Re: Ben Stein’s I Smell a Borat:
All I need to do is see Ben Stein as an author and I read the essay. However, I did not need to read this essay to avoid the hideous movie called Borat. Thank you, Ben, for pointing out what I suspected, a movie made popular because of its cruelty and stupidity.
— Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
I have many close friends and colleagues who like this movie, Borat. They are of all religious affiliations and they try the jokes and lines from the movie on me around the office, or in social settings. I have not, nor do I plan to see this movie.
Borat makes prejudiced folks feel comfortable with their prejudices…obviously. Since a Jew stars in it, and insults Jews, why not other groups as well? Other good people in the act of being charitable are also insulted and ridiculed. It sounds like state-imposed welfare, or multiculturalism in practice. Bring all folks down to a sickening level that Hollywood stars think we are.
This is just another example of the entertainment industry’s laziness and disdain for the public it is trying to extract more dollars from.
— P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan
I am a great fan of Ben Stein and truly enjoy reading his columns, but I had a completely different take on this movie. I found the Borat character hilarious because of his mindless anti-Semitism, bigotry, and misogynous behavior. These are the people we are fighting the world over and I rather enjoy laughing at them. I did not see this as an attempt to make fun of decent Americans, I rather thought it showed us in a very favorable light while we try to be polite while dealing with this racist boob. We need to be deadly serious in dealing with these murderous insects and enjoy a laugh at their expense at every opportunity.
— Bill White
Kudos to Ben Stein on the Borat review. He is absolutely right on all counts. I chuckled at a few things at the beginning of the movie but left the movie feeling disgusted and dirty. If I hadn’t been with someone else, I would have walked out. The fact that so many young people find it funny is very disturbing indeed.
— Victoria M. McIntyre
La Jolla, California
Well, I really hated this movie too, but I like your perspective better than the one I had when I left the movie. I kept thinking to myself, well, the guy’s Jewish, so it’s better that he’s Jewish and telling these “jokes” than if he were a non-Jew and telling the jokes. That’s as generous as I could be.
But now after reading your critique, I realize I was duped and am ashamed that I didn’t immediately see or feel what you felt. Well, down deep, I did, but was afraid to verbalize it, I guess. I’m ready for my shower now…
Thanks for sharing
— Veronica Redmond
Cathedral City, California
Please let Mr. Stein know that I saw the movie, and liked and disliked the movie. In Cohen’s defense, I don’t think he is condoning Jew hatred. He is demonstrating how infantile and stupid it is by having his idiot of a character partake in it. I do agree with Ben that Cohen abuses his hosts’ hospitality. However, he could have been far more vicious in the way he did it. Even when he is talking about supporting the war in Iraq to a rodeo crowd, and goes over the top with statements about drinking the blood of Iraqi women and children, the camera zooms in to show a woman looking at him in distaste. He could just as easily have shown all Americans lustily cheering his statements because they didn’t listen to the words and thought he was simply being supportive of the war effort.
I have a feeling Cohen does harbor a tremendous sense of superiority to Americans “yokels.” I am sure Ben is reacting to that arrogance. Sadly, America haters will see the movie and (wrongly) believe it justifies all of their biases against average Americans. I laughed at the movie, too, but readily conceded that it was stupid, sophomoric, and vulgar.
— Doug Graham
Ben Stein’s article on Borat is dead on. Years ago films like Song of Bernadette, Ben Hur and On the Waterfront won Academy Awards. Today, film makers (or what passes for them) compete in a race to the bottom. Lets see who can produce even lower levels of dehumanizing violent trash. The excuse from Hollywood; freedom of expression. Some freedom…Some expression…
— Bob Montrose
Fort Lee, New Jersey
Yes, the movie is full of (at best) juvenile humor, but I thought the point was to caricature and parody Borat and his attitudes. I was laughing at him, not with him. I thought it was a satire. I suppose I could be wrong about this; my wife felt the same way you did (we are not Jewish). But either way, you’re right about this: after I saw it, I did want to take a shower.
I think you have to condemn these things when they get started. remember The Producers? What was funny about that?
— Annette Cwik
DEATH OF A MARINE
Re: Michael Fumento’s Farewell to Maj. Megan McClung, USMC:
Bravo Zulu to Michael Fumento for his tasteful tribute to Maj. McClung.
Should anyone be surprised that Newsweek would refuse to even acknowledge her death? Had a traitorous “journalist” broken a toe nail that would have been front page news, but a Marine dying isn’t worth the ink unless it can be used to attack President Bush or weaken the resolve of the spineless American public.
— Michael Tomlinson
Jacksonville, North Carolina
When I first heard of Maj. McClung’s death, I recall uttering, “Oh, no,” and immediately thinking about the late Army Maj. Marie T. Rossi-Clayton. On March 1, 1991, at age 32 and commander of an aviation unit, she died while piloting a Chinook helicopter in Operation Desert Storm. Perishing with her were three other crew members. Like Maj. McClung’s remains, Maj. Rossi’s also lie in Arlington National Cemetery.
Rossi-Clayton said before her death, “I think if you talk to women in the military, we see ourselves as soldiers. What I am doing is no greater or less than the man who is flying next to me.”
May we all — and that includes Oliver North as well as Newsweek — remember her and Maj. McClung, as well as the men who served next to them and who also gave their lives in that service.
— C. Kenna Amos
Princeton, West Virginia
Some will claim this is neither the appropriate time nor the place to comment negatively on Michael Fumento’s elegiac tribute to Major Megan McClung, USMC, who was recently laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery, but I cannot help but question the policy that put her in harm’s way. As a soldier in a war zone, she was a target, but, apparently, Signor Fumento sees no reason why the late major should not have been in Al Anbar Province in the first place. That perspective has not always reigned at this webzine.
Allow me to remind you that, using traditional and Christian moral judgments, the previous managing editor of the webzine railed against President Bush’s policy which allowed women to get increasingly closer to combat zones, and, as a result, return to these shores in body bags. After all, Clinton was no longer in the White House, and the drift towards the feminization of the military was now a thing of the past. Yet the incumbent Commander-in-Chief, his acolytes in the military, and Mr. Fumento all appear to see the death of Maj. McClung, “the highest ranking female officer…” as the natural detritus of war.
De mortuiis nihil nisi bonum — of the dead say nothing but good. Maj. McClung’s service to her country is to be commended, but she could have served her country and not been put in a position of endangering her life. To my old-fashioned way of thinking, if we don’t have enough men to fill combat positions, then, maybe, a draft is needed, rather than the repetitive redeployment of combat reserve and national guard units, which include women.
Major McClung’s death, as well as the demise of nearly 3,000 others, is a genuine tragedy for each family involved. However, I need not remind you that this nation has, historically, fought and won its major wars without putting women, even at their own request, into combat situations. Unless the idea of more women returning in body bags does not offend the sensibilities of the people of our nation, and I believe that it does, the policy that permits proximity of women to combat areas should be reviewed — and canceled.
— Vincent Chiarello
Thank you for this article, thank you for taking the time to write about Maj. McClung. I didn’t know who she was, but had I ever had the opportunity to meet her I would’ve been honored. There are so many soldiers and Marines I will never meet, but all are in my prayers daily. They are incredible and I’m very thankful for their gift of service for our freedom. God Bless Maj. McClung and all who serve and have served this great Nation. Our military is the best and they deserve our respect and support.
BOGIE AND BACALL
Re: Lisa Fabrizio’s Why Casablanca?:
An excellent commentary on the Hollywood movie scene today. None of today’s movies will ever be called great, for the very simple reason that they don’t deal with serious subjects and emotions, except in the most cursory manner. Today’s movies are designed to be visual and sensual, but not serious, treatises on an imitation of life.
Like you, I consider one of the important points of Casablanca to be the inherent patriotism of Rick, even though he scathingly mocks sentiment in his pronouncements in the movie.
— R. Goodson
Vero Beach, Florida
Far be it from me to disparage Casablanca. It is a wonderful movie and it is everything Lisa Fabrizio says it is. But for my money, two movies inch just ahead: To Have and Have Not and Key Largo. It is no accident that both these movies have Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall as the lead actors. Both the fierce chemistry of two beloved actors and the visual thunderclap of two soul mates meeting on screen raises these movies to the truly epic out of the mediocre stories these could have been in lesser hands. And let us not forget the memorable presence of the other great actors: Edward G. Robinson, Lionel Barrymore, and Walter Brennan.
Last, but certainly not least, who can forget the most romantic surrender put on film? The seduction in To Have And Have Not hits critical mass as Bacall says to Bogart:
“You know you don’t have to act with me, Steve. You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow.”
— Michael Wm. Dooley
Re: Jeremy Lott’s Stop Pushing the Envelope:
Jeremy Lott suggests that there is still time for President Bush to emulate Ronald Reagan. Maybe so, but after six years of Bush’s namby-pamby domestic leadership (for want of a better term) I suggest that Bush has been getting just what he wants from Congress. The proof is in the pudding.
One thing that Bush has in common with Reagan is his acting ability. For years, Reagan appeared in movies playing a variety of roles. Bush has appeared almost nightly on our TV screens playing the role of a conservative, which charade desperate conservatives have lapped up. It’s all about the willing suspension of disbelief. Reagan benefited from it on the silver screen; Bush on the national stage.
The new Congress is not even seated yet and already Bush is hoisting the white flag. I have to suspect that he’s secretly glad that he’ll no longer have to expend the effort to justify the leftward drift of new laws enacted with Republicans running the whole show. He can just shrug and claim that those mean old Democrats made him sign all the new outrages that are sure to come, rather like they forced the Republican Congress to bend to their minority will. He knows from many sources, including the frequent letters over the years on this page excusing his failings, that there’s a sucker born every minute, and he’s under no obligation (or inclination) to give them an even break.
Mr. Lott’s hopes are sorely misplaced. One veto in six years? Education, campaign finance and prescription drug bills, among others, whisked into law? The dive he took on Social Security Reform?
Give me a break. My supply of disbelief is exhausted.
— Mark Fallert
He has one veto? When was that? I thought he had none, zip, nada… Please tell me when he actually showed a bit of spine.
Editor’s note: Last July 19, citing his opposition to “the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others,” President Bush vetoed the “Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005” that would have increased federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
Ref Lawrence Henry’s piece and the subsequent letter from Beverly Gunn in which she ponders the imminent return of her son to Iraq against the backdrop of her country apparently seeming “not to always appreciate the gift of freedom and what happens if it is lost.” There are many of us across the pond who do very much as I know there are many in the U.S. who likewise applaud these brave servicemen. Frustrated at our politicians? Yes! Appreciate our servicemen? YES! I thank God for them.
— Graham Constable
IN DEFENSE OF THE MINIMUM WAGE
Re: Ivan Osorio’s Bad Politics at a Minimum:
If I, as a consumer, must pay a little more for burgers and fries in order to see people paid a more decent wage I can live with that. Here it is Christmas time and people are nickel and diming. Disgraceful! FYI: Labor is just one factor in costs so a 20% increase will be absorbed by other factors. Plus there’s the benefits in hiring legal residents, reduction of the welfare state, etc.
— Mark Sobolewski
Falls Church, Virginia
Re: C. Kenna Amos’s letter (under “Mixed Messages”) in Reader Mail’s Dining Out:
“And let’s each remember daily — and actually do our part in realizing this charge — what King David wrote in Chapter 34 of the Book of Psalms in the Holy Bible’s Old Testament: ‘Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.'”
Thank you, Mr. Amos, for your skill in finding a short quotation from the Bible that fits your particular argument. How novel! Do you use an online concordance sortable by intellectual categories? Are you prepared to discuss at length how God dealt with evil as represented in many Biblical passages of well more than eleven words? How would you have dealt with Hitler? Chamberlain or Churchill? Well, I guess that answer is obvious.
If we “turn from the evil and do good,” instead of fighting it, we are likely to be beheaded from behind. To borrow a phrase, I am sure the Bible is not meant to be a suicide pact.
— Robert Martins
Re: Thom Bateman’s letter and Jim Bono’s letter (under “Human Activity”) in Reader Mail’s Dining Out:
Since I wrote nothing whatever to suggest that “the warming from 4000 to 6000 BC to which Pat [Michaels ] refers — what archaeologists refer to as the Climatic Optimum” arose from human agency, Mr. Bateman’s catalog of disconnections is entirely self-referential. One need not, and I did not, invoke human action to explain that when temperatures rise, glaciers retreat into the cooler uplands and ice caps shrink. As they do, their waters run down to the sea, which is why the balmy interlude that saw civilization dawn “was attended by a rise in sea level of ten meters or more.” As a surfer I am naturally prejudiced in favor of such a development repeating itself, but I imagine some of Mr. Bateman’s Tidewater neighbors may disagree.
— Russell Seitz
Hope y’all had a super holiday! Have just returned from a family gathering in Tempe, and am trying to recuperate — but looked in to see what’s occurred in my absence. And, sure enough, glaciers are still evaporating (not melting), and Virginia’s Jim Bono sure nailed it — great letter! And, unfortunately, so true.
— the impish frost
Re: David Paulson’s letter (under “The Agony of Defeat”) in Reader Mail’s Dining Out:
I would encourage David Paulson (Communications Director Maryland Democrat Party) to gloat now, because starting next year Democrat Governor elect Martin O’Malley and Democrat Senate Majority leader Mike Miller are planning to raise the already punitive Maryland gas taxes, property taxes and state income tax. Of course, O’Malley who destroyed public education in Baltimore City and made it the murder capital of the U.S., refused to tell voters that he planned to actually raise taxes.
All I can say is, THANK GOD I no longer have to live in Maryland. The Old Line state is on the fast track to morphing into Taxachusetts South — Taxland. I wonder how fast they’ll spend Republican Erlich and Steele’s budget surplus and restore Democrat Glendenning’s massive deficits? I give the “boy wonder” 6 months at best.
Happy New Year, Taxland!
— Michael Tomlinson
Jacksonville, North Carolina