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I expect more from the Observer than this. Laura Miller is a wonderful writer who offers insight into the various political machinations around town. And Matt Seitz, without question, is the finest, most insightful film critic to come our way since Pauline Kael.

But Jennifer Briggs--why does this woman have a column? Are there no writers in the Metroplex, in the Southwest--hell, in this hemisphere--that you have to have this woman on the payroll?

Lindell Singleton

Emmitt Smith: safe sex role model
I would like to commend Jennifer Briggs on her expos of the Dallas Cowboys. I would like to thank Ms. Briggs on providing our youth with a role model who finds safe sex important. Whether the concern be pregnancy, STDs, or HIV, prevention is essential.

Kudos should also be extended to Emmitt Smith for having the sense and courage to purchase (trade for) condoms. As the coordinator of Rubber Maids (a safe sex outreach that provides condoms to men), I know that many people find it too difficult, shameful, or embarrassing to buy condoms in public. Yes, abstinence is best. However, this is not a choice for everyone. So risk reduction is the next best thing. (It's like playing the percentages.)

I do not support or condemn the Cowboys for their actions described in the article, just as long as they take responsibility for those actions. They are adults. Apparently, Emmitt is mature enough to do just that.

Mr. Smith, as an AIDS educator of a non-profit agency (and a big sports fan), I thank you and provide you and your teammates an open offer. I will supply you condoms in exchange for items for our Celebrity Auction for AIDS and/or promotional assistance.

Gil Flores
AIDS Resource Center

Big Brother Muhammad
For those who think the Nation of Islam mall beatings were just and fair, beware! You are likely to pay a dear price for letting this genie out of the bottle to do your dirty work.

Is this the kind of justice that the now-free descendants of slavery are going to settle for? Are you willing to trade in your liberty to a new slavemaster in exchange for the promise of a quick fix--just because he looks like you? What is the big difference between being tried, convicted, and punished by these self-appointed saviors and being beaten by rogue cops? If a private citizen were to strip and cane his own child like this, the authorities would whisk that child away to a foster home faster than you can say "Big Brother."

However, the Dallas [County] grand jury is apparently telling us there is nothing wrong with several dozen strangers kidnaping, whipping, and caning your naked child as long as the mob says they were sincerely trying to do the community a service. You can't blame the Nation of Islam for what they do and what they get away with; the community seems to be calling out for more.

The frustration we feel today is nothing new, and the general condoning of vigilantism is a failed solution that has been documented throughout history. Dallas used to sport a similar community service organization that your grandparents will remember. Some of our finest citizens and civic leaders belonged, and they did many good works for charity. Like the Nation of Islam, when they felt it necessary, they bent or broke our laws to suit their own needs with the blessings of the community at large when it was believed that the ends justified the means.

It seems that the more things change, the more they remain the same. While I like the uniforms of our new civic service group better than the old "bedsheet and burning cross" look, I believe that brown shirts and jackboots might go better with those bowties.

While we are at it, we could let all "proper" women wear a veil and stone the rest as an example for our children.

L.D. Berry

Blamin' the blame game
Equal opportunity coverage of miscues and misdeeds is the only way to encourage ethical behavior and conscience cleaning on the parts of those in power.

The tear-stained letters [Letters, August 24] from people like Barbara Gonzalez ("How dare you run stories on minorities as poor role models!") and Patrick Shaw ("People have done worse things than Henry Tatum--why pick on him?") only serve to remind us that an alarming number of citizens now view the world as a ward of mostly poignant victims of judgmentalism and abuse rather than the product of their own self-serving mistakes of greed and lack of character.

Used to be that newspapers served as the watchdogs of public avarice and community standards. Now, however, standards are virtually undefinable--anything is acceptable if it's done by someone I can identify with. We have given up on standards, and without standards, there can be no progress, no improvements, no quality. Everything is OK, everything is good when shielded by the umbrella of situational ethics.

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