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web posted June 21, 2004

Re: Bill Clinton's memoir

While looking through a website of a radio station, news story pictures appeared on the page, one of which concerned former president Bill Clinton tauting his new book, with the quote: "Writing about my life was....a real labor of love." As if the American people don't already know of Clinton's earnest "love" for his own self, not to mention selfish ambitions, adulteries, ad nauseum.

It is enough to make any reader shout "Get me a Nexium!"

Autobiographies should never be published within the writers' own lifetime. They should be written, and saved back until after the passing of the writer. This way, there is no self-serving "hoopla", not to mention the ego-stroking "promotional tours" to try and perk up public interest in the book.

On top of that, biographical books tend to be better, written by a second-hand source, rather than some bunch of foolishness written by the "source" himself or herself. Too much vanity involved, not to mention "stretching" of the truth.

Having survived the misery of the 1990's, and the "X"-rated (or is it now called "NC-17" rated) Clinton-Gore years, the very last thing anyone should want to do is read about it all from the hand of the horses mouth, or other choice body parts.

For this citizen, in regards to purchasing the former president's book, to paraphrase the game show name "The Price Is Wrong!" He couldn't give me a copy, even with his own signature.

Yours for forgetting the Clintons' altogether.

William G. Smith

web posted June 14, 2004

Re: A house divided by Henry Lamb (June 7, 2004)

Henry Lamb has dishonored massage practitioners by referring to the Oval office as "massage parlor" in a criticism of President Clinton.  By the way, Lamb misquotes the President's initial denial.  He did not actually say "sex" but rather "sexual relations" -- a distinction with meaning to both of those actually present at the time--Lamb was not there to judge. 

Regardless of Lamb's careless paraphrasing, there is nothing sexual about professional massage therapy and there are plenty of other terms Lamb could have used to communicate his disgust.

In the spirit of "this is another time that demands the best efforts of every American," let's be precise about the Clinton quote and let's stop the clever-but-unkind maligning of massage therapy, a small business enterprise with enough going against it as it is.

Clinton has apologized (Lamb forgot to mention that).  Now it's Lamb's turn.

John Fred Spack

Henry Lamb responds: Thank you for pointing out the inaccuracy in my quotation of Bill Cllinton's lie. He did, in fact, say "sexual relations," rather than "sex." For this inaccuracy, I do apologize.

It is not I, however, who dishonored the "massage practitioners." Your wrath should be directed at those who have used your profession as a cover for prostitution. Two "Massage Parlors" were raided in Jackson, Tennessee last week, and the operators arrested on prostitution charges. Bill Clinton was not getting a "professional massage" from a professional massage practitioner in the Oval Office. He used the Oval Office as a massage parlor of the variety that was raided last week in Jackson.

Clinton did apologize for his indiscretion. The point of my article, however, was how Al Gore conveniently ignored Bill Clinton's lie, when he said George Bush was the most dishonest president.

I regret that your industry has been so tarnished by the rash of red-light district massage parlors in every major city. These are the folks who deserve your anger, not me.

Re: The death of Ronald Reagan

In the days following the death of former President Ronald Reagan, I was both surprised and touched by the warmth, courtesy, and respect which was shown to the late former Commander-in-Chief, and to his family. The outpouring of love and respect shown to President Reagan and his family by the American people, and especially the media, really got to me; and it was also nice to see the President's three surviving children, Patty, Michael, and Ron, Jr.; gathering together with the President's widow, who is the mother of the two younger Reagan's; and that any seeming "anymosity" which has existed between any of them was put aside out of respect for the wonderful man who was husband or father to this incredible family.

On the FOX News Channel, the people discussing the late President were very respectful, and it was so wonderful to hear several people interviewed, speaking of their memories of Mr. Reagan, and of the incredible kindness he showered upon people, whether they were of the same political spectrum as himself, or not.

I especially enjoyed an account of an incident wherein President Reagan was visiting with former President Richard M. Nixon, and apparently some visitors wanted a picture taken with Mr. Reagan, and to this, the President invited Mr. Nixon to take part in the photographs, too. (If I misunderstood this incident as it was related to FOX News, forgive me; after all, this is a very emotional time, for all of us).

In closing, I fully agree with the person who stated to FOX News that Ronald W. Reagan was one of the two greatest leaders in America during the 20th century, with Franklin Delano Roosevelt being the other.

I also commend Mrs. Nancy Reagan for loving and protecting her husband throughout their many years of marriage. Their love for one another is a wonderful example for all of us to think about, if not follow.

William G. Smith
Lancaster, Pa

Re: Enter Stage Right's name

Isn't your name wrong? "Stage right" is left when seen by the audience. Surely your position is "Stage left"?

Henry Troup

Steve Martinovich responds: Hmmm, good point. I guess it depends if you're looking from the perspective of the audience or from the person on stage. That said, can you imagine how many emails I would have received from people wondering why a conservative magazine had the name Enter Stage Left?

web posted June 7, 2004

Re: Democrat Party treads close to treason by Alan Caruba (May 31, 2004)

Does an editor not sort through content and weed out articles which are based on faulty argument presented as valid premise? I refer you to Mr. Caruba's opening statement: "In a time of war, it is understood that even political adversaries join together to support the Commander-in-Chief."

This one should have been rejected before it reached your desk. Writer's intent is an obvious attempt to muzzle opinions, which are contrary to this current administration's, by declaring an invalid supposition.

If article was created to present one closed narrow view - it succeeded. What did this accomplish? As soon as one reads the first sentence, one feels the desperation of the writer and understands that free speech (indeed, any speech) is alive and well.

As for the rest of the article, it would have projected a reasonable attempt to sway readers if Caruba had included some description of why these Democrats believe the way they do and then argued those points.
He allows no room for discussion or debate. Just more of the same blustering loud techniques that have come to be expected of Bush supporters. Mr. Caruba takes full advantage of free speech and yet denies it to others who speak out.

My opinion: This piece was not worthy of being elevated to article status - it should have gone in with the Letters to the Editor. The printing of articles like these only confirm that integrity has gone AWOL from US media. A great disservice to the American Public. I will expect to see articles putting forth more honest arguments in the future. And perhaps an apology similar to the recent ones put out by the editor of the New York Times?

Elaine Hayes

I read with great concern Alan Caruba's recent piece entitled "Democrat Party treads close to treason".

Caruba starts by asserting that "in a time of war, it is understood that even political adversaries join together to support the Commander-in-Chief. That has not been the case for several leading Democrats and what they are saying of late treads extraordinarily close to being treasonous."

I would argue that in all times, and particularly in time of war, it is essential for all citizens to remain vigilant that freedom, justice, and democracy – the very values America claims to embody - are being defended openly. As such, an honest, well-intentioned administration would welcome criticism to the extent that it helps to expose errors, misleading assumptions, and hasty conclusions. The opposition is duty-bound to examine, critique, and challenge the governing administration in all matters to uncover errors before they prove devastating.

This clearly did not take place in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion. The Bush administration ignored, downplayed, and actively undermined credible doubts about the administration's reasons to go to war.

To recap: the US claimed that Iraq had to be invaded because Saddam a) possessed weapons of mass destruction, b) intended to use those weapons against America or American interests, and c) had ties to al-Qaeda. Even before the invasion, all three of these claims were highly dubious at best, supported by only the flimsiest of evidence from highly suspect and self-interested sources.

I'll give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt and assume they really did believe these claims. Even so, it's clear that they were caught in a virulent groupthink that brooked no dissent and insulated itself from any evidence that might shake their faith.

The UN weapons inspectors did not believe that Saddam had significant amounts of WMD or related materials, and were only concerned that some miscellaneous bits and pieces had not been accounted for. Therefore, Iraq had already been "rendered harmless" pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 687.

As for Saddam's intentions, most policy analysts have long argued that he was effectively contained by America's offensive military capability. Any country that attacked America would be subject to devastating retaliation and Saddam knew this. He had made no offensive motions towards the US or anyone else since his inavasion of Kuwait.

Saddam's supposed ties to al-Qaeda have always been the weakest empirically – but the strongest emotionally - and even the Bush administration has admitted that it had no evidence for such ties – only a blind faith that Saddam must be up to no good and that America's enemies must be friends.

To these three overheated claims we can add the belief that America would be welcomed by rejoicing Iraqis. Again, the Bush administration allowed itself to be swayed by vastly inaccurate information from a tiny group of biased sources that stroked the administration's preconceptions in order to further its own dubious interests, as events have subsequently shown.

After a quick and successful invasion the US found itself stuck in a reality that was far more hostile than the Bush administration had allowed itself to believe. Even then, the government responded with incredulity, vicious attacks on critics, and a buried-head optimism born of blind faith that could not be shaken by mere facts. Like a lunatic driver accelerating toward a brick wall, the administration repeated "Stay the course" like a mantra.

If the Bush administration had listened to its critics and subjected its own claims to the kind of examination such a serious undertaking deserves, it is unlikely they would have continued to believe that war was necessary, advisable, or hopeful, given their stated objectives. To the extent that the Bush government failed to do this, they acted incompetently and betrayed the public trust.

Caruba responds to doubts about the administration's evidence with the
following: "Saddam's invasion of Kuwait? The dozen United Nations resolutions? The gassing of the Kurds? The eight-year war with Iran? The widely held belief, including members of the Clinton administration, that Saddam had or was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction?"

Let's put these events into context. In chronological order: the Reagan administration supported Iraq's war against Iran because it was a way of containing Iranian expansion. In fact, Donald Rumsfeld, as special envoy to Iraq, arranged for the US to provide Iraq with weapons, "dual use" equipment, and intelligence about Iranian troop movements so Iraq knew where to drop the chemical weapons. The US government was aware of Iraq's use of chemical weapons – weapons that Iraq could not have made without American help – and continued to support Iraq, even while Saddam was gassing the Kurds, innocent victims caught in the crossfire. Even Saddam's invasion of Kuwait appeared, at the time, to have American approval. As for the "widely held belief", a number of prominent experts have doubted that Iraq continued to possess militarily significant WMD materials since the late 1990s. An open examination of all available evidence would have turned up serious doubts about that bipartisan assumption.

Caruba goes on to charge that doubters and dissenters "[L]end aid and comfort to the enemies of this nation who would love nothing more than to see the US withdrawn from Iraq. It would be a defeat that would destroy this nation's reputation as a defender of liberty and it would doom the Middle East to the despotism that is the cause of the worldwide Islamic Jihad."

A lot of assumptions are buried in this passage, so I'll try to untangle them in turn.

First of all, the Iraq invasion itself has been a boon for the enemies of the US, who now have a ready justification for further atrocities as well as a recruitment propaganda device that puts Karl Rove to shame. If the US government had acted responsibly and chosen a course based on all the evidence - a course that almost the entire world advocated - it would have handled Iraq much differently.

Further, it is not at all clear that only America's enemies want to see the US leave Iraq. According to two recent, scientifically valid polls taken in Iraq, Iraqis regard the US military as "occupiers" not "liberators", and want the US to leave immediately. The first poll, taken before the Fallujah offensive, showed a plurality of Iraqis supporting immediate withdrawal. The second poll, taken more recently, showed a solid majority support immediate withdrawal. Similar polls in America show support for continued occupation declining steadily below 50 percent.

It will be interesting to see if America, which claims to support democracy in Iraq, will yield to the will of Iraqis and withdraw.

Caruba's claim that America's withdrawal would "destroy this nation's reputation as a defender of liberty" is laughable. That reputation is already long destroyed, since some 80 percent of the world's population continues to believe that America should never have invaded Iraq, and that it did so in order to serve American interests rather than "liberate" the Iraqi people.

Finaly, the claim that America's presence is somehow protecting the Middle East from despotism is patently absurd. America actively supports many of the worst despots in the region, including the unelected governments of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the former of which has supported al-Qaeda and the latter of which recently acquired weapons of mass destruction.

Al-Qaeda itself was formed from the Mujahideen, who had been organized, funded, and trained in the 1980s by the CIA and Pakistan's ISI to resist the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Once the USSR pulled out and the US established a permanent military presence in Saudi Arabia, the Mujahideen found a new target in what has been arguably the worst blowback in American history. Clearly, America supports democracy only where it is in America's interests to do so.

Caruba summarizes by charging that Bush's opponents are "perilously close" to treasonous for daring to question Bush's competence, challenge his unsupported assumptions, and doubt that the invasion of Iraq really has made America safer.

Of course, this refusal to tolerate dissent is what led America into its current mess in the first place. Now, more than ever, America must open the debate as wide as possible to try and correct mistakes already made. It is certainly not the time to further insulate the president from the kinds of challenges that might have prevented such a monumental screw-up in the first place.

Ryan McGreal

Alan Caruba responds:

I am somewhat surprised at the response my commentary has received. But I stick with my assertion that the statements made are not merely partisan, but seriously harm the war effort led by the President and Commander-in-Chief.
That said, the right to protest the war or anything else remains protected. Peoplewill have to make up their own minds whether my analysis is accurate or not.

web posted May 31, 2004

Re: Toronto Star Editor should resign now by Nicholas Stix (May 17, 2004)

As a University of Toronto student interested in international affairs and politics in general, I read his commentary with great interest.  He obviously feels very strongly that Donald Rumsfeld should not resign, nor should he be fired.  And Stix made his opinion known at least in the form of online commentaries, if not also in print versions.  I understand that he is a freelance writer, but I should hope that he does not consider himself a journalist.  Stix is nothing more than a bigot. 

Now before you go dismissing this as just another unfounded, critical commentary, I hope you will examine it.  A bigot is "One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ."  Stix is calling for the resignation or the dismissal of a journalist based on the opinion she shared in an editorial.  And yet he feels that sharing his opinion is perfectly fine.  He is the very definition of a bigot. 

Stix wrote that "Freedom of speech is a two-way street."  Does he not believe in free speech?  What makes him think that he alone is free to express his opinions on current issues?  Or perhaps not him alone, but only people who think like he does.  His commentary also appears to condone the killings of the Arab prisoners.  Stix may be of the opinion that killing prisoners in Abu Ghraib is appropriate, though such an opinion contradicts the Geneva Conventions.  He is entitled to his opinions, and is entitled to share them with the world, if he so chooses.  But to say that the "Toronto Star Editor Should Resign Now" based on an editorial that he disagrees with is bigoted and hypocritical.

Moreover, Stix seems to think that by writing an opinion piece in a newspaper, Ms. Shears, the Toronto Star editor he wrote of, is interfering in American affairs.  Apparently, it is only Americans who are allowed to freely express their opinions on American politics.  But consider his March 24, 2004 article: "Andalusia, aka the Nation formerly Known as Spain."  Perhaps he, too, ought to stop meddling in the affairs of other nations?  Perish the thought.  Stix might be unaware of this, but nearly everything that occurs in the United States has a profound effect on Canada, and vice versa.  He may not know that Canada-U.S. trade is valued at nearly 1.5 billion US dollars per day?  The globalization that has been taking place in recent years means that the activities of one country can have a significant impact on another country.  Stix feels free to say anything he wants about the countries who chose not to participate in the war on Iraq.  Their reasons for not participating might be domestic, yet he still "interferes" and call them "enemies" or "anti-American." 

So, should Stix stop writing about other nations?  Should his articles remain unpublished because of the opinions they contain?  Or is his article regarding the Toronto Star editor just nonsense?  Here in Canada, I have the right to free speech and, like Ms. Shears, I will not be chastised for my opinion.  And it is my opinion that his article was nothing more than bigoted, hypocritical, nonsense. 

I would appreciate it if, in the future, Stix would think a little bit before he writes.  But even if he doesn’t, I will still support his right to express his opinions.  I will stand up for his right to free speech.  And, regardless of whether or not our opinions differ, I will not demand his immediate resignation.

Best regards,

Joel Howe



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