Put politics above name-calling
Re "Willow, weep for us," Opinion, Sept. 14
I have ambivalent support for Joe Queenan's decrying of the breakdown of cultural standards. I too lament the acceptability and even celebration of people attending a classical recital in a T-shirt and a baseball cap.
However, when Queenan cites nontraditional children's names as part of the phenomenon, he has shown an underbelly of xenophobia. One would infer that he'd feel better and safer with all children named Michael, David, Mary and Laura. Isn't his worry about Piper and Willow the same worry people used to have about names like Juan and Abdul?
I have concerns about Sarah Palin as a leader, but the creative names of her children is not one of them. Let's focus on what's important: character and abilities, not just appearances.
I thought Barack Obama himself stated that the candidates' families should be off-limits. Doesn't that include their names? And what is so difficult about going through life with a name such as Willow, which is a type of plant? There have been many similar names for girls: Heather, Lily, Rose, Violet and Iris, to name a few.
No. We all know the reason Queenan wrote this article with the catchy and disparaging title. It's because he is most certainly opposed to Palin's positions on abortion, the war and of course, religion. But he didn't have the gumption to be direct. So he went ad hominem, as liberals always do.
By the way, Palin's other kids' names -- Piper, Bristol, Track and Trig -- are about as unusual as the name Barack, wouldn't you agree? But let's not open up that can of worms.
Can't get enough of the campaigns
Re "Obsessed? Addicted? It's politics," Opinion, Sept. 13
I have never had a column so precisely directed at me as this one.
My two sons have attempted several interventions with me, accusing me of mainlining the cable news shows and most of the political websites. The only conversations they can have with me involve -- well, you know. I can't help myself! I'm afraid of Nov. 5, no matter the results, because then what?
In any event, since yours was the most relevant column I've read in a long, long time, you now have a new regular reader from Boulder.
It is not the case that we are either obsessed or addicted. It's rather that we are starved -- for real coverage of the election campaign. And we keep hoping that now -- now? perhaps this time? -- the media will pick up the ball and actually make a run for it.
But no such luck.
Stick with issues
Re "From moose whacker to McCain's meal ticket," Opinion, Sept. 17
I'm not clear what Tim Rutten is trying to tell us. Is he saying we should not vote for John McCain because he doesn't like Sarah Palin?
Let's get off the personal attacks and harass the candidates -- all the candidates -- about issues. You know, those pesky problems with the economy, Iraq, the economy, energy, the economy, housing, the economy, global warming, oh, and the economy.
Too loose with the moose
Re "Thoreau's moose," Opinion, Sept. 14
Thank you, Paul Theroux, for reminding us of yet another salient difference between Republicans and Democrats -- the love of hunting as sport. I wonder, has Palin read my favorite of all Dr. Seuss books, "Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose," to her children, or is this one that she would-if-she-could have removed from the Wasilla library shelves?
To think that the ability to "field-dress" a moose is evidence of ability to lead and worthy of cheers is mind-boggling.
As an Obama supporter, I deplore your prominent placement of a rather silly essay by the excellent writer Paul Theroux.
Theroux's premise -- that people who hunt are insensitive brutes -- will have McCain and Palin laughing all the way to the White House. My quarrel with this article is not the fact that most hunters who don't happen to be governors or Supreme Court judges actually eat their birds and deer, nor that the fate of domestic animals in the stockyards is any more pleasant.
My grievance is that the essay effectively surrenders the presidential contest to definition by the superficial cultural terms preferred by the Republicans.
Theroux refers to passages by Henry Thoreau chiding the hunter and expressing disgust at the slaughter of the moose. Thoreau writes that "every creature is better alive than dead."
I don't know about Thoreau or Theroux, but I prefer my steak medium rare, thank you very much. Unless Americans suddenly change their eating habits, many more animals will have to be better dead than alive. At least they'll taste better that way.
As for the moose, it most certainly roamed free in the wilderness before it was harvested, unlike the penned-up, hormone-injected cattle that are routinely slaughtered daily for human consumption. Responsible hunting is essential to wilderness management, in which game is harvested to prevent overpopulation, starvation and encourage eco-balance.
The mistakes leading to WWII
Re "The mixed lessons, and legacies, of Munich 1938," Opinion, Sept. 14
Ian Buruma raises the issue of the British giving in to Adolf Hitler's demands at Munich in 1938. But he then accepts the conventional wisdom that the British should have fought over the Sudetenland.
This is disappointing: England would have gone to war over 2 million Sudeten Germans who did not want to be part of the new nation of Czechoslovakia. There is no question that the Sudeten Germans would have voted to join Nazi Germany if given the chance.
The mistake of the British government was in failing to respond militarily to Hitler's invasion of the remnant of the Czech state in 1939.
For the first time, Hitler had invaded an area that was not of German nationality and had no desire to be part of the Third Reich. All of the previous annexations could be justified by the Allied principle of the self-determination of nations.
In March 1939, it became apparent that Hitler was a vulgar conqueror who would invade any part of Europe he desired without any fig leaf of national self-determination. Chamberlain and the French showed cowardice in March 1939 -- not in October 1938.
The writer is a professor of history at UC Riverside.
Haiti's pitiful disaster response
Re "Foreseeable devastation," Opinion, Sept. 13
Amy Wilentz rightfully does not differentiate between democracies and dictatorships when she writes of the helplessness of the Haitian people under both systems in the face of ravaging storms.
She is also correct that Haiti's economy is similar to Ronald Reagan's privatized fantasy. Voodoo economics existed in Haiti long before Reagan. The rich are content to throw a morsel to their servants every once in awhile and feel superior to the vast majority of the people -- who are the first to suffer from any calamity befalling the country.
Stillbirths were "Papa Doc" Duvalier's population control policy. With more than 5,000 dead in the last decade from hurricanes alone, perhaps the current government is using natural calamity to curb a population of 7 million in a country the size of Maryland.
Despite Haiti's lack of levees, there are similarities between New Orleans and Haiti, both former French colonies. The kid during Hurricane Katrina who stated on TV that the U.S. government's response to the disaster was pitiful could be any one of Haiti's kids over the last 200 years.
Re "In South L.A., a population shift," Sept. 14
In my 1982 book, "Cities, Suburbs and Blacks: A Study of Concerns, Distrust and Alienation" (with James E. Blackwell), we looked at Los Angeles and five other cities in relationship to changing demographics. Our focus in Los Angeles was on South L.A. and surrounding suburbs that were attracting black families.
The demographic shift you describe -- Latinos outnumbering blacks 2 to 1 -- was expected. As you rightly observe, poverty remains a constant. South L.A. remains a neglected neighborhood. Both Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency have declared it to be one of the city's top priorities, but plans lag in terms of significant development that can lead to job creation and wealth creation.
One key factor in moving such plans forward may come from the bottom up -- if Latinos and blacks can coalesce around strategies to rebuild South L.A. that find partners in the public and private sectors.
Philip S. Hart
Re "Soccer-match diplomacy," Opinion, Sept. 16
Denying the Armenian genocide for expediency helps neither Armenians nor Turks reconcile this trauma.
The right thing to do is to quit denying the Armenian genocide by delaying its recognition and move forward with truth and mutual understanding. The future, mortgaged or otherwise, is brighter when you don't have to lie about your past.
Who is poor?
Re "Remeasuring poverty," Opinion, Sept. 15
Rebecca M. Blank's article on refiguring the poverty rate in the U.S. is an excellent analysis of one reason why poverty is such a problem here: We can't rightly say who is poor.
The first time I heard about this issue was in an episode of "The West Wing." Hopefully, a real administration can manage to do what a fictional one had no problem implementing.