Letters to the Editor

Is Mahir just another celebrity victim? Plus: Quibbling with our film critics over the year's best; did Columbine school officials overreact?

Published December 24, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

I kissed him!

I'm surprised (and a bit dismayed) by the fact that nobody has yet commented on the innate meanness at the heart of the "Mahir Live!" hysteria. This guy is being treated like a sideshow freak, all because somebody misrepresented him by altering his Web page, apparently to make him look foolish.
Mahir shouldn't be going on world tour; he should be talking to his lawyers.

-- Karen Haber

Why do you insist on parroting the lame story everyone else
put out about how Mahir's page was modified by a "hacker"?
Someone made a copy of the site and uploaded it to xoom.com.
I think my mom could be a hacker by that definition.
I expect a little more tech credibility from you folks.

-- David Dasinger

"Three Kings," one "Witch" and a "Princess"



Did none of your reviewers get to David Fincher's "Fight Club"? Among
all of the quality films that came out this year, this was among the most
strikingly assertive in its lambasting of contemporary America's hollow
obsession with commercialism. Not only visually compelling as Fincher's
previous films, it showcased nuanced performances from two of the most
talented in the business, Ed Norton and Helena Bonham Carter. The
soundtrack alone is worth an honorable mention.

-- Christopher Johnson

Worcester, Mass.

Thank God that one of your critics was savvy enough to include "Office Space" on
your Top 10 list. Along with "Election," "Dick" and "Iron Giant" it was
one of the few brighter moments in a year dominated by overrated,
overhyped, pretentious drivel like "The Blair Witch Project" and "Episode 1 -- The Phantom Menace." I found the film to be both subtly clever and charmingly goofy. While far from a box office smash, it is rapidly approaching neo-cult status at my local video store -- where trying to rent
one of the dozen or so copies has become a real challenge.
It's too bad that the studio's advertising campaign undersold
the film by making it appear to be just another of today's dumbed-down,
lowbrow comedies. It deserved better.

-- George A. Fuller

Something for nothing?


I, like Lydia Lee, was obsessed with getting a free Jelly Belly sample.
Being a true geek, however, I wasn't content to just keep checking the
site. Instead I wrote a Perl script that periodically checked it for me,
and alerted me as soon as it was available. Finally, my efforts paid off,
and I filled out a survey to get my free sample.
That was about a year ago. I'm still waiting for my free sample, but my
hope is beginning to fade. Ah, well. Christmas is coming, and most of my
family and friends know that Jelly Bellies make an excellent gift!

-- David Altenburg

I am the owner of Cool Freebies. I built and maintain it myself, as a hobby (I have a real
job), but it has been much more successful than I ever expected. I think the
main reason it is popular is that by far the majority of "freebies" I list
are really free. It seems more and more "free sites" these days are
carrying more promotional offers than real free items.

-- Charles Dyer

Columbine High School shut down


We live in an incredibly over-reactionary society where the mindless
forces of victim demagoguery have unfortunately joined with the
child-worship industry. It is obviously tragic that a few twisted kids perpetrated such carnage
there in Columbine. But why do they have to go to such great lengths to
try to create such an overly antiseptic environment for students? A
student threatened another student. So what? Kids have been harassing
each other for eons. No overwrought policy is going to prevent bad things from
happening to good people.

It's this ridiculous notion that we must somehow "save the children" that
is going to create even more feeble minded, over-entitled, spoiled brats
than there are now. Poor parenting is no excuse for bad policy. Let the kids go back to
school so that their lives can return to normal.

-- Michael Leflar

How much do these kids have to suffer? I think that closing the school was
a wonderful move on behalf of the school board. I hope each parent took their child home, hugged them dearly and told them they loved them. I hope that each parent talked to their child
about what was happening. Then I hope each parent listened to them.

-- Roberta Nolte

Mistress Patricia Payne, dominatrix



There is an old saying about sexual kinks: My kink is creative and
adventurous; your kink is demented. Perhaps sex and pain cannot
be understood by people who are not into it. Or perhaps it does speak
to people but, like children, they make
jokes about what they fear.

Salon recently ran an article about anonymous gay bathhouse sex -- and while some suggest that it is dangerous, no one labels it "nuts." In contrast, anyone who indulges in sex and pain is held up to ridicule.

Name withheld at writer's request

New Leftists Art Goldberg and Stew Albert fire back at David Horowitz


You would think that someone you knew for 50 years, whom you had helped out, who was part of a small group of people involved with an organization that had killed a mutual friend and brought you to grief, would make a modest effort to find out the facts before attacking you over the crime. Not Art Goldberg. His
"reply" to my Salon column shows that he has not even bothered to read what I wrote. I did not omit the Nixon grant to the Panthers or his affiliation with Ramparts as he claims.

This failure pales however beside the fact that he obviously has never read the passages in "Radical Son" where I have told the story of Betty's death and my reaction to it. As a result he has not a clue as to what he is writing about in any of these matters. He thinks it's a big deal to tell me I was responsible for Betty's death. If he had read what I wrote, he would know that I accepted responsibility for Betty's death from the moment she disappeared, and that the guilt I felt nearly destroyed my life. He would know that Betty wasn't working for me at the time of her murder, that I was no longer involved with Panthers (and had no contact with them), and that therefore I couldn't have interposed myself between her and Elaine Brown as he so fatuously advises.

Since Art is the author of a book that defends the murderer Huey Newton as an innocent man, which Art has never retracted, is it likely that he would have warned me that I was in danger from Newton then? Or that he would have covered his ass then just as he covering it now? Actually "a dangerous undercurrent" in the Panthers is all he can bring himself to write about it 25 years after the fact. But the "Panthers" were just pawns of the master who had life and death power over them. If Huey Newton was not dangerous, and if I was working directly with him, why should I have had cause to worry?

Stew Albert presents himself now as a vigilante when it comes to "criminal
activities and gangsterism." But in the '60s, he was busy celebrating
gangsters like John Dillinger as revolutionary heroes. A Berkeley Barb article he wrote about Dillinger, if memory serves, was actually called "The Outlaw as Revolutionary."

What Stew Albert actually wrote about my Ramparts editorial was that I had "given the green light to the police" to murder members of the Symbionese Liberation Army who were killed in a shootout in Los Angeles. In my Salon article, I summarized this -- perhaps too quickly -- by saying Stew had called me a police agent. I apologize if I failed to be sensitive to the nuances involved insofar as this caused Albert undue discomfort.

However, I am confident that, despite my best efforts, both he and Art Goldberg will go to their graves blissfully free of any sense of guilt for anything they have ever done.

-- David Horowitz

To the moon, Al


Modern political campaigning is as much about passion for and
commitment to a goal as it is about one's ability to articulate policies.
Bill Clinton understood this when he ran for -- and won -- the presidency
twice. Gore has learned to be a scrapper, and I believe that this will help land
him the White House in 2001. Bradley is as bright as Gore (making both of them more qualified for the Oval Office than G.W. Bush), but much less prepared for the elbows-up scrum of
contemporary politics. To put it in purely Democratic terms, Bradley is
Woodrow Wilson to Gore's Lyndon Johnson.

-- Jeff Pierce

Arianna Huffington is dead wrong



Thanks for running Ian Williams' devastating critique of Arianna
Huffington's latest propaganda. I encountered Huffington once when we were interviewing her for a
"Frontline" biography of then-Speaker of the House Gingrich. At the time,
she was comfortably ensconced in one of Newt's spin-off "think tanks."
While Newt and his "Contract with America" cohorts were busy dismantling
the government's "safety net" for the poor, Huffington was touting her
patron as a "compassionate conservative." Her solution at the time for poverty and all those single moms kicked off the welfare rolls? Running PSAs at Thanksgiving urging people to donate
to a charity.

-- Stephen Talbot

Are there any figures for deaths caused by our bombing of Serbia? Are
there estimates? We don't seem to hear reports about what problems the
civilian population of Serbia is experiencing. It seems to me that
regarding our nation's actions in the Balkans we have been subjected to
one of the most concentrated propaganda barrages I've seen since the Vietnam War. As ugly and destructive and foul as that war was, at least it
was contained in a relatively small area. This conflict in the Balkans
seems to bear the seeds for a much larger conflagration.

-- Charles Whittington

Foreskin and several years from now



I personally know three men who were circumcised in adulthood. In response
to my inevitable "before and after" question, two said sex felt exactly
the same and one said it felt better. So there.

-- Earl Hartman

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