"Bush's Mars plan is an election-year strategy: a weapon of mass distraction designed to divert our attention from the economy."
We have been watching movies about traveling to other planets for years [Jan. 26]. The urge to explore space is in our blood, and only the uneducated can stop us from going. It is certain that we will benefit from the knowledge we gain. We should embark on this venture not alone but as part of a cooperative, worldwide effort. It sounds like a pipe dream, but there is enough out there for all of us.
The proposed manned trip to mars is a political boondoggle supported only by NASA and the aerospace and defense industries. It will be very expensive, with a low probability of success and very little real scientific value. The same goes for the International Space Station and the Star Wars missile-defense program. It's time we demand real results and use common sense to control reckless, wasteful, political-payoff spending.
We must aggressively venture into space to exploit the vast resources of other planets and asteroids. It would be the height of stupidity to ignore the opportunity while continuing to strip our planet bare. Space exploration is also an insurance policy for humans and other Earth species. We must colonize the moon, Mars and then other worlds to ensure that our species goes on should Earth suffer a cataclysmic disaster.
Sending humans to Mars sounds fantastic and like something to strive for, but the problem is that the mission will just give us another world to mess up. Until we have a complete change of attitude and behavior, let's stay away from other planets.
Do we want to spend our money on an expensive, potentially dangerous and nonurgent manned ego trip to Mars or on human welfare and the protection of Earth from real dangers, like greenhouse gases? Scientists do not know everything, and there are instances when they get things wrong. Because the U.S. does not own either Earth or Mars, I think that all the world's people should have a say in the matter.
Percy N. Kruythoff
Oldenzaal, the Netherlands
As a flag-waving, freedom-loving American, I would gladly back the mission to Mars if the first person to go were President George W. Bush. I am quite certain that we won't be able to find Vice President Dick Cheney, or I would insist that he go, too.
Would being the first to set foot on Mars earn Americans more respect from other nations? With the money needed to fund a Mars landing, surely the U.S. could do lots of good work around the globe. Why not make friends with earthlings before engaging the Martians?
A Tight Spot in Pakistan
Your story about attempts on the life of Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf showed what a precarious position he is in [Jan 12]. His support of the U.S. in the war in Afghanistan and his efforts to curb the influence of Islamic fundamentalists and extremists in Pakistan, in accordance with the wishes of the White House, do not make him very popular among these groups. With the security situation worsening in the region and Pakistan's democratic leadership not yet very stable, there is a risk that the country and its nuclear capabilities may fall into the wrong hands. The recent assassination attempts on Musharraf show that he has to demonstrate extra moderation and flexibility in dealing with such dangerous elements.
I was outraged to see the effectiveness of Zestra female-arousal fluid compared with that of breath mints or Binaca as a sex aid for women in your "Love Potions" chart [Jan. 19]. Zestra, which my company produces, has been in scientific and clinical development for more than seven years, with study results published in three respected, peer-reviewed medical journals. The application of this patented, unique blend of botanical oils results in increased female sexual arousal, sensation, lubrication and satisfaction. More information can be found on the Internet at zestraforwomen.com.
Martin G. Crosby
President and CEO
QualiLife Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Who's Stealing from Whom?
Your story on digital-movie piracy, "Hollywood Robbery" [Jan. 26], left out one of the biggest reasons for the black market in bootleg copies of films. People are sick of getting ripped off at the theater and the DVD store. When we see movie stars getting millions for making one film and studio execs living like movie stars, the purchasers of bootleg DVDs say, "Who's getting ripped off? I'm the one paying a bundle when I spend $20 to see a movie and buy a bag of popcorn." Who cares if the industry loses a few billion dollars? It wouldn't break my heart if some big shot had to drive a Lexus rather than a Rolls-Royce.
The Reluctant Campaigner
Columnist Michael Kinsley argued that "we need to know about a politician's spouse ... in order to understand the candidate's character" [Jan. 26], but I have absolutely no problem with Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean's not tagging along behind her husband on the campaign trail. I find her dedication to their teenage son and to the patients in her medical practice admirable, not mysterious. When I make my decision on whom I will vote for, I will do so because I have listened to the candidate's platform and not because his spouse had a nifty outfit and matching handbag.
Fair Haven, U.S.
It is admirable that the Deans are mature enough to let each pursue his or her own career. Haven't we progressed beyond those scenes of Nancy Reagan gazing worshipfully at her Ronnie? I saw Dean's wife briefly on TV, and it was enough to convince me that Howard Dean is to be commended. Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean appears to be a real person, taking care of real business. Surely she is doing more good by attending to her patients than she would by acting like an adoring appendage to her husband. Dean can take care of himself; he doesn't need to prop himself up on an Adam's rib.
Carolyn M. Clayton
Now It Can Be Told
Re "10 Questions for Bob Dole" [Jan. 26]: At the end of the interview, the retired Senate majority leader said he might write a book, and he added, "I probably won't run for anything again, so I can tell the truth now." He put his finger on just the thing that is turning off American voters. You can't believe anything a politician says, especially those running for higher office. Any one of them will say whatever is necessary to get elected. Dole merely gave credence to that idea.
Adam H. Dorsch
Arlington Heights, U.S.
AlliancesYes or No?
In his viewpoint "A Farewell to Allies" [Jan. 12] Charles Krauthammer quoted 19th century British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston's axiom: nations have no permanent allies, only permanent interests. That sentence should be placed on the front page of newspapers everywhere. For once, even as a Frenchman, I totally agree with Krauthammer's views. I would add that not just Europe but also the U.S. and all other countries have always lived by Lord Palmerston's axiom. There is no such thing as friendship between nations, nor has there ever been a savior for the common good. In international relations, only grim self-interest rules, converging or conflicting, depending on the time and place.
Krauthammer's rabid xenophobia is downright nauseating. He stoops to the most abject revisionism to make his case against America's longtime allies. Allies are friends. Among the things we expect from friends is an effort to prevent us from making mistakes. Going to war over (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was a mistake, and the French were right to oppose the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But France agreed that eliminating the Taliban in Afghanistan was a good idea and still contributes there. America's French ally has been polite enough not to scream "I told you so!" about WMD.
It is not fair simply to denounce countries like Germany for not being America's allies. German soldiers are doing their job in Afghanistan. Germany is training Iraqi police. For Krauthammer to write that America's traditional allies have not "lifted a finger" to help in postwar reconstruction in Iraq is simply wrong. We are allies of the U.S. in fighting terrorism. But alliances are about partnership. And the partnership was violated when the U.S. lied about Iraq's WMD and its nonexistent connections to al-Qaeda in order to get hold of the country's oil reserves.
Krauthammer stated that "with a few trusted friends, America must carry on alone." What bad advice! It's the last thing the U.S. should do. Instead, America needs to learn from its terrible mistakes such as backing Saddam Hussein or the Afghan Taliban in the first place.
A Forbidding Talent
Stage actress and acting teacher Uta Hagen performed on Broadway for more than 60 years. Although her death [Milestones, Jan. 26] will leave a vacuum in the theater world, the many talented students from HB Studio, the acting school she and her husband Herbert Berghof co-founded, carry on her legacy. After Hagen won the Tony Award as 1962's best actress, we described her stage presence [May 10, 1963]:
"Uta Hagen comes on swearing. In three hours, she weeps, snarls, rages at her husband, expounds a boozy philosophy, talks baby talk, goes off to the kitchen to seduce a casual visitor, and turns in a performance that stains the memory but stays there. The play is Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a psychological Grand Guignol set in the academic world ... With auburn hair, a strong frame and a forbiddingly experienced face, Uta Hagen has the physical force to play Albee's tough, bitter, foul-mouthed woman ... She thinks that teaching [at HB Studio] helps to stabilize her performances and give her objectivityand she has always displayed both a firm sense of role and an ability to cope with any unexpected developments onstage."