Re: Judd Magilnick’s Deconstructing Winston:
Bravo to Judd Magilnick.
In the UK, we are accustomed to seeing our museums and galleries turned into vehicles for the presentation of their curators’ opinions — Glasgow’s once magnificent Stirling’s Library has been defaced into a hideous Gallery of Modern Art; I shudder to think what the interior of the world famous cathedral of knowledge that was Kelvingrove’s Art Galleries & Museum will look like when its refurbishment is complete next year.
But in the penultimate paragraph, Mr. Magilnick asks if we will find inspiration from this “moral storehouse” when tough times return. The answer, painfully, is no. The priorities for an average British citizen now comprise not learning their own history, but instead what’s on Sky Television; they are not taught civics, but they get furious when their cell phone can’t download ringtones; and for many, Churchill is not our most important premier but a well-known brand of auto insurance. At the same time, the Blair government is rushing through Parliament measures to introduce detention without trial, and is proposing to introduce ID cards.
We are sleepwalking away from our history, and we couldn’t care less provided Burger King is open.
I liked the part that Rudolf Hess “went on a peace mission to Glasgow” — if so, I can assure Mr. Magilnick that would have been a world first.
— Martin Kelly
I loved Judd Magilnick’s article on the opening of the Churchill Museum. And I do understand what is behind such behavior as the trashing of Winston Churchill. It’s arrogance and hubris, even if such things have now become unthinking habits. They stem from the arrogant belief that all such things, such as Winston Churchill’s war, were avoidable by the application of simple, human reason — liberal reason, of course. Therefore these histories have no other story to tell but the incompetence of human beings before the age of the enlightened folks who fully have a handle on these things today with their carefully reasoned ideas and techniques. It is only because everyone else hasn’t fully adopted them that there is not harmony, whether racial harmony, political harmony, sexual harmony or whatever. To their mind, it’s only a pity that their views had not yet gained ascendancy in the early twentieth century. Surely both world wars would have been easily avoided.
The story of Winston Churchill simply has to contain a fair amount of condescension because the real story isn’t the successes of people like him. It’s the failure — failures that were avoidable but for their more primitive outlook on things. Luckily we’ve evolved past that now.
All history to the revisionist is simply a chance to reinforce their beliefs and to justify the replacement of others’ beliefs (often by tyrannical means) with their own. Sure, you and I know that it is pure hubris and arrogance to think that nothing substantial or significant exists outside of one’s own beliefs, but then we are not they.
Thank you for the review by Judd Magilnick. You’ve just given me a reason not to revisit London anytime soon; Italy, instead.
— James J. Manning, Jr.
SWEETHEART OF THE MONTH
Re: The recent USA Next ad:
I just want to thank you disgusting worms for revealing how low you can go by running the USA Next ad with its totally bogus smear of AARP. You and the lying psychopaths in this organization are starting the anti-AARP campaign by destroying whatever credibility you might have had. I know they think since they succeeded in their slander of John Kerry, they can make the American people believe anything. But there are limits. Get ready for the backlash, you stupid jerks.
— Chris Moser
Re: Michael Fumento’s Passive Aggressive in Ohio:
Is anyone surprised by Mr. Fumento’s experience? Penny ante dictators abound in our self-absorbed society. Mostly they are composed of individuals who I suspect are still mad at not being picked for the dodge ball team as children. Most small-town elected officials (not unlike the sort that run for condominium association) seem to be drawn to the allure of working out their frustrations and disappointments on the better adjusted among us. Get used to it.
— Ron Pettengill
I have nothing against anyone that wants to smoke doing so, just as long as they DON’T exhale.
— Elaine Kyle
Cut and Shoot, Texas
CHECK THIS OUT
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.’s Retire the Depression:
In re: borrowing books. Is it possible to borrow books from the Reagan Library, or the Nixon Library? I don’t think these are lending libraries either.
— D. Stauffer
PROUDLY BUYING THE CON
Re: George Neumayr’s The Great Con:
As this is true of most media sources, this commentary relates little to Howard Dean, expounding instead upon what his detractors have carefully fed the media. There is one true statement, however, which Dean supporters will applaud. Unlike “Slick Willy” or even “Tricky Dick,” Howard Dean is wonderfully transparent.
The most important contribution he has made to America is to have faith in her citizens and in democracy, and passing this faith on. Countless Americans, who have spent their adult lives only voting in major elections, if that, are now active in local level politics, taking our rights and responsibilities as citizens seriously. And we are enjoying ourselves! I may not agree with some of the turns my country has taken, but as long as we are still a democracy I’m proud to be able to fulfill my role as a citizen and to have the realization that doing so does matter.
Media repeatedly ties Dean with youth. But this is not the vast corps of empowered Americans who have been inspired by Howard Dean. We are citizens of all ages, a good many in the latter half of life, and of all socio-economic backgrounds. I happen to be nearly 56 and low-income.
To tell citizens that they have rights and responsibilities that give them power to choose who will represent them in a representative democracy is no doubt the highest level of buffoonery. And for us to believe and act upon this tallest of American tales is undeniably evidence that Howard Dean is a master con! Somewhere, deep in our unconscious we must still know that “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” has long since passed into the hands of vested interests. But the ideal of a people’s democracy in America will not perish from our land without a well waged effort to exercise and preserve it.
And I do not doubt that this scares some long established Democrats. However, because most of us view Dean as a fellow citizen, neither saint nor demagogue nor used car salesman, attacks designed to shatter his influence “on high” will have little effect. Making an already human Howard Dean seem more human can only prove that he truly is one of us.
— Pamela Hoye
San Diego, California
ONE MAN’S UNION
Re: Lawrence Henry’s What Really Happened to Labor Unions:
It’s fine for Mr. (assuming that Lawrence Henry is a real name) Henry to expound from his perspective as to what happened to labor unions. It is his First Amendment right to do so. However when he says he knows the real reason, well… he’s all wet.
One of the things he says about labor unions is true. They completely lost touch with their membership and then as usually happens when a powerful organization loses touch with its constituency, they began to overreact to every demand made by their opposition in an attempt to retain their certainly dwindling power. My first “real” job was as an apprentice diesel mechanic in San Francisco in the late ’50s and early ’60s. I remember sitting in union meetings and listening to the elderly union leaders dutifully convey and recommend the company’s contract offer of three years with a raise of $.02 (yes, that’s two cents) an hour. At the time, my hourly wage amounted to $1.50 an hour; a wage that was fine with me. I lived with my aunt and uncle in an upper middle class neighborhood in San Francisco. I was 19 years old and living in the “Paris of the West.” The world was my oyster. My co-workers on the other hand were mostly married with children and mortgages and houses in far away suburbs and they commuted at least two hours a day on surface streets because Northern California was like this other state that didn’t have freeways yet. At least that’s how it seemed to a young man who grew up in L.A. and its environs. Anyway, this was my first exposure to labor union membership and I sat and watched in a sort of detached way as a few of the younger married guys began to try to take over the union. They were almost entirely motivated by money (put another way, greed). They wanted the high paying union administrative jobs that came with a car and an expense account and very little accountability. Kind of like what our politicians do for us. As the years went by, the young warriors succeeded in taking over the local and everyone suddenly was making great wages because we were getting raises in the range of $1.50 to $2.00 an hour. But something else happened too. Every time we received a $2.00 an hour raise, the company laid off enough people or closed enough facilities or just allowed jobs to remain vacant to pay for it. So it was a win-win transaction for everyone — except the ones who were unemployed.
As it happened, my ambitions lay elsewhere and I pursued a career in management at the same company. During the next couple of decades, as I moved up the management food chain, I was able to see another side of the business at each level. Mostly I watched as competition from other sectors of our industry received more favorable treatment from the federal government and prospered as our business slowly dwindled. My last promotion before leaving the company came at the same time that we were sold by our parent corporation to a group of junk bond investors from Texas who were led by the former CEO of our nearest competitor. The man had left our competitor at their insistence. Something about running the company into the groundâ€¦ or something; so he went out and bought his own company with other rich people’s money. The first action taken by the new owners, even before the sale was finalized, was to “hire” me away from my parent company (with daddy’s blessing of course) to help plan the “transition” to the new company. The transition consisted of firing all of the unskilled workers at midnight on a certain date and replacing them with private contractors. This would in fact eliminate the Teamsters union from any jobs at several of the largest facilities owned by the company. This strategy had two prongs: It would send millions of dollars, mostly in payroll costs, temporarily to the bottom line and it would send a message to the remaining skilled workers and their unions that “it could happen to you.” A few years later the company was in bankruptcy and would never be the same. The company that was my first real job was a Fortune 200 company that you would recognize today if I gave it. Today it is a marginalized company that hasn’t made money since the late ’80s when I left it disillusioned and disgusted. They weren’t “out-accelerated” as the author suggests. They were out-maneuvered in the market place, in the board room and more important, in the political arena.
As for the unions involved, pretty much their own greed killed them. Instead of spending their members dues where it would do them the most good; buying politicians and educating members and companies as to their worth in society; they spent it on their own self-enrichment. We all have paid the price. In 1975 I was earning $21,000 a year. I was married with three children. I owned (along with the mortgage company) a beautiful home in an upper middle class suburb. My wife did not work, she didn’t have to. I was in middle management, a non-union assistant manager of a unionized facility. Those days are gone forever and part of the reason is that unions are too. And computers and high tech didn’t have anything to do with it. It was mostly about man’s greed. And it still is. End of rant. Thanks for listening,
— Dan O’Connell
Re: Unsigned’s letter (under “Alternative Financing”) in Reader Mail’s Ivy Poisons:
I cringe every time I hear politicians claiming that “we must keep our promise” to those who have contributed towards the current Social Security system. What exactly is that promise? The concept that the government is “saving” my current FICA withholding so it can return it to me when I retire is an absolute fraud. Current Social Security withholdings greatly exceed current Social Security expenditures. So what happens to our “contributions” and the excess revenue that is “withheld”? Is it saved? No. It gets spent. Every penny of it (every penny and then some…but that’s another story). Raising Social Security taxes, raising Social Security caps does nothing for future retirees. It merely provides more money to be spent by politicians now (while choking the life out of small businesses). So, what is REALLY meant when politicians say “we must keep our promise to our seniors”? They are saying we promise to keep taxing workers, their children, their grandchildren, their great-grandchildren, etc. and forever and spending your money any way we choose
Ethics demand that such promises need to be broken.
— Martin Tagliaferro
Ann Arbor, Michigan
DESIGN OF THE TIMES
Re: Michael Carraway’s letter (under “Darwin’s Fact”) in Reader Mail’sA Day in the Life:
Many apparently confuse a scientific THEORY with a HYPOTHESIS. Newton hypothesized a universal force, concentrated at a “center of gravity”, which acts as a “force” according to an “inverse-square law” applicable to all physical objects whatsoever. The fact that none of these elements can be observed is not an issue. The mathematics of Universal Gravitation yield testable predictions, borne out very precisely until measurements reach either quantum-physical or relativistic scales, in which context the theory does not fail but merely ceases to apply.
A theory is NOT a hypothesis — to the extent possible, its predictions have been verified, its factual underpinnings amply demonstrated. When Darwin hypothesized that processes of biological growth and change occur by processes of “natural selection” via such mechanisms as “allopatric speciation”, his “black box” was no blacker than Newton’s. “But what is this â€˜force of gravity’, Mr. Newton?” “I don’t know, and I feign no hypotheses (hypotheses non fingo)”. The fact that “gravity” appears as an aspect of four-dimensional continua in Riemannian hyperspace (Einstein) still does not explicate the phenomenon; but so what? Objects from here to the “edge of the Universe” dance to Newton’s tune, just as biological evolution proceeds regardless of whether Darwin was privy to Mendelian genetics or the double-helix depicted by Crick and Watson.
One would think that by now “Argument from Design” hypotheses, as forms of the Anthropic Principle, would be dead as Lamarck, dead as Lysenko, dead as Whewell’s Bridgewater Treatises from the 1820s on. The “watchmaker” scenario is nought but false analogy: Of course intricate mechanism exhibits intelligent origin. All such artifacts require socio-economic context. No one designs, manufactures, distributes “watches” without an enormous complex of cultural incentives, including specifically language and market information. Darwin’s structure speaks this language, supplies this information. “Creationism” fails these elementary tests, positing an all-powerful Old Man with white whiskers, stirring the quantum pot with a relativistic finger (I fear God, by the way).
If adherents of “Intelligent Design” care to dispute with evolutionary biologists, let them formulate testable alternative hypotheses; design requisite experiments; report reproducible results to juries of their peers. Absent this, we’re back to J.B. Rhine, Velikovsky, and their ilk. Cold fusion, anyone? Beyond its theological implications, “Intelligent Design” is directly at odds not only with thermodynamics, but with ecology– as any practicing environmentalist will tell you, you can no more structure an organism in isolation than you can produce an biological environment without organisms. There is a holistic problem here, which meets questions (among others) of not only what but where and when. In fact, they are unanswerable, at least as science. However ID proponents may decry rational objectivity, the world lives by it. Show us your irrational, subjective alternatives, and we’ll undertake to show you where they always lead.