Mockery of a Dying Man . . .

I generally look forward to the editorial cartoons by Tom Toles, but on Nov. 10 I was shocked and saddened by his depiction of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on his deathbed. Even if one doesn't agree with Arafat's political stance, mockery of a dying man diminishes the humanity of all who condone it.

-- Frances E. Rankin

Chevy Chase

. . . And Death Itself

Regarding your Nov. 11 front-page headline "High Doses of Vitamin E Found to Raise the Risk of Dying": I've always thought that the risk of dying was 100 percent, vitamin E notwithstanding.

-- Melvyn L. Goldstein

Ellicott City

In Defense of !!!

Mark Pfoutz [Free for All, Nov. 13] need not get so exercised over the use of exclamation points to end sentences in the comic strips.

This has been a long-standing convention. The use of exclamation points to end sentences was instituted in the early days of the form because periods were hard to see when printed on the cheap newsprint used for the comics pages and comic books at the time, and the practice continues today.

-- Gerald Kreienkamp

Alexandria

Campaign Blame Games

Howard Kurtz does it again ["The Making of a Non-President," Style, Nov. 15]. In his postmortem on the Kerry campaign, Kurtz picks and chooses which negatives to write about. I read the Newsweek article too; what about the Clintonistas who were too busy to join the Kerry campaign when they were asked? What about the leaks by people in the Kerry campaign? What about the attack ads by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? Who wanted to go after them and who didn't? The advisers who remain anonymous should stop trying to blame everyone else for what they obviously had a part in: failing to win the election.

-- Mimi Barron

Fredericksburg

The Left's Intolerance

Timothy M. Gay's Nov. 16 op-ed column is, in the end, its own study in hypocrisy, for it demonstrates the left's intolerance of the deeply held beliefs of tens of millions of Americans.

Those who hold religious views contrary to the secular humanists are unfailingly dismissed as "wrong," "bigoted" or "intolerant."

The diversity the left demands obviously does not extend to the sincerely held, different views of those who voted for the president, and Gay's article can be searched in vain for any acknowledgment of the right to disagree with him. Moreover, to accuse the Republicans of "contemporary know-nothingism" brought forth a chuckle. Central to the Know-Nothings of the 19th century was anti-Catholicism, yet (Methodist) President Bush received a majority of the Catholic vote. We guess that those Catholics, too, somehow were simply blindly following the "fundamentalist preachers" Gay finds so inimical.

-- Liz and George Vary

Bethesda

Federalist Sophistry

In his Nov. 9 op-ed column "Seizing a Stable Majority," former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who was always better at sci-fi and what-ifs than actual history, says, "Jefferson wiped out the Federalist Party, and his followers governed for 24 years," with his "victory in 1800."

That's too black and white.

The more nuanced and correct answer is that when the Federalists had power in the 1790s, six years before the election of 1800, they signed an agreement called Jay's Treaty with Britain. The new America had just fought a bloody and bitter war with Britain and its people were in no mood to negotiate treaties to normalize relations.

The second nail in the coffin was the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which, much like our Patriot Act, was used to quell political dissent by arresting and shipping people off our soil. But those were in the founding generation. It's the second generation that produced Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party, which killed the Federalists. Due to lack of communication at the end of the war of 1812, the Hartford Convention and the Battle of New Orleans effectively put the Federalists six feet under.

-- Brian Flaherty

Arlington