In all rape cases, sexual past should be sealed

Regarding your Oct. 22 article "Bryant case tests limits of 'rape shield laws' ": I was appalled to learn that details of a victim's sexual past - having nothing to do with the crime - would be revealed by the defense in court. Making such information part of the trial perpetuates the idea that rape happens only to people with a promiscuous past. It implies to jurors that the crime was somehow "deserved" or the victim's fault.

As it stands now, few victims of rape report the crime. How do we expect them to speak up if they feel their own lives are "on trial," if their past is used to make them look blameworthy to jurors? The repealing of "rape shield laws" takes the sole responsibility of the crime away from the perpetrator.
Ruth Vincent
Omaha, Neb.

Riding to presidency on moderate wing

In the Oct. 21 Opinion "The message - not the messenger - is Democrats' problem," Amitai Etzioni presents a seriously flawed argument in his attempt to portray a Democratic Party veering sharply to the left. Last time I looked, the leading candidates for the nomination, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, Dick Gephardt, John Edwards, Joe Lieberman, and John Kerry, all hail from the moderate wing of the Democratic Party. The three liberals in the race, Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton, and Carol Moseley Braun, are barely a blip on the pollsters' radar screen.

Also, if the Democrats sound confused, it's not because they have become too liberal. The Democrats' problem is that they have too many candidates vying for the presidency. Time, and primary battles from New Hampshire to California, have a way of solving such problems.
Mike Mejia

Goat gratification

Regarding the Oct. 21 article "In curbing kudzu, goats may be man's best friend": We have been using goats for the past 12 years to reduce yard maintenance on six acres. In addition to the excellent points brought up in the article, we would like to point out that goats also enjoy other pests such as poison ivy, brambles such as red and black raspberry, and young cedar and pine seedlings.

Goats also require very little attention, and can live quite contentedly with only a source of water. Their worst enemy appears to be dogs, and some humans who just can't seem to resist the temptation to pelt them with rocks! Good fencing is a must, however. Goats are quite agile and, if loose from their enclosure, will just as readily nibble on prized roses, cultivated raspberries, and young apple trees.

The last point we wish to make on this subject is that of the sheer pleasure and feeling of relaxation we enjoy from watching them graze. Indeed, goats are among man's best friends.
Richard J. Shagott
Oxford, N.C.

From small shops to Wal-Mart aisles

Regarding the Oct. 22 Opinion "The large hole left by one small retail store": I would like to thank Marilyn Gardner for this article. When I was forced in April 2001 to close my small retail game store in St. Louis, after 18 years of struggling to make ends meet, we had many staffers and customers with tears in their eyes on the last day.

Small retailers such as the one described are the real "Cheers" of the world. They are more than places to shop; they are places where everyone really does know your name. They are places where you not only purchase products, but also learn about them. They are places where interests are shared and exchanged. We saw many a solid friendship built in our establishment over the years. I encourage all your readers to support the small merchants in their communities - before all we have left are the aisles at Wal-Mart.
Kevin Fitzpatrick
St. Louis

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