BY LARRY S. PLATT
Warren Buffett -- whose billions earned playing the stock market make Michael Jordan look like a North Philly ghetto boy -- has said publicly he will not spend one thin Rockefeller dime to give back to the society that allowed him to earn that money, yet he is not hit with one one-hundredth the criticism aimed at Jordan. This is not to defend Jordan -- I think everyone who has earned millions for their work should get hit with the guilt bladder for their greed -- but if rich white men get a free ride for ignoring poverty and the promotion of ignorance in the pursuit of capitalism, then so should rich black men.
-- William Peschel
So how exactly are average poor kids supposed to emulate Michael Jordan? How does your average black kid who never had a chance in the NBA exercise his financial clout? Larry Platt is apparently blinded by the shining empire that Jordan's athletic prowess has created. But practicing basketball tirelessly for years is not heroic. Choosing financial advisers who will not cheat you is not a display of intestinal fortitude. And remaining silent on political issues when given influence is absolutely unforgivable.
Unlike Jordan, Muhammad Ali risked his career for his principles. Would he have been embraced by the mainstream if he had been inducted into the military and went on a goodwill boxing tour of Vietnam? Most definitely. Would he be richer now? Probably. But he would not be the most heroic, dignified man in America. And he wouldn't be someone who can be emulated without having $10 million in the bank. Ali paid a high price for his values. Jordan was just paid a high price for his value.
-- Tim Fogle
As a political science and economics major at Amherst College from Chicago, and a Michael Jordan fan since age 4 (when I met him -- I still have photographs), I would like to express my sincere appreciation for what Larry said in this article.
I am a Jordan fan, and always will be, but not because he is a manifestation of the desire of all Americans -- fame, fortune through his own hard work, and generally a "nice guy." I am his fan because of the way he plays basketball. True, it would be nice if he were equipped with the political awareness of, say, a Susan Sarandon or a Woody Harrelson, other celebrities who are known for their activism with racial/gender issues or cannibis legalization.
But the point is not that he is not politically aware -- it is that we should not require a constant stream of expression of that awareness from him, simply because he is rich, black and powerful. Jordan might have a strong position on any number of issues, from abortion rights to gun policy to child labor. But if he has to prove that to us, then we should have to prove it to each other on a grand scale every day.
-- S. Sita Sonty
So, this Larry S. Platt says that we bleeding heart liberals should back off? I am as socially conscious and politically correct as the next person, and I don't recall asking Mr. Jordan to serve as my role model or as America's savior. However, I do object to his sponsoring of Nike. I do not demand that Michael Jordan be more responsible than the rest of us, I demand that he be AS responsible as the rest of us. We have a man on television openly sponsoring the exploitation of children and civilians in Southeast Asia, yet no one objects. Celebrity or not, Michael Jordan should not sell his soul to this corporate Satan.
-- Jackie Mary
BY LEE HUBBARD
You've got to be kidding! Let me get this straight: States are passing laws to create police hair squads? It's against the law to braid without a license? But there are no laws requiring the licensing of gun owners? I guess killing children and other innocents on a daily basis is one thing, but we will not stand for illegal braiders!
"Put down the hairspray, girl, and nobody gets hurt!"
Only in America!
-- Dana Cochrane
I consider myself well-educated, and I've often thought of those who call America a "police state" as crazy at best. Lee Hubbard's article has me rethinking that.
When Malcolm X made the statement "By any means necessary," I doubt if he had the act of hair-braiding on his mind. Hubbard's reporting illustrates Malcolm very well could have.
-- A. Evonti Anderson
Why in the world would any local or state government want to adopt something so ludicrous to spend taxpayer money on. Setting up stings to catch hairdressers in the act of -- gasp! -- hairdressing? Since when has braiding hair become a crime?
This woman has parlayed her talent and skill as a hairdresser into becoming an entrepreneur and businesswoman. She could very well be just another gross statistic of the inner-city existence of Compton, Calif., but she has found her niche. For any white woman in the country in the same position this would never have become the issue it has for black women. This is an idiotic concept that should never have been allowed to get as far as it has. For goodness sakes, it's just hair!
-- Yasmin Siddiqui
I hate myself
BY DANIEL REITZ
I was disappointed in this article. It seemed incredibly oversimplified and stereotypical in its depiction of gay men as self-loathing sex addicts who "give attitude first, [and] pine later, in true Barbara Stanwyck style."
I am a 28-year-old out queer man who, apparently unlike Reitz, feels no urge to play the mating game with pumped-up gym-bods (who, if one goes by the article, are the only type of gay men there are besides the occasional bear). I don't think all gay men are that stupid. It sounds like the author really believed the myths and thought he could find the perfect male form to replace his 12-year marriage. I'm sorry he was disappointed, but I wish he could find more constructive ways to use his strong feelings instead of spreading his bitterness and disappointment under the guise of a Salon article about gay self-loathing. He might have narrowed the subject down to his own self-loathing. His well-meaning friend was right: "Get over it, Nancy." And stop giving the public a biased, irresponsible portrait of gay men.
-- Travis Mader
Just what we needed: another person telling the world how dysfunctional gay men are. While hardly original -- and with no more documentation than most of those that preceded him -- this time, the critic is "in house," another gay man. Oh, joy.
Daniel Rietz's assertions about sexual compulsions and self-loathing may hold some truth for certain individuals, but his sweeping generalizations based on the experiences of a handful of his friends are simply ridiculous. To lend the air of legitimacy to these personal opinions without any sort of qualifiers ("It seems to me that," or "In my experience, my friends who do this are ...") only serves to perpetuate myths about gay men and foster additional homophobia -- both inside the gay community and externally.
-- John Burger
I am an over-30 straight woman and I can assure Mr. Reitz that the gay community does not have a monopoly on shallow, emotionally bankrupt, sex-only, growing-older denial. In fact, I found each and every complaint Mr. Reitz has about gay men to be a truth which can, if such is your wont, be applied universally. It appears to be a perspective of self-pity rather than self-loathing. Be careful, Mr. Reitz, or it will be you who ends up dating a string of "future ex-boyfriends."
-- Diana Begus
I can't be the only one getting bored with trendy analysis of cheap and easy gay sex. Searching for meaning in such shallow environs allows any interpretation to sound significant, whether it's a Christian fundamentalist rant or a shrill leftist defense. The reality is much more pale and simple: Gay or straight, sex makes men stupid. Most straight guys eventually bend to the rules women impose. Gay guys have to learn to impose rules for themselves. That's about as deep as it gets.
But Reitz doesn't stop with the usual hand-wringing over gay promiscuity. He also chides gay men for imposing a vicious self-destructive code of fashion, beef and attitude. It's dishonest to pretend such a code does not exist. But 10 years ago, I grew tired of these games and left the gym, the boutique and the tanning booth behind me. Not only did my then-meager resources push me in this direction, but I found the whole scene excruciatingly dull. What I discovered was that many other gay men had already done the same, and had built lives around their own interests. Again, it's so simple: Order your priorities, and who gives a damn what anyone else thinks?
When I gave up searching for approval, and instead simply expected it, things changed. That may not be why my lover and I have been together and mostly happy for the past eight years, but it was a first step.
-- Bernard Gundy
Today, we got the thrill and excitement of hearing yet another unhappy urban gay man talk about how "gay men" do this and "gay men" do that. Perhaps Mr. Reitz is not familiar with the culture and attitudes of gay men who live in America's rural areas and small towns. My partner and I are supported by our community, and while it's true that there are plenty of single gay men here, there's also some very well-known, long-term couples.
I think Mr. Reitz needs to get off the plane during the flyover.
-- Dan Brown
BY ROBIN DOUGHERTY
I read the superlative article on Diana Rigg the day after watching 10 minutes of some show starring Pamela Anderson. Ms. Anderson and her cohorts apparently are bodyguards or private eyes or something similar, and appear to be unable to do that type of work without having their chests hanging out in the night air. I would imagine their company is probably called Bimbos Inc., but I did not stay with that program long enough to find out. Yet we wonder about the staying power of Diana Rigg? As Emma Peel she too exuded sexuality, but she did it with class, attitude and an occasional wry grin. She didn't have to expose herself to keep us guys returning to "The Avengers" every week. This example of class and breeding was reinforced on Monday's "Regis & Kathie Lee" show when Joan Lunden appeared. Her entrance in a black pantsuit made "basic black" do more to the male psyche than Pamela Anderson's chest ever could. Maybe we need the bimbos to remind us how superior the Riggs and Lundens of the world are.
-- Jerry Szymanski
There were few shows that I watched as a kid growing up in New York. Thankfully, "The Avengers" was one of them. It was enjoyable to say the least and there will never be that kind of TV ever again. The class and charm that both characters showed and the energy they displayed is all but gone.
And years after the program is gone, whenever I can catch an episode of "The Avengers," I am sure to watch it no matter what time it is. Oh yes, I forgot, Diana Rigg is, and always will be, a babe.
-- Dr. Harley Howard
Fountain Valley, Calif.
I love Diana Rigg, I have since I was 14 years old and my hormones were raging. I thought and think she is the foxiest, most sensual woman who ever graced the stage of the theater or the screen of television. I don't care if she is middle aged and older than I, my heart quickens whenever I hear her name or see her picture, remembering clearly the Emma Peel who leaped out all over you with grace and elan.
-- Samuel French
Run, Lowell, Run
BY BRUCE SHAPIRO
In response to Bruce Shapiro's article about Lowell. Please explain how this man is going to get around the constitutional requirement that one has to be born in the United States?
-- Rosemary Giuffre
Editor's note: Editor's note: The Constitution requires the president to be a natural-born U.S. citizen. The children of U.S. citizens, regardless of where they're born, are natural-born citizens. Weicker was born in Paris to U.S. citizens.
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I must say that I was greatly amused by the recent article on Lowell Weicker's new role as the messiah of American democracy. As an example of the writings of a liberal elitist with only the most rudimentary grasp of political reality, the article was quite enlightening. As I read it, I wondered if this Lowell Weicker was the same Lowell Weicker who announced for the Republican presidential nomination in 1979 and then quit in a huff a few months later when it became apparent that most of the nation wasn't automatically convinced of his presidential stature. I wondered if this was the same Lowell Weicker who was rejected by his own state in the 1988 senatorial election and won the governor's mansion only as the result of a severely divided electorate. Is this the same Weicker who, faced with the possibility of defeat, declined to run for reelection in 1994 and was succeeded by the very Republican (John Rowland) so easily dismissed by the article's fine writer? This man whose going to energize the American voter -- is this the Weicker described as "arrogant" and "unreliable" in several editions of the Almanac of American Politics? Its understandable that liberals might be upset at the prospect of having Al Gore, Bill Bradley or Warren Beatty as their standard bearer but have they grown so desperate as to glorify such a marginal figure as Lowell Weicker to the point of presidential stature? It is true, of course, that Weicker has defeated a Bush. Lloyd Bentsen defeated George Bush in 1970 -- it still didn't do the Democrats a damn bit of good in the '88 election.
Gov. Jesse Ventura is supporting Weicker for one reason. Ventura wants to be president but he knows if he jumps into the 2000 race, he'll look like another ambitious politician. So instead, he'll push the Reform Party to nominate someone who'll get attention but who won't win the election and certainly won't receive enough votes to set himself up as a potential rival in 2004. Pat Buchanan is a nut but if the Reform Party nominates him, his supporters will follow and make the party far less open to a social libertarian like Ventura. Someone like Weicker or Donald Trump will keep the Reform Party in the news and help keep it alive (and most importantly, leaderless) until 2004 when Ventura's ready to make his move.
And as long as foolish articles like "Run, Lowell, Run" are out there, that move is going to be easier and easier to make.
-- Jeffrey Ellis
Did the writer do any research on the current state of affairs in the Reform Party? Did he check any of the newsgroups, bulletin boards or chats?
Apparently, the writer took a 2-month-old off-the-cuff statement from Ventura and spun it into this mythical groundswell for the most despised politician in New England.
Nobody is taking Weicker seriously. He may have given Ventura good tactical advice on a third-party run, but administratively Weicker is known nationally as an unelectable buffoon.
The writer happened to miss the research which showed Weicker didn't run for reelection in 1994 because his poll ratings were slightly below Charlie Manson's. His policies accelerated the decline of Connecticut's economy (a huge tax raise in the middle of a severe recession is suicidal economic policy). Today, Connecticut has fewer residents and fewer jobs and more long-term debt than when Weicker took office.
Anyone following the Reform Party knows that its most likely nominees are, in descending order: 1) Patrick Buchanan 2) Jesse Ventura 3) Pat Choate 4) Ron Paul 5) Ross Perot 6) Charles Collins and 7) anybody but Lowell Weicker.
Although a Weicker candidacy would probably lead to a Bush 60 percent, Gore 25 percent, Weicker 15 percent final, most intelligent conservatives can read political trends well enough to know old Lowell's going nowhere, ever again, politically. I suggest your writer empty his pipe and stop living in the long-dead 1960s.
-- Thomas Fagan
New Haven, Conn.
Bruce Shapiro is allowed to dislike the current crop of presidential candidates. But he shouldn't be allowed to run around taking unsubstantiated cheap shots at them either -- not and call it journalism. He implies neither Gore nor Bush "knows how to govern" -- and leaves off. I can't speak for Gore, but Bush was a Republican governor of a state where the Legislature was still controlled by Democrats. He not only passed legislation, he worked so well with people from both parties that the most powerful elected Democrat in the state (Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock) endorsed him for reelection instead of the Democratic challenger! Bruce should do his homework.
-- Jimmy A. Roberts-Miller
As a supporter of Gov. Bush, I couldn't agree more with the title of Mr. Shapiro's article, "Run, Lowell, Run." It's everything after the title that has problems.
Take a look at the polls as far as name recognition. The name "Weicker" registers with today's electorate somewhere between Herbert Hoover and Millard Fillmore. A great politician once said, "You can't beat somebody with nobody." Mr. Weicker is simply not someone whose public life is in the here and now. Fortunately for our nation, but perennially unfortunately for writers from the Nation magazine, the conventional wisdom is usually right. George Bush beats all candidates placed against him in no matter what poll you read. This is because Bush is the safest bet to get a change from the Clinton era of sleaze and bring back a nation's honor.
Naming as the Reform presidential candidate a pro-choice, social libertarian, pro-labor turncoat such as Lowell Weicker will mean the death knell of the Democratic presidential candidate, be it Al Gore or Bill Bradley.
Jesse Ventura knows this. But Ventura's primary goal is to preserve the ability of the Reform Party to achieve federal funds for the next presidential election. He needs somebody who will lose, but respectably enough to keep the cash coming. If I were Mr. Weicker, I would be concerned that Mr. Ventura really at heart doesn't want me to win, and his support after my nomination would be tepid. The "Weicker" strategy is a relatively safe strategy for preservation of federal funds, while preserving the Reform Party as somewhat in Ventura's image.
-- Edward C. Sweeney