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Bits and Pieces

Biden trivia. Monster Moore. Rummy Dearest. Waxman sentimental. The real St. Augustine. Liberal talk back. Evading Erin. Plus much more.

12.15.04

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BIDEN BITES
Re: The Prowler's Ridiculously Sublime:

Great idea, and I'll be on the lookout for outbreaks of Biden-Foot-In-Mouth Syndrome. Meantime, in case contemporary source material ever runs a little thin (an unlikely occurrence), you can always go back and mine the Biden-related sections of Richard Ben Cramer's book about the 1988 race, What It Takes. I still laugh out loud just thinking about it.
-- Charles R. Vail

Just plain Ridiculous, that's Joe Biden, dumbest man in the Senate. For '08 entertainment Biden/Dean or Dean/Biden, doesn't matter. The ticket to scare the wits out of you, Hillary Clinton/ Barbara Boxer. All Senate leftists.
-- GMS
Media, Pennsylvania

ENOUGH ALREADY
Re: Barbara Bernstein's Letter From Mooreland:

Why do you continue to give attention to this [so and so]? Every time you write of his latest hijinks it only adds more fat to his enormous waistline and inflate his gargantuan ego! We know who and what he is. I don't think anyone could be surprised by the content of his ranting. Stop giving him the attention he seeks, there are far more important subjects to research and report -- such as "What is going on with Sandy Berger?"
-- Peter Amato
Palm Harbor, Florida

RUMMY DEAREST
Re: Jed Babbin's Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels:

I would first note that Mr. Babbin, along with Mr. Neumayr and Mr. Macomber, are the very treasures of my conservative reading each week (with Buckley, of course). However, Babbin is, at best, confusing and at worst, a hack, when he lamely defends Secretary Rumsfeld and his untactful, flatly callous remarks in Iraq last week.

Babbin seems a lot madder that a journalist put the Tennessee soldier up to the "up armor" question than the fact that our troops are resorting to a cross between rag picking and Yankee ingenuity to keep their fannies in one piece. Even the President averred he would ask the same question, Jed.

The fact is that the Secretary shot off his mouth in a rather un-managerial way. His responsibility is to manage his generals, and replace them if they are found untruthful, and to always be close enough to the war to know. He needs the inputs of the guys on the ground; not listening to them is his own folly, not his generals'. Whether his subordinates are trustworthy or not is his job to determine. It is his job to find remedies, or forever forfeit the principle of civilian governance of the military.

In short, Rumsfeld personally owes every soldier in the field his best effort at protecting them, and his failure to do so is unacceptable job performance on his part. Smart-ass, uninformed assessments of American industry's ability to meet this challenge betray an unacceptable detachment from Rumsfeld's trade.

Personally, I find his vision of the high tech, efficient, agile American military a major plus for the coming age of warfare. However, the Secretary's job description also includes having the acute vision to take all measures needed, even if dramatic, to conserve American lives in this conflict. No flip answer will atone for one wasted life of an American son or daughter. Fix the Hummers, Mr. Secretary; hold off on the lame excuses, Mr. Babbin. We go to war with the Army you make.

By the way -- are we sure there is no engineered solution for hardening those Hummers against explosion?
-- Lee Tichenor

JUST DON'T DO IT
Re: James Bowman's Waxman Demeans Abstinence:

It is not difficult to understand Congressman Waxman's rage against sexual abstinence.

One may observe, without being unkind, that Mr. Waxman is not, shall we say, an obvious market leader on the California sex appeal bourse.

Abstinence as a choice is one thing, but as a consequence of lack of opportunity could well engender the sort of bitterness and anger for which Waxman is noted.
-- Paul Kotik
Playstation, Florida

ST. AUGUSTINE
Re: Steve Shaver's letter (under "Up From Weberism") in Reader Mail's Big Matters:

As a sometime contributor to this fine enterprise, I'm not surprised that American Spectator readers know more about people like Max Weber and John Calvin than I do. But correspondent Steve Shaver's Dec. 15 claim that Augustine of Hippo would be "by definition" a Calvinist should not pass unchallenged.

Not for nothing is that great African bishop acclaimed as a doctor of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther had to admit that he did not find any Augustinian support for his doctrine of justification by faith alone. Similarly, old claims that hailed Augustine as the father of evangelical Protestantism have been downplayed and debunked for years.

Anyone interested in reviewing what Augustine actually taught might profit from a close reading of the online Catholic Encyclopedia, which explains how Augustine charted an orthodox course between the excesses of the Semi-Pelagians on the one hand and the Predestinationists (like Calvin) on the other.

In other words, Augustine was "catholic" in both the universal and particular senses of that word. He influenced the Reformers, but never himself rejected the papacy or any aspect of Catholic doctrine, as the Calvinists many centuries after him certainly did.
-- Patrick O'Hannigan
San Diego, California

SCREAMERS
Re: George Neumayr's Dean of Abortion and The Democrats' Declaration of Independence:

Hitler is not the embodiment of Nazism, Michelangelo is not the soul of the Renaissance, and Howard Dean is not the would-be leader of the party of abortion. Never in all of my years on this earth have I heard a more glaringly obvious bald-faced contradiction of the truth than Mr. Dean's assertion. How, I ask myself, can anyone, Democrat or Republican, not register eye-popping surprise upon hearing this almost laughable denial by the Beautiful Screamer? The fact that the millions of hardline Democrats who have gone to the mat for abortion on demand, paid for by you and me, the American Taxpayer, keep a respectful silence while Dean utters this fantastic nonsense is mute testimony to the two facts: Number one, that Democrats know that they cannot win elections by proclaiming their heartfelt beliefs out loud, and Number two, that abortion has reached sacramental status in the party of compassion. It would appear that the Democratic mantra for the 2000's is: Brag about it on Monday, Deny it on Tuesday. Won't the next major election be a gas to watch!
-- Joseph Baum
Newton Falls, Ohio

George Neumayr's article about the Democrats rests on the following premises:

1. That Kerry's claim of endorsement by foreign governments was more important to him -- and to Democrats -- than his endorsement by American citizens.

2. That Democrats are seeking to undo the Constitution.

3. That Democrats want nothing to do with the Old America.

These premises may be true, but if so, they must be supported. Let's look at them more closely.

1. Kerry won 48% of the electorate in one of the largest turnouts in recent history. His numbers clobber Bush's numbers from 2000. It may well be that Kerry believed it was important that foreign leaders would like him better than Bush (notice that Neumayr doesn't refute this; it would be hard to refute this), but apparently this didn't bother 48% of us. Maybe it even appealed to them. Maybe being liked, respected, welcomed by the rest of the world isn't "bad."

2. Neumayr trots out the quote from Justice Breyer as the "cat" in the "bag" of the Secret Liberal Constitutional Convention. But the quote doesn't support his theory. As we know, our Constitution is being used as the model for emerging democracies, and will be as more and more of the world shifts to democracy in coming years. Notice that Breyer is talking about how the Constitution "fits into the governing documents of other nations." If he was really exposing the conspiracy Neumayr believes exists, he would have said something about how "the governing documents affect our Constitution" or maybe how the Constitution "fits with" those other documents. He doesn't.

This whole section of the article is inane. Our Constitution was never fixed in stone and to call judicial interpretation "activism" is just bogey-man rhetoric. There have always been wide-ranging differences in the interpretation of our great guiding light, and many times the "activism" of judges has proved to be enduring wisdom. The idea that we should simply accept the law as it is written goes against the intentions of the framers, who understood that the Constitution would need to be changed, and indeed who changed it almost immediately with the Bill of Rights.

3. Do we know what Ms. Vidmar's voting card says? Did she appear at the DNC and I missed it? Pulling out some story from deep within the well of the Weird World of News to support a vast anti-American viewpoint may make readers smile and giggle with glee, but it isn't persuasive. Mr. Neumayr is not satisfied with that error, but goes one further. First he uses Ms. Vidmar as evidence of "getting it," and then he tells us that even if Democrats denounce her actions, they are wrong. So which is it?

If you watched the DNC in Boston, you heard many a speaker refer to the legacy of the patriots. By stating that Democrats are uncomfortable with American History, Neumayr has a point. But implicit with critiquing that is that question, "What year in American History is the one where everything was a-okay? What era is beyond reproach?" The sad -- or is it blessed? -- truth is: none.

I hope you will agree to print my letter, and perhaps Mr. Neumayr can have another go at supporting his accusations.
-- Michael Milliman

ENVIRONMENTAL SHANNIGANS
Re: Michael Fumento's Erin Crockovich Is Back:

Thank you for your recent story in TAS about Erin Brockovich. The woman and all she stands for makes me cringe.

You see, I am one of the damned. Worse than damned, I suppose I qualify as one of Satan's minions, front rank, at least in the minds of people like Brockovich.

Because I am a corporate attorney specializing in environmental law. My personal background is that I got my B.S. in Chemical Engineering and practiced as an environmental engineer for almost 13 years before going to law school (at night, while working during the day in a steel mill). For the last 12 years, I have worked in my current job. Its a great job and I love coming to work.

I have no desire to put down hard working legal assistants (God bless 'em), but I think my background is very suitable for what I do. And it is not unique. My boss is another engineer turned lawyer and one of my colleagues is a bio-chemist turned lawyer. This melding of technical and legal training is very common in environmental law. Furthermore, most people I know in the cusiness, both in industry and in government, are genuinely good individuals who work hard to comply with all laws and regulations. I have no problem working with the EPA or their state counterparts. Generally speaking, there is much more cooperation among the regulators and the regulated than the public would suspect.

But I do object to the way the popular media has made a hash of environmental issues, à la Brockovich. In my company, we have a standing policy of not talking to the press, about anything, for the simple reason that we never get a fair shake. Factual statements are ignored, and scare tactics always trump science.

So anything you can do to get the truth out about her odious activities is a plus. Keep up the good work.
-- Bob

COLLEGE NOTE TAKING 101
Re: Ben Stein's How to Ace an Exam:

A most excellent Cliff's Notes on passing University. From a historical perspective, I might quibble with your observation on struggle between systems. The struggle between "isms" was a relatively modern invention having been birthed in the last century. Prior to that your observation would have been:

"All human history is the struggle between ruler(s) that attempt to shackle the human endeavors in the name of some tangible good on the one hand and ruler(s) that attempt to defend their endeavors from such individuals on the other."

Elected representative forms of government are relatively new to the scene of governance in human existence. Even though the U.S. has been practicing some form of representative government for over 3 centuries. We were quite rare in the overall monarchical scheme of things till, again, the last century.

But I have come to the conclusion that passing through college is becoming easier. What with PDA's, Laptops, WiFi, IM, it is becoming quite simple to just ask the person making the A's and get the answer. All ethics aside, of course.
-- John McGinnis

IN ALL INNOCENCE'
Re: Paul M. Weyrich's The Ohio Recount Outrage:

"Ohio law requires payment of $10 per precinct for a recount, or $113,600 statewide.

"Badnarik and Cobb said they aren't trying to overturn President Bush's 136,000-vote victory in Ohio, but just want to ensure that all votes were counted properly in the face of concerns about Election Day irregularities.

"'Our bottom line is to stand up for the integrity of the voting process because the voting process is the heart of the democratic process,' said Blair Bobier, spokesman for Cobb."

Source: WCPO

And what is wrong with that? Hardly warrants being called and outrage, unless the writer is outrageous.
-- Robert Meyer

HIPPIE TURNS
Re: William Tucker's Unlike a Rolling Stone:

Rolling Stone magazine names Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" the #1 rock song of all time. It is unfortunate William Tucker undermines his arguments against the selection with errors and tangents in his column.

What Hank Williams Sr. song did Chuck Berry rework to come up with "Maybelline"? I am a fan of both performers and I have never noticed any musical similarity.

Bob Dylan wrote "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"? That must be as big a surprise to Dylan as it is to the writing team of Benjamin-Marcus-Caldwell!

Tucker must really detest "Positively 4th Street" to describe its 3:50 runtime as an "endless rant." He also must have a stunted sense of humor; it's one of Dylan's funniest (and nastiest) songs of his amphetamine days. Perhaps he thinks Dylan wrote the song about him? It was a weird badge of egotism to think so in Greenwich Village back in 1966.

Pete Seeger's understandable horror and defensiveness at Dylan's electric debut at Newport in 1965 is irrelevant -- unless you think an unrepentant Stalinist getting angry when he sees his musical world tumble has anything to do with music criticism. And when did John Updike become the reincarnation of Gilbert Shelton (and why quote him talking about The Bee Gees)? The fact that Updike is an accomplished novelist doesn't mean he knows anything about music.

I was not at Newport that summer, but I did see Dylan at Forest Hills when he opened his national tour. The first set was acoustic. After the intermission Dylan took the stage with The Hawks and the stadium erupted in boos. It continued through the entire set, until Dylan began his last song. With the opening drum hit of the song, the audience cheered and boogied in their seats. And most of the stadium happily sang along with the very lyrics Tucker excoriates: "How does it feeeeeel?..." I was there, William -- it felt GREAT!

I am impressed at Tucker's insight that the folk-rock movement ran its course so quickly. He obviously is correct, but I had never considered it.

Tucker solves the enigma in his (positively) 4th paragraph: Rolling Stone Magazine has a proprietary interest in self-promotion. The editors never pretend their ranking is anything but subjective. Of course they decreed "Like A Rolling Stone" the best rock song ever. If I were Jann Wenner (what a horrible thought for the both of us) I'd have done the same thing.
-- Anthony Trauring
Atlanta, Georgia

The only thing that William Tucker proved in his dissection of Rolling Stone's Choice of "Like A Rolling Stone" as the greatest rock song ever is that he actually knows very little about Bob Dylan or his music. While he claims Dylan came from a folk tradition, he actually became passionate about music listening to and emulating Little Richard, Elvis, Buddy Holly, etc. While Dylan used the folk medium to launch his career, his musical background was far more diverse. Perhaps he would do well to evaluate some of what Dylan has written, sung and said over the past forty years and reconsider his dismissive caricature of Dylan. He may find that, in addition to slightly more nuanced and accessible lyrics, Dylan has never seemed to be inclined to lend his image to many political causes. Instead, most of his 'finger pointing songs' in fact take more of an outsider's view, attempting to highlight individual events or recurrent themes without placing blame or claiming moral superiority. Perhaps the greatest legacy of Dylan's music is that it brought social issues to youth culture without TELLING them how to think.

As for dismissing Dylan's career success as a "media phenomenon", come on, pal you don't endure as long as Dylan being propped up by the "media." The Rolling Stone List was not titled the 500 "Most Popular" rock songs, so citing chart positions and record sales lend little credibility to that argument. It's likely Britney Spears could [burp] continuously for 45 minutes and sell more records than Dylan will with his next album. Popularity is and has never been a barometer for artistic merit. If anything, most who have been labeled as true geniuses in their medium have never enjoyed as much popular appeal as their peers. Dylan's lessened commercial success could likely be attributed to his refusal to cater to the Fox Television-lowest-common-denominator formula.

In attempting to summarize Dylan's post "Highway 61 Revisited" career, Tucker seems to have listened to a copy of his "Greatest Hits" once or twice and deemed himself fit to comment of the scope of Dylan's work. Perhaps Mr. Tucker should give a listen to "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts," "Desolation Row," "Love Minus Zero / No Limit," "Most of the Time," "Love Sick," "Don't Think Twice" or "It's All Right Ma." In such songs I'm confident one would find more than simplistic put-downs or "endless rants." Instead, many of these songs deal with the classic conflicts of our society: love vs. desire, social concern vs. political reality, justice vs. financial clout, etc. Better than anyone, Dylan has been able to juxtapose the personal with the political. His songs often fight the battle of what should be vs. the way it is.

"Disillusioned words like bullets bark / As human gods aim for their mark / made everything from toy guns that spark/ to flesh colored Christs that glow in the dark / easy to see without looking to far / not much is really sacred.

These lines from "It's Allright Ma, (I'm Only Bleeding) certainly dig deeper than Tucker would like everyone to believe by referencing "It Ain't Me Babe."

If Mr. Tucker is so sure that Dylan's "cult" is comprised solely of Hippie Relics from a bygone era all he need do is attend a concert. I think he would be surprised to see a curious mix of old, young, rich, poor, conservative, liberal etc. Fact is, Dylan's music has become part of the fabric of our time. Denouncing him as unfit to tune Elvis' PROP guitar is both obtuse and idiotic. The songs he has written transcend even Mr. Tucker's very obvious political orientation. Perhaps he should stick to singing Toby Keith songs and leave the rest of us alone.
-- Patrick MacFarland

READER'S RESPOND
Re: Jim's letter ("Riding the Third Rail") in Reader Mail's Big Matters:

Jim in South Carolina had some interesting comments on David Hogberg's Social Security Softies that I think are indicative of how conservatives are not communicating economic policy ideas to the public nearly as well as those people who believe in a socialist economy. The socialist idea that government is free and the free market costs money has been pounded into the heads of school children since the sixties and conservatives have not only failed to place other arguments into the debate, they have totally ceded the floor of the debate to the left.

I would like to relate to Jim just a couple of things for him to consider.

In order for me to practice my profession I have to be registered with the State. Two weeks ago, as required by law, when I moved I mailed an affidavit of my new address to the State. Yesterday the State sent me a letter telling me that my new address did not exist. The State mailed their letter to me addressed to the address that they said did not exist.

So, the first thing I did this morning was have the Internet draw a map from the State's office to my new address. Then, I wrote the State a letter and explained that the address did exist. I sent the letter on top of the map to the State. All of the time that I spent on this task was overhead to my company, but required by law in order for me to practice my profession. The State was not required to think, check or admit error for not knowing what "Yahoo Maps" had known for years. The State did not care and has no responsibility. The work had to be done but the cost for it will be spread out as overhead to all of my clients. Those clients will then spread the cost to Jim when Jim buys something from my clients. He just won't know that the cost of fixing a stupid bureaucratic error is part of his cost because in the arena of economic ideas postulated by the political left he has only been told that rising costs are the result of greedy businessmen and government is free.

I have twenty years experience in my profession. Ten of those years were in the private sector and ten years were in the public sector. I went to the public sector from the private sector, now I am back in the private sector. On my second day on the job in the public sector I went and told my boss I was not going to report to him anymore because I felt more comfortable handling projects on my own. He said, "okay," because he didn't care. I told him that because after one day of working with him I realized he was a dolt who would reduce my productivity if I involved him in my projects. Two weeks later, a delegate from the rest of the employees came to me and asked me, in the name of all of the employees, to slow down my workload because I was making all of them look bad. I spent ten years like that and I can regale you with stories for hours that are similar.

Over the twenty years experience I have in my professional field I have always worked on both public and private projects simultaneously. It is fact that government projects always cost twenty to thirty percent more then privately funded projects. I have constructed small projects to large project, from hundreds of thousands of dollars to hundreds of millions of dollars in size. No matter what size the project, just having the government involved adds at least twenty percent to the bottom line cost.

Now, if Jim is concerned that my personal pre-tax dollars will go into a regulated market fund where the fund will charge me a half percent to three percent to manage, depending on the size of my fund and the competition in the market place, tell him not to be. I will pay one percent any day not to have to pay the twenty to thirty percent the government costs.

If Jim is concerned about the busses in his town, tell him not to be. The bus companies will have to buy the busses from his town and win competitive bids cheaper then, both, all of the competition and the town. I assure Jim that with a twenty to thirty percent margin to work with, those busses will provide incentive to someone not afraid to be out from under the nanny care of the government to come up with a more cost effective mode of travel for him and his neighbors.
-- Morgan (last name left off because I still work with those government agencies)
California

OUT THE OF THE BOX
Re: Unsigned's letter("Boxed In") in Reader Mail's Big Matters:

The unsigned letter commenting on my letter published 12/13 contains an important misperception. The Event Data Recorders (EDR) are one black box, similar to the Flight Data Recorders (FDR) found in airplanes, that have proven their value in accident reconstruction. The separate black box that records speed and location is the Global Positioning System (GPS). Rental car companies can detect the fact that you were speeding by downloading data from the GPS, which you thought was there to provide you with an electronic map on the dashboard. The EDR does not become an issue until you do something stupid such as inflating the air bags. Given that the driver has likely hit something and has at least a minimal possibility of an injury claim (can you say whiplash?), it is important to have an ambulance chaser repellent.

Given that cell phones are being improved to provide location information for 911 calls, I suppose someone with unlimited resources and access to the records could reconstruct where you've been when you walk around! But it would take a very determined party to succeed. If you are a paranoid, I doubt this will give you comfort! Life is a balancing act. Lead a blameless life and you won't have too many worries that you will be blamed.
-- Bruce Thompson

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