The Fish
for 15 March 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.
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Pay to Play

E. L.

Your quote:

"While plenty of commentators
argued how much more genteel
a hockey game is than a
nuclear holocaust, that
hardly made Americans, drunk
with Reaganism, any more


Ronald Reagan's term as
president: January 1981 to
January 1989.

Winter Olympics at Lake
Placid, New York: 13 February
1980 to 24 February 1980.

Personally, I think Americans
were loopy-high with
Carterism. He was so d...d


Jonathan Miller

Actually, old Dutch took
office on 20 January 1981,
but that's picking nits.

Reagan was already surfing a
wave of tremendous popularity
(and its catalyst,
anti-Carter malaise) in early
1980 - peaking nine months
later in his landslide

Incidentally, the White House
biography of RWR gives the
following uncharitable
factoids: Reagan was shot
just 69 days after taking
office and he frequently held
press conferences in front of
a taxiing helicopter, the
better to expedite his
"interaction with the press"
and bolster his reputation as
the "Great Communicator."
(Duh. Apparently no one
actually heard him babbling
about the Evil Empire.)

E. L. Skinner

Fish With Letter Icon

Your deriding of Mormonism as
"buffed hypocrisy" is right
on target, but some
clarification is necessary to
better illustrate your point.
I've lived in Utah for 10
years, during which time I've
seen an incredible amount of
hypocritical, malformed bills
go unopposed through the
state legislature (all GOP,
all Mormon) and then be
signed off on by Governor
Mike "Boy Wonder" Leavitt.
I've seen smearing (by
right-wing social groups, in
particular the Eagle Forum
and Gayle Ruizicka, its
executive director) of gay
candidates running for the
legislature. Most of this
backwardness and hatred can
be traced to the religious
education Mormons receive.
Attending at least two-plus
hours of church every Sunday
and an hour of "seminary"
every morning by the time
they get to high school (not
to mention the two-year
church mission at age 18, a
time when most people start
to think for themselves) is
enough to brainwash even the
most morally upright,
intelligent, and kind person.
Even if the church is
officially neutral (on
whether members should be
Republican or Democrat, on
most social issues, on the
Olympics until two years
ago), those who do all the
preaching and teaching will
almost always impress their
own (right-wing,
conservative, sometimes
bigoted) personal morals on
what the kids (and parents)
hear. Brainwashing
perpetrates brainwashing,
with no end in sight; the
wash is not really "buffing,"
it comes closer to a
full-service wash, with a
free towel drying.

Michael King

I was prepared to say that no
religion has an absolute
monopoly on hypocrisy, but
you've got me reconsidering.

The trouble with Mormonism
(and - to be fair - so many
other channels in the
Judeo-Christian mode) is its
power to institutionalize
human foibles. Like, say,
fear of black people. More
noble aspirations tend to get
eclipsed by these finer
points in the theology.

You're right: Mormons seem to
have a unique power over
their youth. As a result, the
Christian mainstream has
understandably considered the
Church of LDS a cult. I
remain undecided. But any
institution that sends young
men in suits soliciting at my
door is generally suspect,
and that includes the Sertoma
light-bulb people. Sertoma?
What the hell is THAT about?!

E. L. Skinner

Fish With Letter Icon

Dear Younger Brother of BF:

Do not be so quick to condemn
the replacement of warfare
with commerce. Does anyone
doubt that for half of what
we are now paying to keep
troops up and down the Korean
border we could buy everyone
in North Korea a Hyundai,
give them a full tank of gas
and a Visa Smartcard with
$500 of spending power on it,
and ask them where they want
to go today? North Korea
would be in the dustbin of
history by nightfall.

Alan Kornheiser

This, of course, is precisely
what brought the Iron Curtain
down. Although we couldn't
actually drop Seiko watches
on the Osties, you can bet
they almost wished them out
of the sky, they wanted 'em
so bad.

It is not useful to consider
whether they are now pleased
with their lot.

E. L. Skinner

Fish With Letter Icon
Virgin Territory

You make a compelling
argument. However, I must say
it's unfair to dismiss A. C.
Green's opinion of sex simply
because he hasn't tried it
himself. One doesn't need to
try shooting heroin or
striking oneself on the head
with a hammer in order to say
these are bad things.

A. C. Green saw firsthand
what extramarital sex did to
Magic Johnson's life. And if
he has remained steadfast for
so long, I'm sure he has many
other reasons for abstinence
that might be worth listening
to, if only for the reason
that he walks the talk and
doesn't seem condescending
about it.

Courtney Cason

Dear Courtney,

I'm very much of the opinion
one needs to try heroin (and
hammer smashing) when it
comes to making definitive
statements, especially so
with abstinence. I believe it
was Aristotle who counseled
moderation in all things
(except moderation, of
course). And he should know;
not only did he play point
guard for the Syracuse
Nationals, he never got laid
until he was too old to enjoy

Magic Johnson's official
story - and if the Clinton
presidency proves anything,
it's that the official story
is always absolutely true,
assuming you know what I mean
by "true" - is that he never
cheated on the missus. And
that his HIV is cured. And
that his TV show was a hit.

And before you go down - er,
get down - on extramarital
sex, please remember that
many people get to know their
future spouses through such

Mr. M

Fish With Letter Icon

I enjoy your commentary quite
a bit, and the whole Wired
family of stuff is neat.

I'm writing as a result of
your 26 February column on

I guess it's a result of
freedom that you and others
are able to promote
promiscuity to all when it is
so clearly damaging and
wrong. But for you to
belittle those who try to
remind the public why
premarital chastity is
correct is sickening.

If you ignore the religious
reasons (and since your
writings are atheistic, I
assume you do), the social
reasons for avoiding
premarital sex are
compelling: Sex crimes are
higher than ever, true
nuclear families are
disappearing rapidly,
abortion (i.e., murder) rates
are ridiculously high,
bastard kids form the
majority of births, STDs are
rampant, etc. We're watching
society destroy itself as a
result of this lifestyle. If
you want to see the end
result, there are plenty of
examples in history to look

If you add the religious
reasons, things get worse. I
can accept that you reject what is
so obviously right and live
life to satisfy your carnal
desires, which will
ultimately lead to eternal
unhappiness. But it is
disturbing when you start to
call what is right wrong and
what is wrong right. Accept
that you promote an evil
lifestyle and be done with

Take care,

Ben Galbraith

Dear Ben,

The Bible - which, according
to a new ad campaign, was
basically written by Jon
Lovitz - contains numerous
episodes of extramarital,
premarital, and nonmarital
thigh-slapping. Chastity,
like Sonny & Cher, must be
enjoyed within a specific
context. Your brief trot
through sex stats reminds us
that a millennium is
approaching, but the concern
is overstated: Divorce rates,
for instance, started
climbing around 1850 and have
actually leveled off during
the past two decades; kids
are having sex less often
than they were 20 years ago;
and there's no evidence that sex
crimes are on the
rise - except within a
one-block area in inner-city
Washington, D.C.
(though the reporting of
such is clearly more

As a technical virgin who has
been married for more than 200
years, I'm not so quick to
call premarital sex evil. But
I am willing to go on the
record suggesting that you would
start to think about murder
if locked in a conference
room, where Wendy Shalit was
doing her Little LuLu bump
and grind about how she's
just a girl who can't say

And remember, you can't spell
"evil" without an "i".

Mr. M

Fish With Letter Icon

You can attack Shalit all you
want, but I see through it. I
see through everything you
yellow cynics deign to post
on your Web site, allegedly
for our enjoyment and
edification. In this
particular case, you're
trying to justify your sexual
ambitions to yourself by
violating the self-promoting
innocence of the lovely Miss

It was a good article. I'm
giving you a hard time
because I know you like it.

erich von hollander

P.S. Please don't publish my
email address. I hate spam.

Hey erich von stroheim,

I loved you in Grand Illusion and old
Bonanza reruns. I knew you'd
see through it. Hell, I'd be
disappointed if you hadn't.
And I don't need anything
more than my own left hand to
justify my sexual ambitions
to myself. Succumb to Spam -
it's the best part of the
slaughterhouse, all packed
into a nice tin can.

Mr. M

Fish With Letter Icon

I am confused as to how
anyone could condemn celibacy
or modesty in the unfunny way
you did. Let me see: Not to
be willing to take the risk
of contracting a sexually
transmitted disease is
considered less appealing (so
to speak) than simply using
the latest gimmick to try to
avoid getting one as best you
can. And making the choice
to hold oneself until you are
married is less appealing
than, say, testing out the
waters until you somehow luck
upon the right person.

I am a 42-year-old nonvirgin,
but as a Christian I have
chosen celibacy - not from the
perspective of someone who
has never tasted of the
apple but from the
perspective of someone who
picked many apples and baked
a pie or two. If I could go
back, I would
choose abstinence. If I
could avoid the price I've
paid for not waiting and for
not staying celibate, I would
gladly start again.

I tip my hat to young men and
women who have once again
found modesty and decency in
a world full of
self-righteous know-it-all
heathens such as yourself. I
feel sorry for the young (or
whatever age) women who might
cross your path in the future
and for those who have
crossed your path in the
past. Try asking some of
those women you slept with
and are no longer involved
with how they really feel
about sharing the most
intimate part of themselves
with someone who is now no
longer a part of their lives.

The Bible says, "The people
perish from lack of
knowledge," and following any
advice you might give, they will
most certainly be put on the
soon-to-be-extinct list.

Sleeping with someone you are
not married to was wrong in
the past, it is wrong today,
and it will continue to be
wrong in the future. The
repercussions on a young
person's life are
irreversible. The fact that
everyone does it does not
make it right and never will.
Criticizing young people for
taking a stand (which is
their right) and attempting
to lead other young people
along an honorable path is

I won't comment on the women
in your family, but I wonder
about them. Most certainly, there
is a woman in your life to whom
you might say, "Perhaps it
might be better to wait."
Would you want your daughter
sleeping around or saving
herself? How about your
sister or even your mother?
I'm pretty sure somewhere in
your family tree there is a
female relative waiting for
you in the hereafter, prepared
to slap your face. Hats off
to the virgins of the world!

Jacqui Knight


Some people choose celibacy
and others have it thrust upon
them (or, more correctly,
fail to have anything thrust
upon them). Was it Aristotle or
Tom Petty who counseled that
the wayyyting is the hardest
part? Regardless, you're
correct that waiting
heightens pleasure; some
brands of cigarettes are, in
fact, alive with pleasure; and
for women - particularly
women who are either sisters,
mothers, or dead - having sex
was wrong in the past, is
wrong in the present, and
will, assuming Al Gore is
elected president in 2000,
continue to be wrong in the
future. For these reasons
alone, I tip my hat (a purple
derby) to you.

Mr. M

Fish With Letter Icon

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