Reader Mail

Lightened Up

Reacting to the Laura letters. Plus: Digital International. Blair blahs. Lt. Pantano in the dock. PBS canceled. Hitching rides. Plus much more.

5.5.05

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RED IN THE FACE
Re: "That's Why the First Lady..." letters in Reader Mail's How Funny Was She? and Wlady Pleszczynski's Milking the Horse:

The most striking feature of all the angry mail prompted by Wlady's criticism of Laura Bush's blue stand-up routine (other than the goofy, endlessly repeated talking-point-like use of the phrase "lighten up") was the anger itself. What we had on display here was a parade of conservatives heavily invested in Laura Bush the Good who knew in their heart of hearts that she'd [messed] up royally. They bitterly hated Wlady daring to state the obvious, as it made them feel like fools for having made such a poor investment choice. And who among us likes to play the part of the fool (other than me)? No one. Hence, the lashing out at Wlady, who, judging by his record of writings, possesses more cool-dude attributes in his pinky than all the outraged "lighten uppers" have in their entire bodies combined.
-- Rich Smith
Yucca Valley, California

Please add my boos and hisses to those who panned Laura Bush's talk. The whole purpose of the Correspondents Dinner, is to take the opportunity to speak with tongue planted firmly in cheek. One of the most enchanting parts of both the Bushes personalities is their ability to make fun of themselves. It makes them human and helps to put Joe and Jane American on a par with them.

To those who compared them to the Clintons; my God! To compare these two, who are so comfortable in their own skins that they can tease each other in public, with the other two is nuts. You have cold Hillary and affable Bill, but can you really recall anytime at these dinners them doing anything but taking potshots at their critics under the guise of humor?

There is a world of difference between the two.
-- Scotty Uhrich
Glyndon, Minnesota

You were correct in your assessment of Saturday night's comedic monologue. I can't remember when I have been so disappointed in someone. Our President has a hard enough time fighting against those who think he is some kind of buffoon. The First Lady's remarks didn't help. There are those in this world who will believe them. Even if they did this thing to make themselves look urbane and sophisticated, able to hold their own among those in the beltway, it was still in poor taste. Comedy can be clean or dirty. It was not clean. It will be hard to hear from Mrs. Bush, Mrs. Cheney, et al., and believe they are sincere about their concern for America's children. When they speak against indecency in the media, what a hollow sound that will be. Of course, you will receive much criticism for your brave stand. When the majority of the country stays glued to programs like those served up on TV, what do you expect? Someone wrote a book about the dumbing down of America. I know they meant the school system, but today it could apply to the majority of what the people in this land find amusing. How sad. If "to lighten up" means to accept smutty language, then we have sunk to a new level. You did a good job.
-- JF

I don't know who this Whetz Pleutruschey is that found so much to be critical of in Laura's performance at the Press Club. My gosh, we've known that the Bushes had a sense of humor ever since we delighted in Barbara Bush...thank God these fine people are able to laugh at themselves. I thought Lynne Cheney would burst from laughter and the Vice President seemed to genuinely enjoy it. My boy George (how I love that man) simply glowed with pride that he was married to Laura. No, we couldn't have taken this from Hillary and Bill because we know there is no love lost between the two and that all they want is power. George and Laura love each other and other people. They're secure which the other two aren't. Dear old Whatshisname and I could care less who penned this article must surely have a lackluster marriage. He must be as much fun and joy in a marriage as a wet noodle. I doubt he's been able to catch a woman....
-- unsigned

The comments on the comments of Laura? Enlightening, indeed!

First, the ultra-right zealots vent their collective spleens; much gnashing of teeth by the Fun-Challenged, then great stuff from John Hess, David Broadus, Gene Wright (the bassman with Brubeck, et al?), and Laurel's astute "it was only a dinner" said it all.

But contrary to my perception of most readers, noted that there's a kook element as well -- dementia personified.....

Oh, and loved Sandy's reference to Teresa H. Kerry too.

Your letters section is "must" reading, usually the first thing I turn to, and often (not all the time, but often) contains even better information than many/most columns.

A pleasure to read -- I thank you.
-- Geoff Brandt
Quintana, Texas

Mr. Pleszczynski, I agree with you. I was embarrassed for the President and Mrs. Bush, and for those who stand up and defend them as moral role models. It was Clintonesque. Worse than their daughters' lame standup last year. That classy image is tarnished. What was gained? The libs still don't like the Bushes, and the conservatives are probably disappointed in them. I wonder who thought her presentation was a good idea? My ex-wife would make funny jokes like that when she drank.
-- John Duckett

The responses to your column on Laura Bush's declasse act at the Correspondents' Dinner merit engraving somewhere. Most, except for my letter -- and thanks for publishing it -- were genuine Saturday Night Live material, from people evidently totally unfamiliar with you, your record, your beliefs and TAS. Sum total, you inadvertently exposed the real trouble in which the GOP finds itself. In addition to the Seven Deadly Sins, I now propose an Eighth: Willful Denial.
-- Gene Wright
Laguna Niguel, California

Mr. Pleszczynski's incisive comment of First Lady Laura Bush was right on target. It was a sad spectacle to see someone of her stature lowered herself to such a vulgar level. As a true supporter of President Bush, and a person who believes that Laura is a beautiful, and classy lady, I can not understand what makes people of her stature do such foolish things.

I'm terrible disappointed and saddened that President Bush and First Lady Laura threw away (for a moment, I hope) the mantle of dignity, for a few cheap laughs. The horse joke, the stripper joke, the belittling of the President, was all in bad taste. To laugh is good and healthy, but not at the gutter level for people who should be lifting up the spirit of our embattled culture.
-- J.M. Albaine

Well! Everyone else has weighed in so I might as well do it too.

Her speech was very funny at the time. I was surprised and a little uneasy as it went on. I wondered afterwards, what was the point? Was this supposed to be a roast? I guess so. Does it matter in the long run? You got me.

Everything Bush does right is ridiculed, derided, lied about or ignored so does a roast by his wife really matter? I guess I just hated hearing Laura say what the leftist hate mongers have been saying, even jokingly. I wonder if any of the leftist woke up the next morning and realized the joke was really about them. I doubt it. They were just delighted to hear it.
-- C. Benson

Did I miss something? Wlady is a "vast left-wing conspiracy writer" and a "radical, socialist Democrat" who is "blind in [his] hatred"? Have I just not read enough of his work? Wlady's piece seemed to be neither left-wing nor tongue-in-cheek nor a "hit piece."

And why do people who claim they don't read a publication find it necessary to write in to tell everyone they will never read it again? Umm, ok! To feign such outrage over the piece is no different than these critics' claims that Wlady should "lighten up and/or get a life." To be so easily offended seems ironic and hypocritical given the subject matter.
-- Angela Seeley
Clarksville, Tennessee

Quite an article. Well, one idiot on your staff isn't too bad.
-- WRS

DIGITAL INTERNATIONAL
Re: Robert Dammers's letter (under "Internationally Digital") in Reader Mail's Prime Rates:

One could not fail to notice that, after the founders of The American Spectator had nurtured it for years; promoting new talent; constantly struggling to get the advertisers on board; keeping going through the dark days of the Clinton White House; investing in a daily web page, with the increase in workload that brings; and then investing in producing a digital edition; my compatriot Robert Dammers of Tunbridge Wells has complained about its cost (Reader Mail, May 2).

Perhaps TAS staff might join me in wishing Mr. Dammers well with the success of his own publication, should he ever care to produce it.

Good grief, I thought it was only supposed to be Scots who were tight.
-- Martin Kelly
Glasgow, Scotland

HE'S YOURS
Re: John Tabin's A Labour of Love:

John Tabin's description of our prime minister as a "true friend to America" has prompted me to plead for an end to misguided American flattery of this unchristian despot. To list all of the attacks of Tyrant Blair on our liberties would be a task even Google would struggle with, but I'll give you a quick run down of some of the more notable ones. Almost 1.5 million unborn children have been killed under the watch of our pro-abortion prime minister whose Government found time to legislate against fox-hunting; leaked Government papers show Blair's health secretary to have stated that some hospital patients should be left to die because it costs too much to them alive; the Government's Mental Capacity Act has just legalized Terri Schiavo-like killings in this country; Labour has compounded the Conservative Party's erosion of the right to silence with the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which abolishes our 800-year-old protection against being tried twice for the same crime; the Government has attacked habeas corpus and due process with its anti-terrorism proposals; the Labour Party was recently found guilty of massive electoral fraud in the Midlands, prompting Judge Richard Mawrey to attack ministers for tolerating corruption that would "disgrace a banana republic"; and, as if he needed any help steamrollering his legislation through Parliament, Blair recently created 16 Labour peers, making his party the largest group in the House of Lords for the first time.

If you love him, you can have him.
-- Kevin O'Neill
London, England

HARDLY THE HERO
Re: Paul Beston's Ilario Pantano, Patriot:

After reading Paul Beston's article concerning Lt. Pantano it is entirely clear that he has no idea about what he is writing about. Consequently, as a Marine judge advocate I feel compelled to set a few things straight. To begin with it is absolutely incorrect for anyone to imply that Sgt. Coburn is the prosecution's "star witness." If anyone has a claim to that title it is Lt. Pantano. His own statement is the linchpin of this prosecution. Furthermore, the testimony of Doc Gobels is far more important than anything Coburn is offering up.

As a former enlisted artillery cannon crewman myself, I can certainly understand (and support) the instinct to resolve any doubt in favor of the war fighter in combat. However, that does not mean that combatants should be permitted to violate the laws of armed conflict with impunity. If there was one thing that was drummed into my brain housing group in boot camp, OCS, and then the Basic School was the cast iron rule that while Marines ALWAYS fight to win Marines play by the rules and obey the law. From what I have seen of Lt. Pantano's statement it does not appear that he followed that rule. After the vehicle in question was totally torn apart under the supervision of Lt. Pantano he then cut off the flexi cuffs of the victims and made them conduct an unnecessary additional search of the vehicle and then subsequently, out of sight of his platoon, pumped about 60 rounds into the victims. Those prisoners were his responsibility. He had no business removing their cuffs to conduct such a search. This type of search is completely in violation of the laws of armed conflict. He could no more use prisoners to search for booby traps than he could use them to walk through a minefield. If this was not bad enough, after gunning the victims down he then had the temerity to leave a sign on the bodies that read "no better friend, no worse enemy." This was not self-defense, this was a premeditated act intended to send a message. In fact, I suspect Lt. Pantano was trying to act out a scene from Band of Brothers where Lt. Spears shoots German POWs. At any rate, Lt. Pantano, regardless of any other merits he may have possessed as a platoon leader, is not deserving of victim (or hero) status. These were not the acts of a warrior, they were the acts of a murderer.

The above comments represent my own personal opinion and should not be interpreted as the official position of the Marine Corps or the prosecution.
-- Name Withheld
Parris Island, South Carolina

Largely, Paul Beston's commentary about Marine 2ndLt. Ilario was a fair analysis, given the case's current stage of adjudication under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). But, Beston wrongly postulates the case should be preemptively dismissed and, thereby, removed from the military justice process, largely, I take it, because Lt. Ilario is a brave warrior (which he probably is). Such action would vastly disserve the interests of justice, and it would send wrong signals to the public, to the enemy, and to other members of the Armed Services

Many people are not well informed that our military justice system is a superb criminal justice process (perhaps the best in the world) for determining facts, and for ensuring legal protections, both procedurally and substantively, for all concerned. And, very importantly, it also serves to re-enforce good order, discipline, and morale in the Armed Forces. To dismiss charges against Lt. Ilario at this point -- charges which were sworn by a fellow service member who was present at the scene -- would undermine the system. It is, therefore, crucial that military authorities proceed with the pretrial investigation of the charges under Article 32, UCMJ, with a neutral hearing officer conducting a hearing with the accused and his counsel permitted to present and challenge evidence, call and confront witnesses, present factual and legal theories, and make arguments.

Following such investigation, the hearing officer will submit a report of the evidence, and any legal issues framed during the hearing, along with his recommendations. Then, proper senior authority (in consultation with their own experienced legal staffs) will make an informed decision of whether "probable cause" exits to refer the case to a court-martial. As I understand the facts of Lt. Pantano's case, this is a likely and legally appropriate point within the military justice system to dismiss some or all of the charges based on his actions being deemed justified under the "rules of engagement."

But, the protections of the process do not end there. If the case is ultimately referred to court-martial, the burden will be on the Government to prove its case, by competent evidence, "beyond reasonable doubt," before a court of officers sworn to evaluate the relevant and admissible facts within a framework of legal instructions provided by an experienced military judge who is sworn, trained and certified as an impartial court officer. This is the ultimate point in time where a valorous warrior would be able to try to convince a court of his peers that his actions were justified, lawful, and even brave.

As a former military judge and a Navy judge advocate having served over 30 years in the Navy, I can assure the reader, our system of military justice is quite capable of adjudicating properly the facts of this case while ensuring due process of law.
-- A. A. Reynolds
Capt, JAGC, USN (Ret.)
BA, JD, LLM

OBJECTIVE AS KRUGMAN
Re: George Neumayr's Tired of the PBS:

Great story, I really don't care how liberal PBS is, as long as they don't use my tax dollars. If I wanted to watch liberal media I always have CBS, ABC, NBC, etc. Congress should really consider pulling the money plug for PBS and let the Al Gore group take over, they are looking for a liberal station.
-- Elaine Kyle
Cut & Shoot, Texas

After reading George Neumayr's article about PBS liberal excesses, I am moved to ask: Does anybody at the Spectator think that the PBS sponsoring of Dr. Wayne Dyer crosses the line on the separation of Church and State?
-- Mike Walsh

My wife and I always laughed when PBS' commercials used to ask, "If PBS doesn't do it, then who will?" They usually ran this commercial during Barry Manilow specials. Well, we would respond, no one with even any modicum of financial or artistic sense.
-- Michael Gewin
Saint Louis, Missouri

Would someone please review how we might eliminate taxes being paid to support PBS. If it is a public program, let the public who wants it pay for it, perhaps as a cable program.
-- Walter Pazik
San Francisco, California

Moyers made a fortune manipulating PBS for himself. The network should fund itself without taxpayers' money. If the government wants to fund individual projects through public interest or creativity grants, those projects should be made available to all networks and cable outlets.
-- Howard Lohmuller
Seabrook, Texas

THUMB'S UP
Re: James Bowman's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

I must say the movie review of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by James Bowman was superb. I have read about 12 reviews now and he captured the nostalgia of us in our 40s for all the wonderful media forms Mr. Adams's work came in. Douglas Adams's ability to tie in religion with science and technology while making it very funny was pure escapism at its best. I have felt like Marvin the robot, waiting patiently 23 years for the big screen adaptation of HHGTTG. Mr. Bowman has convinced me to see the movie and take my kids (who will be kicking and screaming) to experience a modern day Jonathan Swift tale.
-- Jeff Brownell
Herndon, Virginia

Apropos the Hitchhiker's Guide: Why must everything written in Britain be about huts and shrubs and hedgehogs? I started to read the Hitchhiker's Guide but was bored silly page after page, and finally discarded it with, "Why all the praise?" If I want the British countryside described (yet again) in soggy detail, I'll turn to Conan Doyle or Delius.
-- David Govett
Davis, California

THE UNMOVED MOVER
Re: Peter Hannaford's Cosmic Dustbin:

Since I agree with Mr. Hannaford re teaching evolution and intelligent design, I must correct his misconception about the big bang, before opponents use his error as proof that his entire premise is wrong. He asked "Note to the ACLU and other secularists: If the universe was created from a "Big Bang" of accumulated cosmic dust, where did the cosmic dust come from? Who put it there?" The big bang theory does not claim origin from accumulated cosmic dust. It claims that everything, space, all matter, even time itself began in an instant. There was no cosmic dust before the big bang. There wasn't even space before the big bang.
-- David Moshinsky

Peter Hannaford's piece reminded me of a joke wherein scientists stated that God's creation of man wasn't such a miraculous thing. They could create man from dust also and promptly set about doing so. God said, "Hold on there! Use your own dust!"
-- Jenny Woodward

WEST WINGING IT
Re: Patrick Hynes's A Republican Dynasty:

"In another 25 years or so there will be another television show in which all the villains are greedy, lecherous Republicans and the heroes are simple folk with progressive values."

We've already had such a program. But of course no real Republican would be caught dead watching "West Wing."
-- Bob Johnson
Bedford, Texas

I've never seen anyone use the term phony-bologna before.
It's usually phony-boloney.
-- Anthony Mastroserio
Princeton, New Jersey

KNOCKING RUSSIAN SKULL
Re: Jed Babbin's Pooty-Poot's Middle East:

My name is Kotik. Look it up in a Russian-English dictionary.

What I know in my bones, written there over many, many centuries, is that Russians are Russians. To expect them to be English gentlemen is, has been, and always will be a grave error.

It is necessary to be very, very tough in dealing with them. Otherwise, you confuse them and they do crazy things, thinking you won't mind.

From time to time one must bang them on the head with a cast iron skillet. They don't really mind, and they won't automatically think of revenge. To the contrary, they, like everybody else, are grateful when another party makes its thoughts clear. It's just that the Russian soul does not place the high value on subtlety and genteel manners in communication that the Western culture does.

Mr. President, I have a well-seasoned cast iron skillet I'd be please to lend to you for your next meeting with Mr. Putin. Believe me, sir, a few blows to his head will enable him to do with you what you have done with him: see into your soul. He won't go away mad -- he'll go away enlightened and grateful.
-- Paul Kotik
Plantation, Florida

RUNNING THE CAR OUT OF TOWN
Re: The Prowler's Sweeney Pie:

In light of the earnings catastrophe for GM and Ford this past year, The AFL-CIO is doomed for extinction. The massive health care costs that our 2 biggest automakers had to pay out for its workers (both current/former) has absorbed all of their cash and then some. While Big Labor continues to demand ever growing concessions for America's autoworkers, foreign competition is growing fierce. Japan, and now Korea, are steadily capturing market share, and they are building and retooling plants here in America. China has now considered getting into the consumer auto market. In the not too distant future, the 3 largest automakers in the world could come from three countries in Asia, and the AFL-CIO's membership will consist of only public service employees. When that happens look for our States to begin to outsource their administration to places like Boshan, Bombay, and Saigon.
-- JP Koch
Mishawaka, Indiana

PRESIDENTIAL LANGUAGE
Re: Rich Holt's letter (under "Back to the Fringes") in Reader Mail's Prime Rates:

Are you certain that you didn't swagger three keys to the right as you typed your last name? President Bush did not call the Minutemen "vigilantes." He said that what we didn't need was a bunch of vigilantes down there. You inferred that he intended to include those involved in the Minuteman Project in that group. And the reason that he doesn't follow Ahhnold's lead on this issue is because he is the president of the United States!
-- David Gonzalez
Wheeling, Illinois

ABANDON ARNOLD
Re: George Neumayr's Center-Right Republicanism's Collapse:

I supported, and voted for Arnold in the last election. I even sent money to the California RNC to get Gray Davis out of office. Where Arnold lost his "Base" is when he signed the 50 BMG rifle ban. I know most of my friends and associates (many small business owners like myself), believe we are less free because of Arnold. That is the bottom line. It is not always about the money. Sometimes it is as basic as FREEDOM! Like John McCain in Arizona, "who I errored in voting for in the presidential primary once," Arnold will not be receiving votes or support from freedom loving California voters again. Nor will many of us send money to the RNC in California if they support him again. Most of the folks I associate with consider the "gun issue" a "canary in the cage indication" of how free we really are. Here in California we are not very free.

I am continually amazed at how few people really want the responsibilities that freedom requires. Hamilton was right!
-- Dave
Placer County, California

NET CORRECTIONS
Re: David Hogberg's Another Dose of Krugman:

Excellent -- just one small point on wording. David Hogberg says: "Indeed, the study Krugman refers to compares apples to oranges by measuring administrative costs in private insurance as a percentage of income while measuring administrative costs in public health care programs as a percentage of expenditures."

Normally, income is defined as profit, no? Administrative costs as a percentage of profit would (in this context) be even more extremely misleading, which is why I wonder why Krugman didn't do it. He must have been a little off his game last week.

I think your (Hogberg) word "income" should really be "revenue" (premiums sold). Your greater point remains.
-- Tod Farmer

PURGE THAT THOUGHT
Re: Shawn Macomber's Blaming the Victims:

The e-mailer is either an Islamofascist, Taliban sympathizer, or a student of the Nazis. It's not worth the author's time to engage this person in speech or e-mail. Mr. Macomber, erase this thoughtless person from your brain.
-- Clasina Segura
New Iberia, Louisiana

BEN ON ARTHUR MILLER
Re: Ben Stein's One of Them:

Short but profound!!! He calls it like it was. Thanks for printing it.
-- Kristi Heft

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