Letters to the Editor

You pay your handyman more than your nanny?! Plus: Pop psychology Mach test too close to Cosmo quiz; "broadband warrior" Jermoluk is wrong about wireless.


Letters to the Editor
September 20, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

My nanny, myself
BY JENNIFER BINGHAM HULL

(09/13/99)

Hiring poor women of color to care for the children of privileged white
families, paying them poorly and then idealizing these caregivers as
more natural, more nurturing and more giving than ourselves is
exploitative to say the least -- a problem that Ada's (presumably Latina)
grandchild recognizes intuitively in wondering whether her grandmother
prefers her high-status white employers' child to herself. When
addressing the fundamental need for good, affordable child care for
working couples, let us not blind ourselves to other, equally pressing
issues of class and ethnicity. If privileged women remain blind to the
needs of poor women and women of color, can we really consider ourselves
feminists?

Advertisement:

-- Tedra Osell

Seattle

As a mom who has had a full-time nanny for most of my
children's lives, I agree with Jennifer Bingham Hull on the
importance of the nanny in the life of a family, and on the
capacity for love and friendship that a nanny brings. But
when she says, "I entrust Ada with the most important person in my life, but
I pay her less per hour than I pay the handyman,"
I cannot help but ask why. This person who is so important
to her and to her child deserves the respect of earning a living
wage! If it means paying more than "market," so be it.

-- C. J. Atsatt

What a self-centered, shallow, Grade-A boomer yuppie stereotype Hull is: one who wants to have children, but not raise them. One who would abandon time with her daughter for the sanctification of her precious "art" (i.e., journalism, whose salaries are notoriously low for all but a tiny few). One who complains because her husband, obviously a tenured professor who works all day and teaches at night (and without whose secure income there would be no healthy, happy child, let alone full-time nanny), seems "uninvolved." Such ethical battles! Such pathetic hypocrisy! Hull is a coward, so lamentably blind she doesn't know how lucky she is.

-- Gary Higgins

Machiavelli personality test
BY RICHARD CHRISTIE

(09/13/99)

Advertisement:

Dear oh dear. I read "The Prince" about 12 years ago, and was impressed by
what I understood as a clear-eyed analysis of not how politics should be
done, but how it tends to be done. And there is a difference.

Similarly, your "personality test" suffers from the usual split-personality
problems of the genre: begged questions, overarching assumptions and a
complete inadequacy as a test of anything meaningful. Twice it refers to
"getting ahead": How culturally specific is that? What does it mean? And why
are humble and important automatically diametric opposites -- unless you're
already a believer in the "dog-eat-dog" school of life?

There's plenty of research -- which the accompanying article touches on, but
doesn't really get to grips with -- covering game theory and the discovery
that initial collaboration, coupled with harsh and immediate punishment of
betrayal and then a return once more to collaboration, is a more successful
evolutionary strategy, at least.

The whole thing feels akin to an IQ test -- a concept which I thought was
pretty much exploded outside the Bell Curve constituency -- or, alternatively,
the faux-intellectual equivalent of a Cosmo quick quiz. Neither of which
exemplars I guess you'd want to follow.

Advertisement:

-- Jeremy Scott-Joynt

London

I was pretty disappointed by your Mach test analysis; saying that
"High Machs constitute a distinct type: charming, confident and glib"
is a pretty big stretch. Many of these people are very socially inept,
exuding a sense of self-righteousness or superiority which turns off
those around them. Likewise, low Machs can be very socially pleasant and strong people, not "dependent, submissive and socially inept."

People are a lot more complicated than
what a 20-point questionnaire loosely based on 16th century ideals can
safely analyze.

Advertisement:

-- Thane Morgan

The Mach test would have been much nicer had it been a nice clickable
form with buttons and auto-scoring, rather than having to write
everything down.

-- Stephen Waters

Austin, Texas

Editor's note: The contest format has been adjusted to provide an automatic scoring function. We hope readers will give it another chance.

Advertisement:

Broadband warrior
BY MARK GIMEIN
(09/13/99)

Jermoluk asserts that it isn't possible today to
switch carriers without a user changing their phone number. Here in Hong
Kong we have been doing just that for six months. This past March, the Hong
Kong government's telecommunications regulator began implementation of a
rule that requires all mobile phone operators to offer number "portability"
-- so you can switch to a different operator and keep your old number. Now
that mobile phone users can shop around for the best deal without worrying
about losing their number, competition among mobile phone operators has
greatly intensified. We have seen a dramatic drop in air-time charges,
which has led to an even further acceleration of mobile phone usage here.
(It is now estimated that more than 50 percent of Hong Kong's entire population has a
mobile phone).

Hong Kong has demonstrated that number portability is technically possible
-- what is required is a government regulator that demands that it be
implemented among the relevant telecommunications companies.

-- Rick Gore

Hong Kong

Advertisement:

This article perpetuates a confusion that I'm hearing a
lot these days. "Broadband" doesn't simply mean high-bandwidth. Ethernet,
from 10 megabit to gigabit, and DSL are both baseband, not broadband.
Technically, there may be broadband operation on a cable connection, but
it's not really significant to the user, nor is it the sense in which this
article (and others) are using "broadband."

-- Jonathan Lundell.

Goodbye, Internet poster boy
BY MARK GIMEIN

(09/11/99)

Mark Gimein, in noting Marc Andreessen's departure as CTO from AOL, has
made several leaps of fancy that could have been avoided by
straightforward fact-checking.

Advertisement:

Gimein writes that "Mozilla.org, the group of Netscape engineers who set out to develop a powerful new open-source version of the Netscape browser, is moribund."
Does this explain why the Milestone Builds keep getting better and
better, and the only way a developer can currently test their CSS1
compliant pages is by using Mozilla's alpha browser? Why several
companies are incorporating Mozilla into their own projects? Sorry, the
situation only justifies "moribund" if you're considering a paucity of
press releases as such.

"Mozilla.org is working on a messaging application
that might compete with AOL's own."

Perhaps if you were getting your news from somewhere other than CNet,
the more complex truth would out. First, the client currently buildable
with Mozilla is an IRC client, which is not likely to compete with AOL Instant Messenger
or ICQ any time soon. Second, one might point out that AOL competes with
its own clients. Thirdly, this is an open-source project, which means
people can add what they like. This may include features AOL won't do
handsprings over, but it also includes important stuff like MathML
support coming to Mozilla sooner than anywhere else.
With things like XPCOM, standards support and identical cross-platform
behavior, Mozilla will revolutionize browsing. Unfortunately, it can do
nothing for reporting.

-- Ethan Fremen

Advertisement:

Microsoft did win the browser wars and I'm afraid Mozilla is
pretty much dead. But without Netscape's contribution, Microsoft would never
have felt the threat and would not have poured so much resource into building
something better. The winner (for now) is the consumer.

One thing Netscape did champion was the use of open standards for
communication on the Internet. With serious competition knocked out of the
way, Microsoft is free to pursue its habitual course of perverting open
standards into something all its own. Examples of this abound. And this
does hurt the consumer.

Microsoft is very adept at running with some else's idea and taking the
lion's share of the rewards. But this does not give Gimein the right to be
loftily dismisive of those who did take risks and pioneered what we all
enjoy today.

-- Charles Razzell

Advertisement:


Sharps & Flats: "Bitter"

REVIEWED BY ALEX PAPPADEMAS

(09/10/99)

This personal attack --
thinly veiled as a music review -- only serves to highlight the writer's
own angst, reflected in either his pent-up sexuality, frustrations as
a wannabe musician or just plain old fucked-upness. It provides
little in the way of a coherent, reliable account of what history will
surely reveal to be an important and classic musical statement.
Ndegeocello has again proven herself to be one of the most important
artists of this decade. While she will never sell like those who
appear to have Alex Pappademas' approval -- Missy Elliot, Tori Amos, Natalie
Merchant -- she will be understood to be an esteemed colleague of John
Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone, Joan Armatrading, Bob Marley,
Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield and Prince. Pappademas should be fired; he has no clue about what constitutes good music.

-- Kofi Taha

New York

The American way of bigotry
BY DAVID HOROWITZ

(09/13/99)

The idea of whites being victimized by "black separatism" is a novel way
for Horowitz to articulate his hurt feelings but it is historically
inaccurate. Furthermore the statement "How can blacks expect justice
from whites, if whites cannot expect it from blacks?" is so laced with
historical amnesia that it does not serve someone of his intelligence
to even utter it. What justice do you speak of, David? Very little reprisal occurred against whites at all after slavery. Did former slaves ever receive their 40 acres and
a mule, let alone anything smacking of fair compensation for the theft of
their lives? What about the 237 years of slavery and 100 plus years of
Jim Crow? Did blacks ever receive justice for any of those heinous
periods in America's history?

Japanese-Americans received reparations
for their internment in camps during WWII and rightly so. The closest
thing to reparations African-Americans received from this country is
affirmative action legislation, and the backlash against those programs
makes it obvious who the real bigots are.

The history of this country is an explanation, if not justification, for the
feelings of bitterness and resentment some black Americans feel. There
had to be a racist condition to create a Louis Farrakhan ( in the case
of America a particularly harsh racist system). After centuries of mistreatment at the hands of white people, how can you expect black people to hold anything but contempt for their tormentors? What you, David, expect from us requires one thing: trust. And that is something, with few exceptions, that white people in this country have yet to earn.

-- Jamil A. Hamilton

David Horowitz's discussion of the ideal of equality
expressed in the Constitution was breathtakingly a-historic. It is true
that the words black, white and American were not used. But the words
"citizen of the United States" are present. And, the famous compromise
in Article 1, Section 2, makes it clear that all persons bound for life (and
this presumably meant enslaved blacks, as those who were indentured for
a specific period were specifically excluded) were to be counted as only
three-fifths of a person, rather than an entire human being. And while the words
male and female were not included in the original document, the
existence of the 19th amendment would seem to put the lie to the idea
that people acted upon any belief the founders may have had in the equal
standing of women as citizens.

It is ruthless reinterpretation such as he indulged in in this article
that makes me think that David Horowitz is not my friend or ally in the
struggle for equality of any kind, however much he might like to be.

-- Adrienne York-Minor

I personally agree with Horowitz's point of view that
the NAACP case against gun manufacturers is entirely specious, but the lawsuit is
emblematic of a general victim complex that pervades our litigious
society. This is manifest in other phenomena -- such as the lawsuits against tobacco
companies over smokers' health problems. But I also agree with the White
observation that Horowitz's seemingly reasonable premise launches into
unrepentant racist diatribe about black character in general. Horowitz
flippantly dismisses the idea of a criminal justice system skewed in
regards to race, despite ample evidence that blacks are prosecuted and
punished blatantly disproportionately to whites for the same crimes.
Also the "why isn't there a black exodus?" and "why do so many Haitians
want to come here?" is as boorish and ignorant an utterance as ever could
be heard from Archie Bunker. At the very
least, if Horowitz wants to raise questions about blacks' ability to parent,
he should expect some equally strident criticism of himself.

-- Eric Whitcombe

Horowitz doesn't acknowledge the real problem with "racial"
segregation" -- that it's based on the myth that a scientific measurement called
"race" even exists. I won't mention the indisputable fact that most
so-called "black" Americans also have European and American Indian ancestry,
just as most so-called "white" Americans, if they dare look into it, will
find a galaxy of "non-white" forebears.

The Eurocentric model of four or five tidy "racial" categories, into which all humans can fit, is more than 200 years old and disastrously outmoded. Johann Friedrich Blumenbach formulated this taxonomy in 1776 in his seminal work, "De Generis Humani Varietate Nativa" (On the Natural Variety of Mankind). As Stephen Jay Gould pointed out in his
essay "The Geometer of Race" (Discover magazine, November 1994), Blumenbach
believed that people from the Caucasus were the most perfectly beautiful on
earth, and therefore were created first at the point of origin of all
mankind. In Blumenbach's taxonomy, all racial variations are degenerations
from the Caucasian ideal.

Science has moved on. So why don't we? Why do we still use non-scientific
artifacts like "white" and "black" to describe the minor facts of our
variation? Why do we continue to subscribe legally to 18th century notions
that limit our horizons and describe distinctions without a difference?
In 200 years, when everyone in America looks pretty
much alike because, simply put, people like to mate, our descendents are
going to laugh at all our quaint ideas about "black" and "white" races. And
they'll finally understand the only useful fact about the subject: There is
just one race in the world, and it's called "human." Any other talk of
"race" is a waste of breath.

-- Mark Hoffman

As a black man, I've heard the type of statements put forth by the black female reader Horowitz quotes all my life in one form or another. Too many of us still subscribe to this way of thinking and it's unfortunate. We need to learn that incisive criticism from any quarter is priceless. Sometimes those outside of your group are the in best position to point out where you are. I don't at all consider Horowitz a racist just because he points out unflattering things about black people. In fact I admire his willingness to express himself on this subject, which others stay silent on.

-- Andrew Ricks

Houston

I keep thinking that David Horowitz has tongue stuck firmly in cheek as he
writes this stuff, that he can't really believe what he claims. He
complains that whites can't criticize blacks, but he's made a living out of
doing just that. He whines that he's being called a racist, but disagree with
him and you're accused of the vilest motives in the most inflammatory
language.

Let's get back to this idea that blacks are immune to criticism; this is
where you realize he is kidding. As Ishmael Reed has said, there's a virtual
"industry of pathology" when it comes to blacks. The sociology of black
deficits has permeated academia as well as the news media. Where Horowitz
and I would probably agree is that it doesn't differ much in whether the
media is "liberal" or "conservative." So the New Republic (conservative?)
runs a piece about condemning blacks for objecting to police brutality and
racial profiling in the wake of the Diallo killing and the (liberal?)
Washington Post does the same.

Now Horowitz wants the world to know that separatism and lack of moral
courage are "our fault." Funny thing, this has been the fundamental
criticism of black people since time immemorial; I have a copy of the famed
entry on "Negroes" in the 1924 Encyclopedia Britannica, which describes us
as child-like, incapable of moral decision-making and fun-loving. I must
concede that people like Horowitz have taken the fun part out -- unless it's
implied in that some of us still make lots of illegitimate babies.

One has to really question Horowitz's motives when he
fails to address the issue of access to media. Being heard is fundamental
in defining public dialogue, but his assumption is that we all have equal
access, which is of course generally untrue. I think he was really shocked
that Jack White, a black writer, was as free to express his opinion as
Horowitz does all the time -- and in a major media vehicle at that. In fact,
months go by without black thinkers appearing on the op-ed pages or in the
shrinking number of magazines that still deal with issues.

Whites begin believing that people like Farrakhan or Sharpton have vast
followings because they get better press coverage than the heads of the
Urban League, the NAACP or black elected officials. If we're losing a
"communal" voice, as Mr. Horowitz complains, it's because there aren't a lot
of venues where we can have a real discussion, where the views of black
folks are heard in context and in detail.

But here I go being serious again. I'm convinced Horowitz is kidding us all
because he played that favorite trump card of people who want to put blacks
up against the wall (metaphorically only, I hope): O.J. A lot of black people didn't really cheer for O.J. (he
never had much to do with blacks anyway); they cheered for a justice system
that had finally moved closer to real parity. If you're a celebrity and you
have enough money, you can get away with murder -- even if you're black.

-- Joel Dreyfuss


Letters to the Editor

MORE FROM Letters to the Editor

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Motherhood




Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •