Letters to the editor

Bush's nonchalance toward death penalty is disturbing Plus: Is Microsoft's call for censoring justified? America's "Child Geniuses" are just book-smart.

Published May 15, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

The hanging governor



I am not sure which I find more distressing, the fact that George W. Bush seems so callous about putting people to death in Texas, or the fact that he doesn't seem either intelligent enough or concerned enough to see that this rubber-stamping process is a perversion of our justice system. While I and the governor may differ on our view of the death penalty, it remains a fact that the state has the duty to uphold the rights of all of its citizens, even those accused and convicted of crimes. If Bush can't be bothered to consider whether a fair trial was given, or if witnesses were deceitful, or counsel was effective before executing one of the citizens he is sworn to protect, there is no reason to think he will be any more zealous in protecting the rights of the citizens of all the states.

-- Kristina Carey

Alan Berlow writes that prior to commutation of a death sentence, "what Bush and his lawyers seem to require from those on death row is absolute proof of innocence," and notes that "Such a standard applied in a court of law would ... undermin[e] one of the most fundamental precepts of our justice system." Unfortunately, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has seen fit to apply just such a standard in most cases.

Another tragic example is the case of Roy Criner, who obtained DNA evidence that absolutely proved he had not had sexual intercourse with the woman he was convicted of raping and murdering. Notwithstanding the fact that Criner had been convicted of the crime based almost entirely on unreliable blood-type evidence that he had proven to be incorrect, Texas has rejected his motion for a new trial because, in the words of Judge Sharon Keller, "it's up to him to prove that he's innocent. That's his burden under the law: Has he unquestionably established that he's innocent?" Obviously, that burden is absolutely impossible to meet, and because of that Roy Criner will spend the rest of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit. Governor Bush's application of a similar standard in regard to death sentences is but another example of how, at least in Texas, the system values convictions and punishment over justice, even when life is at stake.

-- Jay Macke

Excellent article. I can tell you the reason George W. Bush refuses to commute sentences in two words: Willie Horton. He is terrified that he will free someone from death row only to have that person commit a high-profile violent crime later -- one which his political opponents can use against him the way Bush Sr. used Willie Horton.

If Bush is so execution-happy, what role does former Gov. Ann Richards play in all this? Most of the people mentioned in your article were sentenced to death on her watch. And most of the death-penalty laws in Texas were revised under Richards' supervision. Using your logic, Richards is some kind of crazed mass murderer allowing innocent people to be sentenced to death.

-- Lane Willson

The author writes as if it is the governor's responsibility to serve as both judge and jury, and to re-try some of these capital murder cases in Texas. In my opinion, that is the responsibility of the judges and juries and the Criminal Appeals Court, and Bush does not have the same "reasonable doubt" standard. My opinion is that the Texas judicial system might be at fault, if anyone is. Personally, I think even seven years is too long to wait to carry out court-ordered punishment for capital offenders. The governor needs to spend his time managing state government, not re-trying capital murder cases, when there is an appellate system already in place. However, I do think the three-person Board of Pardons should review these matters in more detail, and perhaps have more hearings.

-- Jim White

Embrace, extend, censor



If any other company tried to force a community site to censor comments that made them look bad, they would suffer a tremendous public-relations backlash. Everybody would see them as thugs and villains, and most probably boycott anything to do with them. However, since this is Microsoft, most people already do see them as thugs and villains, and those who use Microsoft products usually don't do so out of choice. Microsoft's public image doesn't have far to fall in this case.

-- Andrew C. Bulhak

How can you describe what happened on Slashdot as merely "reveal(ing) information about Microsoft's ... technology"? The entire copyrighted Microsoft document was posted to a message board. This hardly qualifies as simply "revealing information" and certainly isn't covered by fair use.

I doubt Salon would be as forgiving if they found somebody illegally reproducing the entire content of one of their articles.

-- John Stephen

Clash of the featherweights

Joe Conason's otherwise-perceptive commentary implies, but neglects to actually mention the probable reason for our commercial and diplomatic double standard for China and Cuba. Neither may be making significant strides toward improving human rights, but China differs in another, crucial regard: China is fast becoming investor-friendly. The difference is one between the ideology that we expound and the one that we practice. China may not be embracing democracy but it is abandoning strict Communism, which simple fact endears it to U.S. policymakers. One suspects that if Castro gave us access to Cuban labor, industry and markets, he would find Cuban-American relations commensurately warmer, even if he did nothing to improve the plight of his people.

-- Dan Parslow

Godless television


In regards to CBS not allowing religious advertising during its showing of "Jesus": Before trotting out the usual round of "liberal media" complaints, remember this was the same rule used to prevent ads for arms control running during "The Day After," and Olivia cruises during "Ellen."
You may not like the rule (I don't), but be sure to note it is not arbitrarily applied.

-- Lloyd Leibowitz

I am tempted to watch this miniseries now for the same reason some watch the Super Bowl -- to see the commercials. Will there be an ad for Mrs. Paul's fish sticks? Gallo wines? Evian? The mind boggles.

-- Jim Roberts-Miller

Fox crowns the smartest kid in America


Joyce Millman does not examine the fact that this show "discovered" not the most intelligent child but the child who was most knowledgeable. These kids must have been driven, probably by parental influence, to spend an abnormal childhood learning trivial facts. What is important is the ability to understand and apply concepts, rather than the knowledge of useless trivia. The question, "What the Romans called the country now known as France?" is no test of intelligence.

It would be interesting to consider how some of the acknowledged geniuses of our age, such as Einstein, would have fared in this test -- most would have fared poorly. These children are being driven to have unrealistic expectations of the future and are missing out on a childhood in which they learn by experience and from their peers rather than from books. Their parents should think of how the children will react when, in all likelihood, they fail to achieve in later life the unrealistic goals they were set as children.

-- Tristan Thomas


My theory is that most Americans live in a state of perpetual low-grade dissatisfaction regardless of their circumstances, and they believe that buying something bigger, faster, or better will fix the perceived problem/need of the day. Unfortunately, as soon as you vanquish one perceived need with a deft swipe of the credit card, another perceived need will pop up begging for attention, and you end up endlessly buying bigger and better stuff and throwing out the old stuff. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, but it is hard on the planet, requires a lot of time, energy, and money spent on shopping for stuff, cleaning stuff, maintaining stuff, and discarding stuff and doesn't do anything to solve the real problem, which is the perpetual itch of dissatisfaction. I don't know any simple method to eradicate chronic dissatisfaction, but I suspect it is like a poison ivy rash: Scratching it keeps it from healing and only makes it itch worse.

-- Andy Flach

Petty striving

I'm so sorry that Adria Petty is having such a hard time in her Greenwich Village apartment spending daddy's money on all those parties and great schools. And still no respect! It's American tragedies like this that make me want to quit my day job and become a famous artist. Oh, I'm sorry! I can't just yet 'cause rent is due!

-- Eric Saulnier

By Salon Staff

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