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Auden to Algorithms

Mr. Peters chides the National Commission on Terrorism for monitoring the activities of foreign students who might, as an example, switch their majors from English to nuclear physics ("Tilting at Windmills," July/August 2000). He is quite right to object to such frivolity. Anyone who has ever pondered the ways of students in American colleges and universities knows that, although there are plenty of English majors who once declared themselves to be science or mathematics majors, there are none who made the switch in reverse order.


Sin City

Your article "Sex in the Digital City" in the July/August 2000 issue, made my stomach turn a few knots. I don't find this sexual business alluring. AOL and the Internet need to clean up their act. Why? Because when my son goes on the chat lines to discuss everything from Harry Potter to Digimon, there is some pervert out there recording his email address. They send subject line messages that read: "Why are You Mad at Me?" and when I open up the email it's some kind of disgusting sex message aimed at minors. Sure the Super Information Highway is considered to be the Wild, Wild West, but this kind of nonsense created by the sex industry needs to stop!


"E" gads!

"Frances X. Clines"? With an "e"? ("Who's Who," July/August 2000) It was bad enough when Shelly Binn, the old [New York Times] night city editor, used to call us all Frankie (Clines, Lynn, Prial). But this is taking the gender thing too far.

Maybe I'll set up a Website for people who have been similarly dissed.


Interstate Money

I've read The Washington Monthly for over 20 years, love the magazine, and especially enjoy "Tilting at Windmills." I tend to agree with your critiques of American politics. This is the first time I've been moved to take serious issue with you. The subject was the influence of out-of-state money on politics ("Tilting at Windmills," July/August 2000).

While your logic on out-of-state money may be correct for state legislative campaigns, it does not hold for Congress. Members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives determine not only the specific provincial interests of their home state constituents but also the interests of the nation as a whole.

Citizens of West Virginia might technically be represented by Sens. Byrd and Rockefeller and Congressmen Mollohan, Wise, and Rahall, but their interests, like it or not, are also in the hands of 98 senators and 434 representatives they had no chance to vote for or against. The "right to contribute" is every West Virginian's only way to influence the composition of entire legislative bodies.

And what about disenfranchised citizens of the District of Columbia like me? Would you add our right to contribute to the list of rights of which we are deprived, or would you grant us dispensation to give to candidates in all 50 states?

I enjoyed "One Cheer For Soft Money" by Steven E. Schier. Finally someone who can distinguish between the good and the bad in political campaign finance. I think Mr. Schier is onto something important.


Not Quite St. Ronald

"Tilting at Windmills" (July/ August 2000), in appraising presidents, states that "Truman and Reagan are close to canonization." I buy Truman, but Reagan?

Although the growing disconnect between Americans and their government is thought to have its roots in the Vietnam fiasco, it is very clear that Reagan honed this mistrust in his "get the government off your back" philosophy.

So, do you really believe that Reagan, the primary architect of the people's cynicism and detachment from their government which includes their elected officials, is being "canonized" by a majority of Americans?

I think not. In reality you mean hard-core fringe conservatives plus the well-meaning but misguided Christian Coalition type folk, both groups, fortunately, a distinct--albeit politically powerful--noisy minority.

TALMON R. MAGER Seattle, Wash.

The editor replies: You're right--except I think the majority of Americans, including me, loved his speech in Normandy and his call to "tear down this wall" in Berlin.

And The Oscar Goes To ...

Nicholas Thompson ("Greenspan? Gipper? Gates?" June 2000) awards Alan Greenspan the prize for "best supporting actor" in "best director" Bill Clinton's box-office smash, "The Great Economic Boom." But before giving out any Oscars, Thompson should first have checked his old Econ 101 textbook, with its rule-of-thumb that a tighter fiscal policy should normally be offset by a looser monetary policy. But did Greenspan ease when the Clinton-Rubin team, without a single Republican vote, pushed through Congress the 1993 budget-balancing package? Hah! Greenspan and his colleagues on the Federal Open Market Committee doubled the level of the federal-funds rate, from three to six percent. (Thompson's language was misleading when he said that Greenspan "hiked rates by three percent.") The business recovery continued in the face of the tighter monetary policy, but the voters didn't think that recovery was rapid enough, and so gave the Gingrich Republicans the Congressional majority in November 1994 that they managed to maintain for the rest of the decade.

Did any of this make any difference in the life of the Republic? Well, if Greenspan had acted differently in 1994, George Mitchell and Tom Foley would probably still be running things on Capitol Hill. And in that case, Kenneth Starr would now be toiling anonymously in the groves of academe at Pepperdine, and a certain intern in a black beret would still be delivering pizza to the Oval Office without anyone even noticing her.

WILLIAM BURKE San Francisco, Calif.

The writer is a retired Federal Reserve economist.

Doubting Cockburn

In your June issue, Andrew Cockburn reports that on March 23, 1983, a Navy captain shouted, on hearing President Reagan's TV proposal to develop a missile system in space, "I'm rich, I'm rich, I'm rich" ("Missile Millionaires," June 2000).

What's the source of that quotation? Was Cockburn a member of the Fort Myer Officers' Club? An officer elsewhere? Or was he a guest? Was he there at all?

How could an active-duty officer get rich on the strength of the President's proposal? And if somehow the captain foresaw a way to get rich, wouldn't he also have enough good sense not to shout about it? And enough sense of decorum not to shout at all? Did Cockburn tape the "shouts"? Did he report them anywhere at that time? If not, why not? Did anyone else report them?


P.S. Chances are, you could have run Cockburn's anecdote under the heading "Utterances We Doubt Ever Got Uttered."

The author responds:

I have spent many happy hours as a guest at the Fort Myer Officers' Club. If Mr. Block ever made his way there, he would find it a place that harbors not only the worst of our military industrial complex, but also some of the best, most patriotic and insightful thinkers in the U.S. defense system. Mr. Block should try and get himself invited. He would have the chance to shed his smug and ignorant complacency and garner some of the education he evidently needs.

Franklin C. Spinney, then as now an analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Pierre M. Sprey, at that time a consultant to OSD (he is one of the very small group responsible for the creation of the two most successful warplanes in the U.S. inventory--the A-10 and the F-16) were witness to the unedifying spectacle of the Navy captain and his friend reacting to Reagan 5 star wars speech. I have confirmed with them that my account is accurate.
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Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Sep 1, 2000
Previous Article:NO SUCH THING AS A BAD DAY.
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