“In essence, alternative medicine is religion with God removed, a kind of neo-paganism.” That’s Anthony Daniels writing in the National Review (July 6), quoted by Martin Marty in “Context” (October 1). “The advantage of this neo-paganism over traditional religion is that there is no strict doctrine to adhere to, so that the believer is entitled to believe in whatever takes his fancy, from the holy healing power of crystals to the sacred bioenergetic lines on the earth’s surface. It’s right for him if he thinks it is–each person is his own authority. Moreover, neo-paganism prescribes no arduous code of conduct, so that the adherent can continue to behave in any way he chooses.”

People who slept through English class. “Leopold’s reign in the Congo [late 1800s and early 1900s] must be the least well-known of history’s mass murders,” writes James North in the Chicago-based In These Times (October 18), reviewing Adam Hochschild’s new book, King Leopold’s Ghost. Despite an estimated ten million dead, “even the excellent 1990 collection, The History and Sociology of Genocide, failed to include it as a case study. What makes this lack of awareness even more peculiar is that a fictional treatment of Leopold’s Congo, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, has been widely assigned by several generations of English teachers.”

People who slept through civics class. Daniel Forbes writes in the “Drug Policy Letter” (Summer) about his article for Brandweek questioning whether the federal government should spend $1 billion over the next five years on antidrug ads. When outraged representatives of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America met with him and his editors, writes Forbes, “We started by saying that a full-court, zero-tolerance approach that is foreign to many teens’ own–perhaps relatively salutary–experiences might not be the best way to communicate with them. One of the PDFA representatives interrupted at this point, a bit flustered. But zero tolerance, she said in effect, is official government policy. Surely, you’re not questioning government policy?”

“Individuals who benefit from a crime are mistaken in thinking that they have nothing to do with the crime,” writes Gordon Marino, a Saint Olaf College philosophy professor, in Christianity Today (October 5), an evangelical magazine published in suburban Carol Stream. “Because of slavery and discrimination, African Americans have provided an endless supply of cheap labor. They still work the fields, wash white babies and white octogenarians, shake drinks in country clubs, and mop floors in the classrooms in which white folks debate about race….Paradoxically enough, Americans do not shy away from admitting that we profit from access to cheap foreign labor, and yet whites find it hard to believe that we have benefited in any way from hundreds of years of free labor.” Marino argues that whites should apologize for slavery, but his arguments suggest that reparations would be in order as well.

Wildlife watchers outnumber anglers and hunters put together, but they’re cheap–that’s the news from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 1996 “National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation,” reported on the service’s Web site. In Illinois, 1.4 million people went fishing and spent $1.6 billion, and 432,000 hunters spent $470 million. In each case that works out to about $1,000 apiece. Meanwhile, a whopping 3.2 million went “wildlife watching” and spent just $710 million, or $205 apiece.

Informed consent? “Researchers ritualize consent sessions in order to gain the participation of potential research subjects,” according to a report in the Chicago-based Park Ridge Center’s “Bulletin” (August/September). Pennsylvania anthropologist Pamela Sankar has observed that “researchers may organize sessions to suit the schedules of potential subjects or give them business cards with the researchers’ home phone numbers scrawled on the back. These practices invert the normal routine of doctor-patient relationships and create the sense that researcher and subject are equals, partners who are part of the same team.”

I say forgive them, let them out, elect them to high office. According to the New York Post, quoted in the “Progressive Review” (October 7), 115 people are currently doing time on federal perjury charges.