January 15, 2008

Erosia

LEO welcomes letters that are brief (250 words max) and thoughtful. Ad hominem attacks will be ignored, and we need your name and a daytime phone number. Send snail mail to EROSIA, 640 S. Fourth St., Louisville, Ky. 40202. Fax to 895-9779 or e-mail to leo@leoweekly.com. We may edit for length, grammar and clarity.Gibberish In its annual misfortune of re-processing a press release from the Project Censored political action group as actual news (LEO, Jan. 2), LEO included this item in a sidebar: “16. No hard evidence connecting Osama bin Laden to Sept. 11.”This is an outdated reference to an Internet rumor started in mid-2006 by the Muckraker Report that spoke to a PR officer (Rex Tomb) at the FBI and went nuts when he explained the reason why bin Laden’s wanted poster does not include reference to the 9/11 attacks.Simple answer: bin Laden has not been indicted in connection with those events. Hirohito was not indicted for Pearl Harbor, either. bin Laden is already indicted for other attacks on U.S. embassies: If he shows up in Cleveland, the FBI has plenty of cause to arrest him on the books already.The FBI/Justice Department PR code for a lack of formal indictment is that they have “found no hard evidence,” based on the assumption that the courts would rush to indict if they had. Posters latched onto these few syllables, and Internet boards went nuts with the powerful analytical message, “Just think about it.”Project Censored includes it in its annual press release, and then it appears in LEO. Please stop doing this. If LEO wants to assume the stance of political and social contrarianism, so be it, but at least exert the effort and discipline to vet this stuff. There’s a lot of thought-provoking material in this piece, and then there’s 9/11 conspiracy nonsense. The city needs an alternative source for news and perspective — not a hymnal for any random self-expanding gibberish that comes in through e-mail.Ken Hardin, LouisvilleUncensor YourselfAmanda Witherell’s Jan. 2 cover story invokes the mysterious specter of AFRICOM. Considering that she seems to be looking for answers to questions about the Command’s mission, and more broadly, reasons for U.S. military presence in Africa, I invite her to familiarize herself with the U.S. Institute for Peace (2004)’s “Special Report: Terrorism in the Horn of Africa” (www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr113.html); current activities involved with OEF-HOA (Operation Enduring Freedom — Horn of Africa/Djibouti); or perhaps the AFRICOM website itself, with specific emphasis on the FAQ page (www.africom.mil).While there should be no mystery with respect to U.S. interest in oil production worldwide, there’s also no mystery why mainstream media outlets ignore or de-emphasize current and ongoing U.S. military operations in Africa, Eastern Europe and the Pacific. They aren’t Iraq, and they aren’t Britney Spears.Ted Palmer, LouisvilleTo Smoke or Not To SmokeIn the Jan. 2 Erosia section in LEO, Cres Bride argued that Metro Louisville’s smoking ban amounted to unwarranted governmental paternalism: “When did it become government’s job to protect people from themselves?” Mr. Bride, though, confuses the issue. A major rationale behind the ban is not to prevent smokers from harming themselves, but rather to minimize the harm that smokers’ second-hand smoke in public places does to others who make it part of their “destiny” (Mr. Bride’s word) not to smoke. Other than dogmatic assertions to the contrary, I recall no compelling showing opponents of the ban could muster to the effect that the harms of second-hand smoke were minimal or non-existent, or that the (financial) harms done to business owners by a ban significantly outweighed the (bodily) harms prevented by it. Even if the ban’s opponents can demonstrate one or both of those claims, Mr. Bride’s raising the specter of paternalism misrepresents the issue.Also, consider this: An individual’s choice to smoke comes at a financial cost to non-smokers in the form of higher medical costs due to treatment of smoking-related illnesses and higher health-insurance premiums. Although I haven’t run the numbers, I strongly suspect that smokers as a class don’t entirely cover these costs themselves through cigarette taxes and the higher insurance premiums they pay relative to non-smokers. If that is the case, why should non-smokers effectively subsidize smokers’ costly preference to smoke? Why shouldn’t localities like Metro Louisville take measures to discourage smoking, or at least make smokers bear the full social costs of their habit? It’s arguable that a smoking ban isn’t the most obvious means to do either of those things. It’s also arguable that this rationale would legitimize a government interest in other personal choices that come with similar social costs (e.g. alcohol consumption). The larger point, though, is that the “stop telling us how to live our lives” rhetoric of Mr. Bride and other smoking ban opponents simply blocks the way to a debate over smoking policies that is truly worth having.Brian Cubbage, LouisvilleUngiftsSome items on Lucinda Marshall’s progressive shopping list are better left on the shelf (LEO, Dec. 19):“For Mayor Jer and the Metro …” — She bemoans the money spent on tasers, citing that the U.N. (that moral beacon) considers them instruments of torture. Citing the U.N. for moral clarity is akin to Sudan (winner of this year’s Genocide Award) being made the chair of a global Human Rights Commission. Oh, wait … they were, and it happened at the U.N. Furthermore, I would rather be tased than shot, wouldn’t you? But, you know, I’ve never been — because I’ve never tried to assault a police officer, resist arrest or engage in unruly or criminal behavior.“For the good people of Iraq and Afghanistan: An unconditional withdrawal.” — Even if one were against our going in (a respectable position), this would be a very irresponsible “gift.” It’s as if I were having open-heart surgery where the surgeon suddenly decided it was a bad idea, halted the procedure and left the O.R. without putting me back together. This isn’t a serious position. It’s either emoting out of Bush hatred or an entrenched pacifistic viewpoint held despite reality. We are there. We have to finish the job and win. Whatever mistakes were made in planning or execution then, we’re doing the Iraqis no favors by cutting and running now.“For our neighbors to the south … no more being referred to as ‘illegal’ when you work in the United States.” — What a nice sentiment. What a stupid idea. If they are illegal, they should be labeled and treated as such. I don’t blame them for coming. But, allowing illegal Mexicans free access (and free healthcare) without tracking or tax revenue is bad policy. Marshall’s gift would open up a convenient entry for terrorists, increase healthcare costs and keep immigrants from other continents who wish to enter the United States legally (as my parents did decades ago) from having any chance. I salute any Mexican who wishes to come to the United States — provided it’s done legally. I also wouldn’t be against a temporary work permit so each worker could be kept track of.Ray Rieck, LouisvilleKeep the Money!John Yarmuth so disappoints me. Giving his salary to charities is so retro — so pre-Republican Revolution. But should we expect otherwise from a Kennedy-loving liberal? The Reagan-Bush-McConnell era taught us that the role of government is not to solve social problems like poverty and healthcare. Government is a tool to create wealth for family and friends.Bush takes care of his family. Uncle Tom, Daddy and brothers invested in war-related businesses. Neil (of Silverado fame) and Momma used Katrina to get a tax deduction and boost their Ignite software sales. Bush’s first two FEMA directors are making it big in the disaster-relief industry.By starting a war and occupying Iraq, Cheney boosted Halliburton stock over 600 percent. No-bid contracts took Blackwater from nothing to a multi-billion-dollar company. Is this a great country or what?I could go on listing profiteers in media, health and, let’s not forget, oil. The point is, what really matters in life are family and friends. Helping them is our only priority. If others struggle, it isn’t your fault. Yarmuth, on the other hand, made his money before entering government. He doesn’t need more, so he is giving back to the community. You can never have too much money. Yarmuth is just too lazy to work at leaping over those higher on the economic ladder. Are these the values we want to pass on to our children?Yarmuth’s excuse is he made this promise during the 2006 campaign. Bush promised “no nation building” and to be compassionate. Get with the program, John. Campaign promises are made with your fingers crossed. What if Americans started believing politicians? Is that the kind of country we want? I don’t think so.Sam Sloss, Louisville