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Dear Hal
Hal, I've noticed your formidable writing skills seem to shine brightest when you are at your most bitter. Take your latest on Ronald Reagan ("In the Realms of the Unreal," Aug. 4). Not since you devoted 3,000 words to bemoaning the fact that more people bought Cal Thomas' latest book than your own recently published collection of "fear and loathing" essays have I seen you so hip deep in hubris and acrimony. Diagnosing the recently deceased (how gracious!) Reagan with autism was a stroke of brilliance. Hey, let me try!

"It is obvious to me, from my in-depth personal knowledge, conversations with people that hate him, and his published works, that Hal Crowther is a sufferer of: A. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, B. E.D., C. Egg-laying pinworms, D. Paranoid schizophrenia, E. Tourette's syndrome (explicative deleted!)."

See! Anybody can do it.

And the Soviet Union's collapse. Reagan involved? Pishposh! After all, you were there in 1984 and it was so obvious to you. (Hubris alert!) Let's send you on a round-the-world tour so you can tell us which other regimes are going to implode. How about a tour to North Korea, Sudan, Libya, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Iraq (oops, too late) and France? Mencken observed: "Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo." It's obvious. And sad. You are jealous because Reagan was able to persuade people. Persuade them with his humility, self-assuredness and soft-spoken words of optimism and humor. These qualities were also why his passing stirred such grief. You offer nothing but meanness and condescension, which persuade no one, but can temporarily delight the like-minded. It is why Cal Thomas' (and ilk) boilerplate crap (and it is crap) will always outsell you, despite your greater writing skills. Reading a writer's spitefulness for free is different than paying to bring it home.
Thomas Fisler
Hurdle Mills

Congratulations on your Dog Days issue! (Aug. 4) It got a four paws up at our house and we don't even have a dog. More importantly, however, you may have unintentionally provided a crucial public service. We took one look at Lucy, your cover dog, and decided that she is a perfect choice for the new Homeland Security mascot. I know that the agency is looking for an "American Shepherd" for this high profile post, but as late as last Thursday they were unable to locate such a breed. (They made it clear that no Germans need apply.) Our suggestion is that large, glossy photographs of Lucy be posted in airline terminals and train and bus stations all over America. They might sport a prominent caption like "I've got my eye on you." Children would then be assured that Lucy is on the job protecting them from terrorists, and would-be terrorists would leave the country in droves on those handy planes, buses and trains. I wouldn't want to tangle with Lucy, and neither, I surmise, would they. Keep up the good work!
Ann Kessemeier
Chapel Hill

Writer had it wrong
Re: Barbara Solow's self-contradiction on black voters in Durham. It turns out the worst thing about that article ("The Committee is losing touch--Kenney," July 28) was that Solow did not even clarify that Rev. Kenney's proposed challenge for the future leadership of the Durham Committee was from the left. The last time the leadership was challenged, it was from the right, when notorious Republican Tom Stith forced a reversal of the leadership's decision endorsing a white progressive over Stith (as a black conservative).

That history puts white progressives and the current leadership on the same side. For Solow to even suggest the possibility of anyone challenging the current leadership as a progressive and as someone who wants to co-operate with white progressives is therefore simply absurd. The existing leadership has already been trying to do that. The decisions of the Independent itself to endorse people like Nick Tennyson, Eugene Brown, and, most recently, the notorious Mr. Stith, have been more than a little damaging to these efforts.
George Greene

Watch it, Buddy
I enjoyed your "Dog Days of Summer" articles (Aug. 4) and just wanted to add something I found interesting about the origin of the Dog Days of Summer expression. While I believe the most popular theory about the expression is that it had to do with the ancient belief that the alignment of the star Sirius, also know as the dog star, with the sun actually added heat to the earth creating a period of extra hot and sultry days, I don't think it's the most interesting one. When searching for Rob Gilbert's Web site about Big Guys & Little Dogs, I found an article in Yahoo news about another take on the expression Dog Days of Summer. It appears that in South Korea, Dog Days of Summer takes on a more literal meaning in that they typically will eat dog meat stew to replenish the nutrients lost through sweating during these extra hot Dog Days. I don't want to knock their culture, but I am glad I have Gatorade to do that for me and my dog Buddy and I can remain best friends. The article may be found here: ?tmpl=story2&u=/nm/20040811/od_nm/dogmeat_dc.

Also, I never found the Web site that Rob Gilbert mentioned in his story, so if you know of the link I would love to have it as I, too, am a big man with a little dog.
Mark Woodhouse

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