Letters to the editor

Are the cyberrich selfish? Plus: Should women's equality extend to the death penalty? Don't blame Republicans for cops' zealous raids.


Salon Staff
May 8, 2000 8:00PM (UTC)

Time warp
BY BRAD WIENERS
(05/04/00)

Brad Wieners has got to be kidding. Wired magazine is not as libertarian? Phil Zimmerman is no longer front-page news? The Microsoft anti-trust suit is stirring debate? The best answer to all these questions is a resounding "So what?"

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I work in that economy, and I can tell you that entirely too many people think and behave precisely as Borsook describes. Her disease analogy may sound extreme, but in point of fact such attitudes really are dangerous when held by even a significant minority within a democratic republic.

Implicit in Wieners' review is the notion that attitudes and points of view have changed. In fact, they've solidified. Recently on the way to work I listened in growing horror to an edition of NPR's "Forum," in which school vouchers were being discussed not as a possible, and radical, future option, but as inevitable. During this conversation it was stated a number of times that it was only natural that "better-off" parents would and should pull their kids from public school en masse. Where's the big change?

-- Rob Anderson

While I have not read her book, I agree with Paulina Borsook's premise that obscenely wealthy cybergeeks seem to be intent in mucking up the world. The label "narcissistic" is apt. Raised in a world where coddling the young has become an art form, why should we expect the newly affluent cybergeekdom to behave any differently?

This has happened before: consider the sheik-princes of the Middle East, the day traders, the investment bankers.
The difference, it seems to me, between what has happened before and the cybergeek phenomena is a matter of velocity. Never has there been such an aggregation of wealth at the disposal of so many so ill-equipped to manage it.

-- William S. Brown

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What I have difficulty understanding in Paulina Borsook's book, and entire world view, is her assumption that the libertarian perspective and the belief in the value of the free market necessarily implies (or is even compatible with) radical Randian or social Darwinist approach to society. At the heart of libertarianism is the idea that in the absence of a government-created morality (i.e., you pay taxes for welfare, therefore there's no need for you to concern yourself with altruism), individual spending on charity will rise. This is backed up by the fact that in countries with massive state redistribution apparatuses, charity levels are far below America levels.

As to the temporary absence of serious giveaways by new computer billionaires, I suspect Borsook has simply been spending too much time in Internet time. The charitable contributions of previous American success stories never occurred immediately after acquiring the wealth. There's a certain lag period between becoming immensely wealthy and recognizing that you have much more money than you can ever use, which other people might desperately need. In short, it all seems more like some smear campaign against an ideology she seems to neither like nor understand.

-- Vivek P. Vaidya

What Wieners and Borsook both miss is the fact that the Net -- and technolibertarianism -- began much, much earlier than when the Web enabled the "discovery" of the Internet by the media and the rest of the world. Back before there were any dot-coms, libertarianism was rampant and NOBODY was making big money off the Net. The very new nouveau-riche phenomenon is a red herring.

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-- Wendy Nather

Sexism and the death
chamber

BY CATHY YOUNG
(05/04/00)

It is odd that Cathy Young still supports the use of capital punishment although her article argues that the death penalty is applied unfairly. What is truly baffling is that she cites a case in which a man was executed for a crime that the prosecutors knew someone else committed. I can't say that I'd assign Young to the rational side of the capital punishment debate. I also would have enjoyed this article more if the text contained less of her opinion and more facts.

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-- M.J. Bess

Regarding Cathy Young's opinion on the death penalty ("For the record, I have no moral objection to imposing it for premeditated murder, though the risk of the state taking an innocent life is troubling enough to warrant opposition to the practice"): Give me a giant break, Ms. Young. I haven't heard such doublespeak since George Bush was in office. To whitewash language to avoid taking a stand is a waste of your and your readers' time.

-- Linda M. Ryan

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The ignorance displayed in this ludicrous piece was truly astounding. Yes, it might in fact be the case that women commit 30 percent of spousal homicide, but the fact is that women who kill their husbands are virtually always doing so in the context of a relationship that has included brutal abuse. Studies analyzing these homicides have found that while women who kill tend to be similar in virtually every way to battered women who don't kill, there is one very significant difference in their situations. The men who are killed have reached a level of violence unparalleled in the relationships where no homicide occurred. Women who kill their husbands do it because their husbands are about to kill them or their children.

Also, the fact is that women who kill their husbands by and large serve much longer sentences than men who kill their wives.
This article was yet another exercise in ignorant pseudo-post-feminism.

-- Ayelet Waldman

Who is asking for special tratement of female murderers? The unidentified "feminists" and "battered women's activists" castigated in this article, or Oliver North, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, three conservatives who have a vested interest in maintaining double standards and no interest in women's rights?

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-- Genevieve Carnell

I want to congratulate Cathy Young for taking a position that, I am certain, must be less than popular. I believe in personal responsibility and am sick to death of hearing people -- who obviously committed a crime of their own free will -- duck punishment by playing the victim. I would call myself a feminist, but I do not believe that women should enjoy any benefits that place them at an advantage over men. The pendulum that once swung to the favor of men need not swing 180 degrees in the other direction in order to equalize things.

For example, when it comes to debates such as women in combat -- either they are full equals to men, with all the responsibilities, hardships, and risks (read: the draft) involved, or they are not. While I do believe that women have a long way to go before they are truly equal, they are never going to get there if they believe they have a right to special treatment. And for the nation to treat them differently is to reinforce the concept of inequality, not fight it.

-- Bonnie Shenton

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When cops become combat troops

BY BONNIE BUCQUEROUX
(05/02/00)

Thanks to Bucqueroux for pointing out that quasi-military "police" units descending upon private, unarmed homes as in the raid in Little Havana is not unusual, but in fact a daily occurrence in our ludicrous "War on Drugs" and efforts to manage illegal immigration. Police, who should be experts in cooling tempers, managing crises and defusing hot situations, lately seem only capable of overkill.

Conversely, and equally worrisome, is that American military personnel, our warriors, are becoming huggable beat cops in places like Somalia, Bosnia and wherever there is a chance to feel good about ourselves, regardless of whether or not the place is a real threat to our nation.

These contrasts expose a society which, after decades of praising softness and denouncing harshness in every human interaction ("don't spank kids, don't judge anybody for anything"), has lost its ability to discern when to be hard and when to be soft.

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There is an old Jewish saying we need to examine: "If you are kind when you should be cruel, you'll probably be cruel when you should be kind."

-- Vincent Basehart

Exactly who are the Republicans so adamantly in favor of the War on Drugs? The editors of National Review, almost certainly America's foremost conservative magazine, support the general decriminalization of drugs. I have only heard of one viable politician who has questioned the War on Drugs in public: the governor of New Mexico -- a Republican.

I ask you, liberal Salon editors and readers, where are the Democrats and liberals who criticize the War on Drugs? Did I miss President Clinton's policy speech on this topic? Did Richard Gephardt have a sudden change of heart? Do you know something the rest of us don't?

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Of course not. The sad truth is: you blindly and ignorantly assume that conservatives and Republicans support the War on Drugs because ... well, because you don't.

-- Eric Owens

R. Crumb
BY STEVE BURGESS
(05/02/00)

I enjoyed Steve Burgess' sketch of R. Crumb. I have only one small criticism. Although Burgess does a fine job of placing Crumb's creativity in the proper cultural context, never once does Burgess mention anything substantial about Crumb's art. The author gives credit to older brother Maxxon for possessing "genuine talent." So was R's talent less than genuine? I beg to differ. Robert Crumb has that rare ability to convincingly fashion, on paper, the human figure. To me, that is evidence enough of R's genius. The rendering of human form, whether photo-realistically or grossly distorted, should be one of the first aspects of an artist's work examined when considering whether to bestow upon him or her the title of genius. The level at which Robert Crumb is able to do this is equaled by only a few: Picasso, Degas, Renoir and others. Furthermore, Crumb's obsession with large women should not be seen as a perversion but rather as the vision of a man with a healthy and passionate sexuality, a man who isn't afraid to be vulnerable to women. And his vision of women, with all their mutations, is certainly closer to reality than our culture would like us to see.

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-- Eric Cullen

Love bites
BY SCOTT ROSENBERG
(05/04/00)

Rosenberg is completely on target. Using Outlook is like wearing a sign on your butt that says "infect me." I wonder, in view of the DOJ's recent acknowledgement of the obvious monopoly power of Microsoft, whether "users" -- particularly captive users, users who work for stupid, brain-dead companies that won't let you opt for decent software like Eudora -- will be able to sue Redmond for virus-related damages. One can -- and should -- arrest and punish whatever 12-year-old sociopath released this bug. But shouldn't purveyors of unreasonably cr***y software also be accountable?

-- Tom Barta


Salon Staff

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