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The Straight Dope

Re: Lisa Fabrizio’s War of Words:

As difficult as it is to accept, Lisa Fabrizio’s advice today is proper and warranted. Specifically, conservatives should refrain from name-calling, word-twisting and mud-slinging as these are the tactics of the less accomplished among us. By that, I mean the emotion driven, half informed and gullible adherents to liberal politics.

It is difficult because natural instinct when slapped is to slap back, when shot at to shoot back and when grievously insulted to insult back. Massively. However, the cultural and political battle here will not be won by trading verbal brickbats; it will be won with facts, logic and common sense. Speaking truth to the misguided often makes them think private thoughts that can change their outlook. Of course, some will never be won over by logic, but insults make this a certainty and only invite a like response.

Ann Coulter is free to call John Edwards anything she chooses, but strong words have consequences and she must face those consequences. I like to think Ronald Reagan might have totally dismissed Edwards by referring to him as “well-dressed” or “good-looking” while all the time meaning “foppish fool.”
Deane Fish
Altamont, New York

Lisa Fabrizio writes “Every time I write a column that even remotely mentions homosexuality and history’s disinclination to regard it as a commendable lifestyle, I am inundated with email accusing me of hateful gay-bashing and labeled a homophobe.”

That is because virtually all political or social thought and commentary are now framed in hyperbole, and even if you do not think or write in hyperbole, the “appropriate” hyperbole is presumed for you. In the context of commentary on homosexuality, if you fail to think and write in support of 100% equality in every conceivable respect, the only alternative, which will be automatically imputed, is that you must prefer they be chased down streets with baseball bats. In such a world, a middle ground will not be rationally discussed.

And regarding the brass knuckled Ms. Coulter, it is my opinion that there is a need for an “enforcer,” and Republicans appear to have completely given up the field in that regard. Is it not an amazing commentary of our times that the first Republican “enforcer” that comes to mind is…a girl (and TAS is probably the final sanctuary where such a monstrously politically incorrect term can be used). The list of tough talking and, like it or not, inspirational speakers on the other side is almost endless. Representative John Lewis (D-GA) could deliberately and with the greatest malice aforethought on the floor of the House apply the Martin Niemoeller speech to Republicans, directly equating Republicans to Nazis, and for that there was no penalty; instead, for him there was even greater respect. Republicans rightly accuse Democrats of being unilateral pacifists, to the detriment of U.S. national security. But in the realm of rhetoric, which isn’t a dirty word, look it up, it is the Republicans who are the unilateral pacifists, to the detriment of their ability to reach and convince the electorate.

Better recruit a few more “enforcers,” and make it quick.
Frank Natoli
Newton, New Jersey

Why do we recoil at being called “homophobe(s)”? At, “homophobe” is described as “a person who fears or hates homosexuals.” Do we criticize hydrophobes (those afraid of water), or acrophobes (like me, those afraid of heights)? It is certainly part and parcel of human nature to have fears, both natural and unnatural. Of course we should be afraid of homosexuals! They are clogging our courts and legislatures with self-serving suits to legitimize their lifestyle; they fill the television airwaves with limp-wristed fashion and celebrity commentators and style and lifestyle shows slamming the straights among us for being hopelessly unhip.

They have further lobbied the legislatures (with their willing accomplices in the drive-by media) to generate far more research money spent on HIV studies and cures than on research for diseases that can’t be avoided by practicing what is considered normal sexual behavior. And they slam and defame anyone who doesn’t willingly promote their “right to self-expression.” Only a fool would NOT fear this threat to our cherished American way of life.
Ralph Alter
Carmel, Indiana

The conservative problem isn’t that we don’t have another Reagan, but that too many conservatives are parroting liberals and Democrats. Ann Coulter with her vast wit and intellect can easily eviscerate Edwards or any Democrat without resorting to rhetoric and tactics better suited for Democrat politicians, blogs and their toadies in the MSM.

Does society hold Republicans and conservatives to a higher standard of behavior than Democrats? Yes, because we are the party and movement of the adults. Like it or not we need to suck it up like Ford, Reagan, Bush (41), Bush (43), Clarence Thomas, Condi Rice, Sam Alito and a host of conservatives and Republicans and behave like adults.

Leave the juvenile, hysterical, shrewish and boorish behavior to the Democrats and their drones who think it’s acceptable to wish for the President and Vice President’s assassination, but not to call a foppish and effeminate man a faggot. Ann may have been right in her characterization, but it doesn’t play well when an adult acts like a Democrat.
Michael Tomlinson
Jacksonville, North Carolina

I find myself conflicted regarding the latest submission from Ms. Fabrizio. On the one hand, I am thoroughly disgusted by the vulgarity of modern public discourse. The regular use, by women, of words that I was raised to believe shouldn’t even be used by men in the presence of women, still causes me serious angst when in a mixed gender group. The repetitive use of inanities such as “like,” and “you know,” and other such phrases drives me to distraction, and keeps me from paying any attention to the substance of your speech. It would seem that the vast majority of our citizenry has completely lost the concept of the differences in words when you use their possessive, and/or plural, and/or past tense forms. In short, American English spelling and grammar (as opposed to simple typos) has generally escaped our population. I could go on and on agreeing with Lisa about her thesis in this article.

On the other hand, we have a First Amendment problem in our society. Whether you wish to call it Political Correctness or some other catchy title, it is a very real problem. Now I personally would like to see this uncalled for name calling and callousness of discourse rooted out, and a return to civility and manners. I am quite afraid that, before that can occur, we are going to have to wrest control of linguistic judgmentalism from the exclusive province of the left. We, similarly, need to erase this proclivity, particularly on the left, to be offended. We have tens of millions of citizens that spend almost ever waking moment just looking to be offended, somehow, by something. We need to return to the attitude with which people were raised in an earlier time — the attitude of “get over yourself.” I am afraid that, until we can break this “I am offended” attitude of our society, we will NOT be able to fix the civility or manners problem.

This is not a foreign problem. Racist attitudes will continue to fester as long as whole racial classes spend endless hours seeking to find and root it out of our memories. Racism in law is gone. De facto racism is really fairly rare. The rest of it is people who are determined to be offended.

Sexual proclivity bias is hard wired in our genes. If homosexual lifestyles are not aberrant, then why is it the human species is unable to reproduce itself via homosexual union? Why do I even need to know what you sexual proclivities are? If all you want is to be allowed to live your life your way, then why do you need to be in my face about it? Why? Because it is all about you being “offended” by my utterances that are not even addressed to you.

Have you ever noticed that it is the people “offended” by sexual issues and connotations in public society that spend the most time thinking, talking, and, yes, doing sex? I can remember a time when my mother, on hearing Ann Coulter’s remark, would simply say to me, “Forget it, son. That woman is no lady, she is just trash. We don’t say things like that.” Course I also remember when a “faggot” was any male person that was a “wuss,” or girly man, regardless of his sexual proclivities. But I also remember when any person born outside of wedlock could be called a bastard without anyone getting their panties in a twist.

Well, my point is that, just perhaps, we need a period of desensitizing from the right before we can get a grip on public discourse.
Ken Shreve
New Hampshire
Pondering the conundrum

I think the uncivil language popping out all over the political spectrum is actually a backlash against political correctness. I hope this action/reaction pendulum finds its midpoint soon, but I do believe it is a needed corrective to the thought and word police that have held sway over our culture for at least 15 years.
Deborah Durkee
Marietta, Georgia

Re: Wlady Pleszczynski’s Farewell to All That:

I read your article about goodbye ceremonies with interest. I have always believed that the way you feel about someone should be reflected in how you interact with them. When I was at home when my children were very young I always made sure I either waved to my husband outside or at the window on bad weather days. When I went back to work and left the house before him he waves goodbye to me. Now that we have a daughter in college, if she is coming home we meet her at the train station and take the metro home with her. When she leaves to go back we wait until either her bus or train leaves. It is possible to think that all that is a waste of time, but then one would have to think that about a lot of life. When a visiting friend leaves (even one who lives in the area) I walk them to the car. It just seems to slow life down a little bit; to make one feel more connected — civilized.

I agree with you about planes. It seems so wrong to just watch someone disappear down some corridor, not to watch their plane taxi out to the runway, waving even though you know they cannot see you. At least for my Mother-in-Law, because she is old they will let one of us through. But when she returns we all have to spread out through the airport to figure out where and when she will appear.

Thank you for your moving and insightful article,
MarthaJoy M. Spano

Re: John Tamny’s Globalization and Inflation:

Well, John Tamny did a good job of cheerleading for the market purists, that’s for sure.

The right response to such dogma is “Wait and see.”

We’ll see if the current slowdown in the overgeared U.S. housing market doesn’t lead to a credit crunch and higher interest rates in a year’s time.

We’ll see if the same slowdown doesn’t lead to a run on the banks which the Fed can’t manage by pumping liquidity into the system

We’ll see if the hollowing out of U.S. manufacturing capacity that has occurred over the last 15 years, otherwise known as The Great Clinton-Bush Sell Out, might actually help America to generate hard currency during lean years.

And we’ll see if all that illegal immigration, so very helpful in keeping down wage costs amongst the sort of people think-tankers don’t have much contact with, is actually all that good at keeping inflation down.

At least Tamny didn’t say “Goldilocks,” because where I’m sitting the American economy looks more like A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Never mind, I’m sure that when the lights go out in the Manhattan Institute Tamny will be able to console himself with the thought that he kept to the pure faith.

Such articles as these remind one why economics is like warfare; like warfare, its conduct should never be left to the professionals.

All together now —

“Casey would waltz with the strawberry blonde
And the band played on…”
Martin Kelly
Glasgow, Scotland

Re: Quin Hillyer’s Gilmore Makes His Case:

Quin Hillyer’s recent column on Republican presidential candidate Jim Gilmore contained a factual error which most Virginians do not know and political reporters do not understand. Governor Gilmore did not cut the car tax in Virginia. In the great shell game of robbing Peter to pay Paul, Governor Gilmore was able to “eliminate” the car tax by having the state pay it for car owners. In effect, by paying their state taxes, Virginians are still paying their car taxes.

Surprised?! Don’t be, most Virginians don’t realize it either. If the car tax was truly cut, the state wouldn’t be spending nearly $1 billion a year to reimburse localities for lost car tax revenue. The record, when reported factually, speaks for itself.
David Foreman
Crozet, Virginia

Please excuse my impertinence, but if more publications of the right wing would report more extensively on Gov. Gilmore, I believe that he would be a viable candidate and potential winner in the race for the Oval Office. I would say to Mr. Hillyer, if you write often enough and glowingly enough about Gov. Gilmore, you might see some positive results. You know, like the inundation that we received from the Spectator in favor of Mayor Rudy. What a sales job that has been. I know that I am more than ready to sign on to a true to the core conservative that does not want to take away my guns, or insist on unlimited abortion on demand, or aid and abet the Mexification of the United States by illegal aliens.
Ken Shreve

Better a man like James Gilmore for our next president than some washed up career political deal maker.
David Shoup
Grovetown, Georgia

Re: John Tabin’s The Verdict Is In:

The Scooter Libby trial has been ridiculous from the beginning. A tempest in the teapot is how I refer to it. The ever smiling Cheshire cat Joe Wilson was on TV last evening with a subtitle of “vindication” under his smiling face. Wilson wanted to take down the White House…and lied many times about the actual facts. This entire fiasco should have never been. Libby should be in his office working…and the Wilsons should be working in the downtown Baghdad office of the U.N.

The entire lawsuit has taken tons of money, time, and a reputation. I hope W will pardon him. I am rooting for Scooter.
J. Sherrill

This verdict is just the latest in what seems like an endless parade of Special Prosecution. The issue comes up, the prosecutor is picked to investigate one particular issue, the prosecutor moves on beyond the original mandate, and in the end the original issue is discarded and the only prosecutions are for perjury and obstruction of justice.

Certainly this is the case here. Where’s Karl Rove? Where’s Dick Cheney? Where’s the Joe Wilson/Valerie Plame /covert agent outing? How about prosecuting Tim Russert for perjury?

There was nothing here all along. They’re not impressing the average Joe, only partisans. So where is the justice in Scooter Libby’s verdict?
Robert Nowall
Cape Coral, Florida

If one of the members of the jury was a neighbor and friend of Mr. Russert, why was he allowed on the jury? This judge was far from impartial.
Burton Hollabaugh
Marion, Indiana

Re: Aaron Juntunen’s letter (under “The Worst Is Yet to Come”) in Reader Mail’s Staying Alive:

Now see here you young whippersnapper, you’re only proving that Christopher Orlet was right. You’ve just demonstrated that you’re ill mannered and self-absorbed. And, by the way, your generation won’t be supporting us in our old age. If we didn’t have enough money tucked away for retirement and health care, do you think we’d be whiling away our time on the Internet? And apparently someone needs to remind you that you’re not immortal either. Try looking up “humility” in your dictionary.
Abe Grossman
Pleasantville, New York

The letter from this proud member of “The Worst Generation Ever” confirms what Messrs. Orlet and his responders in Reader Mail said about them.

Sir, not only are you a whiner, but you are also illiterate. Your grasp of spelling, punctuation and grammar is evidence of a lifetime of text messaging, Instant Messenger and coddling by illiterate teachers, and will confirm to those adults still in charge of the entities with which you will deal that you need not be taken seriously.

If you do happen to find a career for yourself in the law or the business world, you had better pray that the secretary assigned to you is one of us from the Hated Baby Boom who can edit your letters and who doesn’t rely on spell-check, to save you from revealing just how ill-prepared you are to enter the adult world.
Kate Shaw
P.S. And you’d better not refer to your secretary as “My Girl” either

Dear young’un:

Right on! Well said. Wish I had written it.

From an Old Fart and great-grandfather whose grandchildren agree with you.
Nelson Ward
Cowles, New Mexico

The deep dark secret in the lives of your boomer parents (and by now possibly your grandparents) is that there once was a period referred to as the “late 1960s and early 1970s.” It may interest you to know that your Dad who works 60-80 hours a week at his upscale law practice or financial brokerage firm once spent entire weeks traveling from concert to concert, smokin’ weed, combing his four foot length hair, and making love not war with hippie chicks who refused to wear bras because they were into the natural beauty of their nubile young bodies. It also may interest you to know that your mother who wears designer suits with expensive shoes to work and is constantly quoting Bible verses in the face of your problems was once one of those hippie chicks who used to get naked and dance in the middle of huge outdoor concerts higher than a kite. Your father refused to take a job because he didn’t want to be corrupted by money and your mother was known to drink Boone’s Farm Strawberry Wine and to repeat “let the music set you free” to all who would listen. As they say, it was different back then.

Rest assured the “Greatest Generation” were less than impressed with us. They had survived the Depression and won WWII. (Their less than great achievements include vastly expanding government and voting for themselves an assortment of benefits and retirement entitlements.) I distinctly remember my generation described in grownup conversations, the vast media and in the classroom as spoiled, not wanting to work, unrealistic, and lacking self-discipline.

The one complement we received was about our purported “idealism”. Some of us may have been moved for a while by visions of a better world, but my memory betrays a vast sea of contemporaries who believed in NOTHING. The grand illusion we shared was that the world would be a better place once we were in charge. So the time came and we gave the world…Bill Clinton. Clinton: the first of my generation to take the White House.

Our time in the sun has been relatively brief. We are stunned and uncomprehending how those that follow us can be so vapid and empty. Looking at ourselves, however, should at least be suggestive. We like to see ourselves as sturdy folk built by hard-won experience. The truth is you have to wonder if we really learned much.

Yet there is a funny flip side to all this, for the most part as private individuals we came out all right. Yes, we have had our compromises, divorces, and less than stellar episodes. We all have done things we wouldn’t want you to know about. Still, we came out OK — and so will you. You will carry on, love, marry, bring children into the world and will sacrifice beyond all reason for all who follow you. You will have times when you will be less than proud — but you will be proud someday. Only we wish you would pull up your pants and wear your hat straight. We wish your heroes were a bit more like Mother Teresa and less like Princess Diana. We wish you would dress a little less like street walkers. And, for the love of heaven, find some better music.
Michael Wm. Dooley
Indianapolis, Indiana

Re: Lars Walker’s Furl the Freak Flag, Already:

Yes, our generation has been to answer for in draping our wondrous bodies — but come on. The truth is most men do not look like Cary Grant when they wear a suit. As splendid as they may look when they first put the suit on, in a few short hours they look more like the drunken Otis on the old Andy Griffith Show. As much as I love hats, I contemplate their renewed acceptance as required equipment with some trepidation. The history of the last 150-200 years has given us so many bad hats that I’d prefer the sight of balding domes than a sea of bad taste. Let’s be a little more careful what we wish for.
Michael Wm. Dooley
Indianapolis, Indiana


What was so wrong with well mannered respect?
When did kindness become suspect?
Did we have to trash civility and replace
The calmness of courtesy with in-your-face?

Why does sloppiness rule the day?
Neatness counts seems an old cliche.
Once husbands and fathers were proud to be dutiful.
Remember when mothers-to-be were beautiful?

I’m growing tired of the leveling game.
I don’t want to call everyone by his or her first name.
I’ve learned the value of a person’s worth.
Class has little to do with birth.

Can we take back control and try to retain
What traces of grace that still remain
And take on a resurrecting role
In a world trying hard to lose its soul?

While others fight to let freedom stand tall,
Let’s do our part to give reason to it all.
Mimi Evans Winship

Re: Tom Van Dyke’s What Did Conservatives Get Right?:

I enjoyed Tom Van Dyke’s “laundry list” of conservative contributions, which go beyond the normal fixed arguments that leave both liberals and conservatives bored with the topic. He points out that the major conservative gains have been ideological in nature, changing the way we think about the issues as a way of changing the course of the future. This is forward thinking at its best. Thanks for a fresh perspective.
Janice Van Dyck

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