Letters to the Editor

Taking sides on Waco; Salon is as consumerist as the New York Times; how can I see the "Yellow Submarine"?

By Letters to the Editor
September 16, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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The truth about Waco

I grieve for the dead of Waco, and especially the children. But no matter
how the fire started, the fact cannot be ignored that David Koresh chose to
stay inside Mount Carmel for 51 days while the forces aligned against him
rested and plotted. If he cared a whit for the lives of his followers and
their babies, he should have led them to surrender -- and finished writing
his interpretation of scripture from jail. Those people depended on him, and
he failed them as much as the government.


-- Joe Hart

Lansdowne, Penn.

The survivor's account of the government siege and resultant attack was
harrowing in its clarity. Thibodeau really made the terror, confusion and
sense of impending disaster palpable. He also did a good job of
differentiating Koresh's community from those of the far right.

I marvel at the FBI's belief that these facts would never come out, in this day an age of inevitable exposure. Still, there's just one thing that puzzles me: Why is it that Thibodeau apparently never considered leaving the compound after the initial ATF assault? It's understandable that he fervently disagrees with the government's drastic actions. However, after the ATF agents were killed in the initial assault, he must have known that this type of response was almost certain to happen.


-- Andrew Ricks


David Thibodeau tells a nice story about how his fellow
Branch Davidians were simply selling guns and not
breaking the law. The one thing he leaves out is the fact that people
inside the Waco compound shot ATF agents.

No matter what the charges, no matter whether they
were true or false, you can't shoot cops. If David Koresh
wanted to fight the charges, he could have simply surrendered
and fought the charges in court.


Anyone else shoots cops in this country, the cops' families
are accorded sympathy and the shooters reviled.
But Thibodeau and the former residents of the
compound have somehow escaped this ignominy.
Instead, congressmen use them to pander to
the hard right.

American history proves we need to be vigilant
of government power. But to act as if the tragedy
at Waco was a government conspiracy and not
something that Koresh and the adults
in the compound could have ended at any time
by surrendering to legal authority is obscene
and an insult to the dead and injured ATF agents, who were
acting under the concert of law.


-- Stephen Gilliard

It has been an absolutely nauseating experience listening to the
press spin alibis (for the past six years!) for the conduct of the FBI
and the ATF at Waco in 1993. One of these agencies, the FBI, had a role
in the MOVE firebombing in Philadelphia and during the siege at Wounded
Knee; in both cases, the press was actively prevented from covering the
story -- and corporate media sources twisted that story as soon as they
were allowed to tell it. There are even indications that the FBI may
have abetted the person(s) responsible for bombing Earth First-er Judi
Bari's car.

In the past three decades, we have learned that the FBI lab is actually
very poorly run and unreliable; that COINTELPRO-type operations not only did exist, but are in all likelihood ongoing; that the FBI both actively
and passively assisted organized crime, going so far as to interfere in
the operations of local and state police forces; and that the power and
authority of the FBI were largely established by J. Edgar Hoover's
blackmailing of congressmembers and others.


It is long past time that the FBI be dissolved, and their investigative
function devolved to state and local authorities. The United States does not need a national police force; no KGB or Gestapo is required to coordinate the efforts of smaller-scale law enforcement agencies. A national databank
of fingerprints, criminal records, etc. already exists; most states have
agencies capable of rigorous investigation, and those that don't can
borrow personnel under existing laws. The mystique of the Feds was
largely created by Walter Winchell and by Hoover's manipulated
statistics; today, knowing all that we do, we need not delude ourselves
further. The FBI must go.

(Name withheld at writer's request)

Great balls of fire


Sean Elder downplays some of the
strong points of "Rules of Engagement" and does not focus
on whether the main claims of "Rules" are correct. The only
discussion of the truthfulness of the claims in the film
is of the alleged infrared evidence of gunfire during
the last day of the seige, which is the most easily disputable
part of the film. This sort of photographic evidence is notoriously weak.

The general narrative of the film is that ATF agents had chosen
to stage a raid on the residence of an admitedly strange
religious group. Like a lot of people in Texas, they owned
guns and liked to make some money by selling them. The ATF
had called local reporters in order to get some free publicity (the staff at the ATF is shown preparing press releases before the raid). A reporter
tipped off the Davidians and the Davidians made a bad situation
worse by shooting at law enforcement agents. One bad decision
compounded by an even worse decision lead to the deaths
of four men and the maiming of many others. As is often the case,
instead of admitting an error and trying to resolve the
stand-off through some sort negotiation, the ATF and later the FBI
decided to get revenge rather than save the lives of the children
and the Davidians who had no part in gun dealing or in the shootings
of the four ATF agents. "Take no prisoners" resulted in
more bloodshed.

Instead of assessing all the evidence that points to this story and
seeing if it is true, Elder focuses on how bad we all feel
because the Davidians were not proper victims.

-- Fabio Rojas


Gilded ink

I enjoyed David Carr's screed against yuppie consumerism, but couldn't help noticing that on the same page there was an ad for a leather bag intended as
"an elegant way to carry wine." Who is this aimed at if not those same
yuppies Carr was railing against right alongside? Not to mention
the Salon shop offers gourmet coffee and sacks suitable for carrying both
Proust and your workout clothes -- presumably aimed at yuppies with intellectual pretentions.

-- Cara McAteer

New York

Carr sounds like the kind of virtuous pecksniff that has always given
moderation a bad name. I find the Weekend section of the Journal
consistently interesting and amusing, even though I don't come close to the
august income levels the editors are hoping to reach. Do I need a $15,000
BBQ? No. Do I want one? No. Am I envious of those who have them? No.
But I look forward to reading about more of the same each week.


-- Burt Kuhlman

Carr makes many worthwhile points in his dissection of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, but his vituperative tone and vulgar diction undercut his message. By the end of his screed, I was more irritated by his whining than I was by the faults of the newspapers he was criticizing.

-- Thomas Matthews

A magical, movable feast


I enjoyed Michael Sragow's "Yellow Submarine" review, but I'm frustrated that with such lavish praise for the film, it's still going to be difficult to see it in the theaters. I live just north of Atlanta, and I don't see the film
anywhere on the horizon. I'll have to rely on the DVD, although I don't
have a player yet.

-- Randall Gray

Iron daddy

As a proud member of the "Sensitive New Age Guys Club," I want to thank you for validating our feelings and raising the public awareness by publishing "Iron Daddy." Kevin Trotter's observations and attitudes are refreshing. Parenting is a job that doesn't get the kind of press or priorities it deserves. If our society could become willing to enable parents to be with
their children, we would all benefit from it.

-- Mike DeVries

Laugh track

Susan McCarthy's excellent article highlights the
danger of treating any form of therapy as a
panacea. Humor therapy may be useful for some
patients in some situations, but, as with any
other approach that focuses on a patient's
emotional needs, these techniques ought to be
applied with tact and sensitivity. At its
worst, humor therapy epitomizes the American
insistence that people experiencing pain and
grief deny their darker feelings and put on a
"happy face" so as not to make those around
them uncomfortable.

-- Janet Lafler

A true fish story

I was delighted and interested to read of the potential benefits of fish oil for alleviating depression. I kept wondering, however, if it would make sense to extrapolate further: Couldn't some of the mental benefits from fish oil be associated with physical health benefits? Physical fitness is usually cited as an activity that keeps the mind sharp and sound as well as the body. The article cited the Japanese low incidence of heart disease and low rates of depression. It doesn't take too
much imagination to see that if physical activity easily strains your
cardiovascular resources, the world might seem considerably more oppressive psychologically as well.

I was also struck by the anecdote about recovering tuberculosis patients;
who wouldn't feel happier and more functional when recovering from a
life-threatening disease characterized by a painful, wrenching cough? I
certainly don't want to dismiss what seems to be compelling initial evidence
for a more purely chemical benefit of fish oil in treating depression, but
we should also remember that seafood has been known to be a very healthy
source of nutrition and its oil a very healthy oil for a while now. And
when we feel better, well, we feel better, if you know what I mean.

-- Brian C. Kenney

Somerville, Mass.

Linux laptop lust

The "Linmodem," like its sister, is a
waste of money to users. Such a modem soaks up to 40 percent of your CPU -- which is fine only if you use your PC or laptop for very little else while you are browsing the Net or sending e-mail.

The whole design philosophy says the user has a machine
with excess power, so let that excess be soaked up by the winmodem or
winprinter. You can see that if you are a power user, the obvious next
move would be to go out and buy more memory and a faster CPU -- which is effectively the purchase of a modem at great expense. The manufacturers
of these animals assume users would take this course of action, thinking
they have a great modem at a good price and that the rest of the machine
is lacking in performance.

Both Linmodems and winmodems equal dumbmodems.

-- Sid Boyce

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