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HERE’S HOW TO BUILD A MAJORITY
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is the designated “Bush fighter”? Hmm, all this time I thought he was the Illinois senator. The oath of office has clauses including being the designated “Bush fighter”? Interesting — I thought being elected a U.S. senator from Illinois meant representing Illinois citizens. What a concept — an elected official actually voting on the merit of proposed legislation, regardless who submitted it.
According to the Illinois Times “Bush fighter” article [John Nichols, Feb 3], our senator is focused on defeating everything and anything that isn’t a Democrat-sponsored bill or receives a blessing from the Democratic Party.
In the article Durbin is quoted as saying, “We have to stand up, look at our own agenda, our own language and figure out how we build this back into a majority party.” It’s not that hard to do, Senator.
For example, Social Security is the hot topic. Why would a party not try to make Social Security better? Why keep a Social Security [program] that pays a meager monthly amount for a meager existence? Why can’t the average Jacks and Jills have a retirement plan like the ones our elected officials have? Elected officials are retiring with lots of money — millions in some cases — as benefits. Pass legislation that transforms Social Security into something that retirees can live comfortably on for years. The party that made that happen would be the majority party for years to come.
Oh, by the way, I’m not holding my breath! Apparently it’s must be more important to be in opposition than actually passing legislation for the common good!
FAR LESS THAN ENTHUSIASTIC
I was dismayed to see that your review of C.A. Tripp’s The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln states that the book contains “an astonishing introduction by Jean Baker and mostly praiseworthy afterthoughts by Michael Burlingame and Michael B. Chesson, not to mention fawning blurbs from Gore Vidal and Thomas Schwartz, among others” [Charles B. Strozier, “Gay Abe?” Feb. 10].
My afterword is very different from that by Prof. Chesson, who provided “an enthusiastic endorsement” of Dr. Tripp’s thesis that Lincoln was “predominantly homosexual.” I, on the other hand, say (p. 238): “Since it is virtually impossible to prove a negative, Dr. Tripp’s thesis cannot be rejected outright. But given the paucity of hard evidence adduced by him, and given the abundance of contrary evidence indicating that Lincoln was romantically and sexually drawn to some women, a reasonable conclusion, it seems to me, would be that it is possible but highly unlikely that Lincoln was ‘predominantly homosexual.’ ”
Earlier in my afterword, I discuss Lincoln’s relations with Ann Rutledge, Mary Owens, Sarah Rickard, Matilda Edwards, and Mary Todd.
Sadowski Professor of History Emeritus
New London, Conn.
IT’S HIGH TIME FOR LEGAL POT
Richard J. Rawlings was right on point in his provocative examples of how marijuana-prohibition laws are not only irrational, but they also impede police from work that would far better serve the public interest in health and safety for all [“Letters,” Jan. 6].
The good news is that a growing number of police, judges, and others formerly involved in prosecuting the so-called war on drugs are now calling for an end to criminal prohibitions against marijuana use and distribution. They have organized as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
LEAP believes that in-demand drugs, most notably marijuana, are best distributed in a legal, regulated market. LEAP knows that illegal dealers are the ones who actively market pot and other drugs to minors. Illegal dealers conduct violence in our neighborhoods. Most important criminal dealers require millions of valuable police man-hours be wasted in a futile attempt to control illegal-marijuana flow.
Legalizing marijuana will not solve all the problems related to its use, but we did not end alcohol prohibition in 1933 because alcohol use was without risk. We did it because of the urgent need to put Al Capone and other criminal dealers out of business and move the product into a market that could be easily monitored by authorities. We were then more able to help those who have problems with alcohol while respecting the privacy of those who use the drug responsibly.
It’s time for an equally sensible change in policy for the 21st century. It’s time to legalize marijuana for responsible adult use.
MARRIAGE UNDER ATTACK — BY STRAIGHTS
Reading Dianne Gustafson’s letter to the editor [Feb. 3] caused my eyes to bulge and my fists to clench. I am rather confused by the fact that Mrs. Gustafson finds laws that prevent discrimination not as something to strive for but as something to fight against. She claims that “protecting homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender confusion is an invitation to folly!” Her rationale: If gays get equal rights they’ll be allowed to get married. I doubt that Mrs. Gustafson would be arguing against equal rights if the topic wasn’t about homosexuality.
When people start talking about “protecting marriage” from homosexuality, I always wonder how they think gays are going to damage marriage in any ways that the rest of us haven’t already. Nobody needs a reminder of how high divorce rates are among the “correctly oriented” members of society. Heck, marriage is hardly sacred among the heterosexuals — if it were “sacred,” there wouldn’t be divorces!
Is Mrs. Gustafson afraid that if gays are given equal rights she will suddenly change her sexual orientation and become a sinner? If I may ask a question of those who oppose gay marriage, why on earth do you care what a couple of people do in their private lives?
IT’S RIGHT THERE, IN BLACK AND WHITE
I have followed the public discourse since Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed legislation adding sexual orientation to the Illinois Human Rights Act with a mixture of anger, bemusement, and sorrow at the appalling legal ignorance of the opponents. The Act’s exemptions include “. . . (2) ‘Employer’ does not include any religious corporation, association, educational institution, society, or nonprofit nursing institution conducted by and for those who rely upon treatment by prayer through spiritual means in accordance with the tenets of a recognized church or religious denomination with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, society or nonprofit nursing institution of its activities” (775 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/2-101).
Therefore, positions related to “preaching” are exempt from the Illinois Human Rights Act. Let’s think about this logically (as opposed to reacting emotionally): If religious institutions were not exempt, would there not have been a lawsuit against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints? Before 1978, males of African ancestry were barred from the Mormon priesthood — were there any successful lawsuits anywhere over this racially exclusionary policy that resulted in the admittance into the priesthood of males of African ancestry? Didn’t think so.
WHO IS DRIVING U.S. POLICY?
The 9/11 Commission report has confirmed that the reason for the attack on the World Trade Center was the “violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.” In the same vein, Richard Clarke has stated in his book that one of the reasons for the Iraq invasion was to protect Israel.
Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, an acolyte of Ariel Sharon, started planning for the Iraq invasion long before 9/11. [Editor’s note: Feith submitted his resignation last month.] Feith and Sharon, not the CIA, are believed to be the source of much of the false intelligence about Iraq. The United States, for the first time, has become involved in Israel’s endless fundamentalist religious war with the Muslims.
The European Union, on the other hand, has gone on record supporting the United Nations resolution, which passed 150-3, condemning the illegal land grab [facilitated] by Sharon’s “apartheid” wall. The Europeans are within range of Israeli submarine-based nuclear missiles, as is their oil supply in the Persian Gulf. They view the militaristic regime in Israel as extremist and their No. 1 threat.
Osama bin Laden, with the unwitting aid of the neoconservatives, has finessed the United States into a costly crusade on the side of the Sharon government that has awakened a complacent Muslim world’s animus against the United States.
Kenneth E. Baughman