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*

Christopher Caldwell's pining for the American Spectator says a lot about his journalistic judgement (TAPs for a Magazine). He says that many people hoped the American Prospect could be "the left-wing equivalent of what the right-wing American Spectator was 10 years ago: well-informed but not preachy, thoughtful but full of stuff you might . . . em . . . actually want to read."

Let's see--is that the "well-informed" Spectator that employed no fact checkers? Or is it the "thoughtful" Spectator that became infamous for character assassination (Anita Hill) and checkbook journalism (Troopergate)? No doubt it's the same "not preachy" Spectator that so enthralled the Limbaugh Dittoheads, known for their gentle ideological assertions and tolerance of opposing views.

As for my publication, TomPaine.com, Caldwell sneers at the ads we run in the New York Times. He says our recent ad (that replaced Uncle Sam in the famous 1917 recruiting poster with Osama bin Laden over the headline "I Want YOU To Invade Iraq") "threatens Americans--in the name of al Qaeda--with dire consequences" if we invade Iraq. His assertion is a Spectator-ish distortion.

Caldwell obviously didn't bother reading the compendium of articles supporting the ad (Reasons Why We Shouldn't). If he had, he would have found a credible basis for our assertion that a go-it-alone invasion of Iraq could play right into Osama's hands--causing Saddam to use his weapons before losing them; drawing Israel into the fight; destabilizing the region (including nuke-u-lar Pakistan); and dividing the international community. The sources for those points include notorious liberals like General Norman Schwarzkopf, General Brent Scowcroft, the Cato Instutitue's Ted Carpenter, and a columnist for Pat Robertson's UPI wire service.

Caldwell, like other apologists for the Bush administration's rush to war, doesn't want to hear such arguments, and his willingness to distort and dismiss them demonstrates how much he has in common with the hacks at the Spectator--never let the facts or credible opinion get in the way of a good ideological bluster.

--John Moyers, Editor, TomPaine.com


Christopher Caldwell replies: I stick to my belief that the American Spectator was full of stuff that people wanted to read. Call me a literary snob, but I'll stand P.J. O'Rourke, Tom Wolfe, and Andrew Ferguson up against John Moyers's list of "Brent Scowcroft, the Cato Institute's Ted Carpenter, and a columnist for Pat Robertson's UPI wire service" any day. Moyers's assessment that the articles he has run on Iraq have been "credible" will not be widely shared outside of Baghdad.

I used to work at the American Spectator. Editors checked facts there. The magazine had no full-time fact checkers not because it was indifferent to the truth but because it couldn't afford them. It had no individual patron willing to shower millions on it, the way Mr. (Bill) Moyers's Schumann Foundation has showered money on the American Prospect and on Mr. (John) Moyers's website.

When, eventually, the American Spectator gained such a benefactor in the form of the Scaife Foundation, fact checkers soon followed. So did journalistic excesses. Allow me to note that I have a considerably longer record than Moyers of criticizing these excesses in print. Allow me to note, too, that once the American Spectator found itself in the same position that the American Prospect and TomPaine.com do today, it went swiftly down the toilet.


*2*

I'm glad Lee Bockhorn is starting to come around to the MP3 revolution (so to speak), but I don't understand why he is so fearful of IP laws (MP3 and Me).

I think he's confusing morality and legality. Remember, the reason we have laws protecting intellectual property is not because lawmakers genuinely feel for the plight of the common musician. We have these laws because the music industry spends billions of dollars for lobbyists to champion the "copyrighted cause."

In fact, free file sharing may be a blessing in disguise. Perhaps it will serve to crack the back of the music industry and bring them a little more in line with reality. Now that we can obtain any piece of music for free, artists will focus more on making money via touring and TV performances. Sure, the big names won't make as much, but I doubt that will bother most Americans. As for the industry giants, with less money and power, they will no longer be able to exploit musicians and fix prices.

If anything, file sharing is helping the "free market" regulate the music industry.

--Mike Goldman


*3*

Yes, Lee Bockhorn is naive. Check out the statistics sometime, they're fairly straightforward: the artists and tracks being "shared" the most are the same artists and tracks which are topping the charts. People aren't looking for new or different music.

It's not Britney Spears or the big record companies who suffer from file sharing--it's smaller artists, artists who need the sales to make a living. If Eminem sells one million fewer album this time around--well, one out of ten million CDs sold isn't such a big drain on his wallet, or his label's. But Bockhorn fails to consider that once an artist reaches that kind of "superstar" status--the money brought in from those sales doesn't just go to fattening up record exec's back pockets. These are smart businessmen--they look towards the future. A rather large portion of that money is used to promote new artists--groups like Coldplay and others--ones who wouldn't take off without the added oomph of label promotion.

Also, it doesn't take much to promote "The Next Britney"--a cute high school girl with a flat stomach, one of those half-shirts and low rider jeans sells itself. But where do you think the money comes from for the marketing of, say, a new Ellington archive work that's reissued? Not from the sales of the old Ellington archives. Eminem and Britney keep their respective label's classical divisions in business.

--Seth Gordon


*4*

It's about time conservatives rejected the spurious arguments of the record companies. To the extent Lee Bockhorn did so, he should be congratulated. The RIAA is simply clinging to an obsolete business model. It's a shame the government (and all too many conservatives) have bought into it.

The problem is our antiquated copyright laws. The RIAA can call file-sharing "stealing" and, based on the laws of the vinyl music age, they have a point. But it's past time for a complete overhaul of our collective understanding of "intellectual property." It's coming though, with only the barons of the preceding media age standing in the way.

The unknown musicians of the world, the future stars, are already giving away their music for free online because they see no need for record companies.

--Steve Dunn


*5*

As an Orange County resident, I take issue with David Brooks's Birkenstock Man vs. The Sprawl People. "Chris?" Who in Orange County names their son Chris? They all have last names for first names. Taylor, Burke, Carson, McKenzie, Campbell, Palmer, etc. I have forgotten if the current USC quarterback is Carson Palmer or Palmer Carson. Plus, no self respecting OC rich kid would be doing his homework in the "truck." Please. It would be an Escalade with 24's.

--Don Slaughter


*6*

Lee Bockhorn's article is laudable in that it finally comes down, more or less, on the side of what's legal and moral, but it shouldn't be so hard to get there. Ever since the 1970s when people started copying LPs onto cassettes and giving them away willy-nilly, and especially since the 1980s when people started copying commercial software disks, I've wretched listening to people try to rationalize their behavior. Why is it so hard to just say "I know it's illegal and wrong, but I'm not going to be punished for it so I'm doing it anyway."

People who are generally law-abiding just can't bring themselves to say such a thing. They have to go through intellectual and philosophical contortions to convince themselves that they aren't doing anything wrong by having copies of music or software that they haven't paid for. I freely admit that I have done such things, but I just admit to myself that people (I) will do things which are wrong if they know that there is no possibility of punishment and if the people they are cheating are not physically present. That's a temptation which is just too irresistible. Can't we just admit this simple fact and get over it?

--Rick Lee


*7*

After reading about the reparations rants in Jonathan V. Last's Left Behind, I think you witty guys at Weekly Standard should do a piece on slavery reparations. Since slavery is at least the second oldest institution on earth, this could cover a lot of ground. How about the Greeks, Brits, Gauls, et al suing the Italians for the depredations of the Roman Empire? Perhaps the British, Dutch, Spanish, and French should be sued by descendants of the slaves of the West Indies and most of South America. How about the countless Indians of Mexico and Central America whose ancestors were enslaved by the Aztec and Inca empires?

If one wanted to get the heart of the reparations argument in the United States today, why not file suit against the Arabs and the Portuguese, who got the whole New World African slave business started in the first place? Nearly every society on earth has had some experience either owning or being slaves (or both). So why pick on America, the nation that, through a bloody war (fought almost exclusively by white men) ended the institution of slavery once and for all? (Except in Africa, where, of course it all started and is still practiced).

--Charlie Whitaker


*8*

Paul Thomas Anderson is the greatest director of his generation (Jonathan V. Last, Sandler in "Love")? Sam Mendes, Todd Solondz, David Fincher et al may also happily dispute that claim, though I don't doubt that he is very talented. If Sandler was good, what about Emily Watson? Now that's what I call acting in the grand tradition--"Breaking the Waves," "Gosford Park," "Red Dragon," "Uncle Vanya" at the Donmar, "The Tempest" at the Royal Shakespeare Company. She's in the long line of great British Female thespians like Emma Thompson, Judi Dench, and Glenda Jackson; their subject matters are not easy, and they're not imposingly beautiful--just classy.

--Jonathan Mark


*9*

Jonathan V. Last adequately sums up the irrationality of the Left. There can be only one reason why the absurdity of the statements at that conference could exist: the Left no longer considers philosophy a virtue. To the Left, truth, reason and knowledge are "coercive."

I teach philosophy at a liberal arts college in Chicago. Naturally, I urge my students to use their full capacities to reason, while providing the freedom they require to know the truth. I ask they do not automatically accept what I have to say, but that they use their abilities to reason to find the truth.

There is an overwhelmingly Leftist movement at the college, and I am learning that my approach breaks down with these students because the Left completely rejects the use of reason and notions of truth, and disregards philosophy as a virtue.

--Dayne Cannova


*10*

As New Jersey's Poet Laureate, Amiri Baraka's words may cause some to think he reflects the views of all who reside here (Victorino Matus, Bad Attitude Baraka). The U.S. Poet Laureate, appointed by the Library of Congress, seeks "to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry" I expect nothing less of New Jersey's Poet Laureate. Among the burdens of public position comes an obligation to consider the ramifications of one's efforts. I have long respected Baraka's talent, yet I would admire him more if he chose to step down in order to express his personal beliefs rather than to use a position that should inspire, not diminish the human condition.

--Michele Campbell

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