Letters to the Editor

It's time for action in East Timor; misunderstanding "Stigmata"; cybercommunism and "free" software.

By Letters to the Editor
September 17, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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Bloody hands

The carnage which has occurred in Timor makes a total mockery of
American claims to defending "human rights." Remarkable during the grim
proceedings of the last week has been the reticence of the U.S.
government to take steps to stop the bloodthirsty behavior of the
Indonesian army. What ever happened to the idea of American leadership?
Even though many more people have died in Timor than at Tienanmen Square,
President Clinton has chosen to deal with the Indonesians with kid
gloves. If China had committed a similar crime, the expressions of
outrage would be deafening. When a U.S. ally does it, the silence is


-- Peter L. Curtis

Rotterdam, Netherlands

Peter Dale Scott writes, "At stake now is whether those in both capitals who
seek establishment of an orderly civil society can design a policy to
implement that desire."

True enough, but something more fundamental is at stake: the very
nature of American government. No one is above the law in America,
period. The law is decreed by elected representatives of the citizens. All these classified, scofflaw agencies run absolutely counter to the whole concept of America and everything noble it has ever stood for. This episode looks like yet another profound failure by our
government to function the way it is supposed to: The people, who are
the rightful rulers, are kept in the dark so they don't know what
they're voting for, and even though their representatives try to do the
right thing they're thwarted by cowardly, antidemocratic agencies who
answer to no one. This is a disgrace.


Someone once said that a country gets the government it deserves. I'm
not sure what we did to deserve a secretive military autocracy concealed
behind a puppet republic, but it's high time we atoned for it and
demanded our country back. Then, and only then, will we be able to deal
honestly and ably with disasters like East Timor.

-- James Robinson

Another U.N. disaster


East Timor is not another United Nations disaster. It is another American and British disaster.
If the British and American governments had not had a cozy relationship
with the Indonesians for a quarter-century, something like a quarter of a million East Timorese would have had a chance to live out their natural life spans.

If what was happening in Kosovo last March required the bombing of Belgrade
and dozens of other Yugoslav cities in order to make us feel moral, why
aren't cruise missiles demolishing Jakarta right now? Why have our smart
bombs suddenly gone so totally stupid?


Ian Williams frets over the fact that there are 23,000 Indonesian troops in
East Timor. There were 60,000 Yugoslav troops in Kosovo and that didn't
stop us bombing the whole country from 15,000 feet. So why aren't we
hitting the Indonesian military from a nice, safe distance in the sky?

Answer? Just check all the shirts and T-shirts in your cupboard, or your
kid's toys, or other knickknacks around the house. The fact that not one of
them will have a "Made in Serbia" label is the reason we decided to
demolish Serbia in March. The fact that you'll find plenty of "Made in
Indonesia" labels is why we will not demolish Indonesia in September.

-- John Xiros Cooper

Vancouver, British Columbia


The best and quickest way to get the attention of these totalitarian
governments is by an economic boycott of all their products. Do not buy products that are made in
Indonesia (or China, for that matter) nor patronize the stores that as a matter of policy carry
their products. With the millions of people on the Internet boycotting, and
urging others to do likewise, the leaders of these countries may soon change
their oppressive ways. Get them in the pocketbook; that's where
it hurts the most.

-- Joe Neil




Despite a few colorful metaphors, Mary Elizabeth Williams' review of
"Stigmata" completely missed the driving aesthetic behind the occasionally
amateurish film: that of Catholic icon-tweaking and the Madonna/whore
complex. These dynamics have been effectively employed by
Madonna, Depeche Mode, Garbage, Enigma, Nine-Inch Nails and other
major, prolific musical groups (making Corgan's soundtrack all the
more right), not to mention "The Omen" and the brutally effective "Seven."
Despite failing to outdo "The Exorcist," "Stigmata" dips into the well of
Catholic iconography, a powerful dynamic that entrances youth worldwide.
Next time you sound off about a recent work of art you should look closer
(as well as deeper).

Also -- incessant rain is a classic Gothic element and has roots to the "Castle
of Otranto," the first Gothic novel ever written, as well as having been used
to great effect by Ridley Scott in "Blade Runner."

-- David J. Morris

The Cybercommunist Manifesto


Yes, the GNU General Public License ensures that "free" software remains "free." But as anyone who has ever taken a quick glance at the GPL will know, this does not mean that no money can be charged for it. On the contrary, the license explicitly mentions right up front that there is no objection to one's making money off free software. It also says very clearly that "free" should not be taken to mean "free of charge" but rather alludes to "freedom" of certain legal restrictions. In fact one of the primary goals of the license is to prevent the usurpation of intellectual property and to support authors' rights to license the use of their work as they see fit.

Frankly, I think this leaves little basis for this kind of "communism is coming back" reasoning, which in any case is no more than an echo of Microsoft's line of defense against GNU software: "GNU is free, and if you give software away, it has no value" (never mind that Microsoft gives away Internet Explorer for free and has made it a point in the past to effectively charge below-zero prices for Windows when it suited them). As the article could hardly avoid noting, even today's IT market (which can only barely be said to be a free market) is quite capable of absorbing a phenomenon such as open source and putting it to good use, as it has done for the past decades.

Ideologists from time to time jump on the free-software movement to prove their pet theories; but the plain reality of the thing is that this development is driven by real, sensible people who to some extent view software development as an art. And art may be practiced to gain fame, wealth or personal fulfillment -- but it does not, as Oscar Wilde so rightly observed, try to prove anything.

-- Jeroen Vermeulen


Leonard writes of the "lucid lambasting
of right-wing libertarian digerati domination of the Internet."
Characterizing libertarians as "right wing" couldn't be further from the truth.
Libertarians do not fit on the typical, one-dimensional
socialist-liberal-moderate-conservative-fascist spectrum.
Libertarians are neither liberal nor conservative, but believe in the maximum
amount of self-governance in personal and in economic matters,
with a minimal government, the primary role of which is to protect individual
rights. This places us off the liberal-conservative spectrum and directly
opposite authoritarian systems (whether socialist/communist or fascist).

-- Joseph Bommarito

It's not communism vs. capitalism. It's statistics.
When you have a software-using population numbering in the millions, it is a
statistical certainty that somebody somewhere will have both the means and the
motivation to create the software. It might be a retired programmer looking
for something to do, a student wanting to practice a new technique,
new programmers wanting to flesh out their CV and/or advertise themselves, a
teenager wanting to show how smart she is or a company wanting to claim a
market. These are all selfish reasons that fortunately also happen to benefit
our society as a whole.

And with intellectual property, particularly programs, all it takes is a
single copy. That copy can be used by millions.
In the open-software movement, the free market is doing what it does best:
setting the sale price to a level appropriate to the cost of production.


-- Julian Byrne

Hitting the gold ceiling


It is time American society awoke to the ridiculous assertion that there
is a glass or gold ceiling that prevents women from receiving equal

Western society's feminists have worked for and achieved equality in the
American workplace. The laws and social acceptability at all levels have
not only assured them huge rewards for gender discrimination, but have
gone farther than needed, creating what I call the "Effeminization of America."
The white male is everyone's enemy.

Contrary to the author's bias, gender does not stop women, or minorities,
from reaching the top of business circles. Especially in America.
What these people fail to realize is they don't have to play in any game
that puts them at a disadvantage. They can start their own game,

Business is tough. It not only requires competence and skill, but
mastery of several subjects, and a warrior's mind. Overcoming obstacles
and understanding the nature of things are an executive's daily
challenges. If being a woman or minority limits one's ability to compete
in the real world, these people should lose out, and without apology.

-- D. Smyth

Kevin Spacey knows our secrets


Kevin Spacey is enormously appealing -- and yet if he were not an actor, if
I merely saw him on the street, I'm sure I wouldn't give him a second
glance. He's so ordinary; he looks like someone's innocuous dad. Why do I
find lust bubbling up in me every time I see him on screen? Talent,
intelligence and mystery are all aphrodisiacs. And damn that little

-- R. Cleverly

Said critic blasts back at Hitchens


I am in absolute dismay at the paranoid bashing of Justus Reid Weiner by
Edward Said, Alexander Cockburn and Hussein Ibish. Weiner spent three years
factually untangling a tightly wound web of deceit spun by none other
than Edward Said himself. Rather than answer Weiner's charges, Said chooses to espouse his usual
vehement verbiage and utter contempt for those who may question his
well-orchestrated delivery. He lashed out with dripping sarcasm and
putrid innuendo towards Justus Weiner. Now, Said thinks he is the Palestinian victim once
again. Wrong!

Justus Weiner is anything but the obscure, right-wing,
unscrupulous human being that Said claims "was trying to make a name
for himself by attacking a better known person's reputation." To the
contrary, Weiner has published extensively in leading international and
American law journals of Cornell, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, NYU,
Boston University, Boston College and the Columbia Human Rights Law
Review, to name a few. Moreover, contrary to Said's repeated accusations
that Weiner did not contact him prior to publishing the article, I can
attest, he shared with me in the summer of 1997 that he was researching
the writings and speeches of Edward Said. Why? Because he was writing a
law review article on the views of intellectuals, both Palestinian and
Israeli, who opposed the peace process and he came across Said's
writings. They initially fascinated Weiner, especially the way in which
Said wove in his childhood. In true insatiable journalistic curiosity, Weiner
hungered for more -- but the more he read, the more he discovered the story
was too perfect and it was turning into a parable.

Justus is a legal scholar who
also possesses an extremely deep sensitivity to Palestinians, so this
despicable statement by Said that "Weiner was doing this to degrade
Palestinians claims" was just more of his disputable rhetoric. Weiner
has also been a member of Amnesty International, ACLU and a volunteer
lawyer doing part-time pro bono work for the Legal Defense Fund of the

It would behoove Said to step down from his ivy-covered tower, keynote
speeches and dinners long enough to see that a new generation is rising
who are demanding peace. The real beginning of peace is baby steps
of compromise. Or do we boomers interpret it differently? I believe
these little steps started when the Arab woman gave her dead child's
heart to a Jewish child. Or they start when a Jewish mom and an Arab mom end up
chatting the morning away about their children. When a
Jewish family has a place for an Arab woman at Shabbat dinner. When Arab men and women are as outraged at indiscriminate bombings as Jews. Peace is not rhetoric, it is gesture and it must begin with you and me.

In my further dismay, the Said supporters, with no factual expertise to
the contrary, are accepting this fable which has taken Said wherever he
wanted to go. To them it was easier to shoot the messenger. As time
goes on they will discover that they shot themselves in the foot and the
messenger is just fine.

-- Chambier Valerie Monsour-Bechtel

Sonoma, Calif.

Miami thighs


Oh, yes, this was on point! I am happy with my 35-inch Dominican
hips! I'm glad there was no mention of Jennifer Lopez's butt; we've had enough of that.
She's not the only one who's got one. It's typical in our
culture: If you lose too much weight, your mother and/or grandmother will
come after you, fatten you up and accuse you of unhealthy eating habits or of
not eating at all!

-- Gypsy D. Guillen

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