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Letters: Feb. 21, 2000

11 minute read
TIME

CANDIDATES IN A MAD DASH

All four of the leading presidential candidates are men of privilege who were educated at highly selective Eastern colleges [CAMPAIGN 2000, Jan. 31]. Governor George W. Bush, son of a President, grandson of a U.S. Senator, was educated at Yale. Ex-Senator Bill Bradley, son of a banker, went to Princeton. Vice President Al Gore, son of a U.S. Senator, attended Harvard. Senator John McCain, son and grandson of admirals, was educated at the U.S. Naval Academy. Let us rush to fix a system that, on its face, would winnow out the likes of Abe Lincoln and Harry Truman. DAVID L. EVANS Cambridge, Mass.

Isn’t it time we got into the 21st century with elections? The primary system is a complete anachronism harking back to pre-TV days, when that was the only way voters could see the candidates. Now we would be a lot better off without the grand circus every four years. If candidates could just have publicly financed televised debates until we knew enough about them to vote, then we could get it over with simultaneously in all states. Think of the effort now wasted on fund raising and influence peddling! KAY ZIEGAHN Richland Center, Wis.

It is amusing to see John McCain, a pro-life Republican with an 18-year conservative voting record, described as a challenger to Bush from the left. I thought the Republican Party promoted the rights of the individual against Big Government. Clearly, the biggest obstacle is special-interest money spent to make sure true reform never happens. McCain has the honesty to say this and the courage to fight for each citizen’s right to have a real voice in the political process. Since when have courage and honesty ceased to be conservative? VIRGINIA COCHRANE TORBERT Yardley, Pa.

Looking at your cover, I hope Al Gore is dashing to the dentist! Before trying to straighten out America’s problems, he should straighten out his teeth! GAIL SMALLWOOD-HEIDERSCHEIT Flower Mound, Texas

THAT ZENLIKE FEELING

O.K., I give up. Who is more zen? You described Bill Bradley’s unmistakable “Zenlike calm” [CAMPAIGN 2000, Jan. 31]. Then in the piece on Al Gore’s strategy, we learned the Vice President has a ” Zenlike focus.” In a campaign in which there is difficulty in distinguishing one slightly left-of-middle Democratic candidate from the other, do we really need you confusing us even more? AUBREE GALVIN Chicago

A NEW THEORY ABOUT RAPE

Thanks to Barbara Ehrenreich for her analysis of the premise put forth by evolutionary theorists Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer [ESSAY, Jan. 31]. They say rape is just one more seed-spreading technique favored by natural selection. The two authors have obviously never heard of female kinship networks or the selective disadvantages of rape. Otherwise they would realize that the evolutionary sweepstakes was won by the gene for fear-of-getting-your-brains-beat-out-by-enraged-female-protectors and not by the rape gene, a rough equivalent to the idiot gene. DAN WHARTON Pelham, N.Y.

Rape is about procreation, even if only as an instrument of evil. Rape is always wrong and is unjust, but so was Ehrenreich’s single-minded opposition to Thornhill and Palmer’s A Natural History of Rape. ANTTI NYBERG Helsinki

As a psychotherapist who has treated both rape victims and rapists, I am grateful for Ehrenreich’s Essay “How ‘Natural’ Is Rape?” We don’t need any more ideas that give antisocial people excuses for their behavior. THOM RUTLEDGE Nashville, Tenn.

I heartily applaud Ehrenreich’s retort to the ludicrous theory on rape. Sadly, however, some governments foster the rape-to-procreate mentality. In Ethiopia a rapist is not prosecuted if his victim “freely contracts marriage with the offender.” And in Costa Rica a rapist who “declares his intention to marry the victim” is exempt from any punishment. SUSAN BUCHSBAUM New York City

Rape is learned behavior, as in “monkey see, monkey do.” Isn’t our entire history a series of wars and conquest by violence? Rape, like other forms of violence, has certainly been the norm. Indeed, how, when and why did men learn to take what they desired by force? And if violence among men is learned behavior, how can it be unlearned? ALFHILD ANDA New York City

The claim that rape is not a violent act but a natural one of procreation can come only from men. MAYA NAGEL Boise, Idaho

Ehrenreich’s last sentence may, apparently unwittingly, have hit on the answer to the Darwinian question of rape. She wrote that men who can’t distinguish between sex and rape don’t deserve to live in the company of women. For the average male, rape is undoubtedly not the best way to propagate, but for those men who are so undesirable that no female will voluntarily mate with them–who don’t deserve the company of women–rape is the only way to propagate. Such undesirable men who remain honorably chaste will certainly not pass on their seed. They and their genes will become extinct. So it should be no surprise if the honorably chaste become increasingly rare and rapists relatively more common. N.D. THALMANN Rayleigh, England

GERMANY’S KOHL IN TROUBLE

You were right to note that the fall of Helmut Kohl, former Chancellor and unifier of East and West Germany [WORLD, Jan. 31], has the appearance of a Greek tragedy, with ingredients of hate and misfortune. The hubris of the political establishment has been undone by questions about money. The situation [involving as much as $5 million in unreported campaign contributions] is delicate and uniquely political. Through the years, Germans have seen a change from a wheeling-and-dealing system to a more austere, Prussian-like government in Berlin. One must wonder whether the new government will ever achieve a firm moral position. The fallen lion will ever be easy prey for the hungry. REINHARD BEHNERT Bremen, Germany

Younger, promising politicians with absolutely clean records must play an important role in the recovery of Kohl’s party, the Christian Democratic Union–people like Christian Wulff and Peter Muller. But why did you omit Annette Schawan? Also, you did not do justice to Wolfgang Schauble and Angela Merkel. They have both worked hard to weed out the dark jungle of bank accounts, to bring secrets to light and to report to the public in agonizing press conferences and countless embarrassing talk shows. HANS-GUNTER KRUPPA Osnabruck, Germany

As a child of the Kohl era, I look at the future with great anxiety. While I never much approved of the way Kohl ran the country, which was traditionalist and conservative almost to the point of perfect numbness, it cannot be denied that he possessed the enormous power necessary for maintaining the chancellorship longer than anybody else and that he kept Germany going. Though apparently not endowed with high moral values, Kohl is dreadfully skilled in wielding power, asserting himself and, most of all, managing people. This scandal may prove useful in one respect: at a time when the role of Big Politics is changing, this affair shows us democracy and transparency are more important than ever. THORSTEN WEIGERT Munster, Germany

In a strange way, Richard Nixon and Helmut Kohl seem like soul mates. Both achieved remarkable goals internationally but stumbled at home. Nixon scored a success by opening up a closed China, but is also known for the Watergate scandal. Kohl opened up East Germany, but will also be remembered for internal financial monkey business. KJELL H. MARTINUSSEN Kolbjornsvik, Norway

CHECHNYA’S FUTURE IN QUESTION

There will never be peace in Chechnya so long as the area is ruled by a motley band of clans and gangs of marauders [WORLD, Jan. 24]. When the war is over, the international community would do well to support (in cooperation with the Russians and the Chechens) an effort to establish some form of democratic government dedicated to making Chechnya a respectable nation. This would give the people of Chechnya hope for a better future. The present policy of imposing demands, which the Russians must consider unreasonable and insulting, is only supporting the rise of militarism and nationalism in Russia. ARNE FINNE Lidingo, Sweden

VANISHING APES

Your article about the world’s most endangered primates [ENVIRONMENT, Jan. 17] was correctly titled “Death Row.” However, if there is a force that may change people’s minds toward the environment, it is the media. TIME is one of the few magazines that care about the environment and alert us to fight against its destruction. But it is up to every one of us to help preserve nature. The future does not look promising. ANNELIESE F. THOM Sao Paulo, Brazil

Those monkeys you showed may be your relatives, but not mine. MUHAMMAD ALI PERVAIZ Karachi

FLAG FLYING GETS UGLY

Re Jack E. White’s commentary on flying the Confederate flag over the South Carolina statehouse [DIVIDING LINE, Jan. 31]: I’m from the South. I prefer living here. My great-grandfather was born in Greenville, S.C. His uncle, a crack rifle shot, died in the battle of Petersburg, Va. The Confederate flag was flown then, but the one flying today does not represent the South now. It stands for a seceded South at war against the U.S. 135 years ago. It was a war that won slaves the right to have something to show for their efforts, to pursue happiness. The South lost the war. Lose the flag. JEFFREY LOCKHART Weatherford, Texas

I am a southern, white, college-educated American and have just as much right to choose what symbolizes my heritage as any other subgroup of Americans. The Confederate flag symbolizes Southern white heritage, not slavery or Jim Crow. The folks who don’t agree with that view are the true racists. JOE CREAMONS Mount Dora, Fla.

Did White think that insulting black America was the best way to get his point across regarding the flying of the Confederate flag? White imparted to all of us his version of bigotry by using the hackneyed image of Buckwheat to tell black America we should be outraged at the insolence of Southern whites. Hell, we all know history, and believe it or not, not all of us are out here waiting for white America to pay us for the injustices suffered by our forefathers. Nor do we give a damn what political pundits say. If the people of the South are as offended as they claim by the flying of the Confederate flag, they will require the removal of that banner of racism. End of story. DOUGLAS SLAUGHTER Phoenix, Ariz.

WHERE HAVE THE STARS GONE?

As an amateur astronomer, I applaud your article on light pollution, the encroaching glare of lights from urban sprawl [SCIENCE, Jan. 31]. Even in my remote area in the mountains of Texas, light pollution is a growing threat to our clear, dark sky. But unshielded, overly bright lights do more than annoy astronomers. Their glare greatly impairs the vision of drivers and pedestrians, creating safety hazards. The safety issue affects far more people than does the reduced visibility of the night sky. Glare is a hazard for everyone out at night, whether anyone ever looks at the sky. JAMES T. WALKER, SECRETARY Big Bend Astronomical Society, Inc. Alpine, Texas

I’m glad your article mentioned the importance of light shielding used to direct light onto the ground, where it does its stuff. But you neglected an important added factor–savings on the electric bill. As the keepers of more modern parking lots know, full-cutoff lighting fixtures that direct light downward provide the same brightness effect for a fraction of the wattage. The noticeable effect on one’s financial bottom line is welcome to everyone. LISA JUDD Houston

SMART AS WELL AS BEAUTIFUL

Many of your readers may not realize that Hedy Lamarr was very smart [MILESTONES, Jan. 31]. She was one of the authors of a 1942 patent titled Secret Communication System, which describes the first kind of spread-spectrum communication system, also known as frequency hopping. Her idea was simple but elegant: if a radio transmitter always uses the same frequency, it is subject to jamming. One way to avoid jamming and other interference is for the transmitter to hop around a predetermined set of frequencies in an apparently random order determined by a secret key. That technology was soon used in military communication devices. HENRIQUE MALVAR Redmond, Wash.

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