First, reader J.M. writes with her views on John F. Kerry’s needless and gratuitous reference to Vice President Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter, Mary, during last week’s presidential debate. When Mary’s mother, Lynne Cheney, expressed her outrage, Kerry’s campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, fliply responded that Mary was “fair game.” (See my Lynne Cheney, Outraged Mom, Oct. 14, the Mailbag for Oct. 15, and The Other Charlotte’s post today below, Safire: A Deliberate Blow, in which New York Times columnist William Safire speculates that Kerry intented the reference to embarrass President G.W. Bush.)

J.M. also comments on the revolting anti-Bush flier that also mocked the Special Olympics–and circulated for two weeks among Tennessee Democrats until disability-rights and parents of disabled children complained. (See my post on the fliers and the latest Condi Rice cartoon, Another Nasty Racist Shot at Condoleezza Rice, Oct. 15). J.M. e-mails:  

“‘Fair game’ to Democrats, to all of the far left, is anyone who doesn’t agree with them, and anyone who is not appalled by their behavior clearly hasn’t been paying one iota of attention to reality.

“I am originally from Tennessee, and my youngest sister is a special-needs individual who has participated in the Special Olympics many times. You can only imagine the horror my mother felt when she received the Democrats’ flyer reading ’Voting for George Bush is like the Special Olympics. Even if you win, you’re still retarded.’

“To paraphrase Lynne Cheney, these are not good people. I spent a few days this summer with the head of the political science department at UC-Santa Cruz, a lefty who frequently said that Americans are stupid and anyone who votes for George W. Bush in this election must be out of their minds. The far left has decided that because they cannot gain power with their ideas- because they are so outrageous and against common sense- they will engage in intellectual bullying. It’s no longer the candidates they are insulting. It’s mere individuals who support them. According to the aforementioned professor, America is a ‘dumbocracy,’ and only he and his far-left cronies know what is right for our country.

“Clearly, his counterparts in Tennessee agree and have chosen to mock my sister and the many, many other special needs individuals in that state and all over the nation in order to make their arrogance known.”

Good for you, J.M. Fortunately, it’s now the consensus among pundits that Kerry made a tactical mistake in bringing up Mary’s name in the first place–most people think that family members, especially one’s children ought to be off-limits in a campaign. Then Kerry compounded the error by refusing to apologize, a stance that many of his aides deplored and that likely cost him both a drop in the polls this weekend and the votes of many fence-sitters come Nov. 2, according to syndicated columnist Robert Novak:

“It’s hard to believe that in the closing weeks of a campaign where great issues are debated, the sexuality of the vice president’s daughter could be determinant. Still, overnight polling showed a sharp gain by George W. Bush.”

Nonetheless, as Novak points out, many Dems continue to think that sneering at Bush and the American electorate is the ticket to winning in November. 

Alternatively, as this e-mail from D.D. indicates, some liberals honestly believe that Bush and his administration are “fair game,” so to speak, for whatever low blows they or others choose to level:

“I repudiate any racism directed at Condoleezza Rice. However, as a person, she is a despicable, lying reprobate responsible for deaths of thousands of innocent people and should be tried as a war criminal.”

Go figure.

Finally, reader A.L. proffers her thoughts on TOC’s post on economist Richard Vedder’s new book, Going Broke by Degrees: Why College Costs Too Much (see The Ivory Tower–It’s Golden, Oct. 13.) Vedder argues that Duke University squanders its sky-high tuition revenues giving away free iPods to all its students for music-downloading. At least one Inky reader insists, however, that the no-charge iPods might actually be a good use of Duke’s money as more academically germane uses develop for them (see the Mailbag for Oct. 15). A.L. Writes:

“[M]y son is a commuting student at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn. They provide a laptop for each student during the school year, which we thought meant that the school and its staff would be highly supportive of technology. Certainly, the entire school is wireless, and so he is able to continue working on his laptop even if he is waiting for ride home or between classes. Because he is a commuting student (and doesn’t drive), he tries to use his laptop for all his note-taking, and tries to obtain electronic versions of his textbooks so he doesn’t have to drag around the often heavy paper versions.

“But he’s had mixed results with this. In some cases, professors have banned the use of laptops during their classes, because they thought students were using them inappropriately (instant messaging and e-mail) instead of taking notes. I could understand if they felt students were distracting others, but I guess my feeling is: If someone is misusing the time, that is their problem, not the professor’s….

“I guess my point is this: If professors are still struggling with the effective use of something like laptops in classrooms, it is going to take a lot longer for iPods to really be useful for students.”

I sympathize with your son, but as a college teacher, I find myself irritated when I see a student not otherwise known for his diligence in note-taking or anything else suddenly show up in class with a laptop and type away. Unfortunately, all that IM-ing is a distraction to others, because not only are the messagers not participating in the class, but everyone sitting behind them can see the bad example they set. So I can understand laptop bans. And certainly for Duke’s sake, I hope that someone comes up with a school-related use for the iPod pronto.