Letters for January 17, 2002

Holiday on ice

 Norm Kent revisited: Upon reading the cover story regarding Gary Steinsmith ("Drug Holiday," Ashley Fantz, January 10), I was unclear as to what purposes the author was seeking to achieve.

If she was seeking to reveal the limitations of the social service agencies about which she reported, her exposé seemed more intent on condemning the people and the institutions that they serve than in explaining the shortcomings that are endemic to the process of woefully starved relief agencies that are designed to service the HIV/AIDS-affected community. It would be nice to think that there is a charity or government agency that has a net broad enough to catch any one of us who may slip over the edge of society's mainstream, but that simply is not true. At least they are a start, and Gary's plight swung open the door to an issue from which our community can no longer look to retreat.

If the author was attempting to uncover malfeasance by the very hands that were extended to help Gary, I'm afraid that her uncorroborated statements now published in your paper have wrongfully defamed a selfless and hard-working friend. I specifically refer to Norman Kent, who, along with myself, serves as Gary Steinsmith's attorney-in-fact. I applaud Norman for taking many initiatives in attempting to help Gary through his saga. Gary was not always in control of his faculties during the time in question despite his outward semblance of cognition, and it was Norman who sacrificed endless hours, day and night, from his law office and newspaper just to repair or anticipate the next zany move that Gary might make. Norm was able to undo both Jaguar leases, reverse stock trades, and finally persuade both the court and the hospital to keep Gary in some form of protective custody, for he charmed too many with his wit as he was masking the deep confusion that plagued his mind.

I also believe that it was cheap shot by the author to connect a totally unrelated matter in Kent's life with the travails of Steinsmith. Too often, reporters are willing to weave imaginative scenarios as they are seduced by the prospect of a cover story and the fame it might bring. I believe that if the reporter had checked her facts, a far more altruistic person on the part of Norman Kent would have been revealed.

But aside from that, if the author was seeking to somehow gain community sympathy for Steinsmith, I believe she failed. First of all, the very title of the article, "Drug Holiday," suggests that Gary went on a binge when in fact one must ply deeply through the pages of the paper to uncover that his problem came from abstinence from his prescribed medication. Secondly, Gary has never fallen from grace. How dare you. Despite this hopefully short-lived experience, Gary is an energetic, clever, and devoted member of the community, and his wall of accolades will continue to be filled. Why should recovery from a mental illness be treated with any less sympathy than recovery from, say, knee surgery? Just because he has skipped a step doesn't mean he isn't still in the running.

Dean J. Trantalis, Esq.
via the Internet

... prosecutors in Miss Cleo's future: Jim Gaines's January 3 article on the Miss Cleo "service" ("Call Me Now! ... And Pay Me Later") was excellent. But I would question whether these services are inherently illegal. The James Randi Foundation (www.jref.org) has been offering a cash award, now at $1 million, to anyone able to pass a scientifically controlled test of psychic abilities. So far, no one has passed even a simple, preliminary test. You would think that someone claiming to be psychic and charging for this "gift" would have to back up his or her abilities with some proof, as would anyone selling a physical product. Apparently, "free enterprise" equals "freedom to prey on gullible people."

Rob Beeston
Director, Central Iowa Skeptics
via the Internet

A charming place: My husband and I happened to be at the swingers' club Xchange on the night of Wyatt Olson's visit ("Coitus Interruptus," December 27). He did a very good job describing the place and its activities. The only thing people who don't enter the premises ever see is couples dressed in sexy attire coming and going. We don't make any noise or create any other type of disruption in the neighborhood. Most of us don't drink alcohol, and drugs aren't allowed.

We really appreciate the way Wyatt portrayed our community, and we would have preferred it if there had been more for him to see. Unfortunately, the mainstream press has scared away many of our playmates. I myself tried to use my charms to enroll him in some nefarious activities -- alas, without success.

Marlene Martin

Seeking legitimacy in negativity: Ashley Fantz's December 6 article, "A Bunker in Boca," is the dumbest thing I've ever read. Do you have any legitimate news stories?

Quinn Seymore
via the Internet

NYTimes, fugeddaboudit: I am a reader of the series by Bob Norman, "Admitting Terror," parts 1-5, published lately in New Times. It is indeed an astonishing fact that such would be the result of the "open civil society."

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