Capital punishment ("Dead Man Waiting," Paul Demko, February 11) is like the drug laws. [The authorities] simply don't enforce either one! Use the law or abolish it. Having a law and not enforcing it only makes young people think they can get away with crime.
An Honorable Man Among Snakes
Congratulations to Jay Cheshes for writing the first honest and insightful article I have ever seen on the exotic wildlife trade ("Cold-Blooded Smuggling," February 4).
As a biologist who has studied the animal business in South Florida for the past ten years, I have learned that trade in illegal wildlife accounts for a minuscule amount of the total revenue generated. Simple mathematics show that the bulk of revenues and profit come from the importation and sale of "pet shop" reptiles (iguanas, boas, et cetera). While it is true that the prices quoted for smuggled reptiles are sometimes very high, one has to factor in the price paid for the animal, mortality rates, and the inevitable rapid decline in its value. There is a very limited market for the most expensive reptiles, so even a few dozen of a particular species would flood the market. Also, it must be remembered that federal law enforcers have an odd habit of grossly exaggerating the value of any contraband (as in the case of narcotics).
I feel it is patently unfair for people, including Special Agent Chip Bepler, to take potshots at Mr. Van Nostrand. Given the bizarre world of reptile collectors, Mike stands out as a kindhearted and decent person. His company has given much back to the South Florida community. He has donated to charitable groups, has helped the children of drug addicts, and has never been shy about hiring minority youths from the neighborhood to work for him. In addition Van Nostrand has allowed the Boy Scouts to conduct field trips to his warehouse to view the reptiles.
Despite his shrewd business sense, Mike has caused plenty of friction in the herp community. Lest they forget, he has sold them many of the animals that they use as breeding stock and has been a victim of their efforts to pawn off their sick or genetically deformed "captive-bred" wildlife. All their collective gnashing of teeth represents their own greed, not Mr. Van Nostrand's.
Michael J. Syrvalin
A Reader Who Is Waiting With Time on His Hands
First you gave us an underachieving cover article on Dan Marino ("Chasing Danny," Sean Rowe, November 12, 1998) that turned out to be only the story of a journalistic grunt without enough clout to get a good one-on-one with one of South Florida's most popular sports celebrities. Now you've given us an overblown cover piece on Marilyn Manson ("Marilyn Manson, Unmasked," Ted B. Kissell, January 28) that features a journalistic grunt telling us how he never could get his own music career off the ground amid typical stories about a rock star whose life is already well documented in print.
Autobiographic journalism by reporters who are vivid personalities themselves can work. But if you're going to do more of these features, please assign writers with more to do than sulk in print about what isn't happening. If they're going to put themselves in the story, tell them to add to the story. But if you're going to keep running these lukewarm cover stories, stop criticizing other local media for their own insipid coverage. I was hoping you'd take the lead in alternative press with the decline of City Link. I'm still waiting.
via the Internet
A Reader With Way Too Much Time on Her Hands
I think Ted B. Kissell's article on Marilyn Manson was the best I have ever read, and I have read a lot of them. I think Ted did a very good job and seemed really to know what he was talking about, unlike the authors of other articles I have read. That's all I wanted to say.
Another Reader With Not Enough to Do
I'm a huge fan of Marilyn Manson, but I still have to say Ted B. Kissell's article was very good. I enjoyed it from beginning to end.
San Francisco, California
Dougherty: Dramatically Correct
Robin Dougherty's review of my play Tallulah ("The Age of Tallulah," January 21) was thoughtful and perceptive. She is absolutely right: The play is really about the trauma of hitting the road on the other side of 40, all wrapped up in the package of Tallulah.
I was particularly pleased with Ms. Dougherty's review because I know New Times has a young audience, and they, of course, are the ones theater wants and needs in order to thrive.
Sandra Ryan Heyward