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Reader feedback - 5.17.06

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GOODBYE?

Thanks very much. You gave me a true burst of laughter as I read the global-warming article. What I laughed at was the picture of the maple tree, captioned "Goodbye to all that? We could lose our maple trees, with their fall colors."

What? Do you know the range of the maple tree? http://www.massmaple.org/treeID.html

God help us if Rochester loses the maple tree due to global warming, because the rest of the country would be darn near uninhabitable by that time. The maple tree grows all the way down to Florida.

Don't you folks realize that excessive hyperbole hurts your causes? Don't your advertisers, at least, if not your readers, deserve a little fact checking in the articles they pay for?

Just last week I listened to Michael Crichton's "State of Fear," in which the environmental terrorist group Earth Liberation Front plays villain, exacerbating natural conditions to enhance natural disasters. The media play into their hands, because, heck they need something, anything, to report on, to get people to look, watch, listen, so the advertisers will feel their money is well spent.

It's a good thing your publication is free, or, like Howard Stern, you would find out how little people value your material.

Joe St. Martin, Penfield

From our caption, Mr. St. Martin mistakenly assumes that the article states that Rochester's climate in the future maples will become extinct due to intolerable conditions brought on by global climate change. The article makes the more subtle, distinct claim that maples "could be out-competed here."

Dr. David Wolfe, the Cornell plant ecologist with whom City spoke for the article, clarifies: "It's not that they wouldn't grow here." he says. Rather, "over time, their dominance might be edged out."


OUR SUCCESS IN IRAQ

Except for the boosterism by the perpetrators of the US actions, most public discussions about Iraq imply either outright failure or the lack of a plan for success. Although they have been disingenuous about their goals and justifications, I think the boosters are correct about their success.

Furthermore, the depth of their success has profound implications, because success encourages repetition, adding to the thousands of American soldiers' lives and billions of ill-spent dollars.

To judge success, of course, we must know goals, but the boosters' invasion goals remain opaque --- never as crisp as the tag lines about terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, or democracy for the Iraqi people. Americans need to discern and think about the US strategy, then decide if it represents the America they see for themselves and their children.

On the day of the invasion, I taught a sociology class to Egyptian and other students at Egypt's AmericanUniversity in Cairo. Issues of US power in the Middle East are always cogent to these students. Like many professors, I warm up students with current events, and so I asked how the US invasion would turn out. Most answered with a starkly honest but uninspired "Who knows?"

One of the best students, however, had it right, I think. She replied that while she could not be exact about the outcome concerning Middle Eastern democracy or other details, she was certain about the main outcome. Whatever the result, Iraq would be a weak state.

Not in her lifetime would she expect Iraq to militarily threaten other states in the region, develop nuclear power or missiles, export its Baathist ideology, or choose to sell oil in Euros rather than US dollars and thus influence the world's events in a way helpful to Iraq or other Arabs.

The overriding US goal, she thought, was to neutralize independent challenges to American power. This explains the invasion's planning and execution: break it but no need to fix it

A large invasion with detailed plans for reconstruction, perhaps involving European democracies, other states with Middle East knowledge and interests, or even the sovereignty-sapping UN, might have successfully established an independent Iraq. This perspective about the use of US power also accounts for the successful career paths of those involved. Strategic intellectuals like Paul Wolfowitz get promoted to the World Bank. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld (with the new preemptive strike concept, his title should be renamed) gets to plan the use of his successful technique again.

All those retired generals calling for Rumsfeld's removal apparently never understood their boss's objective. With the extra troops they wanted, American soldiers just might have sacrificed, in error, to fix Iraq and make it a viable place for democracy and independent action.

So we really need to think not about our failure in Iraq, but about our success. How should the US build on its success in Iraq? Or preferably, should the US build on its success? These I think are the real issues.

Ralph Sell, Eagle Island, New York (Former Rochesterian Ralph Sell is adjunct professor of sociology at AmericanUniversity in Cairo.)


CHOICE MATTERS

Regarding the recent abortion correspondence (The Mail, April 5, April 19):

Having a choice does not mean you have a magically convenient way of fixing circumstances. Choice does not make complex issues go away. It can, however, offer some degree of comfort to those involved.

I've never had an abortion, but I can empathize with anyone who faces a serious situation with no easy answers. I've been in a position where any decision meant challenge and heartache, but at least I could make choices, and just the ability to choose was of some help.

No one should question or inhibit someone else's personal decision that they feel is best for themselves and those involved. So you don't agree with someone else's life-changing decision? Well, it's not yours to make in the first place. Count your blessings!

Mary Jane Bowman, Old Bald Hill Road, Hemlock


COURAGE TO CHOOSE

We've all heard about voter apathy. The result of apathy is low voter turnout. But have you ever heard about voter courage? Supporting candidates who are the best for the office, though they may not be the most popular, characterizes voter courage. Voter courage is also seen when citizens have gotten beyond simply wanting to support the candidate who will probably win, according to the media.

Often voters settle for a mediocre candidate simply because that candidate has name recognition. Few voters have the courage to voice their support for lesser-known candidates. When voters lack the courage to speak about the candidate they support and when the media fails to mention all the candidates, the public is robbed of this knowledge.

As a Howard Dean supporter, I heard over and over that Dean wasn't electable and that John Kerry was. That characterization turned out to be wrong. So why do voters continue to listen to the media and allow themselves to be talked out of voting for the best candidate?

There is so much more to voting than simply knowing who are the Republican and Democratic candidates. Within those parties, there can be both great candidates and mediocre ones. When a voter is not aware of all the candidates or does not know pertinent information about each one, a sound decision cannot be made. Unless voters do their research and have the courage to support the candidate who best represents their point of view, they will always be disappointed with the results.

Thomas R. Janowski, Hazelhurst Drive, Gates


WRITING TO CITY

We welcome and encourage readers' letters for publication. Send them to: themail@rochester-citynews.com or The Mail, City Newspaper, 250 North Goodman Street, Rochester14607.

Our guidelines: We don't publish anonymous letters --- and we ask that you include your street name and city/town/village. We don't publish letters that have been sent to other media --- and we don't publish form letters generated by activist groups. While we don't restrict length, letters of under 350 words have a greater chance of being published. We do edit letters for clarity and brevity. And in general we don't publish letters (or longer "op-ed" pieces) from the same writer more often than about once every two months.

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