Comments: Week of September 17, 2012

1. John Heilemann’s profile of loose-lipped Vice-President Joe Biden brought out many valentines to the veep from readers (Joe Biden Isn’t Finished,” September 10). “I like Joe Biden. He’s real. Joe Biden is the last of a breed of great politicians—who makes you love politics,” wrote one commenter at “What this country sorely needs is a few dozen more ‘Joe Biden’ types of politicians on Capitol Hill,” wrote another reader. “In other words, legislators who say what they think, despite the possibility of so-called ‘gaffes.’ ” And to those who suggested that rival Paul Ryan might be a tough debate matchup, the Biden lovers scoffed. “Given a choice between a GOP intellectual ‘giant’ whose knowledge comes from a novel by a Russian crackpot and the economic theories of a minor Austrian philosopher—both of whose messages he has misread—and a foot-in-mouth streetwise guy who has lived his economic theories, I’ll take the latter,” wrote one. “Joe Biden may not have the smarts to be ‘chairman of Mensa,’ but he is a mensch, and that is even more important.” Of course, a few haters weighed in, too. “He has always been a step or twelve behind his whole life. Being thick, or dim, possibly obtuse, seems to sum [up] his world. He is an embarrassment to the USA. He will be roasted by Ryan in their debate, except Joe won’t notice.

2. In 2002 a developmentally disabled boy at a “school of last resort” was electro-shocked 31 times in a single day. This spring, a video of the “treatment” finally surfaced, Jennifer Gonnerman wrote in a story about the school, the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts; the boy, now 27; and his mother, who brought a lawsuit against the center that was settled earlier this year (31 Shocks Later,” September 10). “New York Magazine gives Andre McCollins the kind of attention and respect he never got when he was at the Judge Rotenberg Center,” wrote Landon Bryce at autism-advocacy site “It’s barbaric plain and simple,” wrote one commenter at “No one listens to these ­mental-illness stories because no one in America cares about the mentally ill,” wrote another. “They’d rather watch American Idol or other brain-rotting and sit on our fat a**es and do nothing. The fact that a few million of the mentally ill are homeless, sick, and incapable, and roam our streets, is proof.” And a former school employee, Greg Miller, wrote in to say that he’d “quit JRC on my own will in protest” and to call for an end to this kind of treatment. “We simply can’t shock autism out of someone!”

3. A blowout everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know kitchen-sink survey of the Jets’ quarterback controversy included Mark Sanchez–Tim Tebow comparisons on everything from metrics for winning percentages to jersey sales to favorite sandwiches to sexual history and sex appeal (Tebow vs. Sanchez,” September 10). But most readers agreed that the real story was the dysfunction of the organization that had brought them in to compete with each other. “The Jets make the Knicks look like a model franchise,” wrote one reader at “The owner is more interested in ‘Page Six’ mentions than wins. The head coach actually isn’t an idiot, but acts like one. Sanchez, meanwhile, who as a rookie took the team to the AFC Championship game, is thrown under the bus by a ‘management team’ that manages for the news cycle, not for winning ball games.”

4. Kathryn Schulz’s ambivalent review of Zadie Smith’s new novel, NW, walked right into a running conversation on the web about the purpose, and worthiness, of negative reviews (Hysterical Formalism,” September 10).“Why not simply say you didn’t care for it too much?” asked one reader at “Why are critics so reticent to outwardly criticize her? It’s hard to recall another modern fiction writer who is coddled to this extent … White Teeth was objectively brilliant, but it was published over a decade ago. You are not doing anyone any favors, especially not Ms. Smith or her writing, by telling her how great she is as a writer even when you concede her books don’t pass muster.” Replied another: “Why does a review have to be one-sided to meet your approval? Sometimes people like parts of books and dislike other parts. It’s not actually coddling anyone to say, ‘I liked certain aspects of this text and didn’t care for other parts.’ Maybe you should check out a book-review site that uses a thumbs-up or -down system.

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Comments: Week of September 17, 2012