Letters from our readers.
Nov. 28 1997 3:30 AM

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I want to tell you how really disappointed I was, when reading the first entry of the "Diary" from Lorenzo Semple Jr., to encounter a really vulgar word. To be sure, I've been known to use that particular Anglo-Saxon expletive myself, and with great verve, too; but to encounter it in the pages of Slate was just too much. Don't you edit the diary submissions of your contributors? Was it absolutely necessary to use that particular word? Just because it's a diary doesn't mean it should be published unexpurgated.

--Bob SolonIndianapolis

With Seven You Get Egg Roll


I very much enjoy "Today's Papers," and I'm sorry that this first message to you comes on the occasion of a complaint.

In his Nov. 20 entry, Scott Shuger suggested a contradiction between (septuplet father) Kenny McCaughey's statement that "God gave us those kids" and the fact that 40 specialists were involved and that Bobbi McCaughey had been hospitalized for more than a month. If that's a contradiction, then no one could ever properly say, "God gave us those kids," or even "God gave us that kid," because, as you know, there is some human effort involved in all human births--whether from doctors, nurses, midwives, even mothers and, to a much lesser extent, fathers.

If you don't believe in God, that's one thing. The alleged contradiction would therefore have nothing to do with the number of specialists involved or the length of stay in the hospital. It would have only to do with your theological presupposition. But if you allow for the possibility of a sovereign, you should not be surprised that He uses His creatures to achieve His ends--whether in the birth of a child (or children) or in the rearing of them.

God is good, Mr. Shuger. I'm looking forward to Today's Papers tomorrow.


--Nickolas S. Eicher

Down the Hatch

GOP efforts to derail President Clinton's appointment of Bill Lann Lee as the nation's chief civil-rights enforcer ("Payback Time," by Jacob Weisberg) only demonstrate what bad sports Republicans have become in the last few years. If they can't have their own man in the Oval Office, it seems, they will do anything--no matter how petty or self-serving or just plain stupid--to cripple the Democratic agenda that won Clinton his office not once, but two times in a row.

Even Sen. Orrin Hatch has to acknowledge that Lee is well qualified for the post he seeks. Yet the senator is trying to kill Lee's nomination, complaining that he might be an activist at the Justice Department. Hatch worries that Lee would use his new position to halt any spread of anti-affirmative-action legislation or seek to subvert California's abolition of such practices.


Hatch's campaign may play well to GOP extremists, those folks who have always feared that civil-rights legislation and affirmative action would somehow bring down Western civilization. But it's obvious to the rest of us that contesting this nomination on the basis that Lee might be an activist in government is rank hypocrisy. If the rule from now on is that nobody can hold office in Washington unless they swear not to try to sway public opinion or undo existing laws, then every congressional Republican with a hankering to overturn Roe vs. Wade might as well start looking for new employment--Hatch included.

--J. Kingston PierceSeattle

I Come to Berry Seizures--Not to Praise Them

Paul Krugman, in his recent article, "A Raspberry for Free Trade," suggests that the opponents of imports from countries with poor working conditions are in fact being disingenuous: They don't really oppose the bad conditions. What they oppose is the competition.


This may be true for some. But for me, and for many others, there is a legitimate concern about whether we, through our purchases, are encouraging the abuse of others. And despite Krugman's argument, it would matter to me if I knew that the shirt I just purchased was produced by laborers who were beaten and tortured in order to increase their productivity.

It is, unfortunately, difficult to determine reliably if the labor that went into a particular item was handled humanely. But that doesn't mean that the issue of humane treatment of workers is unimportant. Krugman argues persuasively that the berry-based argument is irrelevant--but the moral argument remains, nonetheless, quite cogent.

--Yaron Minsky

Free Trade's Been Berry Berry Good to Me

As a staunch supporter of free trade, I couldn't agree more with "A Raspberry for Free Trade," Paul Krugman's critique of the arguments put forward by the opponents of fast track. They are not only specious, but also deeply disingenuous.

But supporters of free trade should look beyond the intellectual caliber of these arguments and consider the political realities that sustain them. And here free traders may only have themselves to blame.

Sensible free traders argue that jobs lost to free trade are more than made up for by jobs gained, and make further, quite correct, arguments that American trade barriers are already quite low and that we have the most to gain by global trade liberalization.

Still, none of the many benefits of free trade overcome the fact that some will lose in the more dynamic economy that aggressive free trade creates, and that the very dynamism of free trade can cast a penumbra of insecurity that goes well beyond those who will actually lose employment.

The political answer to this, which many progressive supporters of free trade have endorsed, is a combination of aggressive free trade coupled with programs aimed to cushion and compensate for the social dislocations which free trade causes. This is, in some sense, the New Democrat line, the Clinton line, the DLC line, etc.

The problem is that progressive supporters of free trade have been able to get their free-trade agreements, but very little in the way of cushioning programs for the kind of dynamic economic order we're clearly moving into. A sustainable, progressive free-trade coalition requires both. I don't pretend that the politics of the situation are simple by any means. But getting one and not the other has played a major role in creating the increasingly successful popular backlash against free trade.

--Joshua Micah Marshall

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