doing whatever is necessary to get what we want. Only strong willed leaders who understand this can possibly keep us safe. Ronald Reagan comes to mind. I heard Pres. Bush called "stubborn" this morning and choose to see him as someone with a backbone unlike Clinton who was so wishy-washy that he was scary. I would also like to remind people who hate President Bush that our presidents can only serve two terms which keeps them from becoming dictators. Next election others will try for that office and we can watch the Democrats, who really have some decent people, run another terrible candidate.

3. Our language is a "living" thing given to change with technology and other influences, however, we also need the basics. I don't mean we need to stick to unworkable rules of language. I cannot remember what dangles a particle or even what one is. We do need a good command of words and their meanings.

I once worked with a woman from another country who learned English from books. She was constantly telling us her English was better than ours. I always responded with the fact that hers was boring. Slang, idioms, and new usage keep it interesting.

I have no idea what has happened to our current language. I watched a young woman, on TV recently, try to answer a simple question and she used "like" about 50 times and never did complete the, like, sentence. If you, like, get what I mean.

I sign off with my husband's new phrase, "Seem sane?"
-- K. Clinard

FANTASIES OF DEMOCRACY
Re: Sheryl DeMille's letter ("Everyday Loudmouths") in Reader Mail's Jimmy Wins Again and Paul Dorell's letter (under "All Sung Out") in Reader Mail's The Ditsy Clucks:

I'm glad that I amused Sheryl DeMille, but I wasn't implying that the Dixie Chicks are brave, though they do get an occasional death threat. That obviously doesn't pose the same risk as roadside bombs, etc., in Iraq. But even George W. Bush supports their right to free speech, so I don't see what all the fuss is every time someone publicly disagrees with U.S. policy. If no one had ever spoken out in this country, we would still be a colony of England, only select white males would be allowed to vote, unions would be illegal, we'd probably be living in a large toxic waste dump, and most of us would be poor. That scenario might appeal to some of the readers of TAS, but it doesn't appeal to me.

As far as the patriotism issue is concerned, Sheryl DeMille, Ben Stein, and many of you readers can dream on that you're supporting the noble cause of protecting us at home while sowing the seeds of democracy abroad. That kind of naive thinking puts you in the same category as Henry Wallace, whom Jeffrey Lord identifies as the father of modern American liberalism. Having ideals with no basis in reality is wrong whether you're a liberal or a conservative. It also makes you a sucker to hidden agendas. Both hawks (Halliburton) and doves (Dixie Chicks) can get rich during wartime.
-- Paul Dorell
Highland Park, Illinois

LOW ON FUEL
Re: Ben Stein's Stop the Scapegoating:

Sir, perhaps I would feel much better about high fuel prices if I could afford to live in Malibu. Unfortunately, I, along with several million other Americans, must live on fixed retirement incomes that never stay abreast of product and fuel cost increases. I worked at heavy, labor-intensive jobs (oil field work included) for years until I could go to college at night and finally work up to a mid-level management job before retiring after 50 plus years due to health problems.

My wife and my retirement plans were to use our travel trailer to see parts of this country that we never had time to do during our working years. However, our only alternative to offset high fuel prices has been to: 1) Stay at home and only run must-do errands every 8-10 days, 2) Sell our travel trailer...no scenic trips, 3) Cut out all luxuries such an occasional dinner and a movie, and 4) Down grade insurance on home and two autos.

I don't begrudge the oil companies a reasonable profit, however, I do blame them whenever they raise the gas prices prior to every summer, holiday, and every time a cloud appears and the wind picks up...then try to pump smoke up our rear by telling us that it is for our benefit by trying to get the public to conserve energy. The only people not conserving energy are the upper income people such as yourself who can afford to pay $4 a gallon. In addition, I really get steamed when I hear of some poor, underpaid CEO who only gets a $400 million bonus. Wish I had it so rough!
-- George Elliott

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