THE BIRCH IS BACK

EDITOR: Today I noticed, to my great delight, that A. Birch Steen's excellent column [Public Editor] has returned to your pages. THANK YOU for bringing back your most erudite and entertaining contributor. I look forward to a protracted, acerbic, and utterly hilarious tour of duty.

Erik Huber

BARNETT VS. OBAMA

TO THE EDITOR: I was troubled by some inaccuracies in Erica C. Barnett's article, "Why I'm Glad Hillary's Still in It" [Jan 10].

Her gripe regarding Donnie McClurkin's appearance at an Obama's event—as if to suggest that Obama himself must therefore hate gays—is unfair and unnecessary. During a town-hall meeting with students in October of 2007, Obama's answer to a question about McClurkin's comments and his position on homosexuality was anything but a "convoluted response." It's on YouTube, Erica; go watch it.

Additionally, her characterization of Obama's position on alternative energy— "doubling or tripling (!!!) of corn production for ethanol..."—is, in fact, entirely misquoted. What he states in his Energy Fact Sheet is: "Even if [emphasis added] we are able to double—or even triple—production of ethanol from corn, this will still offset only about 10 percent of our gasoline demand. There are also real concerns about bringing set-aside lands into corn production as well as concerns about an increase in the use of pesticides, water use, and upward pressure on the cost of food for people and livestock alike."

Sorry, but that's just bad journalism. More to the point, what she has managed to do is muddy the waters with this falsity. We don't need any more spin out there than there is already, Erica. Obama's website is positively overflowing with information and documentation describing his proposed solutions, and all of it is available as handy downloadable PDFs. There is no excuse for publishing misinformation.

Like many Americans, I'm also troubled by some elements of Obama's candidacy (he has no plan for universal health coverage, for one) but if you look closely enough at any of the candidates, you're going to find things you don't like (and then some). Obama's plan is far from perfect, but I'd rather vote for the rookie who helps his team and his sport than for the veteran who is only in it for one last ring before she retires.

Emlyn Addison

THE REAL SOCIAL SECURITY CRISIS

TO ERICA: In your article you write, "[Obama's] bought into the false idea that Social Security is in a 'crisis,' going so far as to use that word. Social Security is not in a crisis."

Social Security IS in a crisis. Workers pay more into the SS than is paid out, but the government uses that surplus for other projects and paying off debt. That is the crisis!

Keep up the great articles!

Ryan

LINDY WEST'S

EXECRABLE COMMENTS

TO LINDY WEST: Comparing France to the United States you write, "at least America knows how to craft decent entertainment (also our sidewalks are not covered in feces)" ["I Hate Le French TV," Jan 10].

You are delusional. I realize that you are just trolling for a response, but a country that can produce Everybody Loves Raymond, Survivor, CNN, etc., does not have a firm grasp on the concept of "decent entertainment." Sorry. But it is opinions like yours that make your country a laughingstock worldwide.

The shit I will grant you. Dogs are filthy creatures.

Alex

Paris, France

LINDY WEST'S NEXT EUROPEAN VACATION

DEAR LINDY: I thoroughly enjoyed your critique of French culture. I read it three times. They deserve it.

I recently took a trip around the world and received a (playful) battering for my Americanness. Poo poo on me. The most popular subjects, per usual, were straight from the Frenchy's T-shirt, but I had an arsenal of "back-atchas!" for the non-American smartasses of the world. There are plenty of them.

One suggestion: Go north! Germans and Nordics love us, but especially Germans. Imagine you're French, and in school you learn that your country invented democracy, gave birth to the best philosophers, and developed this special kind of breakfast toast. You're ready to die for France by the second grade. Now imagine you're German, and there are analogous lessons, of course, but then you learn that your grandparents went ahead and did the worst thing ever. Period. Bar none. Everyone's STILL talking about it.

Goodbye sanctimony! They don't like Iraq, sure, but Germans enjoy practicing English, appreciate our outgoing and optimistic attitude (not to be confused with "smiliness"), and are avid and apolitical consumers of our movies, music, and tabloid trivia.

Conor Dillon

FIGHT CLUB

HELLO: Your January 6 entry in Last Days [David Schmader, Jan 10] put me in mind of the people who are mauled while trying to get pictures next to grizzly bears because the signs (500 pounds, steak-knife-size claws, eats meat) are too subtle for them.

Generally speaking, if "an angry man" indicates he is going to hurt you (i.e., declares you are part of a group he "fucks up") and he will be waiting outside to do so: There might just be a chance that he is going to (duh!). A quick primer for the clueless: When presented with this situation, there are three general courses of action.

1. Appeal to higher authority (call the cops). Not my favorite, but in that "angry man," just by threatening, was guilty of a few different crimes (RCW 9A.46.020 and RCW 9A.36.080 come to mind) this somewhat feeble choice has the advantage of earning good-citizen points.

2. Flight. Either stay in the store till the bad man goes away or run like hell. (Yelling "We're not gay but you are!" is optional.) Hint: Don't buy groceries, they will slow you down.

3. Fight. My favorite. Assuming you are unarmed, one person should purchase and carry a bottle of cheap but drinkable white wine in a paper sack. When you are attacked: Strike the attacker on the side of the head with the bottle. Repeat as needed. Most wine bottles will not break under such use, though the wine should be consumed as soon as possible before the agitation has time to ruin it. I don't suggest beer bottles (even of larger size), as they break. Or red wine, if the bottle breaks it stains.

B. Ham