Not of Their Own Making

"What soldiers do is make war," wrote Guy Gugliotta in his Jan. 14 news story "U.S. Troops Confronting Their Fears." Politicians make wars. Soldiers simply fight them.

-- R. J. Norton


The item "Note to a Knight" in your Personalities column {Style, Jan. 12} omitted an important aspect of the story that was front-page material in England. Referring to a controversy about the decision of openly gay actor Ian McKellen to accept his knighthood, your columnist said a letter from "18 theater and film folks" published in the Guardian encouraged McKellen to take the title with pride. What you declined to let your readers know was that the letter signers began their letter with the words "as gay and lesbian artists. . . . "

Some months ago, Style published an article wherein journalists debated the rights and wrongs of printing the names of public figures "outed" by gay activists {July 13}. I oppose outing, but in this instance, an Academy Award-winning director, a Tony award-winning actor and the most celebrated theatrical producer of our time, among others, chose to announce their membership in the gay community.

The Guardian, in a front-page article, referred to the letter as "one of the most remarkable examples of gay solidarity in the arts since homosexuality was decriminalized in 1967." Surely it would have been appropriate for your paper to have identified these people as they desired.

-- Gregory King

Wrong Again

On Jan. 12, you printed a letter and a graph from Michael T. Marron {"Stamp of Disapproval," Free for All} that claimed to correct a graph you ran Jan. 5 concerning postage increases. Unfortunately, Marron too was incorrect.

For many years before the quasi-independent Postal Service was created, a considerable portion of Post Office income came from government subsidies. Hence, the face value of a stamp was not the true postage cost. Further, neither your nor Marron's attempt to trace postage increases was corrected to true costs; certainly real estate, gasoline and foodstuffs in the 1880s (when both graphs began) cost less than in the 1990s.

As no attempt to establish true costs as a percentage of annual income was made, both graphs were worthless. They also failed to value other considerations, for example, that by 1890 the free City Delivery extended to only 454 post offices -- in all other areas, mail had to be picked up by addressees.

With great outrage Marron noted at the end of his letter that "we will be paying 50 cents to mail a letter by the end of the decade." This, however, would represent only a slight increase over the postage rate in Japan and would be significantly below the German rate.

Marron's letter was typical of how uninformed the American public is about its own institutions and their history. But the most unfortunate note was that you did not research the facts before printing it.

-- Robert MacCloskey

Something Fishy

In Sally Jager's article "A Bad Name Dogs a Fine Fish" {Food, Jan. 16}, Kevin Creighton is quoted as saying that "a shark is a mammal." I'm fairly sure that a marine biologist did not say that. Perhaps Jager or the typesetter neglected to type in "like" or a word to that effect.

-- Timothy Heaney

No Chance

In her Jan. 17 column, Mary McGrory cited as "the song that made Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon gnash their teeth, 'Give Peace a Chance.' " Any such gnashing happened after Johnson left the presidency on Jan. 20, 1969. John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band recorded the song on June 1, 1969, and it was released June 7.

-- Hank Wallace

Elephantine Attitude

In giving front-page Metro space to the fluffy story of Sukari, the elephant that "picks" winning football teams {Jan. 12}, your paper showed how out of touch it is with animal-protection issues.

A few such issues relevant to the plight of pachyderms are: the detrimental effects of early separation on young elephants, who take years to wean from their mothers; the impact that the trade in elephants for entertainment purposes as well as for ivory is having, not only on individual animals, but on the sparse elephant populations; and the disturbing conclusions being drawn by behaviorists about what the act of degrading animals for our minor amusement tells us about ourselves. Ideas about animals are changing. I do hope you will educate yourself about the issues. -- Ingrid E. Newkirk

The writer is national director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.