Letters to the editor

Too much sex with the locals; the Web brain-drain continues.

Letters to the Editor
June 21, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

The great Web "brain drain"



Great "clue test"! Most of these money-grubber sorts who want to make fast bucks are totally clueless about the technology. I like the idea of seeing if they know how to handle e-mail, or set up a laptop. As a person who sells computers for a living, I can tell you hair-curling tales of technologically ignorant people.


I think that the Internet, computers and all is simply the Gold Rush all done up in a putty-colored box. Unfortunately, the "gold" isn't as easy to get to as it was at Sutter's Mill, but everybody wants to try to get it -- whether they know how to run a business or not. I find the whole thing wonderfully amusing.

-- Lorie Johnson

People can be shut out in small companies as well as large companies. No one group has a monopoly on bad decisions or arrogance. It makes good copy to describe a mass of elites who have the power, but no authority or vision. But in the end, these are stereotypes, and little more.


-- William (John) Burns

Brighton, Mass.

Chicago hope



While I don't know any more about the incidents in Chicago than what I read in Pollack's article, I do know that when armed police officers ask you to get out of your car, you don't start rooting around for your cell phone. If that's what really happened, what else can you expect from a cop in a situation like that? And if Mr. Russ actually tried to outrun the police and ultimately grabbed at an officer's weapon, the outcome is predictable.


How can you complain about these two situations that, sad though they are, seem to have been justified. The evidence put forth in the article implies that the cops had no choice but to defend themselves.

-- Steve Cooley

A sexual education in Cuba




It is so typically Americano. Poor, little Daniel Weinshenker doesn't know that he could have traveled to almost any third world country in the world and experienced the same "education." The women he met in the discos and cafes of Havana are no different than he is: They do what they must do to survive. I think that he could have shown a little more respect for them. They did not ask that their country and culture be boycotted by "Western civilization." Obviously, the editorial staff at Salon doesn't understand these women either.

-- Bruce Richardson

Alameda, Calif.

Do you ever publish travel articles that deal with something other than sex with the locals? Its so damn tawdry, it depresses me every morning. Figuring how the "other" likes it does not constitute good travel writing. Starving prostitutes in Cuba, taxi drivers in Alexandria, hunting for Tampax in Yemen ... your stuff is beyond Orientalism.


-- Catharine Bufalino

Cairo, Egypt

More than anything, this article tells about the advantages that those with lots of discretionary money can take of the poor. They know where to go on a sex vacation. Many citizens of rich countries flock to various parts of the world to have legal and/or illegal sex. Oftentimes, they seem to forget all of their moral values -- that's if they ever had any -- at home. They let their raw instincs take over their judgment. They seek, pay for and hire people for sex orgies. They sometimes have sex with minors and sometimes in plain view of others. Faraway places such as Thaiti, Thailand, Costa Rica, Bali, the Caribbean, Jamaica and Haiti before the 1990s, etc., are well known places where Western tourists can be spotted enjoying their money at the expense of the less fortunate.
Don't get me wrong. Even in this harsh reality, these tourists can claim to do a favor to the natives. They bring in the needed cash they lack. With all of the boom of sex tourism comes the diffusion of sexually transmitted diseases to the most remote corners of the world. Back in the 1980s, Cuba had very few cases of HIV. Now with the increase of sex tourism and the continued grip of misery at the hands of Castro, more Cubans are falling victim of this epidemic.

"Sex is everything in Cuba. It is for sale. It is a means of exchange. A barter system," said a recent tourist to the island nation. Cuba is the place where the oldest profession of the world flourishes. And this is one of the down sides, among many others, of the socialist regime. One only needs to take a look at the former Soviet bloc. They export models and sex slaves to the Western world through a macabre system run by powerful gangs. New York City is full of them. Hopelessness can lead to undesirable actions. The survival instinct kicks in.


-- Joseph J. Charles

Caviar culture



At a certain level, I can agree with James Poniewozik's worries about the economic Balkanization of popular culture.
On the other hand, it strikes me that he misses one of the essential elements in the universe of premium cable channels. Television is paid for by someone. All television.

Networks are paid by advertisers to deliver an audience. A cable channel like HBO is paid by the audience to deliver movies and special series without commercial interruption -- and without the kind of direct censorship that one still finds on the nets. Ever see "Taxi Driver" on network television? I'm not naive enough to suggest that cable doesn't have its own forms of standards and practices, but they do seem less timid. It's hard to imagine "The Sopranos" (nudity, violence, language) or "The Larry Sanders Show" (language, rampant cynicism) being sponsored by the networks. And if the networks aren't paying for it, somebody else must.


-- John Harkness


James Poniewozik missed a key point in his discussion of the "un-massing" of the mass media. His rhetorical question whether editorial content could be affected by the media's need to heed consumers with money obliquely calls attention to another conundrum. To wit: Why might it be that Entertainment Weekly is so concerned with "The Sopranos"? The answer is as easy as 1-2-3: 1) Time Warner Cable is one of the biggest cable-television service providers in the nation; 2) HBO is owned by Time Warner; 3) EW is published by Time Warner. Sometimes, in these days of corporate synergy, the most interesting questions, especially regarding editorial content, are answered just by following the money.

On the other hand, I could be blowing smoke, since "The Sopranos" is easily one of the best television dramas currently out there.

-- Brendan McFeely


"Who Killed Kirov? The Kremlin's Greatest Mystery"



Katharine Whittemore's review of "Who Killed Kirov?" demonstrates why reviewers should bear some knowledge of their subject matter. The historical events of Kirov's assassination and the (immense) political ramifications of the same are dealt with in considerable detail in Robert Conquest's "The Great Terror." The essence of Conquest's analysis is that Stalin, impressed by Hitler's blood purge of the S.A. in Germany a few months earlier, used the assassination of Kirov to launch a purge on the city of Leningrad.

Whittemore states, "As for motive, chalk it up to the pathology that forever drove him," but that is a facile and substantively incorrect analysis of Stalin's actions. Rather, Stalin's behavior is best explained as undertaking actions which would give him complete, unconditional political authority in the U.S.S.R., which meant that he had to liquidate entirely all political opposition, opposition which could only come from fellow members of the Politbureau (to the end, Stalin ruled not as Fuhrer but as First Secretary of the Communist Party). While the means of Stalin's achievement of this political authority seem extreme to the average American, that does not mean that they were the result of caprice rather than calculation.

Whittemore also states that "with Kirov's death, the scale of [mass repression] increased unimaginably," but in actual fact, this statement is not only false but completely misses the political significance of the assassination. First, the greatest loss of life in the Stalinist repressions came about from the forced collectivization of agriculture starting in 1930. Estimates for deaths from 1930-33 usually begin at 10 million (Stalin's own estimate!), and while tens of millions more would die, the death rate would never be as high (some estimates of the 1930-33 death rate are much higher -- and it should be noted that Kirov, as well as the other Bolsheviks, approved this butchery, which makes the analogy of Kirov to Kennedy ridiculous). Additionally, the political importance of the Kirov assassination was that it signaled that the scope of the purges
would be expanded to include not only class enemies but also political authorities who nominally represented the interests of the working class, but were insufficiently loyal to Stalin.


Reviews of Soviet history should be performed by individuals who have some knowledge of that history. (My knowledge comes from reading 20 to 30 books and is by no means complete, but it is clear that Whittemore has read even fewer, or, if not, has failed to comprehend them.)

-- Ken McCue

Downtown soul



Charlie Haden suffers from some godawful inner-ear disorder that makes even the lightest flutter clamor like an elephant's parade. I don't know if it's tinnitus or what, but it's bad enough that he usually performs behind this bizarre Plexiglas screen. So that's why he was using earplugs. The duo may have been the best way to see him, since that forces him to be engaged. Sometimes, for whatever reason, he almost seems to disappear onstage.

-- Steve Dollar

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