Letters to the Editor

Abstinence works in theory, not in practice; debating cable vs. DSL; who's to blame for Columbine feeding frenzy?

By Letters to the Editor
September 30, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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Just say no to sex; just say yes to big bucks

Sharon Lerner tries to convey the idea that abstinence programs are part of the Christian right's agenda.
In this time and age, casual sex is a public health issue, just as drug and tobacco
use are. A health campaign telling teens to "just say no" to drugs and tobacco is acceptable;
but in Lerner's view, saying no to casual sex is serving Christian values
(and never mind Jewish or Muslim restrictions on sex). Lerner ignores the fact that if
each of us were to have sex with one partner only during our lifetime, sexually transmitted
diseases, including AIDS, would not be the problem that they are now.
Therefore, abstinence is a real and valid choice that
has a positive effect on the well-being of us all.


-- J. Antonio Medina

I believe teaching abstinence is good in theory, but so is socialism. In
this world, and especially in American culture, this is not the norm. From
an early age many children are exposed to sexually explicit entertainment
without any guidance from adults. Many parents seem content
with the idea that their children will "figure it out" on their own and
make the right decisions. This is ridiculous; teens will continue to have sex.
Teaching them to be responsible and not get pregnant or contract a disease
is the first step. Then we can try to address the reasons for teen sex.
Hopefully if children grow up with the facts at hand and are able to
express themselves in an open environment, they will learn to wait to have
intercourse with someone they truly care about.

-- Scott Schlatter


Assuming that even 10 percent of adolescents are abstinent, isn't that reason to
respect them as regular people instead of unrealistic social failures (as
sex advocates describe them) or as misguided dupes of religious hypocrites?
What about accepting the revolutionary concept that a lot of kids and adults
just don't get laid on a regular basis -- and that's the way it is for most
people at least some of the time.

-- John Dodd

The author mentions an Arizona State University program where the
patients are encouraged not to engage in romantic relationships during the
course of their recovery. The author seems to suggest that this is an
example of government-promoted abstinence education. On the contrary: To
the best of my knowledge, patients at any substance abuse institution are
encouraged not to engage in relationships because it is distracting and
detrimental to the recovery process. Two alcoholics, especially when they
are engaged in a relationship, have a much easier time falling off the
wagon than an individual patient would, because they "encourage" each other to
do so. I am quite sure that the clinic's decision has nothing to do with abstinence
theory -- religious or otherwise.


-- Mark Solomon

It boggles the mind that a country that considers itself to be the most free country in
the world could allow itself to be held hostage by a minority group of
right-wing religious fanatics. This war on sex will likely be as
successful as the war on drugs, which has made the United States the
laughingstock of world. Where else but in the United States are billions of dollars
spent to try to stop people from partaking in activities that harm no
one (i.e., sex and recreational drug use) while the government cannot
pass even simple gun-control measures? The American economy may be
the strongest in the world, but I still don't understand why anyone
would choose to live with the repressive social environment.


-- Daniel Hertzman


Cable modems or DSL: Which is better?

Although this article addressed many of the differences between cable modems
and DSL lines, I found it surprising that someone as technical as Simson
Garfinkel did not address the real differences between the services.


Everyone is aware to some degree about the shared bandwidth/guaranteed
bandwidth argument. But the bigger issue is the architectural difference
between the two systems. On a DSL line, you have a direct line to any
Internet site. (Or at least you do if you're on a decent provider.) With a
cable modem, you are typically behind a proxy server that handles all
external traffic requests. This is a major choke point for data. And as
simple as it is to say, "When they reach capacity, they will just install
another one and split off the traffic," history shows that ISPs of all
stripes do not upgrade until they start to lose customers.

The other difference that I have experienced is that on a DSL service, you
can put up a Web site, a multiplayer game server, ftp site, mail server, etc.
With a cable modem, since you are essentially on a private network with a
non-routable IP address, you cannot do any of these things. What is the
point of a fat data pipe if you aren't allowed to do anything with it except
consume other people's content?

The real difference between DSL and cable modems for me is the difference
between being a part of a production, or just buying a ticket to watch the


-- Michael Santora

I have to take issue with your idea that either cable modems or xDSL can
participate in "A high-speed battle for digital dominance." Nothing could be
further from the truth. These techniques for reusing wire strung in the 1940s
qualify as low-speed Band-Aids at best. You surely are not going to be able to
offer streaming video over this; the best you can do is yet more Web
browsing at higher speeds than a v.90 modem. Yawn.

Consider that many people are wiring their houses with 100BaseT, a technology
developed in the 1980s that is a couple of orders of magnitude faster. What is
needed is not more ways to reuse ancient infrastructure, but new
infrastructure. We need to junk the twisted-pair copper phone lines and replace them with
fiber-optical cable to the home (the fabled and feared "last mile"). We could
then run Internet Protocol over Dense Wave Division
Multiplexing over the fiber, and actually have high-speed digital communications. Until
then, movies-on-demand and other ideas are just pipe dreams.

-- Bruce Watson


Cable modem companies advertise high bandwidths all
the time. What they fail to mention is that it only applies
on compression-friendly data (HTML code, telnet sessions and
anything text-based). If it has actual content, you're out of luck.
The other half truth here is that you'll only get the promised rates
if you hit either a site on their network or a site that has been
cached by their proxy server.

And finally: As far as which
one is better, it really depends on what the user wants
to do with it the connection. I had a rep in my house not too
long ago talking to me about cable modems. Everything was going
fine until I read the contract. It specifically forbade firewalls, servers
and IP Masquerading. I threw that rep out on his ear. DSL was
the opposite. There was very little security. You are expected
to supply your own. Plus, their policy was pretty much "anything goes."
To date, I haven't found any cable modem provider that will allow servers.

The bottom line: If you're a techno-nerd and you plan on doing
more than surfing, go DSL. If porn.com is all you crave, then
cable modem will suffice.

-- Scott Phillips


I just checked my local cable company (Charter/Earthlink, with a product
called "Pipeline"): It provides 128 kbps upload, 512 kbps download for $60 a month. (The 384/768 package goes for $135. )
In contrast, I have Pacific Bell DSL sharing the single home-office phone
line: I get 384 kbps upload, 1.5 mbps download for $80 a month.
I guess prices and services vary tremendously by area.

-- Ara Keoshkerian,

Pasadena, Calif.

Technical arguments aside, the cable infrastructure seems unable to
develop a simple way to deploy and maintain their service. The pathetic
level of support that cable TV consumers have to put up with is enough to
make you want to kiss your ISP on the lips. With broadband, at least
there is a choice.

I dropped my DSL for cable. I waited nine days for an installation
appointment that was scheduled to take four hours. They never got the cable
working and the only solution the company could offer was to send out more
techs in their ever-popular four-hour arrival window. With DSL, I was mailed
a modem and walked through the installation; any problems were handled
over the phone. I cancelled cable after three weeks without service, with a tech
scheduled to show in two more weeks. I'm back on DSL for good.


-- Rob Kerr

Garfinkel points out that because of issues like price and quality of service, the
cable companies should be forced to open their networks to other providers.

Why not force the Bells to open their networks up? Why not force the water
company to open the pipes to other suppliers? Besides the technical
limitations, I would say competition is best. When a company
like AT&T wants to shell out huge bucks to lay down an infrastructure, let them!
We all benefit. If we force them to open the pipe, then there's less
profit for them and less reason to lay the pipe.

-- Joe Farrell

Give me a dick or give me death



The article addresses that "mental sexuality" issue, which so
many people don't seem to get. My first image of myself was a photo my
parents had taken of me at about 8 months, wearing a cowboy
outfit -- corduroy pants, a button-down shirt and saddle shoes; hair as
short as could be, nothing "feminine." Their odd nicknames for me
included "little guy." Both of them discouraged any excessive interest in dolls, cosmetics and dating. Dad's
heartfelt desire was for me to be a nuclear physicist. My parents were
the ultimate in square; if anyone had suggested that their little girl
might "turn gay" as a result of these early influences, they would have
been horrified. But in childhood, I never related to the female role, and
actively scorned it. I watched "F Troop" and asked my parents if I could
be in the Cavalry with the guys. They got to have all the fun. All the
women I saw on TV dressed like dopes and chased after men. Batgirl was a
start, but you never saw that much of her.

Like your author, I had zero athletic aptitude, and was also afraid of the
ball. I never felt "like a girl," because I went for the pared-down, minimalist life. The
same clothes would do for me at any time of the day. I didn't care about
makeup, and certainly couldn't understand girls who refused to swim for
fear of getting their hair wet.

But with all that, I've never been anything other than heterosexual.
In fact, my craving for the male body has gotten me into a little trouble
here and there. Now, at age 41, I've met the man of
my dreams. He collects Franklin Mint commemoratives, mourns the passing
of Princess Di and mops the kitchen obsessively. I surf the Web, detail
the car and handle the bills. We're nuts about each other. Still, there
are those idle moments when I wonder what my life would have been like if
I'd chosen to go transgender at age 18 or so. I speculate about one or
two women I've known and wonder what sort of boyfriend/husband I might have made.

We can only go around once -- I think the trick is to not let your feet drag
too much.

(Name witheld at writer's request)

Kera Bolonik sounds pretty squared away to me. Congrats to the fortunate man or woman she decides to hang out with.

-- Patrick A. Long

Santa Ana, Calif.

Inside the Columbine High investigation


"Kill mankind. No one should survive"


After reading your article on the unfocussed hatred that led Harris and
Klebold to slaughter classmates indiscriminately, it seems evident where that hatred
came from: the hate-filled, conservative, middle-class suburban
culture that raised the two boys.

Contrary to popular belief, children believe what adults tell them about the
world, and they try to obey adult advice on conduct. In a sense, no one is
more obedient than a rebel, who tries to live out literally the strange
stories we tell our kids about right and wrong. We really don't intend for them to
believe us, but they do, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

Conservative America told these kids how to behave. It is a small step from
the furious finger-pointing at scapegoats to gun-pointing violence. Put the
adults' irrationality into the heads of a couple of immature, outsider kids
with access to weapons, and this was the result.

-- Randall Schluter

I believe the investigator Dave Cullen quotes so liberally
has drawn an incorrect conclusion from the information.
The parents are not as blameless as she suggests. The comment is made that
they were "clueless." To be "clueless" about one's teenage children in 1999,
especially in the wake of their admitted criminal activity, is evidence of
gross negligence bordering on criminality.

-- R.E. Morris

Tucson, Ariz.

Dave Cullen's article points to a particularly ironic circumstance. From
the popular media's reports, especially those immediately following the
shooting, we were to believe these two kids were members of various "fringe"
groups (read Satanic cults, Goths, gays and all of suburban America's other
evil-doers), alienated from the majority of their fellow students and
exacting revenge upon them. Now we come to find that Eric Harris and Dylan
Klebold weren't even members of the "Trench Coat Mafia" (they were even
ostracized from the ostracized), that they hated Goth music, that they simply
hated. But with a little help from that irresponsible reporting, kids incorrectly associated with the killers were threatened with violence by the horror-stricken, how-could-this-happen-here "moral majority." Could it be that this is how such monsters are created in the first place?

-- Carey Eskridge

Lead investigator Kate Battan notes of the two murders from Columbine, "They
certainly wanted the media to write stories about them every day ... they
wanted cult followings ... And you know, it worked. They're famous."
David Brin, writing in Salon on Aug. 13 ("Names that live in
infamy"), quite sensibly suggested that the media refuse to be complicit in the
immortalization of the names of such individuals, instead referring to them by belittling
nicknames, while acknowledging their full names so as not to suppress information.
Belittling nicknames seems unnecessary: I would be as happy with near-anonymous nicknames, in
this case perhaps Nos. 1 and 2. I would ask Salon, which showed the good sense to print Brin's article in the first place, to reread it and heed its advice.

-- Daniel Westreich

It is inconceivable to me to think that investigators in Colorado are this ignorant, and thus I hope I am misinterpreting. When you mention that Klebold's hard drive was wiped clean: Does no one out there know, for God's sake, that data can be recovered even from a multiply formatted hard drive?

The platters in all hard drives retain their ones and zeroes by magnetic coding, simply put. This coding can be retrieved through magnetic-resonance technology -- it's an industry! All data is on those platters, in a magnetic image. Recovery is very expensive and sophisticated, but also likely. Unless Klebold literally removed the hard drive from his computer, sat it next to a powerful magnet and then replaced it before the rampage, his files (if he had any) should still be there. Not even a low-level DOD formatting (which he would have been unable to do, in any case) would destroy it; it would merely make the files more difficult to retrieve.

-- Gary Higgins

Farmington, Conn.

The news media, especially television, has become a tragic joke in this
country, unable to get anything right. They routinely and swiftly broadcast
wild rumors as fact and are silent or incredibly tentative and slow about
disseminating the truth, especially if it isn't particularly interesting.
Television news has simply become rumor-mongering and entertainment. The use of satellites
and on-the-scene reporting has simply made matters worse; now speculation and opinion substitute for veracity. Why let pictures say a thousand words when any "reporter" can give you a thousand words before he has his camera tripod set up. After getting nearly everything wrong and
milking every sentimental or sensational drop out of the situation, they
move on to the next breaking story and repeat the farce.

Pathological dandies dominate the news field, making accuracy subordinate to ratings. There is a dwindling difference between idiots like Matt Drudge and news diva
Barbara Walters and her ilk.

-- Dan Bishton

Fort Wayne, Ind.

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