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Fallwell's That Ends Well
Jacob Weisberg in " The Cartoon Closet" is missing the point about the reaction to Jerry Falwell's outing of the "gay Teletubby." While Tinky Winky may be queer and proud, and while Tinky Winky might be your best fantasy and your worst nightmare, that's not the why Americans are shaking their heads.
Personally, I couldn't care less if Tinky Winky or Bert or Batman is gay. What does offend me is that bigots such as Falwell and other Christian right-wingers feel the need to "save" our children from supposedly evil influences, such as gay Teletubbies. If a gay Teletubby teaches tolerance and acceptance to children, that's a good thing. What we should be afraid of are Falwellian bigots who preach hate and division.
I am writing from Brazil where the statements by Paul Krugman about Arminio Fraga in the to "Don't Blame It on Rio ... Or Brasilia Either" have been front-page news for a week. While I am pleased that you have published Fraga's response to Krugman's note, I am distressed to see that Slate has not taken responsibility for its actions in the same way that Krugman has. Slate's editors must take a large measure of responsibility for this "bagunça"--Portuguese for mess. As Krugman notes in his apologies, he is an economist, not a journalist. Given the seriousness of the charges--trading inside information for the gain of Fraga's former employer--shouldn't Slate offer Fraga an apology as well? Leaving Krugman to take all the heat of a very angry Brazilian public is not Slate's finest demonstration of journalistic ethics.
The greatest tragedy of this episode is that Krugman's analysis of the Brazilian situation is one of the most positive and accurate I have seen during the past six months. He makes clear what few have been able to--the vicious cycle of lack of confidence and interest rates. I wish the public discussion of his article had focused on solutions to the dilemma he posed rather than on an extraneous appendage.
--James R. Hunter
War, Blockades, and Peace
Broadly speaking, I agree with the points David Plotz makes in "War Powerless." Congress has the sole power to declare war, and a bipartisan Congress and the president have cheerfully ignored that clear constitutional fact. But I think Plotz may be mistaken in saying the recent Iraq bombing needed authorization. As I understand it, the war between Iraq and the United States, begun in 1991, has not yet ended. The shooting war of 1992 ended with a cease-fire, not peace. Indeed, in the years following, we have enforced a blockade on Iraq. Blockades have always been regarded as acts of war. And the cease-fire is conditional: if Iraq permits inspections, doesn't fly planes in certain areas, and doesn't threaten our troops, then we will hold our fire. So, if the war was constitutional in 1991-92, the war is still constitutional now--nothing in the resolution specified a time limit.
Alas, the president has not made this case. Whenever Iraq claimed (quite rightly) that arms inspections were a violation of Iraqi sovereignty, we could and should have responded, "Bugger your sovereignty--this is war." Somehow, I can't imagine Clinton saying that.
Diary of a Mad Professor
I must say that the "Diary" by the anonymous assistant professor portrays the day-to-day stresses and anxieties of academic life through the eyes of a shockingly irresponsible instructor. The way in which the author views both graduate and undergraduate students reveals unhealthy personal insecurity. Teaching is a profoundly ethical vocation: Students entrust their emotional and intellectual well-being to their professors, and those who command such authority must recognize their responsibilities to their students. The stresses of an academic are truly heavy, but why should it be different from any other profession? Does the author think that teaching in the university involves a lighter load than working for a corporation? Why? Furthermore, the author is fortunate enough to have a job when so many of the author's fellow humanities scholars are without employment.
--Jack W. Chen