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Remembering Johnny Carson. Plus: Tried torture. Bush and Specter. Old U.N. And more.

1.24.05

REMEMBERING JOHNNY
Re: Wlady Pleszczynski's Mr. Tonight:

Once when Madeline Kahn was Johnny's guest-interviewee on The Tonight Show, the conversation turned to sports. Johnny asked Madeline what athletic games she liked to play. She said she didn't much care for playing sports.

Johnny asked why not.

Madeline said, "I don't like to see balls coming at me."

Johnny did his famous deadpan, straight into the camera. He did his famous Johnny Carson pause as the audience's anticipatory laughter built. Then he said, "I think they call that testophobia."
-- Alan Cole
McLean, Virginia

I couldn't agree with you more about Johnny Carson. He said more with his facial expressions than most current late night hosts say during an entire monologue. And I'll never forget being taken with the colorful curtains that he made his entrance from when we got our first color television set. Funny the things you remember. May he rest in peace.
-- Cathy Thorpe
Columbus, Georgia

OK, somebody help us out -- it's all a blur. But didn't the "beautiful downtown Burbank" line come from Laugh-In? Wasn't it Garry Owens's line? If it was Johnny's I'm happy to know Wlady was right.
-- K. E. Grubbs Jr.
Sacramento, California

It should have been "advice column" not "advise column."
-- R.L.A. Schaefer
Dubuque, Iowa

I agree almost totally with you, Wlady, about Johnny Carson. What he accomplished and showed all of America was who he was, a child from another generation far removed from what's presently going on -- rap anti-music, Paris Hilton, Michael Moore, etc.

I think the key statistics that define him are when and where he was born, and where he grew up. As a child of the depression who came of age at the age of 18, say, in 1943, his service in the Navy during WW II made a lot of difference in his life.

Where that mostly mattered, to him -- and the majority of his cohort -- will be largely avoided, except by similar comments as you made, about his smoking. Don't get me wrong. Whoever wants to suck in tobacco (of any other) smoke is fine by me, as long as it's done in private. However, with parents and other relatives from a generation about ten years older than Carson, who almost all smoked their whole lives, I do have to say that such a choice resulted in a horrible end of life for most of them.

Good old Uncle Charlie, a wonderful man, went through a long painful time with most of his lungs non-functional, having chosen to experience emphysema because of a lifetime of smoking. It was horrible, for him, and for me, when I spent some time with him, near the end. Dear old dad had his larynx removed and ended up "talking" out of a slit in his throat, and dying from a baseball-sized tumor on his neck.

So, for me, as I watched various TV programs, yesterday, and couldn't avoid all the Carson-ending manias, there was even a process in consciousness worthy of note. At first, like all people these days, my first reaction was self-defensive, a neutral "So what, everybody dies" attitude. Next, I wanted to know how old he was. Then, I allowed myself to observe some of the replays of him and the praise from other oldsters who knew and loved him. Finally, after all that, some station wrote that he died of emphysema, and all of a sudden, there was poor suffering Uncle Charlie -- and all the rest of the things "Carson" didn't matter.

Maybe the key aspect of Carson was his private-public manner of living. In any case, for me I suffered, in congruence with him, as it became obvious that his last years must have been a seemingly interminable 24/7 time of suffering -- in PRIVATE. You can bet the painful constriction of his chest, and who knows what other bodily diseases he suffered due to smoking, were certain to shake him out of any "strong-ego" thoughts, because he had become famous. In short, as he shuffled of his most recent bodily coil, my guess is that, at the deepest level, he regretted having chosen such a filthy killing habit, of smoking cigarettes. It reminds me of all the brouhaha concerning asbestos.

Every inhalation of cigarette smoke is equivalent to taking a tiny knife and cutting part of the lungs. Over time, he died of countless such cuts. Finally, Walter Wriston died last week, at the age of 85. I read his wonderful book, Twilight of the Sovereigns (highly recommended!), and it was either in that book, or somewhere else, that he wrote about his attitude toward smoking. He himself had been in the service in WW II, just like Carson, and I think he was as "normal" as the next guy, then, by regularly lighting up. However, later, when he moved up the corporate ladder, he managed to quit. This led to one of his "filters" -- pun intended -- when it came to promotions. Anyone who was too weak or too stupid to stop smoking was ineligible for one. Walter's thought was that such a person was unqualified for higher positions, since their judgment was, ipso facto, as stained as the yellow teeth they should have -- despite dental cover-ups!
-- James Crystal

OVER A PORK BARRELL
Re: Jed Babbin's Levels of Discomfort:

In response to Jed Babbin's "Levels of Discomfort," I would like to suggest a politically incorrect interrogation technique that would be uniquely effective with Muslims.

General Patton quickly put down a Muslim rebellion in the Phillipians by ordering his soldiers to dip their bullets in pig fat and to throw a pig into the grave of newly killed rebels.

Today, if an interrogator walked into a Muslim prisoner's cell carrying a heaping plate of bacon, started asking questions and, if the prisoner refused to cooperate, ask if he was hungry, I believe the interrogator would soon get answers he or she sought. After all, if a Muslim terrorist believes he will be given 70 virgins in Paradise if he dies for Allah, he also believes that consuming pork would gain him a one-way ticket to Hell. I'm not proposing that the interrogator stuff bacon down prisoners' throats. The mere suggestion of that possibility would be enough to terrorize a terrorist.
-- David Watson
Montgomery, Alabama

I suggest that the need for better interrogation techniques with terrorist suspects is only part of the problem. The first problem is to acquire the will to win -- America doesn't have that and doesn't look like it ever will have it. America's first priority is not beating the terrorists, it is avoiding upsetting those people and institutions (like the media, human rights groups and the UN) that either don't understand the dangers of terrorism or who support it. Once America does decide it actually wants to defeat terrorism (rather than merely talk about it), everything else will follow -- effective interrogation and all the rest of the "must haves." General George C. Marshall called the will to win the essential requirement for victory in any war -- with it, anything was possible, but without it, nothing was.
-- Christopher Holland

THE SPECTER OF BUSH
Re: The Washington Prowler's Specter Fallout:

Regarding "Specter Fallout," the blame for this fiasco lies not only with Rick Santorum, but with President Bush. He was warned repeatedly about Specter, but chose to ignore the warnings for election-day expediency. The worst case scenario was that Pat Toomey would lose on Nov. 2nd, and the Democrats would pick up a seat; with Specter sitting in the Chairman's seat at Judiciary, would someone please explain how that could have possibly been worse?

It is amazing to me that a President who seems so adept at politics (despite the naysayers on the left, and in the media) can often overlook such glaring problems, or as in the case of Specter, let wishful thinking rule the day. Arlen Specter lied to the President, and his staff, and they lapped it up. I hate to say it, but in this respect Bush '43 sometimes displays the tin-ear of Bush '41. Here's hoping that Senators Cornyn and Brownback can prevent a disaster in the Judiciary committee during Dubya's second term; we have no more time to waste.
-- Gavin Valle
Peapack, New Jersey

What a surprise! Santorum hung himself out to dry at the instance of GWB by going to bat for the notoriously disloyal and fickle Arlen Specter, and now Arlen is thumbing his nose at both of them, from all that appears.

Let's get real. GWB has yet to exercise his veto pen or show any sign of real conservatism other than acting the blowhard about gay marriage. Big deal. Gay marriage is a non-starter, so far, because only some tiny percentage of the population is gay and really cares. Being a champion of saving foreign populations from their indigenous cultures by imposing "democracy" on them is about as conservative as George III's policy toward the colonies, place and time being given due regard.

He's run like a scalded cat from any real support for any truly conservative nominees lacking a Hispanic surname. Now, when no really conservative judicial nominee will have a prayer, he'll get to mutter, "Tut-tut", and intimate that Arlen double-crossed him, while Arlen is golden for another six years.

What a cheap charade! GWB is less a conservative at heart than was Bill Clinton in political reality. He's taken advantage of the Democrats' suicidal allegiance to gay rights, unfettered abortions for minors, and opposition to any palpable stand against terrorists.

Really, does he suppose that he really has a mandate for his imperialistic foreign misadventures or amnesty for illegal immigration just because some of us were terrified at the Democrats' blatant agenda for destruction? I beg to differ.

GWB is a product of our legally mandated two party (only, no others need apply) system. He'll nominate conservative judges and be "forced" to accept only those who genuflect at the liberal/socialist altar, while wringing his hands and wondering (through well-timed leaks) "How could Arlen do this to me?" all with a wink and a nod to the execrable senior senator from Pennsylvania.

In the meantime, the junior senator from Pennsylvania is in deep poop. Those of us who supported Toomey were cut off at the knees by his betrayal, and the Casey name (if not yet Casey, himself) packs a huge wallop in these parts.

I've seen the inauguration photos of Santorum standing just behind GWB, and they made me want to puke. Why should I bother to go out and vote for such a turncoat? The short answer is that I shouldn't. GWB can and will get everything he wants, or at least needs, out of Casey, if such a thing should come to pass.…
-- Mark Fallert

The truly expository issue with this sleazy, scum-filled Senate mechanics example is not whether Santorum or Frist or anyone else should be exposed as numb skulls.

Arlen Specter and many other senators have no integrity. They simply function based on their political desire for power and position, not to mention nice retirement packages.

Does anyone think that Ted Kennedy or Joe Biden would tell you the truth to your face? Didn't a woman die in Ted's car? Didn't Joe pull a line or two from someone else? Didn't Jeffords jump parties to gain power (as he lost it)?

Principles that are yielded to liars and political hacks like Specter, Kennedy, Biden, Jeffords and any of the rest of them will be trampled. Leopards don't change spots and liars forget what the truth looks like.

Specter needs to be removed and I don't care how bloody it gets (since I don't have a problem with gridlock). If Santorum and Frist are men of principles, they should start showing it.
-- Stu Margrey
Denton, Maryland

GOOD AS GOLD
Re: P. David Hornik's A Force for Mayhem:

I don't need to read Mr. Gold's book, which I am sure is excellent, after observing my entire adult life have come to what the true purpose of the UN is:

To hire as many of the chattering classes of the various world's governments so as to divert their attentions that the internal representatives of said governments may get on with the killing, maiming or fraud that is appropriate for their station in the GDP of the world stage.

I say this, for the UN has no police powers short of those given to it by the representatives of the bodies that should be muffled, which is to say no powers at all. It possesses no judicial authority as its sole international body, the ICJ, has no means to enforce the decisions it makes. It lacks taxing authority except to the extent that it takes donations from the participants. It possesses no means to protect the individual from the vulgarities of their host government ("It's an internal issue...").

Placing theory into practice we have -- Cambodian holocaust, Rwanda, Bosnia, West Bank diversions, Afghanistan, UN Food Scandal and Darfur. Surely the list could be expanded.

If ever there was a time to pull the plug, it is now. We are a month into the Indian basin tsunami relief effort and only now is UN material reaching these shores. Had not the efforts of the U.S., Australia, and India been so swift the death toll would probably have doubled. For an organization that has a humanitarian function, to fail so miserably, warrants disbarment on that single fact alone.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

"...going outside the U.N. is crucial."

Reform must come from outside; no one dealt four aces asks for a re-deal.
-- Gordon Paravano
Sedona, Arizona

SUDDENLY LAST SUMMERS
Re: Monte D. Law's letter (under "Summers' Time") in Reader Mail's The Specter Factor:

In his letter regarding the speech by Harvard President, Dr. Summers, Mont D. Law wrote, "Speaking what you believe to be the truth (emphasis added) against the views of your audience and the world at large is meaningless if it costs nothing. He was free to speak; his audience was free to react with their own speech, equally free. Right or left, angel or idiot, the system is free when it works for everybody the same."

I added emphasis to Mr. Law's words, because has overlooked the fact that Dr. Summers was not saying something that he "believed" to be the truth, but rather was saying something for which there is a preponderance of empirical evidence. Others have written extensively of the fact that have been collected on this subject, which show that women "cluster in the middle of the scale," where mathematics and hard sciences are concerned, whilst there are many more men than women at the high end, or "genius" category, as well, by the bye, as at the low end, or "innumerate scientific dunce" category.

I am sorry that Dr. Summers lacked the intellectual honesty, and personal courage to not only refuse to apologize for bringing up a topic that might be "unpopular," but, as it appears to have a basis in fact, is worth discussing, but to cite the evidence, and challenge his emotion-driven critics to refute it.
-- W. B. Heffernan, Jr.

SPECTATOR SUPERSIZED
Re: Barry Cassidy's letter ("Problem Fixer") in Reader Mail's The Specter Factor:

For Barry Cassidy and others who may be having trouble reading small typeface (and James Bowman's Movie Takes site is one of the worst); just download and start using Mozilla's FireFox. With a simple Ctrl++ the font increases, and Ctrl+- makes it smaller. Or, hold down the Ctrl key and roll your mouse wheel up and down. Unlike Internet Explorer, you are not limited to one increase step, and so far I haven't found a website it doesn't work on.
-- Bob Johnson
Bedford, Texas

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