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Hope and Sanity

Special tributes to Ben Stein and Jed Babbin. Plus much more, including the truth about "In Like Flynt" and about Wyoming.

4.11.06

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THE TAS COMBO
Re: Jed Babbin's Fed Up With April Already and Ben Stein's Greetings From Rancho Mirage:

Jed and Ben make reading TAS pretty worthwhile. Living up here in lala land, I find them a welcome diversion from the complete craziness of the local media and events. The loon party met last weekend in Montpelier and decided to push for impeachment of Bush. That made national news for some reason and in my fair city of Burlington, "we" elected a "progressive" mayor who (as the second choice in an "instant runoff") promises to fix the fiscal mess left by the outgoing "progressive" mayor, while the state "GOP" (actually RINO central) has taken sides in a primary fight between a Jeffords RINO and a real conservative, siding with the RINO. So you can see that reading Jed Babbin's and Ben Stein's articles gives me hope that, yes, there is reason and sanity beyond the borders of Vermont. In effect, they are so reasonable and sane, they could qualify as bona fide Traditional Vermont Yankees, a group I believe should be on the federal endangered species list. Ay-yup.
-- Pete Chagnon

HONOR AMONG THIEVES
Re: The Prowler's Yes, West Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus:

Your plea for Congress to put some teeth back into their ethics committees is sure to fall on deaf ears.

Lawyers, a profession(?) to whom the majority of Congress claim membership, are the only group who require ethics committees to ensure they don't stray from what the rest of us use the Ten Commandments for.

It will be a cold day in Hades when Congress truly gets around to policing its membership. Maybe, after the Cubs win the World Series.

We have the best Congress money can buy. Anyone who doubts this only has to look at the actions of all those who have been bought.
-- R. Goodson
Vero Beach, Florida

One Lyndon Baines Johnson was pretty much broke when he won a disputed/dirty election for the Senate some years ago -- and worth how many millions when he finally retired?

Adding to the comedy, here's a question -- just how many years did it take for Austin, Texas, to get a second and third TV channel; LBJ's monopoly (the FCC feared granting another license?) might not have lasted nearly as long, if...

All these other guys are small potatoes.
-- Frost

The problem with Republicans hitting back hard is the fact they hate to get in the gutter with the Democrats. Most of them believe in fair play, even though if you get into politics fair play is not an option. Another area of concern is the MSM. They only cover corrupt Republicans so Americans that only watch that media thinks the Democrats are pure as the driven snow.
-- Elaine Kyle

YOU'RE SO CRUEL
Re: Jed Babbin's Fed Up With April Already:

Just to note that on Sunday's Meet The Press, in which John Kerry was given the first half-hour, Tim Russert failed to follow-up on the promise that Kerry made on the same show some 18 months ago, to wit: that he would within a matter of days or at most a few weeks sign the DOD form authorizing the release of all of his military records. In fact it was more than a promise, it was essentially a pledge, and it was made not once, but twice.

I didn't think Kerry would have the nerve to return to the show, because I was certain that the supposedly tough, aggressive questioner Russert would nail him. So the question is: did Russert simply cop out, or was he somehow bought off, or is he suffering from Alzheimer's?

Well, what can one expect from a news organization that hires Muslim plants to go to Southern sporting events for the purpose of hopefully provoking trouble that can be taped -- dirty looks, verbal slurs, or maybe, if their fondest wish came true, a fight, that might escalate into a melee, in which people might be injured or even killed?
-- Chuck Vail

Actually, Jed, no one says February is the cruelest month. In fact, the phrase is "April is the cruelest month." which is a T.S. Eliot line from "The Wasteland." April is cruel, he figured, since even though spring comes every year, we're all gonna die.

Jed Babbin replies:
I bow to your knowledge of poetry. After "The Admiral's Ghost" and "The Charge of the Light Brigade," I sorta dropped out of the rhyming world.

HEAR HER OUT
Re: Christopher Orlet's Martyr or Useful Idiot?:

Let me say up front that I am not a leftist in any sense of the word. But my call is for freedom of speech. I was one of those who wrote a letter to NYTW to protest the play's cancellation, which I do see as being for political reasons. Whether it be Sharon's health, Hamas's victory at the polls, or people's potential reaction in this country, they all represent political reasons. When something gets canceled for political reasons, that's censorship. Albeit self-censorship in this case, but censorship nonetheless.

I do not disagree with a lot of what Christopher Orlet wrote. I am perfectly willing to believe the official Israeli and American findings, and appreciate Mr. Orlet's reminding the public. However, as he also implies, there is so much controversy surrounding Rachel Corrie's death that we may never know the complete truth.

It bothers me that he criticizes her for writing that most Palestinians are engaging in non-violent resistance. That is undoubtedly what was happening and continues to happen. As with most populations, it's only a relative few who would be the militant ones. I don't expect that Gandhi would support terrorists, but have no idea what he would say about the average Palestinian who, like the rest of us, is trying to provide for and take care of his family.

In the meantime, it is not only "leftists" who should argue for free speech. We righties also need to. Why? Because truth gets colored and distorted all the time. All sides need to be heard in the hope that one day we may arrive at some answers together.
-- Beth Kennedy

IN LIKE FLYNN
Re: Hal G.P. Colebatch's Three Strikes and You're ... In Like Flint:

I always thought that the older I became the more I would understand about society, the social construct, republics, and parliamentarian governments to protect and serve. The polar opposite has now become my world view.

My ancestors, paternal and maternal arrived here from England before the revolution.

They all owned firearms to put food on the table and to ward off predators, both human and animal. I own firearms, not for food. I just cannot get up early enough for the ducks and geese and I am not interested in sitting in a tree waiting for a deer. Mine are for targets, clays and any predator the German shepherd can not runoff. And, I believe the Second Amendment to the Constitution insures that all others stand.

I truly believe that as Robert A. Heinlein once said "a polite society is an armed society." And he was not talking about felons.

John Lott (University of Chicago, if memory serves) has written extensively on the statistical reduction in crime of all forms in states with "right to carry laws" as opposed to cities and states with strict gun control. Washington, D.C., our nation's capital, is a stellar example of the results of strict gun control and with one of the highest murder and crime rates in the country. My home state of Maryland, particularly Baltimore, guided by liberal gun control advocates is doing its level best to surpass D.C. Salisbury, next door to my little city of Fruitland has also become a shooting and crime gallery...and it is NOT the result of LEGAL firearm ownership.

Crime, be it murder, assault, rape, burglary or robbery is and always will be the acts of sociopaths, the deranged, drug induced, or, MORE IMPORTANTLY, those who just THINK THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH IT!

James Q. Wilson spoke to "broken windows." In short, come down hard on the little things and the perpetrators of the big things will start to get the message. This worked for New York under Giuliani.

Now, to Mr. Blair in the U.K. and Mr. Howard in Australia. (Mr. Chirac, sorry sir, lost cause.) Allow your legal and patriotic citizens to be armed. Allow them to defend their homes and selves. Institute "right to carry." No more cautions to thugs. Smack them hard with a nightstick several times on the head! And put them in Jail!

Unfortunately, all I have written is for naught because I have become convinced that the social order and protection of the law abiding is the last thing politicians want, regardless of country.
-- Jim Woodward
Fruitland, Maryland

When I saw Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange in 1971, I came away with the thought that you had to be seriously on drugs to imagine a society devolving to the level shown in this film. Thirty-five years later it appears A Clockwork Orange was the blueprint for the decline of the English society. Both England and France seem to be in a race to see who can return back to the Stone Age first. France has a slight lead now but England is catching up fast. England and France are living examples of nations where the people basically distrust their fellow man and will not rise to the occasion to overcome this thus; the inmates are running the place. The Tony Martin affair was but the tip of a very large iceberg that shows a lot of its ugliness above water even now. Why it is that Tony Blair goes against the cowards in his own socialist party with regard to Iraq is beyond me but that he does is about the only worthwhile English tradition left in the country. That he does nothing about his own country's decline and that English troops in Iraq are safer there than their families and loved ones back in London speaks volumes. Common sense as well as what used to be common law has apparently been bred out of English people.
-- Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia

"In Like Flint" was nothing but a very, very bad movie. The expression you were reaching for is "In Like Flynn." As in the immortal Errol Flynn, you young whippersnappers!
-- Doug Welty
Arlington, Virginia

SINGING SONGS OF STEIN
Re: Ben Stein's Greetings From Rancho Mirage:

My sister forwards Ben Stein editorials to me, only because we are bonded on the one heart and life giving issue. Our armed forces. The latest she sent was the "Rancho Mirage" that put me in tears. Today, Palm Sunday, which is sacred to some, not all, put in perspective how sacrificial these men and women are. My husband will retire after 23 years in the U.S. Marine Corps next month and it is so bittersweet. Through deployments, war, exercises, and training, 13 moves, and an unbelievable amount of friends, we are leaving. Leaving it to the younger men and women who have signed on to do what he did all those years ago, leaving to work in a civilian job ironically working on a rocket system to protect those who we are leaving behind.

May God bless Ben Stein, all those who believe in our country as he does, and all the men and women in all forces who sacrifice family and life for all others.
-- Carole Hull

I recently read your "Greetings from Rancho Mirage" letter to servicemen around the globe, and just wanted to send a short "thanks." That letter was wonderful for all of us to read, and believe me -- we're reading it. It's made the rounds on the e-mail lists, and although you're much too generous with your words, the fact that Americans such as yourself still hold the military and our efforts with such high regard is very encouraging. I've read much of your writing before, and am always grateful for your positive tone towards the armed forces. This means more than you know to the wonderful Marines with whom I've had the great pleasure to serve. Remarkable young men and women -- the cliches are all true, as you obviously realize.

...I just want you to realize that none of us here has lost sight of the fact that we're here by choice, and that serving on behalf of the United States is both an honor and a privilege -- I mean that with all sincerity. (It's pretty easy for me to say that, as I'm a helicopter pilot who gets to enjoy flying around the country "sightseeing," unlike these young 20-something studs who are either courageously patrolling through the streets each day, risking the IED threat while on their convoys, or are stuck on base working long shifts, seven days a week, without the tangible rewards of the job I reap daily.) Nevertheless, they too realize that they are fortunate to be here, representing their country and fighting for our ideals. They are the ones who truly inspire me.

Anyway, thanks again for your consideration, support, and patriotism. You yourself continue to serve your country well, and are setting a fine example for American's youth. WE appreciate YOU, sir.
Semper Fidelis.
-- "Mush"

Thank you for expressing my thoughts exactly.
-- Dottie Curtis, Police and Fire Dispatcher
Paradise, California

I received the article from a fellow soldier in my company, and I wanted to say thank you. I am sure that you have received numerous emails from others. I am at a loss for words. This means a lot to us, thank you!!
-- SGT Leilani Wells First Brigade Combat Team, Tenth Mountain Division
Camp Liberty, Iraq

I read an excerpt from a letter he wrote to your paper. I was moved to the point of writing to thank him for his recognition of the invaluable services our heroes perform on a daily basis. Our military is out there, home and away, keeping the peace worldwide, performing humanitarian and rescue missions, and constantly training for readiness. This goes on 24 hours a day seven days a week. There are many detractors who get their faces on the news or in the halls of Congress that do not really know the true and faithful execution of those duties, nor do I believe they care. I believe that some may be "holdouts from the sixties that never matured." Yes there were a minor few that did not properly carry out those duties, but as with every civilized nation they were brought to justice for those actions. I served proudly in the U.S. Air Force for only four years until other responsibilities separated me from renewing that service. I still salute the past, current, and future members of those armed forces from the lowly recruits to the Joint Chiefs for their dedication to protecting our free society. Freedom is not free but paid for with the lives and dedication of our armed forces. Thank you again for listening.
-- Mark Thomas
Rochester, New York

Thanks for your kind thoughts. The men and women in our military forces always benefit from reminders -- not only about the importance of their work -- but also what things generally have REAL meaning. Since mass "news" media have the potential to define the concepts that synopsize America to the world -- and most people seem to be OK with that -- the REAL meaning of life is easy to miss -- or misplace! Reminders are important!
-- Carroll Greene, Colonel, USAF, Chief Operational Psychology
United States Air Force Special Operations Command

ANYONE BUT ZINNI
Re: Jed Babbin's Fighting for a Ticket on the Titanic:

Jed Babbin's critique of Anthony Zinni was pretty harsh -- enough so to prompt me to find out more. I did.

Anthony Zinni possesses several fatal flaws as a potential policy maker. He over-relies on what he calls "containment" (and what Jed calls "stability"), indicating a pre-9/11 mindset in a post-9/11 world. Containment was what we did with the Taliban in Afghanistan before 9/11, and containment was what Zinni advocated for Iraq, even after 9/11. The post-9/11 reality requires us to be pro-active in disrupting terrorists and their state sponsors. Keep the b******s off-balance and do it non-stop.

Also deeply troubling is Zinni's reliance on the UN for legitimacy. One of his chief criticisms against toppling Saddam was the lack of a final-final UN resolution, as if 1441 were not explicit enough. He seems not to recognize that the UN had become a crime syndicate through its Oil-For-Food program, and that some of the UN's biggest partners-in-crime -- France and Russia among others -- were gaming the system to keep Saddam in business. Leaving our security in the hands of thieves does not bestow legitimacy.

Finally, I am concerned about the man's honesty. He often criticizes ideological enemies by false association to a statement or position. For example, he said in May 2004 about our supposed mistakes in Iraq that "...the idea of creating Jeffersonian democracy almost overnight, is almost ridiculous...." Well, yes it is, but I've yet to find where Bush, Powell, or Rumsfeld said that we would create a Jeffersonian democracy in Iraq almost overnight. Perhaps our stated goal of seeing democracy replace Saddam's hideous regime got Zinni a little addled. And, to be fair, a democratic Iraq would no longer require his precious "containment." Bush has repeatedly said that democracy in Iraq will look very different from democracy here -- or Japan, for that matter.

Zinni appears to be an opportunist, and that brings his judgment into question. I wish him success in his post-career endeavors, so long as he does not impact policy. Let us hope that he is sincere in not aspiring to public office.
-- GnuCarSmell
Jacksonville, Texas

Jed Babbin is missing the train. Was he really a deputy undersecretary? Say what you want, but Gen Zinni is the last (ex) military leader with any credibility left. Not to mention the fact that Gen. Powell sacrificed any possibility of a positive legacy by supporting the Bush administration's Iraq war plan. That man will live with that cloud until his last day. I can't imagine what that's like. It's quite unfortunate, since I once regarded many military leaders with an immense amount of awe. Military leaders do not go against the obvious wishes of their civilian leaders. They're not stupid. They understand that they are required to work within the constraints established by the Secretary of Defense. If they wander, they're gone, e.g. Gen. Shinseki.

In addition, the military leaders left are trying to do what's right to salvage a respectable ending to this morass and protecting the soldiers and Marines under their charge. I don't doubt that each and every one must be thinking long and hard over what their counterparts must have been thinking during Vietnam under similar circumstances. For this administration to be hiding behind the line that military leaders are responsible for carrying out military campaign plans is pretty pathetic. If that was the case, Mr. Rumsfeld would have accepted Gen. Frank's first OIF war plan and not worn him and his staff down to a nub, until the war plan reflected the plan inside Mr. Rumsfeld's pea-size brain absent any critical thought. I knew this result would follow this invasion. It surprises me somewhat, since I don't consider myself a critical thinker either, but I understood how this conflict would unfold. I understood that Saddam was never a threat to the U.S., and that his only weapons were military-trained insurgents to wage an unconventional war against the U.S. presence in Iraq following a predictable outcome of the U.S. ground offensive.

I was long intimidated by the big brains in the Pentagon, but I now realize, as with our leaders in Vietnam they have little grasp of the nature of warfare nor the long term consequences of waging unnecessary wars. We obviously have a short-term memory problem, which is especially worrisome since many of the Pentagon leaders either served in the military at that time or served as government civilians. I realize the power of White House information operations will likely provide the President with the opportunity of putting a bow on this in a year and call it a success. It's also quite possible that a Democratic administration will come in and the Republicans will later claim, if not for the Democrats, they would have won in Iraq. Once again, the sad thing is that 50 percent of the nation will likely believe this devoid of any actual facts.
-- Denise

Here comes the man named "Zinni,"
Whose advice sounds just a bit tinny.
Though he's not too bright,
Saddam thinks he's right.
GET ME OUTA THIS JAIL YOU NINNY!
-- Mike Showalter
Austin, Texas

Despite Clancy's book title on Zinni, Battle Ready, it was clear from reading Zinni's story that he was much more comfortable being a "King maker" or politician than a soldier. I give the man credit for having "walked the walk" and gone places that no John Kerry would get caught near. Nevertheless, General Zinni ceased being a Marine a long time ago and his go along to get along views don't hold water in a world where fanatics obtain nuclear weapons. Zinni's biggest mistake was in getting too close to the enemy and being comfortable with that. Several of his missions to the Middle East to work things out for Clinton failed because he had no stick to use and you can't negotiate from a position of weakness. Marines are taught to always be polite but never friendly to potential adversaries. Zinni wants to be friendly. That's the job of the State Department, not a Marine.
-- Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia

Jed Babbin replies:
I've never questioned Zinni's bravery, and won't now. He's a career Marine, and has been there and done that. Nevertheless, he's gone off on this "stability" toot, and has lost his military judgment while pursuing a political agenda. He's just typical of those who came to prominence in the Great Period of Neglect.

MASS. EXODUS
Re: Shawn Macomber's Romney Rolls the Dice:

The big question here is, who will be the last unemployed person to turn the lights out in Massachusetts after businesses jump ship and head south or China for that matter? It's going to be fun to watch.
-- Jim
East Sandwich, Massachusetts

PAVED PARADISE
Re: Beverly Gunn's letter (under "These Old Homes") in Reader Mail's Zinni Cuts In and Lawrence Henry's A Good House:

Beverly Gunn's letter unleashed a flood of memories, maybe even a flood of tears for some of us who mourn a time gone by. Her descriptive prose is simply beautiful and brings a moment of temporary calm in a world riven with discontent, political dissent and just general un-neighborliness. Progress is going to be the death of beauty.

I share her sadness at losing a symbol of her childhood, the place where her memories reside. Well, actually, they don't. Memories live in the heart and that's a warm, safe place for them. I went back to my neighborhood in Dallas years after the last family member owned our home -- bequeathed to several before finally there was no one to leave it to. So it made room for a "compound" of condominiums occupying the entire block of my childhood. There was not one shred of evidence that "real" families had ever occupied that tranquil tree-lined block. Gone was the red bud tree in our front yard. I hope it was not in bloom when the bulldozer hit it. I wonder if there are any red bud trees left in Texas? Condos in California tend toward evergreens. Ugly but durable. Hey, that could be a state motto.
-- Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California

STAYING ALIVE IN WYOMING
Re: unsigned letter ("One Brokeback to Another") in Reader Mail's Zinni Cuts In:

I'd like to respond to an idea presented by the guy who wrote a letter to the editor under the heading "One Brokeback to Another" (April 10).

According to that individual, "men who have homosexual feelings" in the western United States are "routinely murdered" strictly because of their sexuality. His implication seemed to be that out west, homosexuality carries an automatic death sentence.

I lived in Casper, Wyoming, during the early 1980s and I can tell you that the motive behind a good number of the murders committed in that region during that period was indeed of a sexual nature. HETEROsexual, that is.

If I remember the circumstances correctly, several of those killings occurred as a result of two men fighting over a woman, or in connection with the rape of a woman by a man. But I believe that most of the murders that occurred were actually related to disputes over illegal drugs. Frankly, lots of people were at risk for being murdered in Casper back in those days.

In fact, I recall thinking at the time that the best ways to avoid being murdered in Wyoming (whether you were hetero or homo) included the use of caution in approaching potential sexual partners (or resisting any temptation to flaunt your current romantic attachments), steering clear of the rougher drinking establishments, and projecting a certain confidence in your ability to defend yourself.

Come to think of it, those are probably pretty much the same precautions that have helped Wyoming residents (again, both hetero and homo) to avoid being murdered all the way back to the frontier days.

I'm not saying that homosexuals are never picked on (or murdered) out west. And I'm certainly not condoning the disgusting practice of killing or otherwise mistreating people because of their sexuality. But I must say I doubt that being a homosexual is necessarily fatal in the State of Wyoming.
-- unsigned
Indianapolis, Indiana

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