Letters from our readers.
May 23 1997 3:30 AM

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The Chess Jerk

I agree with Alex Heard's article "Sore Loser": Garry Kasparov was a total jerk. I closely followed both last year's and this year's matches with great enthusiasm, and have always had a lot of respect for Garry. He is a true genius in chess--the best there is. So, I did not expect him to say all those things that he said.

Garry claims that the second game was the one that led to his downfall, and almost accused IBM of cheating. Leaving aside the fact that IBM would not even consider doing this and risking its credibility and reputation, it is a preposterous charge because whoever stepped in to help the machine would be a better player than Kasparov. Alex Heard is right. Perhaps we need another spokesman for the human race. This one has just become another "sports jerk."

--Philippos Peleties


Kasparov's Deep Blues

I couldn't disagree more with Alex Heard's article "Sore Loser." This kind of personification of the computer does nobody any good. Garry Kasparov does not owe Deep Blue an apology because Deep Blue is not a human and has no feelings. It is a pile of microchips. There is nobody to offend.

Garry acted like a human, and it made me proud to be human, too. I am also proud of his fighting stance at the press conference. He said exactly what I wanted to say: This stupid machine will not definitively beat its masters. And then there was a roar of approval from the audience.

Do the programmers of Deep Blue deserve an ovation? Not to the same extent. They are still the challengers in this saga of man vs. machine. And not one of the programmers could have beaten Kasparov in chess--not even close.


--Justin K. Hertog

New York City

I Want My FDA

I have one objection to "FDA Smoke Rings," by Jack Shafer: The regulation of tobacco doesn't mean that adults are living in a childproof world. Sure, the FDA's efforts are done in the name of kids. But the goal is to have fewer persons become addicted to nicotine at an age when information about the health hazards is likely to be ignored. Many teen-agers are not moved by the possibility of an early death in four decades. But if smoking is addictive, then it makes sense to try to keep tobacco out of the hands of kids who are too young to take the warnings seriously.


The FDA's regulations do not make it harder for adults to buy cigarettes. The advertising regulations may make it harder for a new product to enter the market, or to boost brand-switching. But adults can still buy cigarettes. (I am sure, however, that there are many in the anti-tobacco movement who would be prepared to ban smoking because of the possibility of lung damage from secondhand smoke--now that would be trying to create a childproof world.)

--Thomas J. Mikula

Bethesda, Md.

He's No Bill of Rights


Jack Shafer's "FDA Smoke Rings" and Jacob Weisberg's "Clinton Turns Yellow" complement each other on the same subject: Big Brother Is Watching. William Jefferson Clinton's "abysmal record on liberty," as Weisberg calls it, is, indeed, a fatal twist of irony, incredible and troubling.

Clinton is willing to toss away our First, Fourth, and possibly Second amendments with a simple flick of the pen. He seems motivated by a deep-seated longing to heal and protect, but this is not a sufficient warrant for violating the privacy of an individual's rights and trampling on the Constitution.

I'm weary of the perennial bad excuse for cameras, censorship, and regulations: It's for your own protection and safety. I understand Clinton's utopian aspirations, but no society will ever find true peace and stability. There will always be a small percentage who cannot govern their own lives and who abuse freedom, but that shouldn't mean that we all have to pay the price by losing our constitutional rights.

--Jackie Marcus

American Meltdown

James Traub's review of Nathan Glazer's We Are All Multiculturalists Now, titled "I Was Wrong," really grabbed me. I grew up in the 1950s, at a time when the concept of the United States as a melting pot was widely preached in our schools and everyday life. Later, in the 1960s, we were told that the melting pot did not take dark meat. But now that there is clear cultural and biological assimilation, I have been surprised to see that large constituencies actually try to categorize themselves by racial or ethnic labels.

Like Glazer, I have questioned affirmative action and dreaded the creation of a legal caste/quota system. Like Glazer, I now believe that events and processes are stronger than government policies and political mindsets. I find myself on a similar journey of shifting concepts and renewed belief in the melting pot but, like Glazer, my journey is in process, and the questions loom much larger than my answers.

--Bill McMichael

Oak Hill, Va.

Ratings to Riches

Hooray for David Plotz's "Domestic Goddess Dethroned," an assessment of Roseanne's self-made downfall. While I wouldn't go so far as to praise the early years of her show, Plotz succinctly tracked the devolution of what started out as a very good idea. How ironic that a program once watched by poor and wealthy viewers alike ultimately perished because its creator couldn't handle the move from being poor to being wealthy herself.

--Erich Van Dussen

New York City

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