Reader Mail

Zinni Cuts In

Once a Clintonista... Also: Hollywood's terrorists. House sweet home. McCain's markings. More on Stature's disappearance. More on Ben's service. Plus much else.

4.10.06

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MODERN-DAY McCLELLAN
Re: Jed Babbin's Fighting for a Ticket on the Titanic:

Thwap! Take that, Zinni. Stuff a sock in it and say goodnight.
-- Cara Lyons Lege
Frisco, Texas

Jed is absolutely correct. It is amazing how many Cold Warriors have opted to switch allegiances if not parties. Sometimes I really wonder if the end of the Cold War was just as traumatic on our diplomats and military intellectuals as it was on the Eastern Block. 911 crushed the ideas and strategies that formed the foundation for so many careers. As Jed noted, General Zinni invested much time and effort into this stability strategy during the Clinton Administration. He, like others saw the Middle East as some grand chessboard. Stability must be maintained through complex diplomacy. Saddam's biggest sin in 1990 wasn't an illegal invasion. His biggest sin was rocking the boat -- disrupting the "balance." Removing Saddam ruined everything. Years of diplomacy perished in 2003. How rude of Bush.

I imagine many people like Zinni or Scowcroft even saw the Taliban as a useful pawn on the chessboard of Middle East diplomacy. If some enlightened public servant could reach out and understand the language, culture, and history of the Taliban, then perhaps they could be put to some use. This kind of stability required a special knowledge, as well as the ability to overlook rape rooms, public torture, and genocide. These men had an almost cultic attachment to this form of foreign policy Gnosticism. Their model wasn't John Foster Dulles but Prince Metternich. Stability and not security was their ultimate goal. Such abstractions perished with the Twin Towers. Perhaps it isn't pride that explains Zinni's recent behavior, but guilt.
-- JP
Indiana

I don't agree with Mr. Babbin with respect to his recent positions on Iraq and illegal immigration, but I agree totally with his comments on General Zinni.

The analogy between Civil War General George McClellan and modern day Generals Clark and Zinni is too strong to ignore. A similar analogy exists between Civil War era Copperheads and today's rabid anti-war leaders like Kennedy, Pelosi, etc.

History teaches how wrong McClellan and the Copperheads were in 1864. History teaches how wrong Zinni and the liberal democrats are today.
-- Doug Santo
Pasadena, California

General Zinni is actually a Marine. I had heard it predicted of him that he would go very, very far in the Marine Corps from a flag wife around 1994. She thought he was tremendous, but I discounted this to some extent because I found her not particularly credible generally.

I checked in to CENTCOM in January of 1999 to drill in the J3, and saw that everybody LOVED him. I didn't get it. Not that I grew personally attached to General Franks, but I could see he was getting things done.

General DeLong was the case where everybody loved him, including me. Mrs. DeLong is a sweety-pie, and was continually surrounded by a cloud of male junior field-grade at social events.
-- Ed Ahlsen-Girard
Walton Beach, Florida

Sad to see another former Marine turn himself into a joke.

While General Zinni was "planning" in the '90s, his bosses halved the U.S. Army. Build partnerships with the EU and UN? Maybe we should have joined in with their courageous actions to stop genocides in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Generals who speak political nonsense make themselves look particularly foolish.
-- Chris B.

Thanks for your clarification of General Zinni's inept views. Now we know the truth. We DID TOO plan intelligently for the realities of a post-hostilities Iraq. We had more than enough troops on the ground there to establish and maintain order, and all this stuff about the Sunnis and Shias not getting along turned out to be just a Baghdad urban legend. Or was it Fallujah. I forget. Whatever. So post-Saddam peace now reigns over there just as the Bush Administration planned it and Democracy is beginning to work there just about as well as it does here, give or take one or two Mexican Nationalist Demonstrations. And wasn't Condi Rice received so well recently in Sharialand? She really got those guys working together now. What nerve of that guy Zinni! And after General Garner got all the lights back on and Paul Bremer handed out all those Boy Scout leaflets and George Bush posed on the aircraft carrier. Mission Accomplished, baby! The West really CAN TOO show the East how to live. Glad you cleared all that up.
-- Gene Wright
Laguna Niguel, California

Thank you for this letter. Zinni gets an F. I have watched him over the years. One of Clinton's boys. His attacks on Bush and Rumsfeld tells me our guys are doing well. I still say "Rumsfeld '08."
-- Martin N. Tirrell
Lisbon, New Hampshire

I read Babbin's diatribe re: Gen. Zinni and I wonder: Where is Babbin's solution?
-- John Denson
Nashville, Tennessee

Fantastic portrayal. I was suspicious before but without facts. Thank you, Mr. Babbin
-- Dave Miller
Bonita Springs, Florida

Once a Clintonista, always a Clintonista, it seems.

As for Gen. Zinni cutting into Gen. Wesley Clark's tango with Hillary R. Clinton? They all deserve one another. Pick any dance mater for her and the Dems' still have a losing ticket.
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

Gen. Zinni is a Marine, not a "decorated combat soldier."
-- unsigned

Jed Babbin replies: Amen. A Marine is always a Marine, but Marines are still soldiers.

FRIENDS OF ENEMIES
Re: Ayad Rahim's Mistaken Identity:

Mr. Rahim went far beyond the minimum needed to express Hollywood's views on terrorists and the enemies of America generally. I suggest the following would have been sufficient.

"Hollywood hates America. Terrorists and the remaining communists in Latin America hate America. Therefore Hollywood loves terrorists and Latin American communists."

Simple.
-- Jay W. Molyneaux
Wellington, Florida

The article written by Ayad Rahim titled "Mistaken Identity" was a great article except for the fact that he is totally mistaken about the TV show 24. Obviously he has not seen the previous seasons of 24. The terrorists were portrayed as Muslim extremists. Not blonde blue eyed Russians. The writers of the show know that you can't have the same storyline every season. Even I know that and Ayad Rahim seems smart enough to figure it out. Or not.
-- D. Murphy

The article is a great summary of the foibles of the Hollywood elite. I would suggest that your writer treats them too harshly. Let's face it. There is no real penalty in Western Democracies for making such films and TV shows. The actors and directors get paid their outrageous salaries and the financiers keep going back regardless of the losses.

It does however take real courage to make films and TV shows where showing the truth might arouse the ire of people who will kill or torture you because they do no not like the show. Maybe the proud defenders of the right to publish anything but the truth are just looking after their own skins.
-- Dave Ward
Washington, D.C.

Ayad Rahim is correct, but two things come to mind. One is that 24 had to apologize when it portrayed Moslem villains last season and second is that Hollywood usually does things in reverse of reality. Even Tom and Jerry cartoons have the mouse as hero and the cat as baddie. That is not the way it is in most homes. Except for Nazi bad guys, Hollywood usually gets it backwards. This is something I have observed for 70 years. Now that TV makes so many old movies available, it is easier to notice. Most Civil War movies showed the south in good light, the north as bad. Gangsters are usually shown sympathetically. Whores usually have hearts of gold. Anyone who tries to live a straight middle class life is apt to be ridiculed in one way or another. It is easy to spot the TV villain if a character is a successful businessman or devout religious person. Thankfully, the audience seems able to separate real life from Hollywood's vision.
-- unsigned

THESE OLD HOMES
Re: Lawrence Henry's A Good House:

Two things I'd like to add about the old house v. the new house "concepts."

Old houses were frequently not built all at once. The two I have lived in were built piecemeal, added onto a central core or extended like a game of dominoes to suit the need of the family. Both of our houses had floors of varying heights and seriously inefficient traffic patterns; the farm house from the 1700s also had very low ceilings that meant my sister's 6'5" boyfriend repeatedly smacked his head on the lintels as he went from room to room. My parents reorganized the interior and put a Franklin stove in their bedroom which was a walled-off right-angle extension of the open downstairs area. Three of us girls slept in the only bedroom which was upstairs, and the other two slept in a hall alcove that was probably a dressing room at some past time. The other house was what the southerners call a "dog run" house that was built like a game of dominoes but with an eye to the prevailing winds (in the days before air conditioning this was more important than it is now.) It too had floors of varying heights and low ceilings.

The second observation re: the modern McMansions is that they are not designed for children. People who can afford "nice" houses either don't have any children, or keep them tucked away in their bedrooms upstairs where nobody has to see them. It's the modern version of "Children should be seen and not heard" -- i.e. that children should not be either seen OR heard if we can possibly help it. You're sighing or a lifestyle that's gone with the wind, sir. Today's kids could not give a flip about ambience; wherever you put them down, be it their wired-up bedrooms or the back of the minivan, they sit passively absorbing the same goo they'd be absorbing in the Amityville Horror house, oblivious of their surroundings altogether.
-- Kate Shaw

Lawrence Henry's article regarding a good house provoked memories of yesteryear. The times we went to Grandma's house in Alice, Texas or my other grandmother next door, whose home I stayed at so many times. There were screened porches and small nooks and cranny's everywhere. The homes were delightful. My Dad's mother had a house with a "dog run" porch, a style often seen in pioneer Texas. The part of the home you cooked in was separate from the part of the home you slept in.

I remember finding mulberry trees and eating the delicious syrupy berries and staining my hands so badly that it took weeks for the stains to wear off. You can only find fruitless mulberry trees now. The memories of both those homes conjure heart moments built on love and simplicity. Even the home my parents have lived in for fifty years, and the only one I knew to have an official "cellar", is over seventy years old and unique in so many ways. The cellar in that home was not one to seek refuge in when a tornado approached. I remember one such moment as a child, new to the home, when on the way down during a terrifying storm, my mother was going down the steps carrying my baby sister. Dad who was bringing up the rear, remarked...."Watch out for snakes." Mama reversed course and came right over us, wanting to choose facing a fierce storm with her babies than any snakes in a dark cellar! We never did use that cellar or step foot in it again. It remains under the kitchen table with a linoleum floor covering it.

The homeplace ranch my folks have owned for nearly fifty years is to be sold next month. Too close, even at forty-eight miles, from ever expanding Austin, developers bought the ranch next to my Dad's. My Dad worried over it for months and every trip home we would take our usually ride around the pasture...this is how a Texas rancher shares the most endearing heart moments with his offspring, and as Dad fussed about millionaire gated communities, and the obnoxious offspring these communities breed, and other folks of entitlement, I finally said, "Dad, it's okay if you sell the place." I knew at 86 he couldn't take watching what he built with the work of his hands, soiled by the likes of monied folks.

So the McMansions are coming soon to the Texas hill country near Johnson City. There will be a huge gated community of 3,000+ acres, some I spent my childhood on. And my folks will pack and move. The old house will be torn down to make room for Mc Mansions of 6,000-10,000 sq. ft. And when we pack my folks to leave there, I will see the home place for the last time. I will never return to that area again. It would be entirely too hard. But somehow I think we are coming to an end monstrous proliferation. I think the future will be one that is scaled back, at least I hope so. For the best of life is not to be found in sprawling architectural wonders that take a day to walk from the kitchen to the bedroom, but of moments spent in small nooks and crannies, nights slept on simple screened porches, and moments squashing mulberries in your hands with sweet delight. The simple things...oh how we yearn for those days.
-- Beverly Gunn
East Texas Rancher

Why stop with just the house. Why not bring a lot of the good stuff back too? Stuff like hunting and fishing. Building tree houses. Building birdhouses and tinkering with old radios. Heath kits. Chopping wood. Sunday school. Church socials. Chickens and ducks. Rag and tube tail draggers. Old saw mills. Crystal radios. Row boats. Ham radios. There is much we could do to turn the clock back for our kids. Too bad some of it is now illegal, requires a building permit, results in higher property taxes, or is censured by a ham fisted government. Try opening a shooting program after school in your neighborhood or mine.
-- Martin N. Tirrell
Lisbon, New Hampshire

Good Lord, you've been in Hurley! That's my father's home town, and I spent many a day there as a kid visiting one of my aunts.

And in Arlington I had the best steak of my life.

How did you ever wind up in North Andover?

Always enjoy your articles.
-- Brian Hogan

Lawrence Henry replies:
My family name is Hutchinson; ring any bells?

I haven't been to Hurley in decades. I did visit Arlington in 1998 for my mother's college reunion in Brookings. It struck me as kind of shabby, even compared to the funny little old town I knew as a boy. A steak? I guess anything is possible. Somebody told me that once every two weeks one of the local restaurants served Mexican and people came from miles around to eat.

I have written a memoir (42 pages, unpublished) of my boyhood in Arlington, if you'd like to see it.

I have sent your letter on to my Uncle Charles, the last Hutchinson.

THE CASE AGAINST McCAIN
Re: Andrew Cline's How Does It Feel?:

Just one of the many reasons I plan to vote against McCain in the primaries and will vote for all Republicans down ticket, but not for President if he gets the nomination.
-- Michael Tomlinson
Crownsville, Maryland

In reference to your article, "How Does It Feel?" I would like to comment that I don't believe that George Soros will have any problem stepping around the law. Those people do it so often; it is commonplace for them to find loopholes in the law. That's why so many of them pay so little in taxes in proportion to their wealth. Both parties have become so corrupt and arrogant that the news media and Internet blogs are the only thing they fear.

Hillary Clinton was just in Texas making a few stops which resulted in her lining her hope chest. I'm sure the Republicans are doing the same thing.
Why does anyone think laws do anything but just drive it underground?

Just my $0.02,
-- Bob Rutledge
Burleson, Texas

Andrew Cline is on target when he said that this all would be funny if it -- the government limiting free political speech -- weren't so serious.

Left-wing activists, in and out of political parties, triumph because the lemmings that the public can be marched over the cliff silently as the mainstream media cast this as a Republican/conservative/corporate-America issue.

But besides miscasting yet another issue and plumbing the depths of Americans' complacency and prejudice, those same LWAs really got what they wanted, didn't they? After all, they can still spew their ignorance, bias, fear and venom -- all which the MSM will gladly publish and broadcast, perhaps even enhance -- while the voices to counterbalance all will have even less air time.
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

IMPORTING ECONOMIC TROUBLE
Re: Jay D. Homnick's My Grating Views:

In Jay Homnick' s "My Grating Views" article he states, "Don't we have to ask ourselves a simple question? Can a nation afford to import a class of immigrants whose noteworthy qualification for employment is the fact that they are uneducated and unskilled?" It is amazing that our Republican leaders do not seem to grasp this simple, common-sense concept themselves.

Another simple concept that our Republican leaders do not see or ask of themselves is that Democrats are ALWAYS better at pandering to the selfish instincts of those who have underclass or victim status, and this includes the illegal aliens. President Bush and the Republicans in the Senate waste so much energy to reach a few more percentage points of the Latino population and do not care that they are fracturing the Republican base and destroying the Republican Party first America's future later.

In 1996 the Democratic Party kept to one working slogan, "It's the Economy, Stupid." Bush and the Republicans in Congress would do well to use this slogan, "It's the Border Wall, Stupid." Build this and worry about what to do with the illegals already here later. We can spend 500 billion in Iraq but we cannot seem to find 15 billion for a Border wall.
-- Steve Cade
Astoria, Oregon

Please if you want to help get legal immigration back on track and stop the flood of ILLEGALS sign up at www.numbersusa.com you can send FREE faxes to your members of both houses and the President. If you are against amnesty please sign up. Also they have a report card on how your member has voted on immigration issues.

Now back to the jobs Americans won't do, if every able bodied welfare person had to work for their money a lot of these jobs would get done. We have a whole class of people that just want to set around and have someone wait on them and have more babies so their "paycheck" will go up.

If workers were not ILLEGAL the employers would have to pay more to get the work done. OK, so lettuce might go up a nickel, but maybe our taxes could go down a little not having to pay for all the services the illegals get.

The people we have elected to office are so out of touch and that is the reason we need to work on getting TERM LIMITS for both houses of Congress.
-- Elaine Kyle

ANONYMOUS STANDING
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s The Stature Gap and Reader Mail's Whither Men of Stature?:

In response to R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s open question to the lack of stature in administration figures, I would suggest that Kissinger, Moynihan, and Kirkpatrick were all professors at prestigious universities before coming to political positions. In that sense, Secretary of State Rice is their direct heir in terms of career track. Robert Reich was similar academic-to-government figure in the Clinton administration. Similar cabinet level individuals -- though not exclusively for a Bush administration, might include people like Eliot Cohen, James Q. Wilson (though at 75 he's long of tooth), Francis Fukuyama, John Mearsheimer, and others. However, today, the conservative movement has think tank resources which supplement individuals beyond academy, Max Boot at the CFR or Ivo Daalder at the Brooking Institute are examples there. Victor Davis Hanson is a former professor who is now a fellow at the Hudson Institute and has a "foot in both camps" as it were. Also, the polarization of politics has made government appointment an invitation for ancient personal scandal to be aired to the embarrassment of one's family and sponsors and dissuades otherwise worthy candidates from accepting nominations. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, politics has become professionalized to the extent that expert learning in the subject matter has become secondary to expertise in the political process (which is where staffing experience in Congress is as important as the substantive subject matter knowledge).
-- Norm Owens

Let me take a stab at answering your question...

Stature is earned, not bestowed. The same as a good reputation takes a lifetime to build; it only takes one misspoken word to lose. An individual gains stature and reputation by believing and quietly working to accomplish those beliefs. They care not what others may think and never deviate from factual truth. They know fame is to be avoided and the news media to be used only to accomplish the end objective.

The giants of yesteryear, such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan, would be mostly insignificant in the political/moral environment in which we currently live. Honor no longer exists, personal responsibility is mostly unknown, and last, but not least, no one is held accountable for his/her words and actions. The rule of law, if one can truthfully call it such, has been allowed to stamp-out pride, honor and individual accountability.

I have occasionally watched the Senate circus in action with witnesses or nominees and have thought that no job or position is worth such belittlement by inferior minds. I suspect, no, I know, that my father or his father would have said "to hell with this" and those toothy senators would no longer be toothy and to heck with the consequences.

I suspect Daniel Patrick Moynihan would know what I mean...
-- Ray Howell
North Florida Country Boy
Wellborn, Florida

This absurd Bush quest tells us everything we need to know about those who Bush, MBA, has chosen to staff his administration.

Unlike the 3,500 Reaganauts largely without "stature" who staffed the Gipper's administration and in many cases did heroic things (see Donald Devine's Reagan's Terrible Swift Sword for some of their thrilling exploits), far too many Bush appointees settled on presiding over their agencies and departments instead of reforming and running them. Thousands of Clintonistas, cleverly converted into "nonpolitical" civil servants, are now for all practical purposes staffing the middle levels of the Bush administration -- instead of being shoved out of the way ("Alaska, anyone?") by a hard-nosed Republican team of reformers. Thus [Edwin] Feulner's Law -- "people are policy" -- has prevailed.

That the Bushies prefer "stature" -- in whose eyes? -- to principled competence is the sad lesson of this failed administration.

Thanks, Bob, for the unearthing this wonderful quote.
-- Jameson Campaigne
Ottawa, Illinois

Hmmmm, just a thought... There may still be one huge problem for a domestic policy advisor to solve! It's how to get the public to understand that the quality and survival of our republic depends on their own degree of personal morality and unselfishness. "Cause and Effect" social education programs using new research studies might be good. (?)

The poor person taking on this job would also need to already have these qualities to a high degree!
-- L. Mills
Salt Lake City, Utah

While giving thought to "public servants and public thinkers...and attracting esteem...." I was gratified, humbled and encouraged by the comments submitted by so many American Spectator readers on April 7.

I have wrestled with this since Mr. Tyrrell proposed the question. I am not sure I can offer anything substantive to thoughts already expressed other than a few anecdotal thoughts. Let us not even go to the MSM and their thoughts on "stature" or, shudder, "gravitas."

This Spectator is a "public thinker" forum. Each and every one of you who take the time and interest in contributing are "public servants." I have noticed, none of us sign off with, or I have missed it, our academic degrees. Yes a few sign off with military rank and that is entirely appropriate and encouraged because most of you ladies and gentleman of rank are of higher education and insight than most members of Congress. If I dare say, so are many, many other contributors.

I was fortunate to come to the collegiate life a little late and mostly at night, on my own dime, a little of the companies and not Mom and Dads. I was not indoctrinated and have to thank each and every professor for their "stature." AND I mean "stature." Most are all now retired.

How I would like a few of them in government or as advisors.

Yes, hats off to WFB, Dr. Sowell, Dr. Walter Williams and Rush Limbaugh...but more importantly; a tip of the hat to Mr. Tyrrell and the columnists and contributors to the American Spectator closing the stature gap, in spite of the MSM!

I simply cannot get the issue of "stature" out of my thoughts. This is going to confound me for weeks. Webster's speaks to " bodily tallness; growth, maturity, development; as, professional stature."

Mr. Tyrrell is not speaking of the body, of course, but of the mind.

I spoke of anecdotal evidence of "stature," let's say empirical, that what we witness.

I have mentioned formal education and military service as evidence of "stature." I think Mr. Tyrrell speaks to the issue of "professional stature" in government and I would agree that something is amiss here. Perhaps we as a people and Republic have put too much emphasis on who has the formal education to lead and inform forgetting common sense and life experience. There seem to be many, far too many in government, elected and un-elected making decisions and enacting law who simply do not have "professional stature." Yes, they have an education, but rarely experience in any field of endeavor or understanding of what they propose as legislation can do to the populace. I prefer education and experience...barring education, I am firmly in experiences corner!

Perhaps when the Katies, Dans, Barbaras, etc. are banished from defining those of "stature" we will truly have those of real "stature" in the forefront again

My nominations for those of true "professional stature"? My Mom, Dad, brothers and sister, my extended family and every single American citizen who displays the Flag, runs a business or contributes to it, or ever has; defends the Constitution and Bill of Rights, puts their hand over their heart and says "I Pledge..., votes and goes to the politicians and says...enough!
-- Jim Woodward
Fruitland, Maryland

You can stand as tall as you want, but if no one is looking up, it doesn't matter. Sadly, we are a nation increasingly looking straight ahead, at TV screens -- and not at Firing Line, which is no more. Desperate Housewives and Reality shows do little to spark the dying embers of what once passed for intellectual curiosity. I can't say that from having watched them, as I haven't, but that is my surmise.

Groucho Marx said it best. When asked to use the word "horticulture" in a sentence, he said "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think."
-- Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California

First, thank you for The American Spectator. I've enjoyed and learned a lot since my first copy.

The Stature Vacuum (my term) exists, because of the anti-intellectualism that attended the Progressive Movement and the hegemony of the "Greatest Generation," most of whom were progressives, i.e. socialists. You've heard the term "Acting White," haven't you? Well, "Boomers" who had any intellectual curiosity whatsoever were encouraged to hide it under a bushel basket by their elders, just as are blacks in school today. Instead, anyone who disagreed with collectivism was guidance-counseled into the trades such as engineering, medicine and, for hopeless cases, business school or auto maintenance. They were to be the providers of wealth so that the graduates of law, educational and social science schools could distribute that wealth equably to the masses. Moreover, the future proletarians were taught not to question their "betters."

Fortunately, the Stature Vacuum is not permanent. Those "Boomer"- proletarians raised some pretty smart kids while the greedy geezers were enjoying their early retirements, social security checks and free medical care. Today, "Boomers," their children and grandchildren are finally beginning to inquire about just what violence was done to the concept of individual rights by those who subscribed to progressivism in the good old USA. What is coming is not a backlash, but a return to sanity. We're not there yet, just on the way. The alimentary intellectual canal will one day dispose of socialism to the sanitary landfill of history. It may not be in my lifetime or yours, but soon enough to save civilization.

In your search for future persons of stature, and without mentioning names, please refer to your own pages and those of Townhall.com. There are many writers who are the intellectual lights at the end of our long tunnel back to freedom. Meanwhile, others will toil in the trenches to build safe bridges, provide good health care and fix cars so that everyone can get to work. Most of those toilers will also applaud a return to individual liberty and limited government.

So, take heart my friend. Encourage and publish as many worthy young writers as you can find, so that they may gain the stature they will need to attain responsible positions both in and out of government, and may steer our future course of state wisely. By the way, don't over-editorialize them, either. A little naked rage is necessary for a revolution. No toning down for PC purposes.

There has been a stature gap, but gaps can be bridged. You and others have provided a vital span to a more rational past. A vacuum needs to be filled, however. And, while nature abhors a vacuum, we can't rely upon her to top it up. That will require your, and others' continued vigilance. Soon, some giants will emerge. So, thanks in advance.
-- Handy

PUTTING THE REAL IN REALITY SHOWS
Re: Shawn Macomber's It's a Small World After All:

Just read the article by Shawn Macomber and want to report that I think it's a great observation. I'm Matt's Mom and as a parent we are concerned at how the family is shown since the editors are cutting away in the "secret places." Anyway, it's good to know that there is a positive observation. Matt told us before they began that if they can give a venue in the privacy of a home, for someone to stare and find that they are just the same in almost all ways... it's a good thing.
-- Peggy Roloff

ONE MAN'S SERVICE
Re: Ben Stein's Greetings From Rancho Mirage:

I have just read the article, "Greetings From Rancho Mirage" by Ben Stein. Mr. Stein seems to truly understand and appreciate the sacrifices and responsibilities of our military. It warms my heart to know that there are people like Mr. Stein who do "get it."

Thank you, Mr. Stein for articulating your thoughts in such a way that your readers may also come to appreciate the selfless sacrifices of our dear men and women of our Armed Forces.
-- Rita Jerabek
Proud Marine Mother of Pfc. Ryan Jerabek, USMC
Killed in Action, 6 April, 2004, Ramadi, Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom

You are quite right that the work is being done by the few in uniform. What the physically fit in uniform are doing is truly meaningful. I appreciate, respect, admire, and serve them to encourage and give them a lift, a smile, and/or a laugh, as well as a bit of scripture. I am unable to do much more in my advanced age and lack of condition, but what I do is meaningful.

Each of the little tasks we do to not only keep the ship afloat, but running smoothly, including rearranging the chairs to scrub the deck, is meaningful. Every time someone shows a kindness or thoughtful consideration to another; that is meaningful. When someone runs an errand for a shut-in neighbor, pulls weeds in the public park, or listens to a lonely person, that, too, is meaningful.

If you think your life is meaningless, change it. Go to the corner store and buy a few hundred picture postcards and a few dozen pens. Go to areas where small groups, or large numbers of people gather to wait for something, and give them each and all an opportunity to write a note of thanks and encouragement to a deployed military person. Collect them and take them home to read and address. Sort out and destroy inappropriate messages (very rare), if any. Unable to get addresses for any military personnel, send them to Operation Support Our Troops. Get folks to write some to wounded warriors. Carefully sort to be sure the right message goes to the right category. The wounded need approval and encouragement to work their way back to normal. These should be mailed to our big military medical centers to the chaplains' offices to be distributed. If this doesn't add enough meaning to your life, volunteer to Operation Support Our Troops, or some other like minded group.

God bless you as you help those who serve almost around the clock in uncomfortable circumstances, and in the face of danger serving others.

Thank you, Mr. Stein, for your writing. That is meaningful to many of us.
-- Mrs. Brown

Thanks for being the articulate person I'm not. It's a beautiful tribute. Thanks again.
-- Joe Nappi

I am a commander of a Marine helicopter squadron in Iraq at the moment. I wanted to thank you for your kind letter dated April 5th. I've been a Marine for many years, but never in a struggle like the one we currently find ourselves in. You would be inspired to see these Marines in action day in and day out. You actually have to be here to witness this part of the human character where men and women constantly look after each other while always trying to do the right things. No movie, book or documentary will ever capture what can only be experienced here. I hate war more than most people I think now that I have been involved with it since 1990. In fact there are many here who might disagree with the reasons for the war and the current way it is being waged. The astounding thing is that unlike in Vietnam, where discontent manifested itself in low morale and a lack of discipline, here in Iraq Marines perform better than they did prior to the war. They are here because they love the Marines, their families back home, who they don't want to disappoint and because their country asked them to be here.

I worked on Wall Street for a year and saw much of what you wrote about in your letter. I realized there that you better make a lot of money, because there is nothing else. I don't fault people for what they do or belittle the importance of their work. One day, all of us will be civilians too. I certainly don't believe we are better people than the rest of society, but I will say that you see the better part of human nature in the worst of situations. That is where we currently find ourselves -- an environment we don't want to be in, but the only place to see the best we have in action. You nailed it Mr. Stein. It's the best of times and the worst of times. Semper Fi.
-- Lt.Col. Colandreo, USMC, CO/HMLA-169

Thanks for the wonderful letter to the troops. Keep up the good works.
-- MSgt. Robert J. DeCesare, USAF, Ret.

Big fan letter from big fan. Thanks for telling it like it is. My brother is in Fallujah -- he's a Captain in the Marine Corps on his 3rd tour of duty. Thanks for the support, the logic, the love, and the simple message of truth. You are a valuable voice. Thanks for using it.
-- Melanie Joye

Please pass along mine and many other of my fellow servicemembers THANKS to Ben for his words of kindness. It truly means a lot to us to see true patriots/Americans speak positively about our duty. Thanks Ben for having the b**** to speak the way you feel in your heart. I firmly believe "what goes around, comes around."
-- Chris Holcomb, MAJ, FA
XO/S3
3BDE-3IAD(MiTT)
Sinjar, Iraq

ONE BROKEBACK TO ANOTHER
Re: Yale Kramer's Brokeback Mountain and the Romance of Gayness:

Yale Kramer may not be homophobic, but he certainly isn't as bright as he imagines. He thinks the story in Brokeback Mountain is unrealistic. Perhaps that is because he is not someone who has lived in a part of the country where death is the penalty for being gay. I have and still do.

Men who have homosexual feelings in places where homosexuals are routinely murdered do not act as young gay men in places like New York, Boston, San Francisco, or Providence. They desperately deny their feelings even to themselves. If they do stumble into a friendship that somehow blossoms into romance, they often do act as the characters in Brokeback Mountain. I know because I am one of them.

I would elaborate further, but I doubt Mr. Kramer thinks any world exists outside of his own experience. Pearls before swine, you know.

Good day!
-- unsigned

MACHIAVELLI WOULD BE PROUD
Re: Mark Fallert's letter (under "Learned Men Wanted") in Reader Mail's Whither Men of Stature:

Having recently summarized (perhaps too harshly) Mr. Fallert's previous letter to Reader Mail, I would like to congratulate him on the acute perception of this most recent effort. He has succinctly summarized the state of political discourse and gamesmanship. I would add only one point which he seemed to gloss over. In a word, it is POWER. Power is the sine qua non which drives the political machines of both the parties. As a result, both have subscribed to the idea that to gain and hold power justifies any avenue whatsoever. Since neither party can accomplish anything without power, there is no right or wrong in the quest for it. Thus, gone is the idea of the "loyal opposition", bi-partisanship, inter-committee co-operation, etc. I congratulate TAS for shedding light on this situation, and I congratulate Mr. Fallert for his perceptive analysis of some of its machinations.
-- Joseph Baum
Garrettsville, Ohio

TO DEMONIZE SUCCINCTLY
Re: Joseph Baum's letter ("Massachusetts Echo") in Reader Mail's Whither Men of Stature?:

I read Joseph Baum's critique of my analyses of Ben Stein's columns about Big Oil and the War in Iraq with interest. He accused me of merely recycling the Kerry/Kennedy line of buncombe, and "after further review," as it were, I can see where he got such a notion.

Beyond any feeling of flattery that I must acknowledge from learning that anyone bothered to look that far, I must also confess that I took the trouble to look at Mr. Baum's history in these pages. He is uniformly succinct in his comments. I wish I had his gift of brevity.

I'll grant that, by any standard, I've appeared to be antagonistic toward the current regime in Washington. I've intended to appear that way, because I am.

I've only recently begun corresponding in these pages, so there can be no record here of the utter disdain I felt and continue to feel toward every such regime since at least the Reagan Administration, and many of those that preceded it. Whether nominally Democratic or Republican, regardless of which party controls the Congress, let me be clear that I'm a foe of what I think of as "mo', bigguh gummint" and, in particular, the collusion of the dominant parties in its behalf, for their own benefit at the expense of the nation itself.

It pains me that Mr. Baum or anyone else should imagine that I'm in any way a fan of the Kennedy/Kerry wing of "mo' bigguh gummint," as I hold them in particular contempt as the most dire enemies of Constitutional principles, excepting, of course, the Clinton wing. My efforts at "careful wording and scrupulous construction" have gone awry! I resolve to take Mr. Baum's criticism to heart in future submissions to this page and to demonize with a broader, yet more finely pointed brush.
-- Mark Fallert
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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