Big Brother

Posted: Nov 06, 2002 12:00 AM
A dismal 17 percent of eligible U.S. voters cast ballots in the most recent primaries. But that's not to say something should be done about the low turnout. "Voting turnout in the U.S. is low only when compared to European nations, many of which have compulsory voting or other methods to force people to the polls," argues John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government. He says the vague belief there's a disconnect between non-voters and the government "has led policy-makers to ease registration requirements and this has played havoc with the registration rolls, leading to wasted money, needless political conflict and potential voter fraud." "Americans have the right to vote," he says. "They also have the right not to vote. 'Experts' should stop their paternalistic lecturing of citizens." GO FIGURE "How have we lived so long?" Cricket Stewart, who hails from Sumter, S.C., writes to her favorite columnist who celebrated yet another birthday last week (please, no belated gifts). She sends a birthday reflection, worth passing along to those of us who grew up in a far different country than children find themselves in today. The author is unknown: "Looking back, it's hard to believe that we have lived as long as we have. Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint, with slats of wood several inches apart. We had no child-proof latches on medicine bottles or cabinets. We learned what the word 'no' meant. "When we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. We drank water from garden hoses, not expensive bottles. If a classmate or loved one passed away, we didn't have counselors or psychologists rushing in to aid us. We learned that death is imminent and part of life, and we coped with it. "We would leave home in the morning and play all day; nobody was able to reach us. We played dodgeball and sometimes the ball would really hurt. We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank soda, but we were never overweight. "Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team; those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment, also part of life. Some students failed and repeated a grade, not diagnosed as having a learning disability and prescribed drugs. Those generations produced some of the best risk takers and problem solvers the world has ever known. How have we lived so long?" INVADING 'IH-ROCK' The Council on American Islamic Relations has been stuck in high gear since Sept. 11, its aim to dispel beliefs that might exist among Americans that all Muslims are terrorists - or, now, snipers. In addition, the council, like most Americans, is hoping for a quick and peaceful settlement to the Iraq crisis. For as the Muslims argue, if you can't pronounce Iraq, you shouldn't invade it. As war drums grow louder, the council is distributing a diatribe written by G. Jefferson Price III, editor of the Perspective section of the Baltimore Sun, warning that ignorance of such pronunciations could lead the United States into another Vietnam or Lebanon. "If the United States actually is going to invade Iraq and occupy it for a while, at least people in charge of this idea might start pronouncing it correctly," says Price. "It's not 'eye-rack,' as the leaders of the Washington cabal advocating invasion and occupation tend to pronounce it. It's 'ih-rock.' The editor says failure to pronounce properly the names of places where the United States has sent troops and tried to take charge is symptomatic of historical failures going back at least as far as Vietnam. "In Vietnam, the pronunciations always seemed to have a sort of U.S. Southern twang to them. This may have been because President Johnson was a Texan," Price suggests. "Vietnamese places sounded like music scores, body parts or automobile parts: 'Kan-toe,' 'My Toe,' and 'Cam-ran.'" And the 1980s were no better, he adds, when the twang was inflicted on Lebanon by U.S. military advisers, many veterans of Vietnam. "So, Choueifat, a suburb of Beirut overlooking the airport where the main Marine contingent was stationed, was called something like 'chewy fat.'" SHIP'S GREETINGS "No way," said Chief Petty Officer Ray Mooney, when told about the image circulating on the Internet. "That's impossible." The photo, shot from high above the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, shows the ship's crew standing on deck in neat formation, wearing white uniforms. Their formation spells out a two-word sentence, the first word of which is an obscenity and the second word is "Iraq." Chief Mooney, who works in public affairs for Naval Air Forces Pacific Fleet, says no commander would allow vulgarity in a "flight-deck spell-out," as such events are called. "The image on the Internet is a hoax," said Cmdr. Jack Papp, Chief Mooney's boss. "It's a doctored version of a legitimate flight-deck spell-out." The real photo was taken shortly after the Lincoln arrived in the Persian Gulf theater, where the ship and its crew are "on the tip of the spear," Cmdr. Papp said. And the real message the Lincoln's crew spelled out on the flight deck is: "READY NOW."