Reader Mail

Keep Plugging, Ben

Recruitment's down, but morale's up, Syria has the WMD, and Christians and Jews are together again. Plus: trial lawyers and medical costs. Also, in defense of Thomas Bass. And much more.

6.14.05

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THE FEW, THE PROUD
Re: Ben Stein's Recruitment Improvement:

Just keep posting Ben Stein's column first and foremost every time. He says it better, and more direct to the point, than any one else out there. He's a great American, and we need more like him.
-- John P.
Elmhurst, Illinois

Ben Stein's blame of the mainstream media for causing poor enlistment in our military is off the mark, although he is correct that the fear of one's son or daughter being killed in Iraq is hurting recruitment. But the media would be derelict if it did not report the facts of the war and, let's face it -- the war is not going well. Last month 67 U.S. soldiers were killed in what appears to be an endless cycle of suicide attacks on our forces. Americans just don't understand how the world's only superpower can't "decisively" win against a vastly inferior enemy.

The real reason recruitment is down is because this quick-victory war seems to be going on forever with no abatement of U.S. casualties. I blame the conservative media, especially talk radio, for the current Iraq situation. Conservatives have failed to criticize the Bush administration "from the right" on their tepid prosecution of the war; instead, till this day, they act like Bush cheerleaders -- and it is costing too many American soldiers to die needlessly. The real truth is that President Bush went correctly to war with Iraq but with a Clinton-like dovish prosecution.

From the get-go we went to war in Iraq on the cheap, with far too few troops and then we fought a politically correct war. Saddam's troops were allowed to blend back into the population with their weapons. Looting was permitted. Fallujah for a long time was a sanctuary for the insurgency to regroup and strengthen. Mosques are still safe havens for the insurgents. In addition, we prosecuted soldiers like Lt. Pantano for fighting like Audie Murphy. And most of all, we have allowed Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia to be safe havens for terrorists to freely enter and leave Iraq to kill American soldiers with impunity. Would we have won World War II fighting like this?

The conservative media is supposed to be the beacon of truth, but they spin (to cover Bush's failures) just like the MSM (except they favor the Dems) and it is hurting the country, especially on winning the war on terror. Failure to win decisively in Iraq is emboldening our enemies, including North Korea and Iran, who now see America as a paper tiger.

It is time for the conservative media to stop the partisan spinning and pressure the White House to go all out to win the war in Iraq. Only then will the enlistment rate rebound.
-- Lou Venticinque
Jamison, Pennsylvania

Thanks again, Ben. As a veteran who served during Vietnam, I can see the "media" hasn't changed all that much. However, today, we have a counter to them called the blogosphere. Also, I think another answer to your concern lies in the fact that those people in the college town were out skateboarding, eating pizza and drinking beer, not burning the town down in anti-war protests, etc. Recruitment is probably down because we have an all volunteer armed force, coupled with a decent economy, not because of the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Your argument about pay increases coupled with tax increases is alright but maybe a little more fiscal responsibility on the part of Congress could redirect some wasted money to the defense budget, thus saving the taxpayers from shelling out more. (I have a son-in-law in the navy, and a nephew in Iraq, so of course a pay increase for them would make me a little happy, especially since I have a son thinking about joining up.) All in all, compared to the '60s and early '70s, I'm not overly concerned about the "negative" impact of the media because the only fools who listen to them aren't going to help us anyway, no matter. Keep up your excellent commentary.
-- Pete Chagnon

As always you have hit the nail on the head regarding military recruitments being short due to incredible coverage by the media. I do believe you need enhancement on that statement by my adding, as a military mother and former officer's wife, the observation that the media is conspiring to cause this country to lose the war. This is for certain. Missing the glory days of the '60s and heyday of the '70s which brought down President Nixon, they now furtively and carefully seek to cause this country to lose again another war.

Most telling is that re-enlistments are not down. This in particular implies that once in the military life a person looks at what the media is saying and rejects their description and the real truth of the matter sets them free to choose.

I would also say that military pay, while not astronomical, is sufficient, as is teacher's pay, in most states. Notice, I said sufficient. My father always told me that some professions needed to be presented as a calling and not as a lure. Teaching is certainly one and I speak from personal experience. The military life is another. We both lived on military pay once and now retired pay and it was first a chosen life and secondly this country does not want to make the pay so attractive as to draw mercenaries, just patriots. Part of the service of both professions is sacrifice.

Lastly, I worry that we may not win this war. When I see the course of life taking place around me I realize that if the war is to produce resounding desire by the entire country to both win and end its course, then sacrifice by all concerned with freedom's victory must be involved. Otherwise the war becomes a luxury to those who would enjoy such and a temptation by those who do not understand the preciousness of freedom's gift. When this happens you see people in liberal factions beating hollow and perverse drums loudly to the cacophony of drawing crowd's. Never is the sacrifice of more soldiers given less meaning that when it is given for the continued wallowing in freedom's excess.

I watched the press cause us to lose the Vietnam War by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I was a young girl in my late teens sitting on a ranch in Texas. The war was too far away. Then a teacher, a retired colonel, wrote on the blackboard of my Algebra class, "Somewhere out there a young man died for me today, and I must ask and answer, 'Am I worth dying for'?" It was a riveting moment in my life. Then a few years later, I married a young handsome captain, a helicopter pilot returning from Vietnam with a broken back suffered when his Cobra Helicopter was shot down. I watched in horror one day as someone called this most honorable man a baby killer.

As a mother and mother-in-law of two Air Force officers, I pray daily for their safety and for that of our other soldiers. I ask God to protect those who sacrifice for us so we may live free. And I ask Him to change the hearts of those who wallow in freedoms that no other nation in this world has been so privileged to share.
-- Beverly Gunn
East Texas

Until the leftists and liberals who populate the advocacy print and broadcast media's reporting and editorial management ranks are replaced with someone � anyone -- with objectivity and a commitment to report news, we're not going to see them give our Armed Forces a break.

The severity of the bias shows when you can get almost 2.3 million hits on Google about the tempest in a very small teapot that Abu Ghraib was and remains. Too, a search of the New York Times archives for "Abu Ghraib" gives almost 2500 hits.

Perhaps, too, the services should spend more advertising dollars in broadcasting not just the thrill of serving, but also the very positive things about civil action in which they engage.

One of the best roundups of their positive contributions I've seen is the bi-weekly report of Australian Arthur Chrenkoff, who is located at chrenkoff.blogspot.com, published by the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal. If someone seeks real news about the reconstruction of Iraq and how the U.S. military is involved, that's a prime resource.

For instance, he reported June 13 that the U.S. Corps of Engineers just completed its 1,000th reconstruction project in Iraq. For that, let's raise a toast to the eagle that looks like a duck and give thanks to all the soldiers who wear that castle of gold. Essayons!
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

Ben has hit the nail on the head, again. He has identified the biggest problem with maintaining the military strength of this country, the MEDIA. But he has not lived under the media microscope, as a military or law enforcement person, and does not realize the true scope of the problem.

With regards to the way the media handles reports from the operational theaters, the reasons for the negative bias are twofold.

One, the publishers, directors and reporters are actively seeking any speck of information, or innuendo, that will embarrass and, therefore, weaken the current administration.

Secondly, there is a very long-standing bias within the media against any governmental agency or group that uses or may have to use force against other human beings, no matter how justified and necessary that force may be. This applies to law enforcement as well as the military and even to the use of force by citizens in general.

The first reason has been beaten to death within the pages of this publication and others and, frankly, nothing is going to change it. The second reason is far more insidious and destructive to our society.

Consider the men and women who are fighting those who would harm members of our society (including journalists), both at home and abroad. They are all volunteers. They, both police and military, have willingly placed themselves in the way of those who have no compunction against using deadly force against others to achieve their goals and it is obviously not done for the money. They spend their working lives going to the funerals of friends and co-workers who have been killed by the predators in this world. Then, they suit up and go back to work. Not everyone can do this and most do not understand the mentality involved and what people can not understand, scares them. Ask yourself, what would make you leave your home and go someplace where someone is likely to try and kill you? I'll tell you. They go to protect their loved ones. They are prepared to die and worse, kill, to make the world just a little bit safer for those that they love. And, at the same time, make the world just a little bit safer for the rest of us as well.

Why does the media fear meeting force with force? Frankly, I do not know. That mindset is totally foreign to my way of thinking. Perhaps some psychologist should delve into it. Heaven knows they have spent years delving into the reasons that force is still used in this world. But, not much will change this problem either.

Something can be done about the pay for military personnel and it should be done, quickly. The rest will probably never go away.
-- Michael Tobias
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

The Army has fallen short of their recruitment goals for sure, but the Marines have exceeded theirs.
-- John Kelly
Salem, Oregon

Ben Stein, a man I respect deeply, writes: "He's a public school teacher. I would be angry and frustrated too if I had to do what he does all day. My hat's off to him."

Alas, my hat remains on my head on this issue. What school teachers do all day may or may not be odious and/or stressful. My suspicion is that, in the main, "the lady doth protest too much" when we listen to public school teachers bemoaning their fate.

If they'd like to work fewer hours, they might start by putting a cap on the meaningless meetings on the latest 'educational' theory to come swarming up the walls. If they would like more "respect" as intellectuals, they might try getting a degree in something more intellectually respectable than "education." And if they want to feel like they are making more money, they might want to become honest with themselves over how much they are paid for how many days work every year.

No other profession I know of gets: 1) every single federal holiday off plus whatever state holidays happen to be running as well, 2) at least two weeks off at Christmas time, 3) another week off at what has come to be known as "Spring Break" (Easter Vacation), 4) a few days and half-days here and there to "update" themselves on the latest techniques for making sure achievement continues to decline, and 5) two to three months off in the summer.

Put them all together and they spell about four to five full months off every year. Some people might find the pay of $40 to 50K a year inadequate, but when you get that amount of money for working only eight months out of year, it starts to look like a pretty sweet deal. Add in a pension that kicks in at about 80% of top wages, and it seems sweeter still. For a real sugar overdose, have a teacher marry another teacher. That, financially at least, is a marriage made in heaven.
-- Gerard Van der Leun

You need to ask one of your family members to enlist in the Armed Services. The Army needs help. I served 22 years. The Army families are in great trouble. If an Armed Service member has had two tours in Iraq he or she should not have to return so you can help by helping recruit young men.
-- MSgt. Redmond

Mr. Stein's article was on the money! Ben is what I would call a patriot with a great heart.
-- Wanda Keith
Indianapolis, Indiana

I read your article in a sort of "Ben Stein" state of sad equilibrium. With adolescents and mainstream media, it's the same: you wear yourself out if you let them make you angry. How sadly laughable that a mainstream media that is utterly without belief in moral scruples should continue to affect moral indignation regarding efforts to defend our common culture! The only thing that distinguishes expressions of boomer adolescence from mainstream media consciousness is better grammar. Stuff their pretense -- their distinctions are without difference. Long live Ben Stein's wry wariness!
-- unsigned

Another way to look at the recruitment situation is: people are signing up in spite of the media bias, casualties, the softening spines of our leaders (with the obvious exception of the immediate Bush administration), and the virtual abandonment of our allies' citizens.

The fact that recruitment goals are not off by greater numbers is a testament to the brave people who serve in the U.S. armed forces now and in the near future.
-- Diamon Sforza
San Diego, CA

CHECK SYRIA
Re: Jed Babbin's Not Missing: Moved:

I want to thank Mr. Babbin for the appearance of this article and the repetition of the testimony given regarding the Duelfer report. I have always been aware of it, and live in total frustration that it has not been used over and over and over as a rebuttal to those that say there never were WMD in Iraq shortly before or at the time of our invasion.

We have allowed the left wing canard to become accepted fact by allowing their loud cacophony of untrue voices to go unchallenged. Even those at Fox News do not use the opportunity to remind people of this. Probably because they fear the rabid reaction that Mr. Babbin endured. And surely the followers of Ron the Imposter are among the most rabid of all of MSNBC's viewers.
-- Mary Kay Smedstad
Katy, Texas

It never ceases to amaze me that so many people were so stunned that Saddam didn't leave his weapons around to be found. We gave him six months to hide the evidence, we spent six months telling him that we were going to get them and he was dog meat when we did and, guess what, he got rid of them and didn't tell the New York Times. How diabolically clever! When was the last time anybody saw a movie or a TV show where the gang-busting D.A. tells the head of the local crime family that he is going to find the dead bodies, and then waits six months before searching the premises? Nobody is that stupid -- except the State Department, it seems, with the White House close behind (I really don't see why people think that Condi Rice is so smart). After that effort, I reckon I could sell those guys the Brooklyn Bridge -- twice. Where did the weapons go to? Start with a list of the usual suspects, beginning with a Middle Eastern country with a long, long history of terrorism and a name that begins with "S." See, it's not that hard, really.
-- Christopher Holland
Canberra, Australia

I couldn't agree more with Jed. This has been my belief from the beginning. While our intelligence folks may have some problems, I do not believe they were so far off the mark. My concern is what, if anything is being done by the U.S. to obtain intelligence or research this obvious effort by Saddam to hide or disguise the WMD. If any of these items do exist and are in Syria, it is only a matter of time until they are used, if not against the U.S., then certainly Israel.
-- ALC

REMEMBER THE GENTILES
Re: Jay D. Homnick's Thinking About Pentecost:

One minor addendum to Jay Homnick's fascinating ruminations about Jewish smarts, a point made by Ernest van den Haag in his 1969 study "The Jewish Mystique." Today's double-digit IQ gap between Jews and Christians is attributable not just to the rabbinical tradition of study and reflection. During the same centuries in which the rabbis were producing large families, the intellectual types among Christians were becoming celibate monks.
-- John R. Dunlap
San Jose, California

Jay D. Homnick is right on with his very good article on Pentecost. He should have also added that God called Abraham out of the Ur of the Chaldees as the object of His special attention and in another place He says "in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed." So perhaps God also as Creator instilled the obvious intellect in His chosen people and we (Gentiles) and believers in Yeshua who also study the scriptures are indeed blessed.
-- Dwight V. Orman

KEEP PLUGGING
Re: Ben Stein's A New Yorker Kind of Guy:

I hope that Ben Stein's piece entitled "A New Yorker Kind of Guy" is not typical of the arguments that are made by those who write for your magazine. If your readers, in the interest of fairness, will take the trouble to read the article, they will find that Mr. Stein has been guilty either of monumental carelessness or simple deceit. Thomas Bass's article ("The Spy Who Loved Us," The New Yorker, May 23, 2005) does describe an individual who is undeniably fascinating (as one would expect of a distinguished Time correspondent who was a North Vietnamese spy) and in several ways admirable (even conservatives like John McCain have acknowledged that there were decent and principled individuals fighting against the Americans in that war). But your readers would have no sense from Mr. Stein's piece that Professor Bass's article also offers information and analysis that the most fervent opponent of the Vietnamese Communists would welcome.

Mr. An, the subject of the article, was abominably treated after the war by the Vietnamese government, in spite of the risks he took and the help he gave. If Ben Stein had actually read to the end of the article, which I doubt he did, he would have found Mr. An giving Professor Bass a book by Gerard Tongas entitled "I Have Lived in the Communist Hell of North Vietnam, and I Have Chosen Liberty." The article ends with Mr. An saying to Professor Bass: "It's a very important book, a true book. You must read it before you write anything." Thomas Bass's article is in the best tradition of The New Yorker magazine in that it addresses something that cannot be reduced to a simple formula. As Professor Bass shows, An's experience is like the experience of Vietnam itself, filled with complexities and contradictions. No fair reader would find it to be the puff piece, or the unambiguous celebration of a killer of Americans, that Mr. Stein says it is. Mr. Stein is free, of course, to read something in a simple-minded way. What amazes me is that he has the gall to expand his simple-minded and careless reading into a general attack on the "ethical and moral collapse of the mainstream media" and the "maddeningly disloyal and contemptuous" culture of the academics and intellectuals who read the New Yorker. I hope this isn't characteristic of the kind of writing your readers expect from your publication. This tactic of lying about the people you want to demonize, and counting on the fact that your audience won't take the trouble to find out if you're telling the truth is very familiar. But it has typically been used by the enemies of democracy, not its friends.
-- Dana Brand
Sandy Hook, Connecticut

Ben Stein is only 98% on target with his comments about the MSM's adoring acceptance of a Time Magazine correspondent later found to be a communist spy. I say 98% because he omits any discussion of the jeopardy posed by a journalist operating as a spy or a spy using the cover of being a journalist (who knows which he was first). If it was okay for Mr. An to have been a spy, then it would be so for any journalist, then and by extension today. Journalists beware: you may be shot as a spy.
-- Keith Diffenderffer

We need more writers like you. You are a true American hero. Too bad most Americans will not see your article due to the big brothers in the media and their censors. Keep plugging, brother.
-- Andy Piacente
Yonkers, New York

ASSESSING JUSTICE
Re: Robert F. Casselberry's letter (under "Medical Courage") in Reader Mail's Superman Ben:

Robert F. Casselberry, Esq. made an excellent point, in telling us how doctors do not have the moral fortitude to police their own profession and remove the few incompetent doctors that are causing great harm to their patients. The American Medical Association (AMA) could take the lead on this, but they seem to be more interested in building a protective wall around themselves, no matter how incompetent and dangerous a few of them may be. Ironically, they would best protect themselves, their profession and their honor by taking the initiative to remove the worst of their kind without the need for "greedy lawyers" to do it for them. If they did this, the cost of malpractice insurance will drop dramatically! But then, this would be against the interest of the American Bar Association (ABA), as it would mean much less incomes for lawyers. If Robert F. Casselberry, Esq., really had American's health as his overriding concern, perhaps he could focus on charging incompetent doctors with crimes that will put them in jail and out of harm's way, and not worry so much about multi-million dollar awards to the victims (and of course, the lawyers). That would be in the interest of justice, but then Robert F. Casselberry, Esq. would not be able to get his six-figure salary! It all makes me wish I had not entered the engineering field, and instead majored in philosophy, to aid me in my pursuit of justice!
-- Mike Spencer, Delusional Knight Errant (no Esq. or Ph.D. by my name) Midland, Michigan

THE RED APPLE
Re: Dimitri Cavalli's A Righteous Gentile:

It must be an unimaginably onerous task to be the spiritual director of a billion people. All those folks with their differing beliefs and agendas. Getting them to agree to anything is a daunting task, but, the Pontifex Maximus is God's Vicar on earth; hence, anything is possible.

God's Vicar must, in addition to his "cappello Romano," wear many hats, including one as a political leader, for it has often been evident that without that skill, the Church and Western civilization might cease to exist. After the Ottoman Turks annihilated the Hungarian army at Mohacs, Sultan Soleiman the Magnificent claimed he would occupy "the Red Apple" (Rome), and transform St. Peter's into a mosque, a threat that was not to be taken lightly. This crisis brought an ascetic and ailing pope, Pius V, to the fore, and he was able to forge a most unlikely agreement, The Holy Alliance, and stop at Lepanto the apparent inexorable westward march of Islam. Popes in the modern era face a different situation: not the problem of the barbarian at the gates, but the modernists within the walls, whose aim is to reduce or eliminate the Vicar of Christ's influence in any aspect of life in the Western world.

The Pius War brings the reader up to date regarding the relentless effort, by Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to revise the work on the role of the Catholic Church in general, and Pope Pius XII in particular, during World War II. Its advocates appear to be still at work; if anything, there appears to be more published recently than in any of the previous decades since the end of WWII. Of course, the real question is why, after receiving the accolades of innumerable Jewish and Christian groups, as well as newspapers including The New York Times, Pius XII was turned into a figure who "could have done more" to help Jews targeted by the Nazis. Some recent publications come dangerously close to saying that Pius XII was complicit in "the final solution."

Rabbi Dalin and Mr. Bottom are, no doubt, acquainted with The Defamation of Pius XII, by Ralph McInerny, whose 2001 book was the opening salvo in the defense of Pius XII. McInerny, a prolific author and former Director of the Jacques Maritain Institute at the University of Notre Dame, believes that Hochhuth's The Deputy was a turning point in painting the efforts of Pius and the Church as "not doing enough" to save the Jews during the Nazi reign. As to what constitutes "enough," well, your guess is as good as mine. The answer to this conundrum, McInerny insists, is simple: Pius's detractors "... hate the Church because she is a lonely voice in the contemporary world upholding common human morality."

If there is one argument, unknown to most, that refutes the demagoguery aimed at Pius XII and the Church, it is this: following the defeat of Nazism, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, who had personally witnessed what Pius had done to save Italy's Jews, estimated by one (Jewish) author to be more than 700,000, accepted baptism. Most Roman Jews believed that Zolli's conversion was an act of gratitude toward Pius. For his Christian name, Zolli freely took the name Eugenio, as in Eugenio Pacelli, also known as Pius XII.

Pax tecum.
-- Vincent Chiarello
Reston, Virginia

MARKET MORALITY
Re: Doug Bandow's Freedom to Choose to Refuse:

If it's my right to say yes to abortions and yes to contraceptives and the morning after pill, then those pharmacists who choose not to fill the latter's prescriptions have just as much right to refuse. If their business suffers because the word of mouth regarding their refusal to fill such prescriptions damages their businesses, then that is the chance they take and the price they pay for their beliefs. It really should be a non-event but, since there always needs to be a victim in every story, I suppose this little kerfuffle will have its fifteen seconds in the sun, too.
-- Marlane Buckner
Towson, Maryland

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