Letters to the editor

Readers to drug czar: Busted! Plus: One Nobel does not a macrometeorologist make; cozying up with an e-book.


Salon Staff
April 5, 2000 8:00PM (UTC)

The drug war gravy train
BY DANIEL FORBES

(03/31/00)

Thank you, Salon and Daniel Forbes, for your article. I suppose the government has every right to indulge in this sort of content shaping, but God bless you for exposing it. When enough people realize what is going on in the name of the war on drugs, perhaps we will realize how un-American it is. I actually fear sending this for publication lest some government agency is collecting names for some later drug war traitor round-up. Please keep it up.

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-- Martin Borsanyi

The more I see the drug czar in action, the more I realize he has no idea what it means to live in a free society. Remember when images of a government controlling its population this way used to be the stuff of stories about Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany?

Perhaps the innocent writers can rise up against this disgusting mind-control exercise foisted on an unknowing public by this increasingly dangerous man: Every writer whose work was "sold" to the government without permission in this Orwellian scam should sue for damages. The amount the publication collected in their flagrant violation of copyright law, and perhaps their publication contracts, plus punitives should be just about right.

Just don't let me find out Salon is a tool, or my disillusionment will be complete.

-- Linda Rigel

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Salon and Dan Forbes continue to get the real news out to America! The "Drug War Gravy Train" has exposed the American media edifice as a rotten fagade which needs to come down to expose the rot and corruption within. It's no wonder the truth about the corrupting drug war is so seldom aired. Propaganda, pure and unalloyed, in America, the land of Murrow and Cronkite? What stanchion of our American democratic way of life will this evil Drug War Inc. tear down next?

-- Dave Michon

In defending themselves from charges of having let the ONDCP determine their editorial content, many of the editorial staff for the publications receiving money from the ONDCP proclaim that they would run anti-drug-themed articles with or without the ONDCP money.

My question then to the ONDCP, spending my tax dollars, is: Why are you throwing money at these publications (and broadcasters) to get them to do something they claim they would do for free anyway?

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-- Gabriel Bereny

Illegal drug use is a major social problem in this country. Our prisons are filling up with drug users and dealers. It may be the job of writers to analyze and criticize government policies they find objectionable, but if Daniel Forbes has a better "plan" to control drug use he should let us know so we can stop sending so many people to jail. This, and not censorship, is the real crime.

-- Barney Murrell

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Nobel dude
BY WILLIAM SPEED WEED
(03/29/00)

William Speed Weed's article on Kary Mullis did rightly point out that Mullis' obvious successes in the fields of genetics and chemistry do not equip him to comment on macrometeorology or metaphysics. An apt comparison would be with William Shockley, who won his Nobel prize for electronics (he was one of the co-inventors of the transistor), and used the resulting bully pulpit to embrace a quasi-eugenic view of race and intelligence that led to such manure as Murray's "The Bell Curve."

As Clint Eastwood put it, "A man's got to know his limitations."

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-- Michael Treece

Weed is mistaken when he claims that the rejection of so-called astral planes is cultural rather than scientific. It is true that all explanations are equal at the starting gate, so to speak. After that, the scientific approach is to select the simplest explanation. I do not know of anything that needs explanation in the case of astral projection, except certain people's claims about certain experiences they have had. There, the simplest explanation is that these people are lying or self-deluded.

Of course, astral projection cannot be disproved. But the burden of proof is on those who claim such a phenomenon does exist to prove this claim. Absent such evidence, the reasonable course is not to believe in this phenomenon.
Nor does it help to say "Well, gosh, people in previous centuries would have though the stuff we think today was pretty wacky." This proves nothing. Just because some ideas considered absurd before are recognized as true now, it does not follow that all ideas considered absurd now are true.

-- Anders N. Floor

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I enjoyed your article on Kary Mullis. However, I do have one nit-pick with it.
Your description of PCR misses the most important point of what PCR does. PCR is a way of vastly and easily amplifying a small section out of a whole chain of DNA. It doesn't just split DNA and replicate the whole chain.

It is this ability to take a small section from an enormous DNA chain, and yank it out in huge quantities, that has made PCR so important. Trying to study a single gene without PCR is like the needle in the haystack. PCR the way you described it would create both a larger needle and a larger haystack. Mullis's technique, though, creates a needle that dwarfs the haystack.

-- Brendan Dunn

William Speed Weed's attempts to poke fun at Kary Mullis for his views that humans don't contribute to global warming and that HIV is not the cause of AIDS is irresponsible and perhaps even dishonest. These views are hardly controversial; reputable scientists have been espousing them for a full decade, and they are supported by a huge body of scientific research. If Weed had taken the time to research his subject matter, he wouldn't have found them as silly as the proposition that "Marcia Clark is a hottie" -- a comparison he himself draws.

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-- Julie Schaeffer

The digital reader

BY LAURA MILLER

(03/31/00)

I enjoyed your piece about the e-book. I loved my $199 e-book and even took it on the train as you did. Then I dropped it and cracked the screen. Warranty didn't cover and cost of repair of screen according to manual was prohibitive. Plus knowing computers, who knows what else I damaged? Now it's stuck forever on the same article by Roger Ebert about digital film production.

I may go for the $269 as I quickly ran out of space downloading articles and converting to e-book format. I could see where this could be a problem for the non-hobbyist or professional. It is a great device. I've never seen anyone else with one either, as Miller said, but it does attract attention when you take it out.

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-- Brian Black

Miller can't see the point of the speakers in her Rocketbook -- I think she's missed an important point. The real digital book revolution, initially at least, isn't going to be different ways of displaying text, it will come in having it read to you.

The Internet and technology have revolutionized my reading habits, but not through reading long books on screen (I tried with my own Psion PDA but found it too tedious). Instead I have taken to plugging my minidisc into my PC and sending my browser to broadcast.com and other places where hundreds of classic unabridged audio books are available in streaming audio format.

I am enjoying "Moby Dick" at the moment as I cycle to and from work, and being read to is much more natural than trying to read off any conventional computer screen. Plus I have the pleasant consciousness of knowing I've saved a fortune on audio tapes (and without resorting to copyright piracy).

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The market for audio books is already exploding, I gather, and this will only help.

-- David Brake

Keep a Web journal, get fired ... or worse
BY JAMI ATTENBERG
(03/27/00)

I have just finished reading Attenberg's lament relative to the ways in which an online diary can bite you.

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The Internet is but another communications medium. Were I to stand on a street corner deriding the actions of my current employer and otherwise denigrating their name, I suspect they would have cause to reprimand me. But, alas, our societal self-absorption tries to depict the nit-wit diarists as the victims.

Here are a few fun facts:

1) Don't shoot your mouth about your boss if you do not wish to accept the consequences.

2) Don't discuss your sex life if you do not want it broadcast to the world.

3) Do consider whatever you type on the Net to be public domain.

4) Stop whining about item number three above.

-- Geoffrey Woollacott


Salon Staff

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