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Taking Issue

ACLU to do. Kerry’s finale. Patrick O’Brian. Cold on Iraq. Plus more.

12.9.03

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ACLU MATED
Re: Doug Bandow's Dear Nadine …:

The ACLU invites me to become a supporter at least twice a year. I have told them that I will not join as long as their politics advocate more power to the state rather than to the individual. They continue to write me. I received the latest request last week.

This summer I attended the State Libertarian Convention for Texas. A representative of the Texas ACLU spoke. I told her that I could not support them because of their advocacy of government power, while the Libertarians advocate individual rights. She told me I should not judge the ACLU on one issue.

One issue?
-- Raymundo Aleman

If the ACLU is so concerned about rights, how about our right to walk our streets free from fear of crime? How about letting our children play outside without our having to worry about pedophiles and creeps preying on them?

Also, while the rights of the minority are supposed to be protected in a democracy, isn't it still the basic precept of democracy that the majority rules?
-- Frank Mauran

I was one of those receiving a request to join. It was accompanied by a questionnaire re my stands on motherhood and apple pie. After answering their questions, all accompanied by a lot of "buts," I returned their form in the prepaid envelope with my contribution. A whole penny taped onto the form. Obviously, I wouldn't give two cents to that bunch.
-- Donald A. Holloway
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

KERRY DRIVEN
Re: Brandon Crocker's Kerry Jumps Off the Deep End:

This article has articulated exactly what many Americans think. It's so good to know that others out there in the country share the same views and care for the country. Kerry is so obviously a liar, and not slick and oily like the slickmeister. Keep up the good work and God Bless...
-- Henry Gooch
Gulf Shores, Alabama

I've never heard anyone say "John Kerry is one sharp politician" or even "John Kerry has one sharp mind" or John Kerry anything except comments about the wealth of his wife. When you really think about it he is a non-player outside of his home state.
-- Richard Ledford

Brandon Crocker asserts Howard Dean has finally driven John Kerry insane. If so, it looks to have been a short drive. Those who lament the length of the quadrennial presidential wrist wrestling contest between wannabes in the run up to the first set of primaries ought to re-think their complaint. One of the great advantages of this extended gauntlet -- through millions of other peoples' dollars, hundreds of thousands of trudged miles and often through the very limits of exhaustion -- is the chance for voters to see how the wannabes control themselves in high stress situations.

Of course, the process ain't perfect. We did, after all, give JFK a squeaker victory over his pressure-tested opponent. There must be something about these New England politicians lusting for high office that seems to make them crumple under pressure -- John F. Kennedy flinching at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, Teddy making those endless telephone calls from his motel room to cover his sorry butt while one of his boiler room bunnies breathed the last of the air trapped in the back seat of his submerged automobile at Chappaquiddick in 1969, Ed Muskie crying in the snow in 1972, John Kerry imploding in an interview with Rolling Stone.

And now we're being asked to believe that Howard Dean is New England politician cut from different bolt of material. Tough sell, even if the inventor of the Internet -- the guy who needed a female consultant to teach him how to be an alfa male and the guy who booted away what should have been a peace/prosperity/budget surplus shoo-in of an election -- has endorsed him. It may be an especially tough sell because Al Gore had to stick the knife of betrayal into the back of his ultra-loyal 2000 running mate in order to endorse Dean.
-- Thomas E. Stuart
Kapa'au, Hawaii

MISSING O'BRIAN
Re: James Bowman's review of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World:

The nautical photography and effects are the most gorgeous stuff I've ever seen. The design work is awesome, as is the cinematography. The lighting beautifully evokes a time when illumination came from whale oil and beeswax, before Mr. Edison gave us our bright, indiscreet century.

Unfortunately, Peter Weir, the screenwriter and director, completely misses the flavor of O'Brian's dialogue, and, as a result, distorts the conduct of the two main characters rather severely.

Aubrey and Maturin address each other in an egalitarian, confrontational manner that no two gentlemen of their class ever would have done, no matter how close their friendship, without coming to swords or pistols. This is an inexcusable error, since O'Brian's own dialogue exists to provide, if the screenwriter is ambitious, a wonderful template, or, if he is merely an honest craftsman, to cherry-pick from as needed. Indeed, Weir had to be aware of the dialogue, because what he has done instead, particularly in Maturin's case, is liberate the characters' private monologues from the civilized confines of their minds and render it as speech. It leads to conversations that might have played out as high drama between Picard and Riker on Star Trek but have no place in the great cabin of a British Man of War at the start of the 19th century.

In addition, where he has elected to wax creative, he lays down some whoppers: one conversation stopper had Aubrey describing how the villainous Frenchman had "cut across their tail," suggesting that the writer was confusing topsails with Top Gun.

The relationship between Aubrey and Maturin, excepting the anachronistic treatment of the dialogue, is faithfully presented. Russell Crowe does a solid job of presenting Aubrey the Lion at sea, though the script gives him no opportunity to explore the character as ass ashore.

Paul Bettany gives an effective sense of Maturin as an outsider, albeit something of a cherished naif, to the ship's community, but the dialogue problem shows especially in his character, as Maturin's internal monologue is explored far more in the novels than Aubrey's and gives the screenwriter more chances to go wrong. Also, again, the script offers no opportunity to go into Maturin's series-long love story with the fiery Diana Villiers, a love story that makes Pasternak look temperate.

Also, and this is purely subjective on my part, Mr. Bettany is just too young and purty to be the Stephen Maturin O'Brian describes when I read the novels, a man who has walked a very long and hard road and has both the emotional and physical scars to show for it.

The script itself draws its substance from neither of the novels alluded to in the title, but picks and chooses incidents and supporting characters from all over the series to adorn its manufactured plot (and inexplicably neglects others: to send the Surprise to Brazil while leaving out the story of the debauched sloth is an act of criminal non-levity). This could be a problem if the franchise generates further adaptations.

Still, it's a rousing swashbuckler, a great sea story, even if it isn't quite a Patrick O'Brian sea story. Just on a visual and entertainment level, it rewards seeing on the big screen.
-- Richard McEnroe

WITHOUT BLINDERS
Re: Jed Babbin's Cordon and Search:

Jed Babbin is right. Trying to win hearts and minds in the Middle East is a Wilsonian wet dream -- a fool's errand only liberals and compassionate conservatives would go to the wall for. Hearts in that region are as fickle as the desert wind, and most of their minds are rats' nests, no more orderly than a teenager's bedroom and as shallow as an Episcopal bishop. These folks almost always align themselves not with the most compassionate kid on the block, but the toughest. (To win in the Middle Eat you have to pitch inside.) Best we should return to the philosophy of the early, lapsed Chuck Colson, to wit: When you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow. So lets just be sure that Saddam is belly up, then turn the country and the oil wells back over to the locals and go home, leaving behind the unambiguous message that the next time Iraq, or any of its ratbag neighbors, gets crosswise to American security interests we'll be back to bust some chops again. If we follow this course, we likely would have to UPS a carload of smelling salts to the State Department, and Barbra Streisand might pass on from acute vapors, but I'm willing to take the chance.
-- Larry Thornberry
Tampa, Florida

You and General Downing are voices crying in the Wilderness. By now, you know I agree with damn near everything you write. And I don't disagree with this article. But... I am becoming increasingly worried about the situation in Iraq. Two examples, one anecdotal, the other from the Dallas Morning News:

1. I was talking to a client of the firm. He is an American citizen, but originally from Lebanon. Somehow the conversation turned to Iraq. Immediately, he began a discourse about how we were "occupation" forces and not liberating forces. He began to recite to me how many of the Arabs in this country believe that we sympathize too much with Israel. Then he began to explain to me that Israel wants Iraq, and even stated as fact that the "Zionists" are in Iraq now doing business and trying to control what goes on over there. If Arabs in this country believe that nonsense, what are the Iraqi people thinking?

2. Even more significant, the article on the front page of the Dallas Morning News today was about the Muslim clerics in Iraq, in particular Grand Ayatollah Ali Hussein al-Sistani, criticizing a U.S. plan to transfer governing power to Iraqis over the next eight months. His complaint: too slow, and did not include popular elections. Al-Sistani is Iranian-born, which is enough to cause the hackles to rise. The article claimed that this guy can cause huge uprisings and popular unrest if he begins to take an active opposition role to the U.S. And I believe that is a real possibility. The article also claimed that clerics like al-Sistani could cause a civil war, and could use their clout to install an Islamic government.

While I have been around enough to not believe everything I read, I do have serious fears about this kind of thinking by Iraqis. I am not sure that we can do what needs to be done in Iraq. Maybe the worst mistake Bush made was in assuming that the Iraqi people really want freedom. At least, the same freedom we enjoy in our country.
-- Mike Webster
Dallas, Texas

MESSAGE RECEIVED
Re: Patrick Hynes' Don't Tell Us What to Do:

Loved the article by Pat Hynes!!! I think he's captured the essence of New Hampshire voting patterns. This state does have a strong libertarian streak in it. In all of the bunk I've read about our first in the nation primary lately, this is the first article that makes sense!
-- unsigned

BRAVO
Re: Paul Beston's The NFL's Lonely Hero:

Bravo to the Tillman brothers. Assuming that they were at their home base (Fort Lewis), then they are assigned to 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Infantry.

Having served in 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Infantry in the 1970s, I salute their efforts and wish them both good luck and god speed.
-- LTC Jim Gierlach

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