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LETTERS TO DOCTOR LAURA
(and other struggles against demagoguery and fundamentalism)
110-page book of Jim Terr letters-to-the-editor, essays, etc., including guest essays by Dave Barry, Daniel Schorr and others.
NOTE: This book is currently available only as a Xeroxed, 3-hole-punched basic version, but it's clean and readable. ISBN # 0-929830-04-0 $12.95
"Jim Terr's spirit shows through consistently in the essays, songs and other projects he creates. It's the droll, sardonic, 'cut the B.S.' outlook that is known around the world as 'American.' His tone is especially valuable in an election year." - James Fallows
"In his letters and articles, Jim Terr makes too much sense. In any other country he would have long since been locked up."
- Jonathan Alter, Senior Editor, Newsweek
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Campaign finance and federal spending 12
Media, and media criticism 13
All politics is local 25
Letters to ďTalkersĒ 34
Letters to Doctor Laura 41
Letters to NPR 49
Letter to Washington 63
Top Radio Talk Show Hosts...64
Government Discovers Youth...66
No Sale on extortion marketing 68
Why I Donít Own a Gun 69
Day Off from Demons 70
Jim Bohannon interview 71
A New Standard of Truth 72
ďThe Night before Jan. 15Ē 73
Rainbow Gathering 75
Thirty Things That Bother Me More than Gay Marriage...76
Public Radio 78
A School Prayer...79
The Ultimate Talisman 82
Lightening up Bob Dole 83
How We Treat the Least of Them 84
Human of the Week 85
From an Iraqi Survivor 86
Building a Space Station 86
Handicapped Parking 87
ďAinít it Funny...Ē 88
ďHello Mr. Gorbachev!Ē 89
ďLay Me DownĒ 90
Easy Targets 92
GUEST ESSAYS & LETTERS
Gordon Deapan 94
Richard Moran 97
Dave Barry 99
Daniel Schorr 100
(Fiorello LaGuardia) 102
WWII veterans 103
Holocaust survivors 103
Sue Watkins 105
Mark Twain et al 106
ďIt Runs in the FamilyĒ 108
ďJesus Loves Me Anyway" 110
I take strong exception to your cavalier attitude....oh, Iím sorry, I was momentarily possessed by that letter-writing demon that so often overtakes me.
Iíve always appreciated meeting people who tell me that theyíve been following my letters, song satires and essays for years, and have enjoyed them and felt they expressed things that theyíve been thinking as well. But the immediate impetus for putting together this compilation was hearing recently that some people had liked my essay, "30 Things That Bother Me More than Gay Marriage" (page 76), well enough to have made scores of copies to send to friends around the country. I figured "What the hell, why not put together a collection?"
Obviously, I love this art form. I find the Letters section of newspapers, magazines and National Public Radio news broadcasts to be the most interesting and exciting part. I am always amazed at the clarity, passion, insight and articulateness of so many of the letters I see published and hear broadcast.
After seeing the quantity of material in this book, you may be surprised to know that I donít even subscribe to a daily newspaper; I get most of my daily news from NPR. My urge to respond--my sense of outrage, frustration and curiosity--is such that if I were to read the paper daily, I would probably want to write so many letters that Iíd have no time for anything else. As it is, I usually have to read no more than five pages of a newspaper or magazine, or hear five minutes of a radio program, before I come across something I feel compelled to respond to. Is there a charity, a medical research institute, to help people like me?
I am under no illusion that letter-writing takes anywhere near the skill or commitment of actually being politically involved, going to city council meetings, or raising a family for that matter, but hopefully it makes some impact.
To me, the world seems filled with danger: people who think the government wants to take their guns away, but who evidently are willing to trust government workers* and their computers to trigger or avert nuclear war; corporations relentlessly assuming human rights and civil rights that were meant only for citizens and definitely not for corporations; a testosterone-laden Congress that can tackle just about anything except two of their most basic duties: coming up with a budget and confirming judges and ambassadors; and media manipulation and monopoly, which is no concern for people who only wish to have their existing point of view reinforced, but extremely worrisome to those of us who like to absorb and weigh opposing and far-ranging points of view.
Demagoguery has been my focus, my obsession, for better or worse, since I was a teenager, exposed to (perhaps too much) reading on the Nazis and the Holocaust. I am extremely touchy and fearful about people in positions of authority who misdirect other peopleís thinking in a hateful, divisive way. And Iím absolutely phobic about the whole propaganda industry, from paid "Spin Doctors" who make black white and white black, to pamphleteers, publishers and talk radio hosts who supply single-source information consumers with a skewed "party line" of any sort, thereby discouraging a broad, balanced view.
I am outraged by people who exploit and make millions of people miserable; by politics dominated by attack ads, fear of attack ads and manipulative "Morning in America" ads; and by phony "front" organizations and spokes-people with hidden affiliations and agendas.
All of these are well in evidence on talk radio. If youíve never listened, and heard the frightening array of ignoramuses and conspiracy theorists who seem to be out there in large numbers--as well as the wonderfully thoughtful people of all persuasions--Iíd recommend it.
Talk host Rush Limbaugh, an otherwise bright, funny and good-hearted guy, is such a one-trick pony, construing every ill in the world as part of a "liberal mindset" of his own defining, attributing to a "liberal malaise" every social and ecological concern and every effort to reduce suffering in the world, that heís finally become too boring for me to listen to.
I thank you for picking up this book, and considering its contents. Iíve got clippings buried somewhere in my stacks about scientific studies showing that people who express their opinions, in writing or otherwise--and eccentrics in general--live longer. On both counts I expect to be around until at least age 100 (barring nuclear or chemical/biological war or major ecological disasters), still typing away, still exploring how good individuals can become so evil, even murderous--intentionally or unintentionally--when they become part of large organizations, including countries.
I hope that this collection might inspire you to try your hand at writing letters-to-the-editor and essays, if you havenít already.
Jim Terr ē Santa Fe, NM ē October, 1999
* (And I mean no disrespect to government workers)
(More Exerpts Below)
TOP RADIO TALK SHOW HOSTS WEIGH ON THE QUESTION: WHY DID THE CHICKEN CROSS THE ROAD?
Satire by Jim Terr
[As printed in TALKERS Magazine, April 1998 issue]
In an effort to get to the very core of their philosophical belief systems, we put one of the great questions of the ages to some of todayís top talk radio personalities (or reasonable facsimiles thereof).
RUSH LIMBAUGH: Those who would even ask such a question are really out to confuse you, to make you so disempowered and disillusioned that you have no alternative but to turn either to Washington or to an authority like myself for an answer--and I donít need to tell you which one is going to give you The Truth.
Having said that, this chicken thing is the inevitable result of three decades of the Great Society and the whole tree-hugging, feel-good counter-culture that has almost completely overwhelmed this country. Why should the chicken stay on his side of the road when he can find more free chicken feed and greater entitlements on the other side of the road?
With such a shining example of do-your-own-thing thinking as we have in the White House right now, is it any wonder that the chicken isnít content to just stay on his own side of the road, put his shoulder to the grindstone and do whatever it takes to create a prosperous future for himself? Of course the liberal media would label this view as extreme right-wing, when in fact itís just common sense.
G. GORDON LIDDY: I donít pretend to understand the mind of a chicken. The chicken is about the farthest creature from the hard-headed, testosterone-charged realist that I aspire to be, and--in fact--am. However, I will say that if that chicken ever crosses the road into my yard, heís going to find out in about two seconds what American technology and firepower and martial arts training are all about, and heíll quickly find his beak firmly embedded in his cloaca. And if he thinks Iím kidding, let him try it.
HOWARD STERN: Clearly thereís a radio on his side of the road blaring out Don Imus, and the Stern show is playing on the other side, so he wants to move over to the other side as quickly as possible--and who can blame him? And in addition to that itís probably a female chicken, and obviously not only my entertainment value and mastery of all media but my sex appeal as well, transcend even inter-species boundaries. If, on the other hand, itís a male, then my weenie is probably even smaller than his, but the size of my audience more than makes up for it.
DOCTOR LAURA: This is a perfect example of someone being led around by his so-called ďfeelingsĒ, a highly overrated and notoriously unreliable way to make decisions. This chicken should ask himself: Do I see other chickens whom I admire, and whom society admires, crossing the road? Does the Bible--or the Koran--say itís right to cross the road whenever you feel like it? Just because all the movies and television shows say itís all right to cross the road if you feel like it, that doesnít make it so.
DR. DEAN EDELL: As a matter of fact, I got an interesting fax today that throws light on this. This is from...letís see...a Dr. Pylos Hardrock at Johns Hopkins--and of course Johns Hopkins couldnít make a mistake, right? Letís see, out of 485 chickens in this double-blind study that even thought of crossing the road, only five, a little over one percent, actually did it. And when these chickens were dissected, what do you suppose they found? Thatís right, an enlarged left frontal lobe not present in the other 480 chickens, which of course demonstrates that crossing the road is a genetic predisposition.
But more importantly--and no one stops to ask this question--what are they going to do with all those dead chickens?
THE DOLANS: This chicken is a good friend of ours whoís going to be on our show next week, so if you think weíre going to speculate on his motives youíre crazy. But a quick check of our vast database reveals...yes, try this number, itís the Kansas State Agriculture Department, Ambulatory Poultry Hotline, 1-800-CHICKEN. The smart investor will take the initiative to check a few independent sources like this before investing in either chickens or transportation stocks.
ART BELL: We had someone on just last week, that professor who was run out of Berkeley for being too free-thinking, for not toeing the party line, yes, Dr. Heimlich Drebner, who has some incredible information on this.
Evidently those chickens who cross the road are by and large those who have been abducted and implanted with homing devices which cause them to walk north in odd-numbered months and south in even-numbered months. If thereís a road in the way, well thatís just a matter of circumstance. You see, itís not the road, itís the direction. The road thing is just a distraction designed to keep us from seeing the real pattern here.
JIM BOHANNON: Thereís been a lot of confusion and demagoguery on this issue, and tomorrow night Iím going to have two guests representing the two extreme ends of this controversy, and weíre going to hash it out for once and for all. Donít miss it.
JIM HIGHTOWER: That chicken doesnít really intend to cross the road, so itís a waste of time trying to figure out why.
Whatís really going on is that the agribusinesses that produce his feed are bulking it up with toxic solvents and petroleum by-products that not only add nothing nutritionally to his diet, but which are eating away at his brain and destroying his sense of direction. That chicken is at the bottom of the economic ladder, and heís paying for it every day. And youíre paying to subsidize the agribusiness thatís poisoning the chicken--and you too if you eat that chicken.
If he doesnít get hit by a car or eaten by you or me, heís going to live out his long, miserable life in a state of disorientation and anguish, and if you think Big Business cares one whit about that, well, Iíve got a very large, deep canyon in Arizona Iíd like to sell you.
DON IMUS: Obviously that chicken has spied a foxy chick on the other side, and heís so stupid he thinks sheís going to go for him if he can only make it over to her side, strutting like Sylvester Stallone or Christian Slater or whoeverís hot this week. But what he doesnít realize is that when he gets over to her side, sheís suddenly going to get very ugly and say, ďHey shmuck! Get lost! Who do you think you are?Ē Itís sad but true. And then heíll try the same thing the next day. A real loser.
BRUCE WILLIAMS: Iíve owned many chicken-related businesses over the years, and Iíll tell ya: All that clucks is not gold.
Itís hard to accept that when youíre young, when youíve got eggs and gold dust in your eyes, but itís true. Thereíll always be chickens wandering away from where you want them to be, meandering over toward the other side of the road, and blam!--they get hit by a beautiful Ď56 Buick or a cherry Ď61 Caddy convertible. Iíve owned both, and I can tell ya a chicken is no match for either of them. No contest. And there will always be enough of these wayward chickens to bring your profit margin down to zero. Iíll tell ya: bet on the car, bet on the road, but donít bet on that chicken.
MICHAEL REAGAN: Thereís a bill pending in the Senate, S.B. 201, you can read all about it on my Website, and even more about it in my newsletter, itís entitled ďThe Freedom for Chickens ActĒ, but the name is deceptive, as is always the case with these liberal-sponsored bills, because the true intent of this bill is no less than the total destruction of our democratic way of life, the final blow to individual initiative and free enterprise in this country. You need to get on the phone, get on the fax, first thing tomorrow morning and tell your representative to kill this turkey before it kills you.
Jim Terr is a song satirist, jingle and video producer and sometime radio host in Santa Fe, NM ©1998
Thoughts on Building a Space StationBy Jim Terr (c) 1996
Since we've conquered poverty
And put an end to war,
Since we've all discovered
What this life on earth is for,
Since we've made a paradise
Of this precious, Godly place,
Let's gather all that wisdom
And move to outer space.