Reader Mail

On Political Location

Reports from Cape Cod, South Carolina, Alabama, Washington State/state, Alaska, and the Fatlands. Plus more.

8.6.03

SPOKES WOMAN
Re: Pete Beston's Tour de Pain:

Moreover, the Tour has Kirsten Gum.
-- Doug Welty

INCOMPREHENSIBLE FRITZ
Re: The Washington Prowler's Senate Goes South:

Fritz Hollings "practically unintelligible"? So, what's new?

Even Southerners like me, who can blow gnats and say "howdy" at the same time, have not been able to make head ner tail of what Fritz has said for years. (And it isn't just that his accent is thick, even by South Carolina standards. I have no trouble, for example, understanding what Shelby Foote says. And his accent is at least as thick. No, Fritz's problem is that his thoughts are unordered, nearly random -- they come out as little intellectual dust devils, blown aimlessly about by Fritz's considerable ego and whim, and by his loopy understanding of the world.) His retirement bodes well for faith, hope, and clarity.
-- Larry Thornberry
Tampa, FL

CAPERS
Re: James Bowman's Reform Uniformity:

I noticed a funny passage in James Bowman's piece on the NY Times ideological predispositions. In its fawning article on Howard Dean, the Times said "...he also has had conventional fundraisers in Provincetown, Mass., and on Cape Cod." And on Cape Cod? Where do the Times reporters think Provincetown is? Rhode Island? Of course, those of us who live in the more conservative areas of the Cape (i.e., everywhere that's not P-town) don't really consider Provincetown to be "of" Cape Cod. Thank God for that.
--Steve Tefft
Forestdale (part of Sandwich), Cape Cod, MA

STATE YOUR BUSINESS
Re: Jeremy Lott's Locke Box:

"The normal way of things in Washington is that politicians work hard to raise fees and taxes and pass irksome regulations, and then citizens sign petitions and vote for initiatives, pulling the rug out from under said pols at the ballot box." -- Jeremy Lott, "Locke Box," 7/30.

The "normal way"? There hasn't been a general fund tax increase in Washington state since 1993, and nearly all of that was repealed by the Legislature in subsequent years. So what is Mr. Lott talking about? Anyone with a passing acquaintance with the fiscal history of the state in the last ten years would know that it has been marked by tax cuts, not tax increases. The Legislature, under Republican majorities for a good deal of that time, effected significant reductions in the gross receipts tax on business (the business & occupation tax), the motor vehicle excise tax, the sales tax and the property tax. The state of Washington faced a budget gap this year of about $2.4 billion, and it solved its budget problem without tax increases --one of the few states that can say that this year.

Yes, the Legislature raised the gas tax by a nickel a gallon this year, and with bipartisan support. The state has a severely deficient transportation infrastructure that is, by wide agreement, hurting the state's economy. As hard as it may be for some to accept, sometimes it does take new revenue to meet the primary responsibilities of state government. If Mr. Lott knows of a way to pay for the work that must be done on our transportation network without an increase in the gas tax, I invite him to share it with TAS readers.

If there is anything more tedious these days than the faux populist worship of the initiative process by ostensibly conservative writers, I truly don't know what it would be. Somewhere amid his recitation of clichés, Mr. Lott might have wanted to let TAS readers know that among those "citizen" initiatives he admires so much was one, I-773, that raised the cigarette tax to the then-highest level in the country and vastly expanded state-subsidized health care, two pushed by the teachers' union, I-728 and I-732, that committed the state to enormous new spending for public schools, and one, I-775, that enabled one of the most left-wing public sector unions in the country, the Service Employees International Union, to organize about 20,000 private providers of long-term care services. If not for the "pols," who amended all four of these this year to spare taxpayers their outrageous costs, it would have been impossible for Washington to have balanced its budget without a tax increase. So thank God for the "pols." They've been a better friend to the taxpayers of late than the initiative writers have been.
-- John Archer
Olympia, WA

Style note: "Washington State" is a land-grant university in Pullman. Washington state is a U.S. state located between Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia.

Jeremy Lott replies: John Archer's analysis is misleading. Recent legislation upped the gas tax to the eighth highest in the nation, increased the sales tax for new vehicles, and also raised trucker fees. That may not have been a general fund tax hike, but it was a tax hike nonetheless. Also, most of the tax cuts enacted by the legislature (e.g., the repeal of the sky high car taxes) came only after the voters had voted to repeal said taxes and the state supreme court had overturned it on a technicality.

REAL SMART GUYS
Re: Jed Babbin's Betting on the RSG:

Jed Babbin hits it right on the head as usual. Spending the last 16 years in the stock market, I've learned the value of studying chart movements. It's a skill I don't know how others can do without. What DARPA is trying to do is harness the wisdom of the masses, i.e. the market, which is proven to be a better predictive tool than any individual "expert's" opinion every time. There is an unlimited number of "expert" opinions on the market every second of every day. What's harder to predict, however, are prices of currencies, commodities and interest rates. The traders in these markets use charting almost exclusively in trying to predict future movements. What Dorgan clearly reveals by his immediate dismissing of the concept is a complete ignorance of the power of the voice of the market. A further example of how the masses beat the individual experts was evident on the old "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." The numbers showed that while the "call your smartest friend" lifeline worked about two-thirds of the time, the "poll the audience" lifeline worked 90% of the time. And that audience was undoubtedly made up of people who were "unbelievably stupid" --to quote Dorgan.
-- William H. Stewart
Boston, MA

I believe there is another, world-altering example of DARPA's prowess. Wasn't the Internet directly descended from a project of theirs?

And Byron Dorgan calling their idea "unbelievably stupid" is like Ted Kennedy calling it "all wet".
-- Robert Martins
Alexandria, VA

Jed Babbin replies: Right on both counts, Mr. Martins.

NORTH TO ALASKA
Re: The Washington Prowler's Senate Goes South:

A number of pundits or would-be prognosticators are suggesting that the U.S. Senate seat bequeathed by Governor Frank Murkowski to his daughter Lisa might be lost to the Democrats next year, that she was little more than nepotism.

El wrongo!

First, she's a pretty well qualified legislator who learned from a very sharp dad.

And secondly, former Governor Tony Knowles needed third-party assistance to win both his races. He's certainly not the most popular guy in Alaska!

No, Lisa Murkowski may very well win if the opponent is Tony Knowles. If, however, the Democrats put up Fran Ulmer? Fran may have been the Lt. Governor under Knowles, and she lost the governor's race to Lisa's father, Frank, but I think she'd be tougher than Tony.

Incidentally, I'm not a Republican, and I'm sure not a Democrat ("small-L" Libertarian is more like it). But, having been a student of Alaska politics for about 25 years, and having known a lot of the movers'n shakers, I feel I've got a fairly good grasp of the political realities. Don't count Lisa Murkowski out yet.
-- Geoff Brandt

FAILING TO PASS
Re: Jeremy Lott's Occupation Hazards

Regarding Jeremy Lott's article, two points:

1. Informants getting shot. No one is making the informants inform and the Army is honest about its inability to protect them locally. Let's remember that this is all temporary -- it will go away. The will to fight among the Saddamite remnants will decrease, not increase, as reality sets in and more and more of them (those "fedayeen" that do not meet a tragic, I pause here in tearful silence, and untimely end) realize that their Arab dream palace is only a dream.

2. The general's daughter (and wife). The wife and daughter in custody would not mean torture and death rather just substandard food and lodgings for a while until a later release.

A real imperialist power would have all the institutional knowledge of how to cow and subjugate a conquered populace, including muzzling the press. We, these United States, get a failing grade despite all the fevered imaginings of the U.S. and European media.
-- Dave Taylor

SANTA ALABAMA
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell's America's Holy Cities and Reader Mail's Theological Geography and The More Things Change:

I would love to see a follow-up from Mr. Tyrrell that would focus on "America's Holiest States." The voters of the great state of Alabama will get their chance to vote their collective religious values on September 9th. Governor Bob Riley, a highly respected Republican and devout Christian, has pushed a tax reform bill through the state legislature. This bill would reverse the highly regressive state taxes to put more of the burden on those who can most afford it. It is the largest tax reform bill ever introduced in Alabama, which currently taxes individuals making less than $5,000 a year. A citizen making $25,000 a year pays 10.5%, while those making $250,000 pay only 4.5%. Timber companies own 70% of the land in Alabama, yet pay only 2% of the property taxes.

Governor Riley's reasons for this controversial legislation are that he firmly believes in his strong Christian values and ethics. Specifically; that those who believe in Jesus Christ and the Bible have a moral obligation to take care of "the least among us."

But wait a minute...Aren't Republicans against increasing taxes..? Especially when it means fewer taxes for the poor at the expense of the well-off? You bet they are. It seems the ethical minded Governor has raised some powerful eyebrows in Washington, specifically the Christian Coalition which strongly opposes the legislation.

Now, the good Christian voters of Alabama find themselves in a bit of a quandary. The same voters who rejected a gambling bill in '99 on moral religious grounds, have to decide if their Christian ethics apply in this tax situation. The same voters who elected Judge Roy Moore because of his outspoken belief that God and state cannot be separated, must now decide if they will put their money where their mouth is. It appears the moral credibility of Christians in Alabama is now at stake.

By the way, Judge Moore has declined to take a position on the proposal, citing future litigation that might appear in his court. Nice duck, Judge Moore. I can't think of anything more important to Alabama voters than the quality of education for their children, and fair and equitable tax laws. Judge Moore is quick to impose his religious beliefs in the Alabama Supreme Court, yet evades moral and ethical issues when they truly affect his constituents. There you go Emmett, have a field day.
-- Mike Harrison
Poplar Bluff, MO

SHE AIN'T HEAVY
Re: Julia Snide's letter ("Fat Chance") in Reader Mail's The More Things Change:

I take keyboard in hand to lament the death and burial of good humor and tolerance in our society. It is so sad, I just want to cry. As a matter of fact, I AM OFFENDED. That is the right response, isn't it?

Ms. Snide goes on about the unacceptable nature of the comments about overlarge folk in the Tyrrell column and the terrible stereotyped picture it presented. I won't go into a blow by blow description of Ms. Snide's assertions. If you missed it, I wouldn't want to offend you.

Ms. Snide then alludes, in fairly specific terms, to her own physical dimensions, which are on the opposite end of the scale, literally. She then addresses what she sees as negative stereotypes contained in Mr. Tyrrell's piece regarding the thin among us. Again, I do not wish to offend, so I will not go into detail.

May I just say that Ms. Snide has waaaay too much free time on her hands and is waaaay too defensive. Her real problem, I suspect, is that she lives her life constantly ready to be offended at a moment's notice, at the drop of a hat, etc., etc., etc. I was under the illusion that the good folk inhabiting the great state of Texas had a much better sense of humor then what Ms. Snide exhibits. I will say, however, that Miz Julia seems to have an exceedingly appropriate last name.

Oh my, I truly fear that I have probably offended Ms. Snide. I do hope that there will not be organized protests at my abode. Have a good day!
-- Ken Shreve
New Hampshire

"Lighten up" (no pun intended), Ms. Snide. I don't believe Mr. Tyrrell intended to insult. Rather it was to point out the absurdity of the lawsuits aimed at the major players of the fast-food industry. Personally, I blame my mother for my weight problem. Oh, the trouble I would get into for not eating everything on my plate. So I would eat everything on my plate. Going through the embarrassment of having to wear "husky" size pants was not enough to make me alter my eating habits and stand up to my Mom and say..."I don't want to wear husky sizes anymore"!!! I've never considered suing for something that I can so obviously control, but, maybe this is different. I can sue her for being such an excellent cook. Lawyers would most likely discourage me because, after all, she is my mother (not much money there is what they're saying if you read between the lines). Or maybe I should blame the country of my ancestry and sue Mexico. What with tortillas, beans and rice as staples, I couldn't help but overdose on carbohydrates. Oh, if only the late Dr. Atkins had published his books in my youth, I may have had a chance..."fat chance".

By my own definition, I don't today consider myself obese, although if "husky" sizes were still around I might still be wearing this size. I'm just satisfied that I don't yet have to go to the "Big and Tall" section of the store to buy my clothes. One of my concerns today is that I lose some weight. This may have two possible effects. 1)It may prolong my life and 2) in case it doesn't, at least my pallbearers won't be burdened with lifting and carrying any more weight than they already have to carry. Otherwise they might file a class action suit against my estate for the hernia and herniated disc operations. Lawyers may find a way of working this into a lawsuit against the food industry. What happens if I don't lose weight before I die? Cremation.
-- A. Diaz
Texas

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