Carly Berwick replies: Helmreich makes some tenable points, which is why I addressed similar arguments near the end of the article, writing that "social critics caution that morphing images could lead to a belief that racial and cultural differences don't matter." However, the Times review was not exactly ringing with praise for Burson's Human Race Machine. Michael Kimmelman wrote, "It doesn't work very well, but the point . . . comes across." Second, Burson's morphing programs predate those "already found in amusement zones" (going back to her Age Machine developed at MIT in the mid 1970s, as was mentioned in the article), so if anything, she repeats not today's amusements but herself.

The Hole Truth

As a prison psychologist, I have to admire Wen Ho Lee's fortitude and determination in withstanding months of solitary confinement ["Not a Chinaman's Chance," Chisun Lee, September 26]. I have seen inmates break down after several weeks of solitary confinement—which is one method used to control errant behavior in prisons and a very effective one indeed. That the government chose such a technique with Lee is outrageous because it appears that it was designed as a form of psychological torture to break a man's spirit.

It is amazing that Lee was able to bear this punishment as long as he did without confessing to the charges of spying. In my experience, most individuals would have said just about anything the jailers wanted just to get out.

Jerry L. Ward
Grants, New Mexico

Never the Twain

In his article "Buying Unhappiness: America's Obsessive Consumption Habit" [VLS, September 26], I wish Rick Perlstein had mentioned Tocqueville's Democracy in America, in particular the chapter "Why Americans Are Restless Amid Their Prosperity." Or Mark Twain's take on popular tastes in Life on the Mississippi. Juliet Schor [author of Do Americans Shop Too Much?] is pious and banal by comparison, but then again, except for Orwell, who isn't?

Shepard Barbash
Atlanta, Georgia

Consumer Guide

Do we shop too much? If we pay $12 for the 102-page book recommended by Rick Perlstein, you bet we do.

Donald Rice

Visions of Sugarplums

Mike Davis's trashing of my book Democracy at Risk ["The Bullshit Economy," VLS, September 26] provides keen insight into why the American left has long been so pathetically ineffective. Pandering to those who've spent a fruitless century angling to grab the reins of aggregate corporate power, he disses all who dare succeed at merely devising ways to share our wealth. Oblivious to the irony, he'd make a perfect poster boy for the clueless left who dream their sugarplums of power while the 400 richest Americans deftly bagged assets equivalent to one-eighth of the GDP. So what if one cyber tycoon has more assets than the poorest 45 percent of Americans? Spread it out? Nope, Davis instead dusts off that old lefty chestnut: power to the people. And what's the point? Power to spread our prosperity? Fergeddaboutit. Power—raw and aggregate. For what? Sugarplums, apparently.

Davis's loopy blather reveals the course that's long left working people out of the economic progress they deserve—while allowing the top 1 percent to skim 42 percent of Wall Street's decade-long gains. He and his ineffectual ilk are content to whine while the rich remain content to line their pockets. And to retain the power Davis so clearly relishes. He renders your readers a fine service by reminding us once again how America's lefty losers earned their renown for posturing that's proven itself powerful only at ensuring continued economic exclusion.

Jeff Gates
Green Party Candidate for U.S. Senate
Atlanta, Georgia

Horse Sense

Whether or not the ASPCA has exploited New York City's carriage horses for donations, as Wista Jeanne Johnson's article "Horse Rules" [September 19] suggests, is not the issue. Anyone who cares about these horses knows that they live a very hard life. Besides, what could be wrong with legislation that regulates healthier temperatures and humidity indexes, larger stalls and safer stables? This is not the 19th century. Horses do not belong in the heavy traffic congestion of New York City, where they breathe in car fumes and are forced to compete with emergency vehicles, taxis, buses, cars, and pedestrians. Over the years, horses have dropped dead on the job and have been involved in traffic accidents where both they and pedestrians have been injured.

On many occasions, I have witnessed the very common violation of drivers overloading their carriages, squeezing in more people than allowed. I have witnessed a driver allowing his horse to take only a few gulps of water before he jerked her head away, telling his passengers that the horse needed to know who was boss. I have witnessed horses with open sores on their faces from ill-fitting bridles.

The present law requires the ASPCA to order drivers off the street when the temperature reaches 90 degrees, but I have often seen drivers sneaking back out before the temperature dropped. The carriage horse industry has brought these woes on themselves by using their horses as a means to an end—making money.

Elizabeth Forel
Coalition for New York City Animals

Barr Bills

It is not surprising to me that Nat Hentoff found Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia to be one of the fiercest defenders of privacy rights ["Who's for the Bill of Rights?" September 26]. As a board member of the NRA, Barr believes in all of the Bill of Rights.

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