Reader Mail

Audience Participation

More on TAS's strong bench. Swatting at Gnats and O's. Tambourine man sighting. Plus much more.

4.19.05

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THIRD TIME'S A CHARM
Re: William H. Stewart's letter ("TAS's Strong Bench") in Reader Mail's Taking Back the Night:

This is the third time I've written to praise your "audience" and its observations; often I learn more from the letters to the editor than in many of the columns.

You received a kind of "fan letter" just last week -- well deserved. It really hits home when I read what numb nuts write to the Seattle Times (like Bill Gates' goofy father) or the Atlanta rag and other so-called "mainstream" publications; the socialistic/give-me-more opinions are rarely worth more than puke.

Sorry 'bout that, but really, I'm often amazed at the eloquence and sharp thinking of your patrons -- which most often can be traced back to your original writings which inspire such fertile extensions of thought.

As a non-card-carrying guy of the libertarian persuasion, I have major problems with the administration and most of our elected representatives, but your readership gives me hope. I certainly don't agree with all of your participants -- in fact, some go 'way too far. But, they're thinking! And most are positive, constructive thoughts.

Yea for you guys!
-- Geoff Brandt
Quintana, Texas

STRANGE WORDS
Re: Wlady Pleszczynski's Blinded by the Light:

Your column on the Clinton quote reminds me of something that happened in sports about 12 years ago. Golfer Ernie Els played one of his first American events at the Kingsmill PGA tournament, a tournament that broadcaster and golfer Curtis Strange informally hosts (he lives there). Strange played an early round with Els, then went to the broadcast booth to do the TV portion of his job.

Asked about Els, Strange said, in his broad Virginia accent, "Ah think Ah just played with the next gah." ("I think I just played with the next guy.") Somebody heard this as "played with the next god," and so the quote zipped around the world. Even The Economist printed it as a caption.
-- Lawrence Henry

Well, now. Where is that triple "fact checking you're a -- " that the MSM are supposed to have superior training and experience for? The copy desk? The national editor's desk? Does anybody at the NY Times have a VCR?

It is interesting that 15 years ago Dave Barry was considered political satire and the NYT was considered serious. Now the NYT is satire and Dave Barry now covers politicians with same seriousness of Will Rogers. Should I be given the ballot for the next Pulitzer, I select NYT as an entrant in the fiction category.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

THE NATIONALS PASTIME
Re: Patrick Hynes's Swatting at Gnats:

If Patrick Hynes doesn't want to mix with low life on the Orange Line, then he needs to grow up and get a car for his commute from Annapolis to D.C. Unless, at his tender age and wage, he can't afford parking -- in which case he can ride a bike.

Finally, his screed about baseball's return to DC doesn't have the coherence necessary for good cynicism. His best option would be to return to his beloved Boston, where he can commence waiting another 86 years.
-- Robert Martins
Alexandria, Virginia

My family and I went to Shea Stadium on April 15, and my wife endured a three inning wait for hot chocolate and nachos that never materialized. Now Shea has been there since 1964, and the vendors still don't have it right. Good luck to the noshers at RFK!
-- Vincent Mohan

I just read Patrick Hynes article's "Swatting at Gnats" in which the self-admitted Red Sox fan complained about the crowds on the Metro for the Nats opener, then predicted that the transient nature of D.C.-area residents will doom our new baseball franchise.

Over the weekend of the Nats opener, drew 46,000, 35,000, and 35,000 for the three-game series sweep against the D-Backs. Meanwhile, 38 miles to the north, the Orioles drew three 48,000 sellout crowds at Camden Yards for their sweep of the Yankees. A total of 260,000 Baltimore-Washington area baseball fans went through the turnstiles at both area major league parks.

As for crowded Metro trains, I left at 4:45 p.m. for the opener and had no problem on the Orange line. Maybe Mr. Hynes should do what I do. Wake up at 4:30 a.m., get to work by 7:00 am, and leave at 4:00 p.m. before the rush hour hits its zenith.

Baseball will thrive in D.C., even if half the fans at every game are there to root for the Braves, Mets, Phillies, Cubs, etc. At the same time, it will thrive in Baltimore if their ambulance-chasing owner can put a winner on the field. (The O's are currently ahead of Mr. Hynes's defending champion BoSox; okay, it's only mid-April).

Go Nats. Go O's.
-- John C. Duff
Olney, Maryland

Great article from a lifelong O's fan. How many are going to be in that park in mid-August on a week night? If you lived in Loudon County, Sterling say, and worked in D.C.: What time would you have to leave work and how early would the kids have to get out of school, for you to have time to get home, get them, and get back to RFK? And why would they want to since the ONLY place around here it made sense to build a park was in Sterling to begin with? WTOP had a story Friday morning about a guy in Loudon County who said it took him longer to get home from RFK than Camden Yards. Of course the Washington media are treating this like a one-time event. With RFK hands-down the worst stadium in professional sports (it would have beat out the dear departed Vet and that's saying something), a 10% increase in two months of the cost of the new park, and the corruption starting already (Marion Barry relative hired for no-show job on Stadium commission -- virtually uncovered by Washington media) how long before others realize what a boondoggle this deal is, for everyone really? Given D.C.'s track record, does anyone believe they are going to come close to budget on that stadium? A nice note: On the Gnats' first homestand, they sweep, but don't sell-out the 2nd & 3rd games. Meanwhile up 295, the major league team in a major league stadium swept baseball's best -- and we outdrew the Gnats with sellouts every game.
-- Rick Hiteshew

A few things about Patrick Hynes's article on the return of baseball to Washington:

1.) As soon as you said "lifelong Boston Red Sox fan," you pretty much disqualified yourself from complaining about the current publicity about the Nationals. Everyone in the country who is not a Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees fan is sick of hearing about the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. If the Nats' happen to surprise everyone this year, or become a contender over the next season or two, and Washington's natural aura of self-importance takes over, then the whole country will start being deluged with stories out of D.C. about how great their team is, and how this reflects the city they play in. Then you can start complaining about the noxious media coverage.

2.) The Orange Line really, really needs 8-car trains, just like in New York City. And if WMATA's suppliers wouldn't keep sending them railcars that fall apart 50 feet outside the factory door, they'd have 8-car trains, instead of the 6-car ones that can't handle current rush hour conditions, let alone rush hour with a ballgame at RFK to boot.

3.) I'll give you the scolding over the food problem. At $45 a seat for second-level tickets, you'd think they'd be ready to fleece the fans some more by being stocked with enough $5 hot dogs to ensure more than one trip to the concession stand.

4.) Thanks to the glut of corporations that have moved either their headquarters or large offices into the D.C. area over the past 30 years -- the better to be near the politicians they're trying to lobby -- and the restaurants, motels, malls, etc. that have popped up to serve those workers, there's more of a permanent residency in Washington and its suburbs than there was when the Senators moved to Texas. But voters around the country should know -- if your elected senator or representative starts being seen in photos attending games all the time while rooting for the Nats, the Redskins, or the Wizards, it means he's served too many terms in Washington and it's about time for voters to send him packing so he can rediscover his hometown team.
-- Jon Fulbright

MEANING NO DISRESPECT
Re: George Neumayr's Protection Racketeers:

The convening of the conclave to select the new pope begins this week; hence, a decent interval has passed to mourn respectfully this man of God. After this period of silence and prayer, it is now possible to debate some of the continuing problems associated with John Paul II's pontificate; to do so earlier would have been disrespectful. Both the Executive Editor and Editorial Director of this webzine have written about the virtue and dignity of this "man of the people," warning that the media's spinning of this pontiff's life should be viewed with extreme caution. I agree. But first and foremost, John Paul II was the head of the Roman Catholic Church, and his guidance and leadership of that divinely created institution is what should be examined, not his personal gifts and character traits, unless, of course, they added -- or detracted -- from completing his mission. In my lifetime, no pope has received the plaudits of such a wide array of admirers, which, if I may say so, sometimes crossed over into hagiography.

One of the problems in evaluating his pontificate is that JPII's personal acclaim is often confused with his effectiveness. Hence, when he was referred to as having the popularity of "a rock star," due to his ability to draw young hordes to "Youth Days," the underlying question was rarely, if ever, asked: What effect did it have in bringing more young people permanently into the churches? The answer, from observers in both Europe and the U.S., is very little. Did his popularity make a difference to the Church? The NPR reporter covering the funeral pointed out that "the pope fills the piazzas, but the churches are empty." (One could also add that the mosques are filled.) That is not a testimonial to JPII's effectiveness. Two years before he died, the pope himself, speaking from his summer retreat at Castelgandolfo, said, "European culture gives the impression of silent apostasy on the part of men who are sated, who live as if God does not exist." Had much changed to improve the Church's situation in the quarter century from the time of the pope's inauguration to the time of that statement?

Another point that should be addressed was described recently in George Neumayr's legitimate criticism of Roger Cardinal Mahony. The exploits of clerics like Mahony, Weakland, et al., all point to a Church hierarchy, along with Jesuits the likes of Robert Drinan, that has not only lost touch with Catholic doctrine, but often ignores the pope's moral stance. In so doing, they openly criticize the pope. (I shan't mention the priestly scandals.) John Paul II was greatly admired, but he was not feared. To put a finer point on it, however, who was responsible for appointing these "modernists" to their positions? It will not do to say the pope was not informed; he should have been. The sign on Harry Truman's desk says it all: "The buck stops here."

American news media are carrying stories about polls that indicate strong approval of making JPII an instant saint. It is a monument to the failure of Catholic teaching to believe that such an event can occur, as it is to believe that "the Spirit of Vatican II" (whatever that is) has led to a deeper and more informed Catholic laity. In survey after survey, a stupefying number of Catholic parishioners believe that the Eucharistic sacrifice is "symbolic." So much for the improvements in religious life of Western Catholics.

But in death, came John Paul II's funeral mass whose rightly deserved solemnity included the prayers and liturgical text said in Latin, no female lay reader, no dancing in the aisles or hootenanny music. Let that seriousness guide the 115 voting members of the College of Cardinals in their deliberations.
-- Vincent Chiarello
Reston, Virginia

ENTITLEMENT NUMBER CRUNCHING
Re: Jenifer Zeigler's Republicans Show They Care:

The standing problem with welfare (other than the obvious one) is that it never takes into account where one is in life. Any 18 year old making $12,000 per year would be considered to be doing okay. That same person at 40 making the same annual income would be considered impoverished. Problem is, the system makes no distinction.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

KOREAGATERS
Re: Jed Babbin's Tongsun Redux:

Perhaps we could list the names of the congressmen and their punishment, who were caught up in Koreagate? Are there any of them still on the Hill?

Semper Fi.
-- Lee

Jed Babbin's tongue-in-cheek comment about head-hunters (4/18/2005) reminded of the fuss that lefties made about the British using head-hunters in the Malayan emergency. The British public yawned and the reds lost.
-- Gerry Jackson

The last paragraph is really funny! Great article.
-- Doug Santo
Pasadena, California

ROMAN MURDER AND MARRIAGE
Re: James Bowman's Sinner Survival:

Interestingly, one of the impediments to marriage in RCC Canon Law is crimen, having killed in order to marry. If I recall correctly, it cannot be dispensed.
-- Ed Ahlsen-Girard
Eglin AFB, Florida

LOST CITY
Re: Lawrence Henry's Driving in Boston:

Wish you'd mentioned that landmark of landmarks: the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square, just outside of Fenway Park. Too, you omitted some things all Boston drivers know and practice: Honk horn instantly at cars that don't move when traffic light turns green; when in doubt, accelerate; and swerve abruptly.

Too, never get in the way of a car that needs extensive bodywork. Years ago, on my first day driving in Boston, I encountered a well-dressed man in a Volkswagen that looked like it had died and gone to dent heaven. He nearly drove me into the Common as we headed on Charles Street toward Beacon Hill. Yep, he swerved abruptly.
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

The specifics of Henry's article ring true, even for a Boston driver of 20 years like me. After extricating myself from the city, and now making a twice daily drive 20 miles down Route 1 for work, I have but one observation to add: If the infrastructure makes it difficult, the aggressive nature of the locals behind the wheel makes it impossible.

Route 1 is a four-lane divided highway with 50 mph speed limits, and shopping center driveways that go right and off without any advance notice. The nature of our drivers is ruthless. Many times my wife would remind me in heavy traffic to "close the gap" between me and the car in front of me, lest my neighbor in the right lane decide to take my place.

Anyone who has wondered why Eastern Massachusetts is one of the only places in America where NASCAR isn't popular, I offer the following explanation: Why bother watching it when you can live it every weekday morning and evening.
-- William H. Stewart
Boston. Massachusetts

COLLECTIVISM'S AFRICAN CASUALTIES
Re: Christopher Orlet's From Breadbasket to Dustbowl:

The destruction of the food producing capacity of Rhodesia was easily foreseen by anyone with an IQ in the double digits and an awareness of the history of any "Worker's Paradise" around the world. The tragically flawed notion of "From each according to his ability; to each according to his needs" has a foundation that is totally disconnected from reality and has led to the graves of millions across the world. Soldier of Fortune magazine, which has covered, since the 1970s, the events in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, gave adequate warning that this breadbasket would be ruined by the idiots who took over after the Ian Smith regime with a resultant manmade famine. The excuse for collectivism's failures is that humans are too SELFISH. I wish we weren't this STUPID.

P.S. Thanks for covering what happens around the world. TAS's news coverage with in depth editorials is better than any headline news.
-- David Shoup
Athens, Tennessee

A HURRICANE DEFENSE
Re: William Tucker's Unlike a Rolling Stone:

Wow!!! It takes some audacity to so casually attack the man who is almost unanimously considered the greatest song writer of all time. Not surprisingly, William Tucker's criticism of "Like a Rolling Stone" as the greatest song of all time is extremely inadequate. In his argument, he makes some very hazy, confused, and contradictory points that could only come from someone who is extremely unfamiliar with Dylan's songs. There is a bit of merit to the argument that a song sung by a more mainstream, popularly successful artist should have been represented as number one. This is Tucker's only reasonable point, however.

"Like a Rolling Stone" is a lyrically rich song. However, Tucker is content to attack an artist who has written books and over 500 extremely diverse songs, based solely on the chorus of "Like a Rolling Stone" and a few lines from "Positively Fourth Street." Nobody even vaguely familiar with Dylan's works would suggest that they are not complex, lyrical, rich, and allusive. Indeed, one should be downright insulted by Tucker's feeble attempt at straw-man deconstructionism.

What is even more bothersome about the article, however, is its irreconcilable contradictions, and downright absurd contentions. Dylan either is a formidable songwriter, whose works others would do well to imitate (as Tucker writes), or he is a simplistic ranter. Similarly, the idea that popular success should weigh so heavily in the decision making process that "Stayin' Alive" has a better claim to number one than Dylan's most famous song is laughable. Tucker consistently compares Dylan's work unfavorably with some of the most mindless pop or rock & roll songs.

The fact that Dylan didn't even write "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" illustrates Tucker's inexcusable ignorance of Dylan's work. I would be surprised if Tucker has actually even heard Dylan's brilliant recordings of his own songs "Mr. Tambourine Man" (shortened by two versus by The Byrds in their more popular version) and "Blowin' In the Wind" (not "Blowing," by the way). Assuredly, his voice in itself invariably offers a brilliant dramatic interpretation that no pop coverers can match.

Tucker should leave musical criticism to the professionals, and "know his song well before he starts singing."
-- Erik Mears

REFORM THIS
Re: Shawn Macomber's Mr. Caesar Goes to Washington:

If no income/payroll tax -- how would you collect Social Security?
-- Dean L. Martin

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