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Top 10 Letters

The Feres Doctrine, Allen Barra, "Return of the King," and more.

11:00 PM, Dec 29, 2003
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THE DAILY STANDARD welcomes letters to the editor. Letters will be edited for length and clarity and must include the writer's name, city, and state.

*1*

As an academically trained statistician, it truly makes me happy to see Allen Barra's bad statistics put in their place. (Jonathan V. Last, The "Overrated" Donovan McNabb) Last makes the excellent point that "leadership, temperament, and the ability to make big plays" are not factored into most, if not all, statistical assessments of players and teams. A Michael Jordan may throw up horrible statistics for three quarters but then score 20 in the fourth to win the game. That's what differentiates a great player from a really good one; scoring, playing excellent defense, or acting as a decoy to free up other players when it counts.

Statistically determining who's the best QB or the BCS champion is not an objective exercise, as some computer nerds would have you believe. They choose what statistics they feel are most important, and they weight them based on their own subjective criteria.

Otherwise, why play the games? We could just have Allen Barra tell us who the national champion is.

Much like the BCS.

--Stan Bentow

*2*

I want to thank Rachel DiCarlo for her article on Justin Haase (A Soldier's Death). I am Justin's mother.

It is a joke that policies were changed on Parris Island because of my son's death. Six weeks before my son died, another recruit died of strep throat. Where were the policy changes that should have surfaced because of his death thus, protecting my son? My son died a devastating death, alone, because no one followed policy and bothered to call us.

When there is accountability for what we do we tend to do our jobs to the best of our ability. What the public does not realize is that my son's doctor did nothing to save his life. Even the JAG report states this. She is still working at the hospital. Would you want her treating your child?

--Renee Thurlow

*3*

The Feres Doctrine stems from one of the most essential decisions the Supreme Court ever rendered. When the Federal Tort Claims Act was passed, Congress gave no thought to how it could affect military operations. The Supreme Court bailed the country out of this potential legal nightmare when it decided the Feres case shortly after the FTCA went into effect. Congress has had over 50 years to amend the FTCA, and has not done so in any way that changes Feres. If we want to have a useless, peacetime-only military, on the payroll but not fully subject to military command, we can pass legislation to overrule Feres and turn control of military decisions even more fully over to the federal courts.

You cannot convince me that the family of a military recruit who dies of meningitis should be compensated by the government more fully than the family of a soldier killed in Afghanistan.

--Fred Carroll

*4*

Twenty billion dollars of U.S. tax money was approved for rebuilding Iraq. (William Kristol and Robert Kagan, Contracts for Iraq: Reverse the Pentagon's Decision) Call it petty if you like, but I would rather have U.S. companies receiving this money than companies from European countries that refused to help rebuild Iraq after the war. The United States asked these countries to help. Now they have to live with their decisions.

--John Lange

*5*

If your house was on fire with your wife and kids inside and I was standing there with a fire hose but chose to let them burn, would you then give me the contract to rebuild your house? Payback may seem petty, but sometimes its the right thing to do.

--David D'Hollosy

*6*

As a Vermont resident who voted for Dr. Dean several times for governor, I am horrified at the prospect of him getting the Democratic nomination. (Hugh Hewitt, Forced Perspective) Our country deserves better. It is one thing to be governor (through succession when Governor Snelling died in office) of a tiny, mostly rural state, and quite another to be commander-in-chief. Dean's recent statement concerning the capture of Saddam and his desperate attempt to appeal to the lunatic fringe on the left, renders him clearly unfit to hold the office of president.

--Bob Nevins

*7*

Allen Barra is the worst kind of statistician. He uses stats as a drunk uses a street light--for support, not illumination. Barra starts out with his (often absurd) conclusion and then sets about to mustering some statistics to support that conclusion.

--Dean Barnett

*8*

The more critical question for Terry Eastland is not whether President Bush brings a religious foundation to his decision making, but why his opponents are so opposed to this religious foundation (God and Governing).

The First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ." was never intended to remove religion as a moral basis for government and politics. It was meant to prevent a state-sponsored religion from being mandated and to prevent the state from prejudice against the exercise of religion.

Atheism has grown into a religion just as much as any faith that believes in a higher, moral being. Aren't these opponents to mainstream religion now forcing the establishment of atheism as our country's state religion?

--Ed Irby

*9*

I disagree with Larry Miller's "report card" analogy (And It's Just That Easy). I agree Miller (and I) are undoubtedly better people than Saddam. But all of our "report cards" have F's and only F's. We all failed. Only Jesus has A's, and only He can "make the grade."

--Jason Spangler

*10*

I appreciate Jonathan V. Last's The End of the Ring, but I want to amplify his comments about the way Jackson tinkers with Tolkien's magnificent characters.

Faramir is not the only one who gets abused in "The Two Towers." Theoden is portrayed as craven, when in the book he courageously leads his small force into battle, retreating to Helm's Deep only after the army he is racing to reinforce at the Fords of Isen is defeated before he can reach them.

Jackson also butcher's Tolkien's "theology of despair." In the book, Theoden's mind was not "possessed" by Saruman, rather his will had been broken by Wormtongue's ill counsel and the death of his son, Theodred. Gandalf delivered Theoden not by "driving out" Saruman's controlling influence, but by calling Theoden to manfully face the tasks that were before him. There is not a hint of the movie's "deliverance ministry" scene in Tolkien's writings. Maybe Jackson is a lapsed Pentecostal.

Jackson's mangling of Faramir and Theoden is not only distressing, it is paradoxical. In "Fellowship," Jackson ennobles Gandalf by setting him against passing through Moria, which he takes as a last resort, and only then at Frodo's choice. So Jackson portrays Gandalf as knowingly going into great peril against his better judgement, and because of Frodo's decision. But in the book, it is Gandalf who from the first prefers to pass through Moria, while Aragorn opposes it for fear of its perils.

But the worst victim is Aragorn. In the books, he is deliberate, purposeful, and energetic in his pursuit both of the restoration of the united kingship of Gondor and Arnor and of Arwen's hand (and the two are intertwined, for in "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen" we learn that Elrond withheld his permission for Arwen to wed unless Aragorn should establish the dominion of Man in Middle Earth; he was unwilling to sacrifice her immortality for anything less). But Jackson's Aragorn is conflicted, anxious and unsure from his first appearance in the movie. Arwen is the suitor in the romantic drama and Gandalf is the suitor in the political drama. Aragorn is a passive waif (though skilled with weapons), swept along in interpersonal and international dramas that are seemingly too big for him. It is a bitter disappointment to those of us who love these stories.

Nonetheless, the movies are, as Last says, masterpieces. The one great shame is that now, it is unlikely that anyone will ever do this story right.

--Sam Conner