On Timothy McVeigh, the real question is, do not let him die before he gives up his associates. McVeigh was a private in the military! What is his knowledge of demolitions or explosives? His caddy, Nichols, would be capable of exactly what? How could they have destroyed that massive building with a truckful of hay and manure? My understanding is that you would have to get this mixture to about 7,200 degrees to make it a potential explosive. Did Nichols do that with his cigarette lighter? Something is dramatically wrong if the FBI and Department of Justice want to close this down with once again the lone maniac theory. What has McVeigh -- the Manchurian candidate -- been offered to say nothing?
-- Donna Joyce
I'm a little puzzled by your abrupt dismissal of the McVeigh execution issue: "Kill the mass murderer." We took a nice "normal" boy, put him through the dual meat grinder of a dysfunctional family upbringing where he learned not to show or express feelings and a public school education that taught him to obey and not to think. Then we sucked him into the military. When they were finished with him, he knew how to be commended and decorated for killing or maiming human beings.
He and many others were perplexed over why Americans did not wail and moan when their government killed innocent people at Waco and Ruby Ridge or the innocent people (women and children) that are being killed and maimed in places where we are interjecting our interests (political, economic, etc.) around the globe, as in the bogus Desert Storm "war" in which he served. Children died horribly and needlessly in a daycare center in Oklahoma City, and children died horribly and needlessly in hospitals and their own homes when we carried out our relentless bombing in cities like Belgrade and Baghdad. McVeigh's deed sickens me, but then so do the actions of our own government. Violence begets violence. Period.
-- Diane Bernish, Kent, Ohio
I believe we have another Lee Harvey Oswald here. The story we all now believe and the story that was played out on our TVs that terrible week in 1995 are two unrelated events. The trial evidence and the visual evidence would make you wonder if we're talking about the same bombing. Our wonderful FBI is so revered that the media follows them like a puppy dog and gradually pulled the wool over their own eyes in the ensuing years. As a libertarian, I'm surprised that you don't question how the government investigated this event. Take a look at www.devvy.com -- a lawyer who has virtually given up her career to find the truth and hold it up for all to see. Devvy, like you, believes that our personal freedoms come before government interference.
-- Paul Whealy, Canada
You are the captain of said spy plane, the plane is carrying highly secret spy stuff equipment, the plane is "damaged" and falling out of the sky; where is the last place you land the plane? On enemy territory? Couldn't the crew parachute out of the plane and blow it up? Why, if in international airspace, didn't the plane have fighter escort? At least the plane must have been shadowed by U.S. Navy vessels. Why didn't they ditch it and wait to be rescued? So I have to ask the question -- is the U.S. military totally incompetent?
-- Ed McPhillips
I, too, was dismayed at the pressure that Bush succumbed to by issuing that ghastly letter to China. Like you, I didn't understand the hurry to bring them home. They were treated like war heroes, which I still don't understand. That plane should not still be there. And what an embarrassment to this country for that whining, sniveling Commander Waddle to broadcast all over the public airways the pathetic moanings of his conscience. I was disgusted. All that was missing was some mud to grovel in.
-- Cynthia Pentino
As a consequence of China's one-child policy, now about a generation in effect, their male birth rate has outpaced their female birthrate by as much as 17 percent, according to some estimates. Out of a population of more than a billion, how many horny adolescent young men with no possibility of getting married does that make?
Historically, famine in China [historically] led to mass infanticides of girl babies which resulted in massive instability when the excess males grew up and hit puberty. One such time was the Tai Ping rebellion, which set records for casualties that stood until well into the 20th century.
Is anybody thinking about China's problem, which may all-too-soon become our problem?
-- Stephen Browne, Warsaw, Poland
I am not an elite, but I am a 40-year-old doctoral student in anthropology and my wife is a family law attorney. We drive a Saturn wagon that gets 37 mpg. We use it sparingly. We live on bus routes and bike to work and school. Our kids go to school across the street. I am a proud left-wing Democrat. My question is: When are we going to stop destroying the environment? Some aspects of the environment have gotten better; many worse. Every fish in Wisconsin has mercury in it. There is something fundamentally wrong with a civilization that poisons the things that feed it.
-- Jerry Cullen Merriman
Why do environmentalists cling to the idea that oil drilling in the Alaska Preserve is immoral and dangerous, yet continued drilling in the Persian Gulf poses no moral dilemma? Are they just elitist, American snobs with no concern for global environmental conditions? Wouldn't American know-how, American technology and American standards applied to oil drilling in sensitive areas be preferable to regimes in the Middle East with far fewer environmental checks and balances?
Oil spills and lack of eco-standards along the Strait of Hormuz don't register politically for environmental activists. They are preying on the knee-jerk reaction of a biased media that keeps the real facts from public debate.
-- John Singleton
I am a petroleum geologist with many years of domestic experience, particularly in the drilling and exploration areas. What I find most bothersome concerning the propaganda coming from the left these days is the curious inability of many people to understand that the present use of huge oil tankers in the world's ocean basins is far more destructive ecologically than any drilling and distribution system. Yet I see no coherent opposition to the use of these monsters in supplying the energy requirements of the same East Coast that has found domestic drilling so offensive. To oppose the giant oil tankers would have to mean real sacrifice for the New York Times' editorial board, since almost all East Coast oil is shipped in on these same huge foreign tankers, as you noted.
There is more ecosystem in a square kilometer of ocean water than is present in the entire North Slope of Alaska. How can we not be concerned that the increased ocean transportation of billions of barrels of oil is endangering our ecological balance far more radically than any small drilling operation in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve? In my experience, which is fairly extensive, drilling itself is never nearly as invasive as non-pipeline transportation, such as trucks or tankers. In the case of Alaska, the transportation from pipeline to pipeline is simply pollution-free, with proper maintenance and supervision. Of course, a policy of conservation is the long-term goal. That has never been in issue, but what has been recently demagogued here is the idea of "pristine wilderness," a Disneyesque concept that distorts the reality of how our growing need for energy impacts the natural world. Future improvements in technology are our best hope to solve these problems.
-- Jim Levy, El Paso, Texas
Nuclear power is safe. Careful statistical analysis of the history of nuclear power (including Three Mile Island and the USSR's messy nuclear program) shows that the nuclear cycle (from mining ore to waste products) kills fewer people per kilowatt than coal. The problem with nuclear power is not that it is unsafe but that the mere mention of the word "nuclear" causes the entire Liberal Left to have a hissy catfit.
Wind and solar power are something else again. Even supposing that they could be made cheap and reliable, nobody has done any serious studies as to their environmental effects. The assumption seems to be that this is free energy. Hogwash. If you take energy out of a system, you affect that system; particularly when that energy is in an active rather than a potential state. Of course, if a solar-energy breakthrough was announced tomorrow, a significant portion of the environmental movement would loudly denounce it. The environmental movement has long been taken over by technophobes, statists and Luddites.
I grew up in South Jersey, and deep down I still consider Philadelphia to be home. How lovely it was to read your homage to the industrial landscape that dominates the convergence of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. I don't believe I've ever thought of that smokestacked part of the world so fondly or with such pride. Thanks for a surprisingly wonderful snapshot of home.
-- Christopher Durso, Alexandria, Va.
You are correct about the need for capitalism and environmentalism to co-exist and be simultaneously promoted by the administration. For instance, why can't we drill (safely) for new oil at the same time we promote the development of more flexible fuel autos, some of which are already manufactured today? Perhaps a tax credit for every car purchased that is capable of using a much higher blend of gas and ethanol? Include the gas/electric hybrids as well. Sure, the oil companies would bitch at first, but then I think their business instincts would kick in and they'd start buying and building ethanol plants. As someone who's labored his whole career in the land of big ag, I'm cognizant of the fact that this program would also have a beneficial effect on the farmers who grow corn (and other crops) that can be made into the ethanol.
-- Charley Johnson
General Manager, KVLY-TV
There was a process developed for extracting oil out of shale, but it collapsed because the government dropped the project. Ninety percent of oil is in the shale or rock, and we are only skimming the top of the oil in present-day production. In Wyoming an oil shale project was successful in extracting the rest of the oil (90 percent), but it would cost $40 per barrel. It was dropped as not economical to produce. If we allow the industry to charge $40 per barrel we would have more oil in the U.S. than in all the world combined. In one county in Wyoming there is more oil than in the entire country of Saudi Arabia. It is the refusal of the U.S. driving public to pay $2.00 per gallon that prevents us from being free from foreign dependence. $2 per gallon sounds pretty good now, doesn't it?
-- Kenneth Parady, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Gasoline is liquid sunlight. This was demonstrated when the fundamentals of our energy supply were radically reconsidered many decades ago by Melvin Calvin, Berkeley's 1961 Nobel Laureate in chemistry. He set up a pilot project that extracted a petroleum-like substance from a bush which grows wild in the southwest. The cost turned out to be around $100 a barrel which, given the low cost of petroleum in the days before OPEC, doomed any attempts to continue the work.
What was needed was the vision to fund a sustained long-term program of selective breeding to domesticate the plant in much the same way that zea mays was once domesticated into common corn. Had this been done, we would today have a plant that quite usefully harvests the light of the sun by efficiently producing large quantities of the stable and safe high-energy liquids which fuel our economy. And a closed ecological cycle would exist with the carbon dioxide produced by burning being balanced by the carbon dioxide taken up as plants produce petroleum.
-- Jerry Wasserman, Lafayette, Ind.
I agree with you on the state of American education. I attended commencement exercises yesterday for the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. Defenders of U.S. education routinely attempt to buttress their arguments with statistics on advanced degrees conferred by our universities. The American school system cannot supply these institutions with a sufficient number of qualified applicants to ensure their survival. There were 67 Master of Law recipients at the commencement yesterday. At least 52 of these were from foreign countries. I confess to having been shocked.
-- Kevin O'Malley, Little Silver, N.J.
As far as guilds go I cannot agree with you more strongly. I am a cabinetmaker, and I have put a great deal of effort into training my people to take themselves and their work seriously. Far too many I have encountered harbor a secret "shop class dummy" mentality, despite whatever superficial bravado they exhibit. Few young woodworkers (even here in Philadelphia where there is a bit of renaissance in furniture building) grasp the idea that being a craftsman is not all ponytails and dope-smoking retro-hippie nonsense but rather a commitment primarily to mental development. Many are overgrown boys. It is my contention that you cannot be a superior craftsman without developing the mindset that will prepare you to take on that role.
-- J.W. Arthur
You blame the "politicized atmosphere" surrounding the Spitzer study on gays and lesbians, while ignoring the political spin the religious right has put on it, starting over a year before its presentation at the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists. Spitzer helped politicize the study himself, by appearing on Dr. Laura in February 2000 and at a Family Research Council press conference shortly thereafter. It's not a vicious attack on Spitzer to say that his study did not resemble science in any way that I've learned it since my sixth-grade science fair. He interviewed by phone about 270 people who'd claimed they were "cured," mostly referred by Exodus and NARTH. About 70 of the interviewed he threw out, because they were not cured enough. Of the remaining 200, of the 150 or so men, 89 percent still had homosexual fantasies. He had to construct the loosest criteria.
Spitzer has misrepresented his role in the 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from the DSM. He was opposed to fully removing homosexuality from the DSM in 1973 and was responsible for substituting "Sexual Orientation Disturbance," later renamed "Ego Dystonic Homosexuality" -- that homosexuality was still a mental disorder if the patient wanted to change. It remained in the DSM until 1987.
Gay and lesbian psychiatrists aren't rejecting the fluidity of sexual orientation in some people. We are concerned that people have been subjected to psychotherapy that has been harmful, due to the therapist's agenda that homosexuality is psychopathology and/or sinful. We are concerned when therapists tell homosexual patients that happiness may only be attained through heterosexual relationships and when therapists misrepresent their ability to eradicate same-sex desire.
-- Dan Karasic, M.D.
Associate Clinical Prof. of Psychiatry, UCSF
and Vice President, Assoc. of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists
What would the reaction have been if Spitzer studied how easy it was for heterosexuals to force themselves to live and thrive in a homosexual relationship? Most straight people I know would be unhappy and repressed, to say the least. People don't choose to be queer because it's fun, it's easy or because our families taught us to be that way. We're queer because we're not straight, and forcing ourselves into a heterosexual lifestyle, while it may be possible, would be damaging in many ways. The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender movement seeks support and equality for every sexual orientation and gender identity. We understand that oppression of every minority group is linked and don't condone misogynist statements coming from a man's mouth because he is gay.
-- Megan Roberts
I have spent time within the conservative Protestant subculture, and their publications are rife with people claiming to have abandoned homosexuality for heterosexuality. Similar to the gay activists, they too embrace the new cultural Cartesianism: "I FEEL, therefore I am." That is, they claim that recovered homosexuals are now truly heterosexual because they are no longer drawn toward their former lifestyle. Like their opponents, they place feelings and fantasies on a high pedestal. By such criteria, if I am truly an alcoholic, a gambler, a pedophile or simply a compulsive bookworm (to which I admit guilt), then that is what I am and there is nothing to do about it. Instead, the effects upon others be damned, I must embrace and affirm what my impulses dictate. To do otherwise is repressive and psychologically harmful.
My take on all this is simpler: we are what we choose, and we should have the courage and maturity to take ownership of our choices. Through changed values and commitment, a homosexual might say, "While I am drawn to this lifestyle, I believe it contrary to God's will; therefore, no matter what I fantasize and FEEL like doing, I will no longer choose to act upon those impulses. And I will take steps to remove myself from places and situations that might tempt me to renege my intentions -- which, but for determination, discipline and the grace of God, I will renege." This is no different from what alcohol, drug and gambling addicts admit they must do as well.
But such thinking is anathema in politically correct and radical circles. So from their perspective, is this how we as a society want to identify ourselves -- on the basis of subjective feelings and impulses? And if that is indeed the case, on what credible basis can anything be condemned, including racism, misogyny, smoking or environmental exploitation?
-- Harley Jamieson, Portland, Ore.
You take note of the "grotesquely misogynous dialogue" in "Queer as Folk," which you interpret (rightly so) as a "catty aversion to the female body." This is something that has puzzled me for years. Everyone focuses on same-sex attraction as the raison d'être of homosexuality and utterly ignores the obvious issue of opposite-sex aversion which, as you observe, seems at least equally important in defining the gay identity.
It is possible to understand that some men might develop a fascination with male genitalia, or find especial pleasure in sexual relations with other men. What is baffling is the gay man's utter aversion to the distinctive pleasures that a female partner might provide.
You speak of "blazing heterosexual heat and tension" in films. I find it fascinating that, unlike so many lesbian writers, you do not denigrate either heterosexuality or straight men. Nor can I recall your ever treating straight women, as do so many lesbian/feminist writers, as inferior creatures who have yet to get in touch with their inner lesbian. Why is such tolerance so rare among gay writers?
-- Robert Stacy McCain
assistant national editor
While at a gathering with a few friends, I casually remarked that I wanted to go to Las Vegas again, but with one of my girlfriends instead of my husband, since he wouldn't care to see the drag shows on the Strip. The immediate response from a woman I consider intelligent was, "Oh gosh, that's so homophobic of him." Excuse me? I resent this screaming of "Homophobia!" every time a straight male says, "Oh gross," or "Drag shows? No thanks, not for me." Now, I've always been a big defender of gay rights since my college days, but I thought this accusation was absolutely ridiculous and unfounded. I was shocked as well that this sort of fuzzy-headed PC thinking had taken over my friends. They were suddenly like the pod people from "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" -- mindless imitations spouting the party line.
-- Jo Ann Hinkle, Illinois
I sincerely appreciated the perspective that you provided for the near-sighted, pick-a-cause activists in our country who seek to silence any voice not aligned with their own. It seems that partisan lines have begun to run so deep that no one is willing to even attempt to peek outside of their own political campsite to gain a better understanding of humanity as a whole.
I come from a family that has often been sided with that much-maligned "religious right" who has unfortunately made itself the undisputed champion of cloudy vision and moralistic dogmatism in our country. My personal understanding of Jesus Christ's teachings has very little to do with any political agenda, and I have regularly ended up on the other side of the political fence constructed by my fellow churchgoers who wish to set themselves up as the crusading opposition to our corrupt society. However, with our whole country splitting into various camps of seemingly uninformed and unrelenting ideologues, I have found myself lost in a wash of political agendas that offer their perspective as the only answer, selling their ideas as the Luke Skywalker to the rest of the world's Darth Vader. It seems that moderation and honest speculation have become the exception in a world where we prefer to have our thoughts spoon-fed to us by a media who can only depict life without color. Everything is either black or white.
-- Steven Veenema, North Andover, Mass.
If people are "naturally" homosexual, it's easier to qualify them as a protected class (Civil Rights Act of 1964). Then it's easier to allow same-sex marriage (viz. Loving vs. Virginia -- you cannot deny to a man what you legally allow a woman; namely, the right to marry a man). Then all other civil rights fall into place. There. Politics inscribed on the hypothalamus.
-- Chris Cronin
yet another queer pc feminist has come around to your relentless argument. years ago as an angry feminist undergrad, i despised your ideas about gender. all wrong, said feminism 101 (catharine & andrea) .... years and many lesbian relationships later, i'm in love with an FTM trans-guy and have happily thrown just about every damn thing i thought about gender out. The deal is: my guy has a chick's body and a man's brain. And i do not. No amount of feminist retraining in the male arts of politics and aggression (accompanied by a denigration of all things "essentially" (gasp!) feminine) will make me what he is, and decades of instruction in small (canadian) town femininity did not manage to unseat his underlying maleness. So, as for the fact that our sexual identity may be changed to make us straight and that nature clearly operates heterosexually .... i'll buy that. and so? in all my sexual experiences i've never felt threatened by the knowledge that what i do is certainly unnatural. i don't feel slighted by the scientist who points out how i pervert nature's path in doing so. it's true, i'm not even remotely normal or natural by most evolutionary and religious standards. Am i the only queer who doesn't want to cry when scientists like Spitzer point out the obvious?
-- R. Chanelle Gallant
Steven Pressfield has written two of the best works of historical fiction on ancient Greece I have ever read. His latest is called "Tides of War: A Novel of Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian War." Pressfield tells the story of Jason, an retired Athenian soldier who defended his comrade Polemides in his trial as the assassin of Alcibiades. The story traces the life of Polemides, a Spartan warrior, through his campaigns with Alcibiades, including their disastrous invasion of Syracuse.
-- Mike Lotstein
Alicbiades is a character in Shakespeare's abortive "Timon of Athens," of course, but imagine a fully developed Shakespearean Alcibiades! The paired life in Plutarch is "Coriolanus," and the comparison between the lives focuses on how exposure to Socrates softened Alcibiades in ways that made him more successful than the hard Coriolanus. I believe Shakespeare may have intended the cynical Timon to contrast with the erotic Alcibiades, but he abandoned the play and turned instead to the character study of the frigid and self-sufficient Coriolanus. I suspect the eroticism that might have been explored through Alcibiades got poured into both Antony and Cleopatra.
-- Dave O'Connor
Dept. of Philosophy and Classics
University of Notre Dame
I believe "The Sopranos" is over-hyped. However, I also believe that it is very entertaining television. The characters are well-developed, the actors are talented and the writing is crisp. The plot lines don't follow the formulaic pattern of so many other TV dramas. Everything isn't tied up in a nice little bow at the end of the episode, or season for that matter. I realize that it is full of stereotypes, but I feel like the show spends as much time breaking them down as reinforcing them.
The best thing about the show is that despite the fantasy Mafia world created by Chase, it is essentially about everyday people and problems they face. Trying to do better for your kids than what you had, problems with co-workers and underlings, balancing work with family, lack of mobility in your current job, dealing with elderly parents and what happens when the separate parts of your life you think you have compartmentalized come clashing together.
It is a story well told about real people. It's only about the Mafia because a weekly drama about tax attorneys would be pretty boring.
-- Matt Jones
I do agree with you about "The Sopranos." I don't get the hype. I've tried to watch a few episodes only to change the channel after a few minutes. It's the same thing with the sitcom "Will & Grace" or "Dharma and Greg." I do not find those shows funny at all.
-- Andrew M. Cox
You are right on the mark about this incredibly stupid show. I have tried in vain three times to watch it, hoping for some glimpse of the opera that made the "Godfather" movies so great. One wonders where the disconnect happened. I think it is the same disconnect that took place from "Goodfellas" to "Casino." As a friend of mine said about "Casino," "They should have just welded a telephone handset to Joe Pesci's hand so when he beat people he wouldn't have to pick up the phone."
-- Jeff Jones
The characters in "The Sopranos" are imagoes twisted in the funhouse minds of an intellectually atrophied TV-nation resistant to self-examination, and inured and indifferent to violence. Last year William Paterson University in New Jersey refused to allow the show to film on its campus. Susanna Tardi, an associate professor of sociology there, said she wanted to see Italian-Americans who are "hardworking, educated and articulate" portrayed on television and that "they can do that and still make money and win awards." Bring back classical education! There are armies of clueless young'uns who crave this crap (and their parents too), and many of them will one day be writing for TV (God help us). If extraterrestrials are catching our signals, no wonder they haven't made contact.
-- Lara Roth-Beister, New York
I gather that "The Sopranos" is big news in the U.S. It's been tried repeatedly here in Australia and has never attracted a big audience -- despite considerable drum-beating by assorted local critics.
One increasingly gathers that America, having taken over the world's entertainment industry, is concerned more with the cankers in its own society than is the rest of the world. You have to think that the nastiness of the U.S. movie/TV trade is a reflection of the nastiness of the people making the shows.
A Hollywood wardrobe mistress reported a year or two ago about costuming a large number of actresses for some major film scenes. None wore brassieres, she said, all had gym bodies with standup breasts and clearly defined muscles; and for hygienic reasons, she had a tough time getting them in and out of costumes that could be used again. And these, mainly, were extras, eager to climb the greasy pole. Beauty, in the age of the labor-saving device. It's a muscle thing. Conventional dresses don't sit well on such bodies, the wardrobe lady said.
You mention Jennifer Lopez, whom I saw in an Elmore Leonard movie a couple of years ago. Later, an American colleague asked what I'd thought of it. Clooney wasn't interesting, I replied, but Lopez could play any part at all that required quiet strength and mana: I was watching an Aztec princess. I haven't seen her since but read that she's doomed these days to playing "damaged characters," whatever this means. What it MAY mean is that strong women are, in Hollywood today, dangerous. Our own dear Nicole Kidman comes through as a twittering bubblehead, and is rich because of it.
-- Paul Kunino Lynch, Kings Cross, Australia
Jennifer Lopez did not transition from the pop world to the big screen. She started out dancing on "In Living Color," then made bad TV movies and mediocre Hollywood films and finally bought herself a recording contract with Sony. Her media blitz of second-rate imitation hip-hop, cheesy vanity videos and "look-I'm-almost-naked" wardrobe choices got her the widespread attention she craved, so there was an increase in the quality of the movie roles she was offered. She is exactly the type of glossy, empty-vessel mannequin that has brought down the stock of the entertainment world and clogs the airwaves with stupid videos that often resemble soft-core porn (see Sting's latest video). But maybe that's what people want. At least Madonna has something to offer.
-- Matthew Haislip