Taking On the Hacks

Letters To The Editor
Letters To The Editor

I’ve been posting letters to the editor (LTEs) fairly regularly these past months. Most of the letters end up being published here on my family blog along with background commentary. What I don’t usually publish here, or even comment on, are e-mails I’ve been sending directly to the columnists. Normally, the columnists ignore my e-mails. On two occasions they’ve graced me with nasty replies, which I get the last word in on.

But for the first time ever, several weeks ago a writer actually published my e-mail to him as basis for an extremely mean-spirited and insulting column. The end result was getting my first-ever column published under my byline.

Back on January 4, my most favorite-not columnist Ken Concannon wrote a column titled “The China question” on the right-wing conspiracy nonsense referred to as “Chinagate.” Citing Newsmax.com as his authoritative reference ticked me off even worse than seeing his Clinton-bashing fantasy printed without a pushback. I e-mailed him with:

Ken,

The first give-away that today’s column lacked any serious value was citing Newsmax as your source of information. From there, it was all downhill.

Considering that Sen. Clinton got a drubbing last night, and is now on track to not get the Democratic Nomination, Inquiring Minds Want to Know: What are you going to do for entertainment once the Clintons are no longer available to kick around?

I also wrote an LTE, but didn’t really expect it to be published and will not print it here. It wasn’t my best writing, but I was truely ticked at the way a loud-mouthed, ignorant, sloppy-writing hack like Concannon could keep a regular column writing such garbage without even any pushback.

I didn’t expect him to reply, but I also didn’t expect what did result. In his next column of Jan 11, “The sources of controversy“, he published my e-mail (without my name). He expended 600+ words mocking me as a “Liberon (Liberal Moron),” explaining just how much effort he put into research, and bashing “Liberals” in general.

I was truely pissed. I believe that the answer to speech is more speech, so I e-mailed the editor, Alex. I explained I was the “Liberon,” in Concannon’s column and requested equal space for a rebuttal. The editor graciously agreed and allowed me 750 – 800 words. My deadline was Thursday morning, for an agreed upon publication date of Friday January 18 in Concannon’s normal slot.

I spent all weekend writing, poked at it Monday and again Tuesday, then e-mailed it off Wendesday morning well before deadline. Alex gave me a graciuos acknowledgement, with even a thank you.

My first-ever column with my byline was published Friday morning, January 18 as promised, titled “Liberon speaks out“. I’ve reprinted all 787 words of glorious slam here:

This is a response to Mr. Ken Concannon’s January 4 column “The China Question” and January 11 column “The Sources of Controversy.” The editors of this newspaper have graciously given me the equal space I requested.

I am the person mocked as a “Liberon” in Mr. Concannon’s January 11 column. I am a Liberal, Navy Veteran, college educated professional, and not embarrassed by what I write. I am not an advocate for the Clinton’s. Senator Clinton is not my first choice in the primaries. I am an advocate for honest debate based on respect for people and facts, in contrast to Mr. Concannon who ridicules anyone with opinions different than his and seemingly chooses “facts” to match his story line.

Mr. Concannon’s January 4 column started with rhetorically asking Senator Clinton how she would handle the imbalance in trade with China. He then cited one reference, a Newsmax.com article aptly titled “The Idiot’s Guide to Chinagate,” as his sole basis for ridiculous allegations against our former president and Senator Clinton. The gist was that as payoff for campaign contributions from mysterious Chinese agents in 1992 and unnamed U.S. defense contractors in 1996, President Clinton made China into the economic and military powerhouse she is today.

In his January 11 column, Mr. Concannon attempted to bolster his previous work by claiming his references were actually an “amalgam of information gleaned from 21 different Internet sources and one book.” He does not describe his Internet sources. The one book cited is a Conservative author’s perspective on the Republican-orchestrated impeachment of President Clinton. No, I have not read his “references.”

Mr. Concannon correctly stated that the trade imbalance with China grew from $18.3 billion in 1992 to $83.8 billion in January 2001, but asserted it was President Clinton’s fault. Mr. Concannon neglected to mention that by the end of 2007, seven years into the Bush administration, our trade imbalance had exploded to $237.4 billion. Who’s fault?

He also blamed President Clinton for the current import of products tainted with lead paint. However, a July 27, 2007 CBS News story “Shrinking Consumer Agency Losing Ground” reported that under President Bush, “The Consumer Product Safety Commission could soon shrink to the point where it can’t effectively protect the public.”

Mr. Concannon asserted that in return for campaign funding from “Chinese intelligence agents” the Clinton Administration “declassified eleven million pages of data on United States nuclear weapon technology,” which enabled the Chinese to “catch up with our nuclear capability.” I have this mental picture of President Clinton alone in the Oval Office late at night, secretly poring over millions of nuclear weapons documents, selecting only the best for his Chinese intelligence agent friends. Without the knowledge of the CIA, DIA, FBI, NRA, NSA, Congress, Pentagon and non-Newsmax.com reporters.

Mr. Concannon asserted that the Clinton administration “loosened security at our weapons laboratories.” An interesting statement, considering that in February 1998 President Clinton issued directive PDD-61, intended to tighten security at all U.S. weapons laboratories.

Mr. Concannon made the incredible assertion “Thanks to the Clinton’s largesses toward China, we no longer enjoy nuclear superiority over that country.” The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reported in 2006 that the U.S. maintained an arsenal of about 10,000 nuclear weapons, almost half the worlds total. China was credited with an arsenal of 200.

Mr. Concannon concluded, without presenting evidence, that Senator Clinton’s current presidential campaign is “funded by dubious Chinese sources.” I guess absence of proof is not proof of absence, or something.

I find Conservatives animosity towards the Clinton’s absolutely amazing. Gallup polls show that our former President left office with a 65% approval rating, compared to President Bush’s approval ratings in the mid 30s. As to President Clinton’s achievements, I’ll just paraphrase former President Ronald Reagan in asking; Are you better off now than you were seven years ago?

Former First Lady Clinton is now a two-term senator from the state of New York, with better than a one-in-four chance of being elected the next president of the United States. She won both her senatorial elections without the intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court or allegations of election fraud.

At least 30 Bush administration officials have been accused of corruption or resigned due to scandal in the past several years. At least 65 Republican congressmen have now been linked to convicted felon Jack Abramoff and corruption. Republican officials have been arrested or are currently under investigation for crimes ranging from accepting bribes to molesting children. Nearly 4,000 U.S. troops have been killed in a war started by the Bush Administration using false pretenses. Yet, somehow, Conservatives apparently consider the Clinton’s as Nexus-Of-All-That-Is-Evil.

Absolutely Amazing.

It’s not a big deal in the great world scheme of columnists and newspaper writing. It’s just a bit of pushback to a loud-mouthed jerk with newspaper real estate, thinking he could get away with writing any amount of crap and ridiculing people who criticized him without a penalty. But I’d like to think my column today will make a small difference in the tone and content of local writing.

I own a big thanks to Editor Alex Granados for being an honest journalist willing to publish opposing viewpoints. But above all, I owe a big thanks to columnist Ken Concannon. Without his help I couldn’t have gotten this editorial space. Here’s hoping I’ll get more columns published in the future.

Update: I actually received one very complimentary e-mail response from a reader. In today’s newspaper (Sunday) thre was an LTE slamming Concannon on the nasty, mean-spirited tone of his Jan 11 column. I’d really like to think my writing is having a positive effect on local columnists.

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