Billman gets sacked

Sitting at my favorite watering hole the other day, I was reading the Weekly and came across the review of Friends café by Jeffery C. Billman ["Full of friends," March 23]. After reading his 10th or so reference to his vegetarian status (as vegetarians are wont to do), it occurred to me: How can a newspaper have a restaurant column written by someone who doesn't eat meat?

My issue isn't with the non-eating of meat; just the exclusion of 70 percent or so of the average menu offering. It's pretty limited, and not a fair review of what may be the emphasis of a given restaurant. As in the case of Friends, where four meals were consumed, half of which were Boca Burgers. The lone observation of a meat dish came from Billman's "carnivore" friend. Why doesn't the friend just write the column and eliminate the middle man?

Isn't a column like this the equivalent of the Sentinel having a technology writer who only uses Palm OS? Or an automotive editor who only rides motorcycles?

That being said, I look forward to visiting Friends soon. Maybe I'll do it on the way to the movies with my deaf buddy who reviews films, but only those with subtitles.

Sean Miller, Orlando

Jeffrey C. Billman responds: I absolutely, totally, 100 percent agree with you and I have officially been relieved of my restaurant-critic duties.

Why Ben hates America

I would like to provide some context for the remark that was attributed to me in the Rate the Protest! section [Happytown™, March 23].

To begin with, in my mind, I do not feel that I impolitely hassled the "peace-protesting vet about carrying an American flag" [at the The World Can't Wait rally March 18 in front of Orlando City Hall]. However, I admit that I did politely reproach him about that. The reason for doing this is that the American flag represents nationalism, patriotism and imperialism, all of which are partly to blame for the war in which the United States currently is embroiled.

Waving an American flag at an anti-war protest seems to me to be incompatible with the desire for peace, as is allegiance to the concept of a nation-state which that flag, and any national flag, represents since states of all types have been the greatest cause of human death, misery and tyranny throughout history.

Furthermore, the particular protester in question, like a typical middle-class, state-loving liberal, also carried a sign that read "Bush lies, people die; Clinton lied, nobody died."

While it is certainly true that Bush's war in Iraq has been responsible for the deaths of at least 34,000 Iraqi civilians and more than 2,300 U.S. soldiers, Clinton's hands are hardly unstained with the blood of innocent civilians, unless one chooses to overlook the military attacks he ordered on Serbia/ Kosovo, the Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan.

This protester did not appreciate being reminded of these unfortunate facts and responded to my attempts at constructive dialogue with a barrage of weak, patriotic bullshit, which is what prompted me to say to some acquaintances, "Fuck him and fuck the Navy." I stand behind those words, although I would not be so rude as to express such sentiments to the misguided gentleman's face.

In closing I would also like to remind you that I am part of a growing and increasingly active Central Florida anarchist community numbering several hundred individuals who believe in such values as liberty, equality, mutual aid, community, decentralization, non-hierarchy, direct action and collectivity, and who work daily to create a world free of the scourges of the state and of capitalism.

Ben Markeson, Orlando

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