Reader Mail

Coolist Collaboration

Global warming chills the air. Also: Sexual predator watch. Newsweek continues to weaken -- but the left talks back. What about Federal pensions? Cessna and deterrence. Plus much, much more.

5.19.05

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COLD MINDS
Re: Tom Bethell's The False Alert of Global Warming:

As a former weather forecaster for the Air Force, and an avid reader of European History I have known for years of the late medieval warming period. For the last few decades some historians have even speculated that the Roman Empire fell not only because of foreign invasions, but also because of a rapid cooling across Europe. The shorter growing seasons meant less food. The great Roman cities could no longer support large populations. Over a period of time, Europe became agrarian, feudal, and barbaric -- hence the Dark Ages.

Of course, this is speculation; however, when a person considers what occurred between 1100 and 1400 -- a sharp spike in temperatures across Europe -- and the ensuing Renaissance, it doesn't appear so implausible. In the past I could at least discuss this phenomena with other people who were interested in climate change. Yet, within the last few years, my speculation has been treated as heresy. A person would think I was questioning the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. People now say there was no warm period a millennia ago, and if there was, it was minuscule. They have all used the hockey stick as their source. When I persist in questioning such a dubious single source, their reaction becomes heated: how could I, an amateur, question the professionals. End of Story. Debate Over. Go Home.

I think Stalin was on to something when he obliterated the biographies of public people he murdered. It wasn't enough for him to kill them; Stalin had their names removed from newspapers, history books, and journals. This same thing is occurring in the climate field. No longer is it polite to even bring up something that historians, anthropologists, and geologists all know. If 2+2=4 became a political issue we could expect a tenured math professor to publish a paper stating that the sum isn't 4, but 5.
-- J.P. Koch

After the enviros have scared the world about man-made carbon dioxide, man-made water is next. There are two products of any combustion reaction -- water and carbon dioxide. When all the scares about CO2 have subsided, someone will find that the extra water dumped into the atmosphere by combustion is doing something bad to the earth.

-- Steve Black
Charlotte, North Carolina

If the enviro-wackos are warmists, are those of us who don't subscribe to the scare of global warming coolists?

Whatever, it's worth remembering the greens said at the Dec. 2004 U.N. Conference in Buenos Aires that the Kyoto Protocol would do nothing to stop the impending catastrophe accruing from global warming. Too, let's not forget the U.N.'s hidden agenda in all this, as well as the universal religion aspect, albeit secular, to the global-warming hysteria.

The enviro-wackos' next cause celebre? Who knows? But it's a safe bet it'll be full of junk science, emotional, distortion and untruths. Even violence and terror, too?
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

I enjoyed Tom's article. However, I am always stumped by my inability to see any hard data on carbon emissions from all, natural and man-made sources. I think the conclusion is that there is a small net outflow of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, but this small net outflow is the difference between two very large carbon outflow and absorption numbers.

I wonder where such data can be found??
-- Harry David

LONG MEMORY
Re: Jay D. Homnick's Naming Names:

The arguments about the constitutionality of the various "Megan's Laws," both federal and state versions, are, to me, a waste of time. I am convinced that the framers of the Constitution never expected anyone found guilty of such a crime to live long enough to be released into society. Therefore, they didn't waste their precious time on such matters.

As far as the case of the man who killed himself, back when European armies cared more about honor than not hurting anyone's feelings, an officer who shamed his regiment often came into his quarters to find a pistol on his bed. The message was clear, and often acted upon by the officer in question. It seems that the Claxton case is a 21st-century civilian version of this.
-- Vincent Mohan

With respect to Jay Homnick's article on child predators, I think we're all in agreement that a society that wishes to survive and flourish needs to protect its most valuable asset, its children. Given that child predators have one of the highest recidivist rates of all criminals, and are considered the "lowest of the low" in the prison pecking order, the concern for maximum protection of children is very real. The approach on the part of the Chicago Jewish community in policing its own is admirable and reflects the proper concern. However, the rest of society, with its ever increasing transient nature of both good and bad people, attempts to find solutions in dealing with the same problem legally in ways that suits them. Regarding active notification of the citizenry may seem extreme, however, given the nature of the criminal and his crime, may warrant it. I suspect that the damage done to a child, assuming the child isn't murdered, affects that child, and their family, for life. To maximize the prevention by active notification, which obviously disturbs the comfort level of the convicted predator, seems scant in comparison. Just a thought ; it may seem brutal by today's standard, but the old practice of banishment seems to make sense with certain criminal types; why cause heightened levels of anxiety to society by having this type of deviant pariah in its midst, when you can concentrate them in their own society away from their most innocent victims? I believe rapists, terrorists and other violent criminals would be fitting candidates also, but I digress.
-- David P. Bennett
Chicago, Illinois

I found your view of the appropriateness of the State to be active in disclosure amusing. On what basis do you make that claim? Under Amendment IV, "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, …" emphasis for this discourse on the word public. USC procedural rules have clearly defined that the records associated with a public trial hold the same standing vis-a-vis the IV Amendment as the trial itself and sufficient case law exists to uphold the open availability of the records of such trials to all who request them.

Hence, does it matter that should, I so desire, I research the public record and find the names of said offenders? And if that is a legitimate exercise of my rights to what extent does it make it unconstitutional that the State acts as a consolidator and offers it on a platter (or web page in this case)?

Now if you read Blackstone or Locke, one of the seminal purposes of government after defense of the realm is the protection of the citizens in their life and property, which the Founders understood "…establish justice, insure domestic tranquility…" as so stated in the Preamble. So I would hold that in order for the State to maintain its right of sovereignty the protection of citizens and acts to deter further crime are well within the scope of the State's duties. Else, why have police? I would view active notification as an extension of that function.

As to the actions in the Claxton case, it would seem to me that so long as the citizens of the community do not assault or hinder the offenders rights as enumerated, that any action to protect the minors in that community are appropriate. That Mr. Claxton could not reconcile his past actions internally and took his own life is his own affair. It is a weak mind that cannot atone for one's past and make the best of one's future.

But I am more intrigued by the Collins case you cite. It would be an excellent federal case, the rights under Civil Rights law on one side and the rights of property and contract on the other. For clearly I could see a situation where a homeowner or developer would knowingly refuse to sell to a sex offender and if they did is that a violation? And I am not so sure that under our current "group rights" thinking in the courts that a sex offender as part of a group which is a minority, would but reach the conclusion that his/her rights were violated. Sigh.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

While Jay's point that we as a community have the right to inform each other if we become aware of a sexual predator living in our neighborhoods, I think he misses the bigger problem. The bigger problem is that the true sexual predator has a very small chance of being "cured."

Our justice system is failing in one of its duties, namely the separation of dangerous people from the rest of society. While it may sound draconian, sexual predators that have attacked young children should no longer be a part of regular society. I believe that our courts and jails have a responsibility to keep such people separate from the rest of society (yes for their entire adult lives). Keep them in prison, put them in a guarded commune, move them to a remote island, I don't care the method I just don't think someone who hurts a young child deserves a second chance (or another chance to hurt another child). Until this happens, we will continue to hear these horror stories.
-- Randy Dean
Columbus, Ohio

UNFIT FOR PRINT
Re: George Neumayr's Newsweek Blows Smoke and Reader Mail's Renew My Cancellation:

I note only a few letters comment on the impracticality of flushing a book like the Koran down the toilet. The physical size of the book vs. the typical size of the plumbing openings would seem to prevent it.

Interestingly, it does seem possible to flush Newsweek down the toilet, as Mr. Isikoff has so aptly demonstrated.
-- Rich Renken
Ballwin, Missouri

In light of George Neumayr's article "Newsweek Blows Smoke" I feel obliged to point out the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal seem to be blowing smoke too -- and it appears they are smoking crack. In a May 17 article by NYT's Charles McGrath, the Wall Street Journal's Glenn Simpson defends Isikoff with this accolade of journalistic skill and integrity:

Glenn Simpson, an investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal who is friendly with Mr. Isikoff but has also competed with him for stories, described him succinctly: "Mike will pull your fingernails out over coffee discussing lawn care. He is just a born interrogator."

I can imagine the horror Newsweek, the NY Times, or the Wall Street Journal would have if a military or intelligence official referred glowingly of a colleague as a "born fingernail puller" -- but apparently among themselves they preen about their torture skills.
-- Brendon Rehm

When the radical right apologizes and retracts the reasons for the WHOLE FRIGGIN' WAR BASED ON FALSE INFORMATION then you can start lecturing others. In the meantime, watch that sword you're swinging; it's double-edged.
-- Grant Barber

By all means, let us blame the entirety of the Muslim reaction on a single article by Newsweek.

After all, there's no chance that this reaction might be an ongoing upsurge related to the allegations of torture, abdication of all responsibility by the administration, previous verified instances of interrogators defiling the Koran, ongoing indications that the administration cherry-picked evidence to support its pre-determined efforts to invade Iraq, or ongoing failures of the administration to withhold information from the mainstream media, forcing sources to maintain anonymity, rather than the open government we have had historically.

By all means, let's be sure to blame the problems on those attempting to hold the administration responsible for its actions, rather than say, holding the administration responsible for is actions.
-- Jonnan West

The so called liberal media can't hold a candle to the neo-fascist conservatives such as yourself who decided that invading Iraq was going to result in making friends in the middle east. The one thing you all hate the most is the truth: it exposes you in the way light sends rats scurrying for cover.
-- R. Camp

I should hope that all people who have written about the Newsweek situation will also have taken the time to end their subscriptions. That is where the snake feeds. I ended my subscription on Monday the 16.
-- Dave Anderson
Olathe, Kansas

Let us send Isikoff, Barry and Whitaker to the Middle East to explain and apologize in person.
-- C. Mark Gilson
Seneca, South Carolina

Regarding the defamation of Islam by the so-called toilet flushing of a Koran, I can't help notice a double standard here, at home and abroad. When terrorists took over the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and trashed the place, I don't recall any Middle East demonstrators calling this defamation. Come to think of it, I can't recall any claims of defamation by any churches anywhere either.

Here at home, of course, Christianity is defamed all the time by progressive types to show how brave and transgressive they are. Remember "Piss Christ," a picture of Jesus in a bottle of urine, for which the artist(?) received thousands of dollars? Or the statue of the Virgin Mary in that Brooklyn museum, covered with dung? Somehow I doubt anyone will take a picture of Mohammed (and you are not even supposed to make an image of him) and put it in urine or cover it with dung. The "artists" would probably get feedback a lot worse than people writing angry letters.

Yes, here at home, the religion that gets defamed by liberals is always Christianity -- just as the racists are always white, and the bigots are always conservatives.
-- John Lockwood
Washington, D.C.

First it was Peter Arnett and Tailwind. Then it was Dan Rather and early adaptor use of word processors Now it's Mike Isikoff, the Gitmo Korans, and... I WANT A TOILET LIKE THAT ONE! After a Consumer Report comparison with my 3 flush and a plunger, somebody's going to make a fortune.
-- Mike Horn
Tracy, California

Last night on the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams referred to the "Holy Koran." The question is, has Brian ever referred to the Bible as the "Holy Bible"? Probably not. It looks like the media is running scared on the Newsweek scandal.
-- John Pendleton, Radio Talk Show Host
Jacksonville, Florida

The editor replies:
Mr. Pendleton's suspicions aren't entirely misplaced. Just last week, during the May 9 "Nightly News," in a story about the controversy with the Kansas Board of Education and teaching evolution, it was just the plain "Bible." Nor did Mr. Williams find the Bible "holy" on the January 19 "Nightly News" broadcast when he described one in reference to the inauguration. But when President Reagan died last June, on the June 6 "Nightly News," Williams was moved enough to report: "At the Presbyterian church where Ronald Reagan worshipped for years and was remembered this morning, a Holy Bible occupied the seat he once used."

TIME'S UP
Re: Brandon Crocker's Constitutional Ignorance:

The Democrats are correct -- the Constitution doesn't say vote, it says
"...consent."

Silence is normally deemed consent. It seems to me that the Senate, if within a reasonable time it does not vote down [disapprove] a nomination, it has consented.

I submit that four years of failing to disapprove a nomination amounts to consent to it.
-- Abraham Shapiro

MORE SIMON LINES
Re: Wlady Pleszczynski's John Simon Says...:

John Simon is the only critic worth reading. Our family has laughed over his descriptions for years:

Laura Dern: "Her father's looks, her mother's talent."

Liza Minnelli: "America loves her, but the country has always been fond of dogs."

Meryl Streep: "Anteater."

Andie MacDowell: "Equine smile."

My quotations may not be exact, but it is remarkable that I can connect the actor with the description after decades, thanks to Simon's unforgettable writing.

Of course, as everyone has written, Simon's reviews were masterpieces.
-- Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.

PRUDENTIAL SHOOTING
Re: Stuart Koehl's letter (under "Don't Shoot the Cessna") in Reader Mail's Renew My Cancellation and Reid Collins's Assumptions:

I wasn't going to weigh in on this issue, but after reading Mr. Koehl's letter, I decided to inject a short comment.

Mr. Collins's point was seemingly well made, but was, in fact, not well thought out. Mr. Koehl pointed out most of the negatives involved in the downing of any aircraft over a populated area. These factors have to be taken into consideration, as do a number of others.

Where Mr. Collins errs is in falling into the old trap of believing in "deterrence." Committed people are never deterred from achieving their goals and objectives. They identify the barriers in their path and either surmount them or circumvent them. Is the saying "Adapt and Overcome" familiar to anyone out there? A group; or even more dismaying, a single individual; planning an attack on the capital of the United States need only study the security arrangements to find a safe avenue to circumvent them.

Well, I'll keep this short. It appears, from published reports, that this situation was handled appropriately. The aircraft was located and identified when it first entered the interdiction area. Its speed and altitude were known to controllers (air control Doppler radar is quite accurate). Necessary interception elements were dispatched in a timely manner. Visual contact and communication was established with the pilot and he was escorted to a landing site. The occupants of the aircraft were met and debriefed by the proper authorities. Administrative action (i.e. suspension or revocation of the pilot's license and possibly a hefty administrative fine) will be taken. People in the area of the White House and the Capitol were removed from those areas (the most likely targets of this method of attack) to minimize potential casualties.

All in all it worked out to everyone's benefit. Initially, I was skeptical of the advisability if the course of action taken by the person(s) responsible for the defense of the region. But, as I studied the circumstances and the problem, it became clear that the situation, either by design (my personal belief) or chance, was handled in the most advantageous manner.

Deterrence? There can be no deterrence of a determined individual or group. He/they can only be neutralized. This is done by identifying hose intent upon committing acts of violence, locating them, establishing the facts that they are, indeed, actively engaged in implementing an attack and neutralizing them.

Be very sure that you really need to kill whatever you are aiming at, son. Bullets can't be called back.
-- Michael Tobias
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

KOKOSKI SIGHTING
Re: Wlady Pleszczynski's Letter Perfect:

I came across your editorial after Googling Paul Kokoski's name (a practice I employ when reading the "letters to the editor" printed in Al Ahram "newspaper," the Egyptian government's mouthpiece. It helps me understand what I consider pathologically disloyal behavior if I can get a better grasp of the writer's background.)

Oddly enough, Mr. Kokoski had seen fit to send his letter praising the former Cardinal Ratzinger's elevation to the Papacy not only to the newspapers you have mentioned, but also to this Egyptian government paper as well. Not that sending a letter to several papers is necessarily odd ... but the fact that such disparate papers would publish his (kind of wacky) letter is most certainly unusual, isn't it?

Personally, I think it surpassing oddness that Al Ahram, a paper so thoroughly dedicated to the proposition of Islamist totalitarianism would print Mr. Kokoski's letter at all. I've no conclusion, only my observation to pass on... which seemed pertinent to the point of your editorial.
-- Margaret Doocey
New York

BACK TO THE BOOKS
Re: Bob Keiser's letter (under "Investment Opportunity") in Reader Mail's Renew My Cancellation, Wade Smith's letter (under "Modeled on Success") in Reader Mail's Behold the Critic, Bob Keiser's letter (under "A Federal Matter") in Reader Mail's Preventions and Interventions, and Michael Van Winkle's Social Security Psychology:

Reader Bob Keiser's letter is totally inaccurate. The federal government DOES NOT guarantee ANY federal employees' FERS (retirement)investments. Go to the Thrift Savings Plan website for the pertinent facts. The FERS program is build on federal employees investing their contributions in one or a combination of the following retirement programs: 1) federal bonds, 2) nonfederal bond instruments, and 3) three types of stock investments.

While it is true that all federal and all other government employees are paid with tax dollars, that doesn't diminish their work or their work ethic. To work for a governmental agency is just as honorable as working for a private agency such as the local department store. Or is Mr. Keiser stating that police officers, US armed forces members, and other government workers are not of the same caliber has private enterprise workers?

Mr. Keiser's solution HAS been in effect for over 20 years and its has lead to federal workers being able to control their futures! By using the 401k matching program, ALL federal employees' retirements are fully funded! I wish the same could be said for Social Security!

Mr. Keiser's example with Senator Albert Gore, Sr. is a perfect example of the reason the old federal retirement system was replaced with FERS,
-- Wade Smith
Fredericksburg, Virginia

There are three parts of the federal employee retirement plan (1) a pension from the government based on the number of years of service and salary, (2) the Thrift Savings Plan, under which a federal employee is able to invest up to 15% of their salary in a limited selection of funds (which are subject to usual stock market risks), and (3) Social Security. It's a good deal for federal employees, but unless you invest consistently in TSP, the average employee will not retire as a rich person (maybe not even then!). The federal pay scale, except for those at the very top, is not luxurious. My husband is a federal firefighter, who could almost double his salary working for the city or county. However, he loves the working environment and the unique challenges of federal employment.

That being said, I support a "birth benefit" retirement plan for all U.S. citizens. At the birth of a child (US citizens only), $10,000 would be deposited in a tax free retirement account (similar to TSP), and left to grow. After 65 years at 6% interest, with no further contributions, the account would be 447,000 at retirement age. Continued tax free contributions throughout a person's working life could improve this amount significantly, even at low pay scales. Wealthy retirees could pay more of their medical insurance costs, and thereby lower health care costs for Medicare. Since there are about four million babies born in the U.S. each year, total cost would be 40 billion annually. Compare this with current costs for Social Security of hundreds of billions. Everyone starts out on a level playing field, everyone has a chance at a decent retirement. Of course, there would also need to be some form of insurance coverage for early death or disability. I believe the birth benefit has already been suggested by a former member of the Bush Administration, but you rarely see it mentioned as a viable option.
-- Beth Plymale
California

Mr. Keiser's lack of knowledge of the government retirement programs continues to make his comments not pertinent to the discussion.

1. Under the new FERS retirement program, government employees are participants in Social Security and Medicare. There are three legs of the FERS program: Social Security, Basic Benefit Plan, and the Thrift Savings Program.

A. Social Security -- the employee pays the normal Social Security (6.2%) and Medicare (1.45%) taxes. The government as employer pays matching amounts.

B. Basic Benefit Plan -- the employee pays 0.80% of salary into the Basic Benefit Plan. The payout upon retirement is 1.0% of the hi-3 average pay times total years of service. Cost-of-living increases due to inflation are inflation minus 1.0%. The government pays nothing.

C. Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) -- the government pays 1.0% of salary into the employees account, then contributes a 100% matching amount for the first 3% of the employees contribution and 50% for the next 2% of the employees contribution. The employee may contribute another 10% of salary, but the government does not match that contribution.

2. Assuming maximum participation in the Thrift Savings Program, the employee contributes 6.2% + 0.8% + 15% = 22% of salary to the three legs of the FERS retirement program. The government contributes 6.2% + 0.0% + 5% = 11.2% of salary to the program. Of that 33.2% of salary from the employee's and employer's contributions, the employee has 13.2% of salary in the Social Security and Basic Benefit Plan legs of FERS, while having 20% of salary at risk in the Thrift Savings Program.

3. The government employee has over half of his retirement package (20% of salary) at risk invested in the TSP offerings, "earning interest and dividends for the federal employees retirement." Mr. Keiser's suggestion that any contribution over 5% be privatized shows that he still doesn't understand the government retirement program.

4. Mr. Keiser says that the federal employee has no risk factor. Show me the non-federal employee that must put 20% of salary at risk to fund his own retirement package.

5. Keiser's statement: "Thirty years from now, the same taxpayers who will have to fund social security for retirees will also have to fund the pensions of federal retirees" is also wrong. Unless social security is fixed, the taxpayers will have to fund the social security leg of the federal retiree's pension, but the Basic Benefit Plan is funded by the federal employee's contributions (another Ponzi scheme, but supposedly actuarially sound) and the TSP is owned by the retiree. There are no taxpayer bailouts EXCEPT for the social security leg.

6. Finally, Senator Al Gore's pension was under the old retirement system, CSRS, which was replaced about 25 years ago. Assuming that Keiser's numbers are correct, the increase from $40K to $140K only reflects inflationary changes, providing no increase in purchasing power; Senator Gore was not enriched through his pension. This is a feature any government program should have; without inflationary indexing, Congress can repudiate their fiduciary responsibility through inflation. Mr. Keiser is trying to correct a problem that is 25 years old.

Personally, I would love to have all of my Social Security account invested in the market.
-- Hugh Dempsey, U.S. Civil Service, ret.

HIT THE MATTRESSES
Re: The Prowler's Extraordinary Circumstances:

If this option fails, then bring out the cots and make a filibuster into the REAL DEAL.
-- Elaine Kyle
Cut & Shoot, Texas

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