Letters to the Editor

Is Camille Paglia on target on WTO? Plus: Could a mother love her child and still kill him?


Letters to the Editor
December 16, 1999 10:00PM (UTC)


How the Demos lost the White House in Seattle

BY CAMILLE PAGLIA

(12/08/99)

Several times Camille Paglia refers to the "liberal media." She may be interested that FAIR (admittedly part of the "liberal media") published a paper in June 1998 in which the author found that "on select issues ... journalists are actually more conservative than the general public" and "journalists are mostly centrist in their political orientation." The paper agreed that among the minority of journalists who did not identify with the center, their economics views were right of center and their social views were left of center. I know the view of media as liberal is a popular stereotype but I wonder if Paglia has anything more than anecdotal evidence to back up her claims?

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-- Justus Pendleton

I must take Camille Paglia to task for accusing the Seattle Police Department of being "astonishingly unprepared and inept." The SPD in fact displayed astonishing discipline and order during the WTO protests. I have heard firsthand accounts from officers of 18-hour days with no breaks for meals or bathroom use. Why did that happen? Because of the unprepared and inept "leadership" from Mayor Schell's office.

Unfortunately, the WTO debacle has cost us a decent police chief. The one who needs to be tossed is the Democratic mayor, who left his police force twisting in the wind, just when our city most needed some real leadership.

-- Norm Jacobowitz

Most of the people I know could care less about the riotous behavior in Seattle, but they do care whether or not an anonymous bunch of apparatchiks are going to be able to overturn environmental or labor laws democratically arrived at just because some two-bit third world country thinks they might make it more difficult for them to sell more useless toys in the United States.

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-- George Hogenson

No one in Brittany speaks "Gaelic." Some still speak Breton, which they call "Brezhonic," and which is a very close cousin of Welsh. What Camille Paglia's misinformed source might have been trying to say is that the Celtic languages are split into three groups: Continental, the assumed Celtic language of the Gauls, which survives in small fragments in French; Brythonic, which includes Welsh, Cornish (extinct but being artificially revived) and Breton; and the Goidilec branch, which includes the Gaelic spoken in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. The Gaelic and Brythonic languages are similar in grammar and form but mutually unintelligible. Welsh and Irish are Indo-European languages but the shared cognates with Latin are most likely the adoption of Roman during the empire and the direct influence of liturgical Latin.

-- Joe Orfant

She loves me, she loves me not
BY SUSAN CABA

(12/09/99)

Sara Blaffer Hrdy makes an absurd claim. The brutal facts of infanticide
simply don't rule out the existence of a natural maternal instinct. The
maternal instinct has been keenly felt and readily acknowledged for
centuries, and is, I believe, a motivating factor for infanticide. A
mother will protect a child when she knows that it won't be provided for; protection, in some cases, means sparing the child suffering. The maternal instinct is so powerful that a mother will kill her own child to protect it from her own (real or perceived) incompetence.

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Hrdy tries to strengthen her case by confusing mercy killing with
murder. There is a tangible difference between villagers who sacrifice children
that they know they cannot provide for, and women who inexplicably hurt
and kill children that others might readily adore.

-- Sara Minogue

Susan Caba presented Sara Hrdy's book on motherhood as a
feminist's scientific rebuttal of conservative notions of "maternal
instinct," yet interviewed no conservatives for her article.

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I'm a social liberal, pro-choice; from the review, I suspect I won't disagree much with Hrdy's
conclusions. And yet even I can see how the reviewer sets up straw men.
Is the conservative position, essentially, that women should have no
control over their decision to have and raise children (what Caba
seems to suggest) or is it that women who have children should be careful
to set up loving environments for them first, should make their choices
responsibly? There is nothing in the review that suggests that a
conservative who believed the latter would find Hrdy's conclusions
problematic.

Instead of assuming she knows how conservatives might react, Caba might have asked one or two. Hrdy's book is not a slam dunk for the liberal side.

-- Kevin Douglas

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Great NFL orgies and the comely gaze of dead Beatles

BY CINTRA WILSON

(12/09/99)

It's good to know that there is at least one other woman who saw "North
Dallas Forty" and liked it. I saw it 20-something years ago, when it came out, and I was beginning to think I was the only one. I can remember sitting in
the dark theater trying to write down quotes from the characters' lines.
It's not just another football movie, but I never could convince any other women of that.

-- Judy Leecy

Cintra Wilson refers to original Beatles
member Stu Sutcliffe as a "forgotten dead boy." If Wilson had attended the
Beatlefest held in Secaucus, N.J., in March, she would have heard Astrid Kirchherr and Klaus Voormann sharing anecdotes about Sutcliffe before a crowded ballroom packed to the rafters with
appreciative, savvy Beatles fans -- all of whom, judging from the questions
they asked, were quite familiar with Sutcliffe already. Not exactly the fate of too many "forgotten dead" people, Cintra.

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-- Sebastian Thaler

The seeds of Seattle
BY BRUCE SHAPIRO

(12/09/99)

Of course Japanese and American unionists now find common cause. The average Japanese industrial worker makes more than his American counterpart and has for a
number of years. With Japanese companies now following the lead of their
American predecessors in building most of their new low- or medium-skill
manufacturing capacity outside of Japan (including such comparatively
"third world" places as the American South), the labor protectionist
agenda of Japanese and American unions is essentially identical: "Screw
the 'developing nations'; I've got mine and I'm keeping it!"

At the other end of the scale, does anyone really imagine that Indonesian
political developments of the last few years are unrelated to the radical
increase in the percentage of the local workforce employed by foreign
corporations? Trade increases the wealth in developing countries and
spreads it around. The "workers of the world" have led all of the political revolutions of the last decade or so -- the Phillipines, Poland, etc. They just didn't do it out of ideology; quite the contrary: They see themselves becoming the bourgeoisie and resent remaining authoritarian limits on their ability to do so.

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Over the past generation, the countries of East Asia have gone from underdeveloped to developed in this way. In another generation -- absent interference -- the rest of the world's currently underdeveloped countries could do likewise. This state of affairs is achievable within our lifetimes if it is not monkey-wrenched by greedy labor unions wishing to indefinitely preserve their current privileges at the expense of everyone else.

-- Dick Eagleson

The protestors, peaceful and otherwise, brought to the table the
frustration of those who have been neglected for far too long: those who
have lost their jobs to foreign competition or those who no longer have
the opportunities, once afforded middle-class Americans, to earn a piece of
the American dream.

During the last two decades millions of Americans have seen their futures
evaporate into a fog of foreign competition and multinational corporations
seeking to maximize profits by the exploitation of third-world labor.
Overlooked in the Seattle demonstrations were the farm families
destroyed by the multinational oligopolies which dictate prices paid for
farm commodities. These displaced farm families represent a huge army of economic
casualties of world trade and corporate consolidations.

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Seattle was a wake-up call for those who make the macro decisions that
impact families at the micro level.

-- Gene W. DeVaux

Bruce Shapiro says "this time, there is an
opportunity to raise a broader issue: What kind of global economy do we
want? What commitments to labor and environmental standards must be
exacted in return for any nation's right to participate fully in the
global trade system?"

This statement of the issue subtly avoids the real question for United States policy -- "What are the consequences of policies that restrict international trade for a) people living in the
restricted countries, b) consumers in the United States, and c)
producers in the United States?" Few people would disagree with choosing,
as a goal for U.S. policy, the improvement of living conditions for people
in developing countries. However, any actual U.S. policy that restricts
trade with a nation because of those conditions, may be more likely to
harm those people than to help them -- while simultaneously raising prices
and restricting freedom of choice for U.S. consumers -- all for the benefit of U.S. producers (including workers in the protected industry).

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The problem with the Seattle protests is not the ultimate
(stated) goal of the protestors -- it is that the protestors have the
analysis wrong. That issue can be addressed only if the question is
phrased as "What are the consequences of alternative policies?" rather
than the loftier but misleading "What kind of world do we want to live
in?"

-- Alan C. Stockman


The respectable cult

BY LAURA MILLER

(09/01/99)

Laura Miller offers a perspective on Christian Science, its founder (Mary Baker
Eddy) and its practices that misrepresents all three.
It is difficult to understand why the review would describe the book as
"thoroughly researched" when its author relies heavily on prejudiced
sources (like the Milmine/Cather biography of Mary Baker Eddy, discredited
by objective scholars) and invokes as authority anyone
who has anything negative to say about Christian Science and its founder.

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Christian Science doesn't have a set of secret doctrines. Its teachings
are completely set forth in Mary Baker Eddy's primary work, "Science and
Health with Key to the Scriptures," which has been translated into 16
languages and is publicly available in bookstores, libraries and
Christian Science Reading Rooms throughout the world. Local congregations maintain church services and Reading Rooms as community resources for spiritual discovery. The sole
underlying goal in all these activities is to provide products and
resources which will be enriching and useful to spiritual seekers everywhere.

Fraser's characterization of Eddy as a "deeply fearful person"
couldn't be farther from the truth. It's precisely because she
courageously faced and successfully overcame the challenges that faced
her -- especially as a woman in the male-dominated society of her day -- that in
1998 the Women's Rights National Historical Park initiated an exhibit
about her to celebrate her story and achievements. Likewise, it's unlikely
that the National Women's Hall of Fame would have inducted Eddy in
1995, to stand alongside women like Abigail Adams, Helen Keller, Amelia
Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt, if Fraser's characterization were true.

The review describes as an "alarming revelation" the fact that "many
elected officials support both the right to withhold medical treatment
from children for religious reasons and Medicare reimbursements for the
services of Christian Science nurses -- nurses whose training is entirely
religious not medical." Regarding the first point, it is fair to say that
many states have, in fact, accommodated in their laws responsible
spiritual healing practices. These accommodations do not "support the
right to withhold medical treatment" but rather uphold the right of
parents to make responsible health care choices for their children,
including relying upon spiritual healing practices. These legislative
provisions however, have never precluded the state from intervening as
necessary. As far as the church is
concerned, parents are always free to select any form of treatment
they deem best under the circumstances, including conventional medical treatment.

Fraser discounts the evidence of the healing efficacy of Christian
Science, including over 60,000 testimonies of healing -- at least a quarter
of them medically documented. Fraser instead speculates, but never validates, that there are large
numbers of children's deaths among those relying on Christian Science. And
yet when asked at a September book talk in Seattle how many cases of child
deaths there had been in her state of Washington, she could only cite the
one described in her book, recalled from her childhood.

As far as Medicare is concerned, payments to Christian Science nursing
facilities, representing taxes Christian Scientists pay as citizens, are
payments only for professional non-medical nursing services, such as
bathing, dressing, feeding, washing and bandaging wounds. These services
are comparable to such non-medical services furnished in all medical
facilities. Medicare payments to Christian Science nursing facilities do
not reimburse for spiritual treatment.

-- Gary A. Jones

Manager, Christian Science Committees on Publication

Boston


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