Letters to the Editor

Is Paglia wrong about Waco? Plus: R.E.M. on "Automatic" pilot; Luddite gamers should quit moaning and start playing.

Topics: Drugs, Newt Gingrich, Camille Paglia, Infidelity

What I thought about for my summer vacation
BY CAMILLE PAGLIA
(09/08/99)

I know Camille Paglia’s thoughts on Waco are popular with a great many
Americans, but I’ve always wondered why. We have an individual who believes
he is some kind of deity on earth, who has in his possession automatic weapons
for which he has no legal authority. When ATF agents, bumblers or not, show up to
serve a warrant, Koresh and his followers shoot four of them — and the uproar is over how the cult members were denied due process. If you know the Feds are coming en masse and you shoot them, then it seems as though due process has gone out the window. I cannot say that the FBI, ATF and whatever other agencies had their finest moment but are we
going to blame the “liberal” press again? Government authority was bungled at Waco, not
misused.

– Rich McIntosh

Are we surprised by Janet Reno playing the child sexual abuse card at
Waco? She built her career on prosecuting notorious Florida preschool
abuse charges, all of which proved bogus. (These were documented in a
series of PBS “Frontline” programs.)

– George Beinhorn

Who gives a rat’s ass what Camille Paglia thinks of Gwyneth’s smile? Or of Al Gore’s weight loss? Who’s interested in hearing what her favorite song is, or how many times other notable big-mouths quoted her previous comments and thoughts on this, that or the other?
I read Paglia’s column because I think she’s amazingly smart, but what I got can be had in any beauty shop when the gals come in for a weekly backcomb. Camille, go back and tell us something that really makes us think about June, July and August.

– Kathy Dimond

Portland, Ore.

Millennial Brigadoon
BY MICHELLE GOLDBERG

(09/08/99)

So the “Burning Man” party wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without drugs,
eh? It’s just one big “republic of pleasure,” according to Michelle
Goldberg. How pathetic — 22,000 people feeling the necessity to take
drugs to feel pleasure. They should be pitied, not envied.

– Paul McCudden

Los Angeles


“Up” down

BY SETH MNOOKIN

(09/08/99)

I just saw R.E.M. at our suburban amphitheater. The disappointment has been difficult to articulate, and your thoughts helped me.

It wasn’t the grossly impersonal venue; I saw the band at the same location in ’89 and the concert was awe-inspiring. Perhaps my reaction was due to my tender age — I was 17 at the time — but I remember more details from that show than from last month’s lackluster sound-and-light extravaganza.

The problem is indeed that the band, which once stood firmly and defiantly against the ridiculous excess of rock music fame, has lost what made it real. The empty and soulless performance reminded me of the NBA of late: These guys are out there to earn a big, fat paycheck and the audience just may be more into it than any of the participants. Say the word “tits” to make the crowd cheer. Make a reference to Patti Smith (who did not grace us with her presence). It all gives a new meaning to “Automatic for the People.”

Is R.E.M. just a pop band? Is it wrong to assign — and expect — deeper meaning? I hope not. Sadly, the bulk of the teen-dominated crowd will never know what our generation felt upon first listen to each new R.E.M. album.

– Katherine Zachary

Pretty pretty bang bang
BY MARC SPIEGLER

(09/08/99)

I don’t think it was emphasized enough that Quake 3 is a natural
progression of what’s gone before it. As someone that has played ID games
from the word go, I think every release makes improvements — some you may not agree
with immediately, but you grow to love them. After two or three months of playing the test
both online and via LAN, I still haven’t tired of the maps they’ve included
in the test. And what’s all this moaning about “cartoon” graphics? Ammo is ammo; just
pick it up and use it. The people involved with the creation of Q3 are geniuses; when they do a job, they make sure it’s done properly. Let’s stop moaning and start praising all those hours of work they
have put in to provide the rest of us with so much fun.

– Brian Roy

After they made Pong, they started to make all these fancy arcade games:
Space Invaders, PacMan, Asteroids … what a bunch of crap they were! Those kids who
played those games never understood what a great game they were missing.
The companies who produced those games should be ashamed.
Where is all this technology headed? Why, the next thing you know, the games will be made with a 3D perspective! Well, not me. I’m never going to play those games! I’m staying right here
with Pong. None of these newfangled games by these young whippersnappers.

And these new steam shovels — bah! I dig my ditches by hand. I keep my notes on a slate. And another thing …

– Tom Sullivan

Fisticuffs in the cube
BY JON BOWEN
(09/07/99)

Do people really get mad at work because of “de-personalization of the work
environment”? I think the real issue is permeable and
ever-changing boundaries of autonomy and identity — oh yeah, and shoddy
software design.

Imagine being held strictly accountable for performing a job, but forced to
use tools that constantly fall apart: Regardless of your best efforts and
intentions, sometimes you can do the work and sometimes you can’t. More and more of our productive capability is slipping beyond our direct control, as an ever-increasing level of “certain
randomness” obtains in modern office life. It’s not that our tools and
environment are de-personalized. Heck, my car doesn’t offend me for being
made of steel and plastic instead of carbon and water. No, if
anything our work is more tightly networked with others: It is
“too personalized.” Yet our relations with co-workers (and bosses) rest on
increasingly unstable technological foundations. Our tools don’t work!

At business school I was taught a secret of
motivating workers: Draw the connection between effort and reward. I’ve
often felt leadership consisted merely of an inverse relationship with
cognitive dissonance among those “led.” How else are humans to react when
their most fundamental expectations are disappointed, time and again, and
their best-faith efforts are frustrated through no fault of their own? The “desk rage” tantrum is an Account Past Due notice on an Account Receivable in a social contract.

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– Jim Cooper

Austin, Texas

Capital punishment on trial

BY CHARLES ELMORE

(09/08/99)

So Charles Elmore wants executions to be pretty affairs, the ugliness and
brutality of the final solution hidden behind anodyne social rituals
involving “lethal injections” without gobbets of blood spewing from the
dying prisoner? I think this is denial. Choosing to end someone’s life is
a terrible decision, and should be terrible. Many countries have forgone the death penalty without an accompanying increase in serious crimes. Making the death sentence pretty just displaces moral anxiety. Televise them, bring back the guillotine,
the axe or the noose, rather than seeking some sort of moral redemption
through some utopian faith in ever-more-advanced execution technology.

– Mike Rogers

For years I have subscribed to capital punishment to deal with people who have committed crimes such as murder or rape. Your description of Florida’s most recent electrocution made me think again about the use of lethal injection or use of firing squad, both of which are cheaper. Why should Florida or any other state spend so much money on its criminals?
I say finish the job quickly and efficiently, with no lengthy appeals, no drawn-out pleas for mercy. I’m sure if it were one of my family members that were the victim I’d want to be there watching them squirm, but the use of chemicals seems tidier and less expensive. I still think capital punishment brings a certain “justice,” but let’s retire the chair in favor of lethal injection.

– Jacalyn Daugherty

Last year, I witnessed a lethal injection execution in Texas.
The condemned man lay tightly bound on a gurney, with the prison
warden standing near his head and a prison chaplain standing
near his feet. Throughout the entire ordeal, both officials
looked continuously at the floor, never once looking at the
condemned man who lay between them.

At the moment lethal chemicals began to flow into the man strapped
down only a few feet from me, it was clear that this had nothing
to do with guilt, punishment and justice. This was about hatred,
pain and revenge.

As a method of killing, lethal injection was invented by, and first
used under the direction of, the personal physician of Adolph Hitler,
Dr. Karl Brandt. “Defective” children and mental patients in Austrian
and German psychiatric hospitals were the initial victims of this
method of killing. More than 60 years later, the United States uses
the same method, with the same drugs, in essentially the same language
of justification to “purify” and rid society of people who have
been dehumanized.

The electric chair may be debated in Florida and the other three states
that use it as potentially cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment
and punishment. But let no one think that a substitution of lethal
injection will bring about killings which are somehow more “humane.”

These killings must be seen and labeled for what they are. They
are nothing more than a process of extermination, and representative
of a philosophy which believes some human beings can and must be
liquidated in the name of the law. This is not “an evolving standard
of decency,” but rather a return to barbarism.

– Rick Halperin

Dallas


Assume the position, Newt

BY DAVID CORN
(09/08/99)

David Corn asks a lot of questions that we would like to see answered. However, this does not change the fact that the whole Clinton case was a joke from the beginning. Just as there
was no reason to persecute Clinton, there is no reason to persecute Newt; what he did was his own choice. Those of us (including myself) who cried out for an end to the absurd impeachment case brought against Clinton must not ignore the fact that — although we would secretly like Gingrich to face the music for his numerous wrongs — any case brought against him will be just
as fruitless. The only goal in which we might succeed would be to show
that the Democratic Party and those in cahoots with it are capable of an
unnecessary and immature revenge.

– Chris Prince

No Beltway prosecutor worth more than $5 an hour would touch the
hypothetical questions posed in this article. For example, “If you engaged
in sexual activity with Bisek, did you practice safe sex?” What kind of
question is that? No proof exists — other than politically suspect hearsay –
that Gingrich slept with Bisek. Lacking such proof, no lawyer in his right
mind would touch that issue in court. (Have
you stopped beating your wife?) A sophomore philosophy major could
disqualify that question.

Will the truth come out? What we’ve learned –
after watching Clinton’s Paula Jones deposition — is that it won’t. The
main question is not, “What did he do, and when did he do it?” but
“What can we prove?” The “truth” in this case depends on a slick,
experienced Gingrich in the witness stand. He knows what we know
and he knows what we don’t, and can present, as ably as Clinton, everything
in between through impenetrable legalese and word games.

Still, we all know that Gingrich quit Congress because of this issue. Enough journalists with solid sources were ready to take the issue to the headlines that Gingrich had to leave. In the end, that’s the only truth Congress hears.

– Monty Nicol

Newt Gingrich’s divorce trial? The only remarkable similarity between it
and Clinton’s impeachment is you liberals’ total lack of understanding
of the underlying principles. People get divorced every day. It’s not every day that a sitting
president is sued for violating a state employee’s constitutional rights
while the governor. It’s a lot more important that the leader of the
free world give truthful testimony in those proceedings than that we see any dirt
that may come out of Newt’s divorce trial. Adultery isn’t
illegal; perjury and obstruction of justice are.

– James Nichols

San Diego

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