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Comments: Week of May 28, 2018

1. For New York’s latest cover story, Allison P. Davis met Henry, “a high-quality dildo attached to a fancy mannequin with a Bluetooth speaker” (“Are We Ready for Robot Sex?,” May 14–27). Daniel H. Wilson, author of Robopocalypse, wrote, “People clearly love sex in all its varieties, so it’s not a stretch to assume we will someday love having sex with robots—even to the point of mundanity. At least, that’s my sincere hope. Every interaction with lifelike technology is likely to affect our interactions with real people. This is why Amazon makes sure the junior version of Alexa requires kids to be polite.” Reader Michael J. Gorman reminded us that sexbots aren’t a new fantasy: “Anyone who has read Brave New World knows that sex with robots or sexual stimulation from gadgets was seriously considered since the 1930s.”

2. In February, driver Doug Schifter brought his crusade against Uber to a tragic conclusion when he killed himself in his black car (“Driven to Despair,” by Jessica Bruder, May 14–27). Steven Hill, author of Raw Deal: How the “Uber Economy” and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers, responded: “Mr. Schifter’s suicide, and those of three other drivers, is a warning. By flooding the streets with cars, ride-sharing not only has wrecked the careers of thousands of taxi and limo drivers and small mom-and-pop livery businesses, it also has contributed to massive increases in traffic congestion and carbon emissions, while heavily subsidized Uber rides have reduced ridership and revenue for public transportation.” Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, wrote: “The story brought to light the financial crisis devastating professional drivers across New York City. We are calling on City Hall to take action now by capping the number of for-hire vehicles crowding our streets and by making the regulated yellow and green cab fare the minimum fare for all for-hire vehicles so that drivers have a fighting chance.”

3. Olivia Nuzzi revealed that “Donald Trump and Sean Hannity Like to Talk Before Bedtime” (May 14–27). That headline proved popular with late-night hosts. “They’re like the Gayle and Oprah of angry old white men,” Stephen Colbert said. James Corden joked, “You just know that they end every phone call like, ‘You hang up first!’ ‘No, no, you hang up!’ ” And Trevor Noah added, “They’re like 8-year-old tree-house buddies with those cans on strings, gossiping about which girls they secretly paid off.” On a more serious note, Renato Mariotti wrote, “What struck me most about this article is that White House staff reportedly decided that the President of the United States couldn’t handle watching CNN or MSNBC.”

4. In New York’s April 30–May 13 issue, Lisa Chase profiled the two women named Stacey who were vying for the Democratic nomination to be Georgia’s next governor (“Stacey vs. Stacey”). In response, two Stacey Abrams supporters, State Senator Nan Orrock and State Representative Carolyn Hugley, wrote: “We found your depiction of House Leader Abrams to be a caricature that is a disservice to the challenges Black women and all female candidates face. As you must know, the term ‘uppity’ is sexist, racist code language meant to demean rather than celebrate strength and determination. It is also tired and outdated to suggest that a single woman without children is somehow not part of a family. We found this particularly outrageous considering Stacey’s close-knit family and her role in helping to support her parents and niece. The suggestion that Abrams sees herself as a victim was equally appalling. We’ve both worked with Stacey for years on issues like blocking anti-choice legislation and tax measures that would harm middle- and low-income families, as well as strengthening voter protection. Neither of us has ever seen or heard of an instance in which Stacey made such a comment or carried herself in a way to suggest this victim narrative. Rather than highlighting the ridiculousness of these stereotypes, your coverage reinforced the barriers that make it harder for women to be taken seriously as candidates for executive office.” Lisa Chase responds: “I’m deeply sorry that my use of ‘uppity’ is being read as my calling Stacey Abrams that. For the record, I don’t think Abrams is uppity. I chose the word to name a racial stereotype that emerged overtly and subtly in my interviews with many Georgia Democrats over two months. My intent was to name the slur for what it is, and to show that this is what Abrams is up against, even in 2018. As to the assertion that I wrongly portrayed Abrams as a victim, I disagree. In interviewing her, reading her memoir, listening to her speeches, what I observed is that she sees herself as having been victimized by racism, and also as having found ways to overcome it. That is what I wrote.” On May 22, Abrams defeated Evans to became the first black woman in the U.S. to secure a major-party nomination for governor, winning more than 75 percent of the vote.