Reader Mail

Pictures at an Exhibition

The Italian helicopter. Slurping past Mapplethorpe. Dead ringers. Usefully idiotic. No more Hillary popping off. Plus much more.

5.14.04

ITALIAN MAGIC
Re: Lawrence Henry's The Elgin Pelican Turns 90:

Mr. Henry once more works his magic -- transporting me back to conversations with my late father -- an employee of the New York City Transit Authority.

After World War II, ethnic and racial lines in municipal services began to blend and disappear, but to my dad, the Elgin Pelican was -- and still is -- known to me as an "Italian Helicopter," named somewhat affectionately after the country of origin of the then majority of employees of the NYC Sanitation Department. As the Germans and Irish manned the police, fire, and transit, the Italian and later Greek immigrants moved up from day labor to the security of the NYCSD.

Ethnic barriers have all but disappeared, my kids and now my grandkids look at me askingly as I point out to them the stately Elgin Pelican, a.k.a. the "Italian Helicopter."

Thank you, Lawrence Henry.
-- Mike Horn
Tracy, California

ODYSSEY OF THE MIND
Re: George Neumayr's The Abu Ghraib Collection:

The analogy from Mapplethorpe to the Abu Ghraib prison abuse photos is so weakly thought through that it actually serves to show anyone with intelligence just how desperate the right wing is in the wake of this scandal.

Only the most willfully obtuse person would make no distinction between a work of art that represents "intentionally disturbing" acts and the commitment of morally contemptible acts against unwilling individuals. This is as absurd as equating Schindler's List or The Pianist with the violence of the Holocaust itself.

And to suggest that the ethos of Mapplethorpe's pictures somehow has infiltrated the military is equally ridiculous, no matter how you feel about his artwork. Those guards in the photos were committing those acts in order to violate their Muslim prisoners' religious taboos. You could only draw an analogy to Mapplethorpe's work if he had abducted a bunch of fundamentalist Christians and forced them to strike poses that they found offensive.

What your thinking overlooks is an inherent dimension of war. Long before American popular culture emerged, militaries committed psychological and physical torture against their unwilling victims. It is in the very nature of warfare for the participants to dehumanize and objectify one another -- how else does one justify killing another person or allow oneself to become a killer? Check out a movie like Full Metal Jacket, which explores the relation between sex and military violence. Hell, go back and read the Iliad and you'll see the conjunction of sex and violence at the very origins of Western civilization. And it's probably there at the origins of every civilization.
-- Christopher Gaul

BYTE SIZE
Re: David Hogberg's The No Clue Election:

David Hogberg displays, based on recent history, uncharacteristically wild optimism: "...no one may be able to confidently predict a winner until November 3."

After all, touch screens may byte harder than butterflies -- they'll certainly spawn more conspiracy theories (indeed, they already have) than plain old chad. If this election is as close as the last (and Bush wins), we can look forward to a DNC, err DNA, pin prick at the polling places in 2008...
--Mark Hessey
Belmar, New Jersey

The quote below came out of a recent article out of Germany:

""I don't know of any other country where so many people in authority so eagerly talk down their own country,' Mr. Rau said in an unusually hard-hitting speech."

The reason the winner will be … Bush is that the same thing is happening in this country. And the Democrats are the ones talking down this country. We are no longer gullible, or stupid. Clinton taught us how to think!
-- unsigned

PREVIOUSLY ENGAGED
Re: Shawn Macomber's With This Ring:

God I love Macomber, don't let him get loose. This whole article had me laughing from the third paragraph at my own experience along the same lines. As Shawn says, it is only a piece of carbon so truly the jewelry business is a triumph of marketing over necessity.

But fear not, soon diamonds will not only be forever but cheap. The Russians and Israelis have nearly perfected the process of making flawless manmade diamonds by the thousands. Not only will costs be in the hundreds instead of thousands, but the lady of our lives can have her choice of colors as they have figured out how to dope the diamonds in blues, reds, greens, and black.

Love may certainly be eternal but the payments don't have to be, eh Shawn? Best wishes with your lady, may you both have a wonderful life.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

LOST CAUSE
Re: The Washington Prowler's Kerry Lite:

Your 5/14 article by The Prowler implied that Al Gore did pretty well in Jacksonville in 2000. In fact, he lost it pretty badly and so will John Kerry. They had to wait 20 minutes for Kerry to speak yesterday [Tuesday] at the Jacksonville Landing because not enough union people had arrived to hear him. Northeast Florida is Bush country and we intend to keep it that way.
-- John B. Haug

Too Much Gravitas? In Texas we call it constipation.
-- Ray Fleet

HOW USEFUL?
Re: P. David Hornik's Abu Ghraib and the Useful Idiots:

Excellent! Excellent! Excellent! Hornik nails it! His words can not be repeated often enough.
-- Paul Rekstad
Flagler Beach, Florida

David Hornik strikes a familiar cord in the orchestra of common sense which is dearly needed these days. The moral outrage of the left, whether encased in the Abu Ghraib imagery shock and awe or the endless litany of the "Hate Bush" crowd is a symptom of a much larger illness; their world view does not encompass anything beyond dinner party philosophy.

For years now, more likely decades, the left has chosen to follow the same tired arguments and see the same results from policies that are not rooted in cause and effect but rather within a theoretical framework of emotional argument. Abu Ghraib is a fact of war and the United States, as a civilized nation among a sea of lesser states, chooses to publicly pillory its own troops rather than quietly sweep the entire affair into a black hole labeled "national security." The left will not and cannot see this as either an isolated incident nor as any legitimate use of military intelligence gathering. (It is the left which labeled military intelligence an oxymoron.) Instead they seek to capitalize the poor treatment of a dozen or so individuals for political gain while ignoring the millions of Iraqis who faced far worse for decades while they sat in silence.

Self-righteous anger from CNN, who knowingly killed stories of torture and abuse during Saddam's reign, only goes to further fuel the fires of incredibility at the double standard aimed at the White House. Had this occurred under a leftist Democratic president the media might have called for greater counseling for service members while offering free legal counsel for the detainees, terrorist to the one, and the hope of a fat American cash settlement.

Amazing to watch, the duplicity of the left, even in time of war.
-- William Sluis
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The underlying assumption in Mr. Hornik's article is that if the U.S. engages in torture (such as that at Abu Ghraib), our intelligence community will prevent the occurrence of a future terrorist attack. This is a fallacious argument; premise A does not equal premise B.

I don't want to see a dirty bomb exploded here anymore than he does. I want the intelligence community to ferret out terrorists who threaten targets at home and overseas. But there's a wide spectrum of intelligence gathering techniques at their disposal. Torture should be the last resort, undertaken because a threat is imminent and every other method has failed. Can anyone honestly justify the wide spread abuse of low level, information poor Iraqi citizens? Rather than saving lives, this abuse has threatened the safety of any Coalition soldier or civilian who might be captured. There's an old saying "When your only tool is a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail."

It's time they started using all the tools in their tool box.
-- unsigned

Why is it that the American press (even those considered conservative) will not show all of the Nick Berg execution just as they would not show Daniel Pearl's or the sound of bodies hitting the ground as people jumped off the World Trade Center. Yet every possible photo of Iraqi prisoner abuse is considered part of the American people's right to know? We will lose our war against terrorism if we do not recognize what it is that is being fought against.

To your European readers: You are naive or willfully blind. I predict it will be no more than 25 years before you are in our position unless we do unite to stop this now. Iraq was not a separate thing and now this argument is truly irrelevant. Wishful thinking will not let this all go away. Playing nice will not either. Electing a John Kerry or someone else who doesn't deal with this problem now won't solve anything and will make everything even worse. Why do decent democracies constantly repeat the mistakes of the past (Chamberlain, not following through in Vietnam)? I truly fear for our future. President Bush is term limited. Is it so important to Democrats to regain power that they would risk the country to get that four years? Mistakes or not, Bush is who we need now and he needs that last term to see this through. We cannot afford to play politics as usual now. And release that entire video!!
-- Florence Schmieg
Wilmington, Delaware

I think a lot of us are getting a little tired of the liberals' emotional orgy over the prisoner abuse and if they're like me, we could really care less about those prisoners anyway. Why so callous, you might say? How about the pictures of the American bodies hanging from a bridge, or the Israeli soldiers body parts being paraded through the streets, and the sawing off of the head of the American hostage. We are at war with an enemy that can only be described as a stone age barbarian. The only thing these people understand is to go in and kill every man, woman, and child. We are not dealing with an enemy who has any concept of human behavior. Let's face it. They knock out a Humvee and they dance on the roof. They kill someone and they hack up the body and display the pieces. They take a prisoner and they slowly execute that person while filming it. And all our damn politicians can do is wring their hands over some naked jaybird who should have been shot outright? Give me a break. We are at war. Punish the guards if that's what you have to do for their behavior, but let's face it, the treatment those prisoners got is a helluva lot more humane than what they give to people who fall in their clutches.This war will turn into another Vietnam if we let the media and politicians direct it.
-- Pete Chagnon

CAREFUL JIM LEACH
Re: David Hogberg's Republican House Liberal:

"The Vice President seems to have some nice things to say about him."

You can say that again.

"Jim, of course, is one of the most respected members of Congress. All of you know that here in the Second District in Iowa. (Applause.) His colleagues in both parties know him as a careful thinker, an independent voice, and a devoted public servant. Jim and I don't always agree on every issue, but there was never any doubt in my mind that he arrived at his views and position after careful and thoughtful deliberation, and as a matter of deep, personal conviction."
-- unsigned

HOLD ON
Re: Ken Shreve's and Mike Rizzo's letters ("Post-Apology") in Reader Mail's Eat This Up:

Ken Shreve has come to right conclusion and should be congratulated. Elections aren't about primping in front of a mirror. They are about picking the best between two choices. There is no comparison between Bush and Kerry. You don't have to love Bush to appreciate that. Kerry has spent his whole life trying to appease our enemies and is the perfect candidate for Mike (I'm not happy until we're carpet bombing innocent civilians) Rizzo. Mike wants to surrender the battlefield to the terrorists and fight some other time when we will be more desperate. Mike can hide his head in the sand but this war will not go away. I wonder if there were these types when we faced difficulties in World War II. Maybe there were but they had the decency to keep their mouths shut.

By the way Mike, the lesson of Vietnam is that lots of people die when America cuts and runs. The war was not some side box as the left pretends but a major battle in the Cold War. There were severe consequences for surrendering in Vietnam. It was a sorry moment in our history and only serves as a bad example. Those involved in making it happen (Kerry, Kennedy, Democrats in general) knowingly or unknowingly aided the most vicious regime in the history of the world. Because the morons that make up the press were largely on this side these scoundrels have escaped what they deserve namely being treated like members of the KKK or Nazi collaborators.
-- Clif Briner

PYLING ON
Re: Lawrence Henry's What I Always Wanted to Be:

I find it ironic that Mr. Henry would choose Google as his primary reference in an article slamming the journalistic merits of several of my former classmates and colleagues, all of whom were rewarded with the University of Tennessee School of Journalism's Ernie Pyle Award.

For the record:

Nellann (Young) Mettee is a reporter for the Nashville Tennessean.
Carly (Irion) Harrington is a reporter for the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
And I am an editor at the Tennessean.

Do better journalism, please, before you slam the careers of other journalists.
-- Knight Stivender

BARNARD SCHOOL
Re: N. Ziener's letter ("Schadenfreude") in Reader Mail's No Longer Friends and Greg Goff's letter ("Among the Gloaters") in Reader Mail's :

After doing some catch-up reading I had to have a hearty laugh at the following and the great reply to it in Reader Mail:

Sorry, well not really, we told you so before, you're just about to lose your war in Iraq, that's all, period.
-- N. Ziener
Grenoble, France

I guess what made me really amused was the Gaul (bad pun) Mr. Ziener had to talk about us losing a war only five days after the celebration of Cinco de Mayo that marks the anniversary of the French getting routed by Mexican soldiers in Puebla in 1862.

Priceless!
-- Greg Barnard
Franklin, Tennessee

HILLARY POPS UP
Re: John F. Sharkey's letter ("The Nightmare From Hillary") in Reader Mail's
Eat This Up:

Hillary Nightmare
The solution:

I have a suggestion for John F. Sharkey. Get a popup blocking program. There are at last count over 170 available for download on CNet.com. Many of them are free and work quite well. A "Froogle" search on Google for "popup blocking software" which I just ran came up with 7,820 "hits" in 0.67 seconds!

EarthLink.net will even let you download an entire taskbar which integrates into Internet Explorer and not only blocks popups but also a class of programs called "Scams" which you do not want on your computer. It too is free.

Don't "curse the darkness, light a candle." And if you don't buy Mr.
Tyrrell's book, it's your loss.
-- Bob Johnson
Bedford, Texas

Immediately upon seeing the pop-up, and before the ad actually comes up, left click on the minimize button. Do nothing more -- it's gone for the duration. You will at some point have to manually delete the pop-up.
-- C.D. Lueders
Boca Raton, Florida

I have been a daily visitor to your website now for years...high time that I subscribed, finally.

But I waited until you rid your fine website of that annoying Hillary
pop-up. That was torture!

Thanks for all you do!

Best regards,
-- Mark Stoffel
Arlington, Virginia

P.S. I keep fantasizing about dropping off a dozen donuts when I'm next in your neighborhood; hopefully, I won't wait as long to do that as I did to subscribe!


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