Letters to the Editor

If Cintra doesn't gamble, why was she in Vegas? Plus: Don't expect teens to be grown-ups; exposing Pat Buchanan.

By Letters to the Editor
September 22, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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Entertainment dies bleeding in a Vegas men's room -- Oli!

Cintra Wilson starts out her whine-fest with
the revelation that she doesn't like gambling. My question to her:
"So, what the hell were you doing in Las Vegas?" I guess she
missed the urine smell, the drug dealers and the world-famous friendly
natives of her home city.


-- Jim Surdick

Thank the sequined soul of Elvis that Cintra Wilson captured Vegas in all its loutish glory. While Time and Newsweek fawn all over "The New Vegas," those of us who live here are not nearly so impressed. Despite the purported best efforts of Steve Wynn and his ilk, the most interesting things about Las Vegas are still tawdry sex and shockingly bad taste. The way Wilson stomps all over the "family entertainment" in Vegas makes me wonder if she isn't a native. And if she really wants to see something lame next time she's in town, she should catch the moving statues at Caesars.

-- Jason Harris

Las Vegas


How about having Cintra write about the stuff in Vegas that's supposed to be
good, like Cirque de Soleil or Tommy Tune? What she covered
was fine, but waaay too easy a target -- and besides, who would ever actually go to those things unless she were being paid to make fun of them?

-- Michael Allen



I enjoyed reading Lillie Wade's thoughtful analysis of "Ophelia Speaks," but I have two small bones to pick. First, Wade says she "had hoped that the voice of American teens would prove us to be more adult than child, more self-sufficient than self-pitying." I wonder
why she had this expectation. It seems wistful and naive, unlike the rest
of the essay.

Children are still children. They may speak cutting truths for all of us to
hear. But generally they lack the experience and perspective to stand
apart, look hard and place their thoughts and feelings in broader context.
I think understanding context goes a long way to moving an adult beyond
self-pity -- at whatever age that understanding starts to coalesce. It's not
common enough at 50, but to expect it at 17 seems severe.


The second bone is Wade's final lament: that "'Ophelia Speaks'
shows teenage girls as overprotected, naive and woefully unprepared for the
adult situations they are often involved in." I think that proves Mary
Pipher's point, eh?

-- Chris McLaughlin

Who's afraid of Pat Buchanan?


Got you by the short hairs, does he?
Pat Buchanan is being frank with the country, and anyone
willing to really listen has to truthfully admit that he makes sense.
Jake Tapper is upset that Buchanan is willing to be confrontational and won't apologize for being "in your face" -- but I would bet he would not be as condemning of someone like
Sister Souljah. Buchanan tells the unadulterated truth; it sticks in
Tapper's craw.

-- Kent Childress

Thank you for the light you shone on Pat Buchanan. This dreadful bigot
is allowed by too much of our media to sound like a moderate. A quick
look at the syndicated columns he wrote through the '80s and '90s shows a complete view of
what a nightmare it would be for Americans if he is allowed to be taken
seriously. The Teamsters have been talking about Pat for a while now and selling him as the
guy who will plug up NAFTA and save American jobs. I know this single issue, with the facts properly tucked away, will win a lot of union votes. Here in Detroit, with no
self-respecting union members reading the scab papers, his trail of
misinformation can do serious damage to our country. He is demonizing
the victims and letting the multinational corporations off scot-free.


-- Barbara Ingalls

There is no doubt that this professional bigot gets a big break from the media because he is
one of them. They all call him "Pat." Did you ever notice that?
Not once do any of those sadly unprincipled commentators refer to George
Bush as "George," or Elizabeth Dole as "Liddy."
The problem with these pundits is deeper than just
professional chumminess, though. They need to deny
that Buchanan is nothing more than David Duke with good media connections
(which is what he is), because to admit that Buchanan is a professional
bigot would be to admit that they sit at the same table, write for the same
publications and appear on the same television shows with a hate-filled,
dangerous man.

-- Garry Freshman

Merciless reviewer Kirn slams himself -- and Tom Wolfe


Was it the postmod, thumbsucking Kirn or his evil twin who, while
lambasting the admittedly lame Thomas Pynchon novel "Mason & Dixon" in Slate, wrote,
"Here is my own preliminary view, based on 400 pages read, 200 skimmed,
and 100 foregone" -- and who now sniffs: "I at least do authors the courtesy of reading their books before I hold forth"? Walter Kirn is truly a national treasure.

-- Tom Vieth

Jay Walker's patent mania

I don't understand why you would want to print such a one-sided attack
on Jay Walker. You quoted Bill Gurley, but he wrote about the idea in October 1997, while the Priceline patent was filed over a year before, in September
1996. If the idea was so "obvious" why did Bill Gurley wait a full year
(a century in Internet time) to have this "inspiration"?


You quote extensively from the patent filings to try to ridicule Walker -- but patent filings are drafted by attorneys for patent examiners, have their own special format and have little to do with Walker's personal opinion on this matter. You obviously have not spoken to any patent attorneys to try to
understand the differences between Priceline patents and "prior art"

As someone who is in the process of patenting a new idea and building a
company around it, I can tell you it is a one thing to have an idea, and
another to patent it and build it into a company. And I'm sure when we
are finished, some people will look back and say the idea was obvious,
but where are those people today?

No one is going to argue that the patent system is perfect, but do you have a better alternative? How do you encourage innovation by small companies
if they can't be sure their ideas are not going to be copied the minute
they go public?

If you want to be constructive, write an article about how to improve the
rules, instead of singling out one person for attack just because he has
been very successful in playing by the rules.


-- Hans Hsu

Many people feel that many of the reasons "old" ideas receive patents is that the patent office does not have the time (and some say the inclination) to discover evidence of what has already been invented.

One of the industry efforts to help the patent office (and others) find
"prior art" in software is the Software Patent Institute. We have
more than a million pages of old computer manuals, corporate technical
reports, articles from academic and professional journals, extensive
bibliographies and older textbooks, all in searchable form. The idea is that this material will describe, in a form the patent examiner can find and cite, many of these prior activities.

We are now processing a whole collection of university technical reports that were gathered by Yale University and are now being given away as
"too old" for their purposes. We have several thousand of these reports that
we hope to load into our database in the coming year.

-- Roland J. Cole

Executive director, Software Patent Institute

Overland Park, Kan.

"The Judge and the Historian"

Reviewer Jonathan Groner scoffs at Carlo Ginzburg's "curiously bloodless ... j'accuse," "The Judge and the Historian." While grudgingly allowing that Ginzburg "scores several solid points" against Leonardo Marino, the state's witness who confessed to
involvement in a 1972 murder and implicated three other men in that
killing (as well as a dozen others in various armed robberies), he
cautions the reader that Ginzburg "confesses his own bias up front" --
Ginzburg has been a close friend of one of the accused, Adriano Sofri.

Groner is trying to cut through a difficult and complex subject with brilliant sarcasm, but he is
not doing justice to the topic. Three men have been sentenced to terms in
prison ranging from 14 to 21 years, solely on the basis of one man's
testimony (that of Leonardo Marino). Marino's testimony is full of holes;
his reconstruction of the murder and the killers' escape clashes sharply
with the testimony of eyewitnesses at the time. He claims to have been the
driver; eyewitnesses were unanimous in identifying the driver as a woman.
If he was the driver, he wasn't much of a navigator -- when asked to trace
the route he took in fleeing the scene of the crime, he pointed out a
route leading in the exact opposite direction of that actually taken.
There are, as Groner admits, dozens of these problems (the car that Marino
claims to have stolen to use in the murder was dark blue, not beige as he
recalled; Marino describes being ordered to commit the murder in a
sidewalk conversation with Sofri in the town of Lucca, while newspaper
accounts indicate that it was pouring rain that day). But one discrepancy
is perhaps most troubling of all, considering that the sole evidence upon
which the prosecution is based is Marino's heartfelt repentance and
spontaneous confession: Marino claimed to have first gone to the police on
July 18, 1988; the police confirmed this date, but in court it later
emerged that he had been meeting frequently with his police handlers from
as early as July 2 -- two weeks of late-night meetings, glossed over by
witness and policemen!

Groner also dismisses the bizarre progress of the case, saying that "a
convoluted sequence [is] not unusual in contemporary Italy." Not
unusual? It is unparalleled, it is unique; and Groner would have the reader understand
that this is just how they do things in Italy. It is a thoroughly odd way
of trying a case, and during August of this year, it became odder still.
The conviction of the three men was overturned; Adriano Sofri and his
co-defendants are now out of prison; a new trial is expected.

I am the translator of Carlo Ginzburg's book, "The Judge and the Historian"; I am
also a journalist, and in fact the only non-Italian journalist to have
covered the original trial in 1988. I therefore confess my bias, as Groner
might put it, and I would strongly rebut his clever conclusion.

Ginzburg was analyzing the state's case in this remarkable
trial. The word of a single individual -- who was an estranged longtime
friend of the chief defendant and who was repeatedly proven wrong by
eyewitness accounts and physical evidence -- is bad evidence in a
case of murder. But that is all the evidence that the Italian state had to
send three men to jail for the rest of their lives.

-- Antony Shugaar

New York

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