Nothing’s made me so angry recently–or The Other Charlotte, for that matter–as the Kerry-Edwards team’s insistence on bringing the name of Mary Cheney, Vice President Richard Cheney’s lesbian daughter, gratuitously and needlessly into the televised debates. It’s practically a Kerry-Edwards mantra these days: lesbian Mary, lesbian Mary, lesbian Mary. Lynne Cheney, Mary’s mother, is royally miffed, and I don’t blame her (see my Lynne Cheney, Outraged Mom, Oct. 14).

InkWell reader A.G. is also upset:

“I just wanted to let you know how upset John Kerry’s mention of Mary Cheney made me. It was totally inappropriate and Lynne Cheney had every right to be upset. And no, the private lives of the Cheney’s children is not ‘fair game’ [that’s Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill’s flip dismissal of Lynne’s concern].

“But that’s not why I’m writing. I’m writing about Elizabeth Edward’s accusations that Lynne Cheney is secretly ashamed of her daughter or, to take her exact words, ‘I think that [Mrs. Cheney’s complaint] indicates a certain degree of shame with respect to her daughter’s sexual preferences.”…Where does she get off saying something like that? Now I know that since last night’s constant (and insincere) quoting of scripture, the Kerry campaign is on a holier-than-thou kick, but that’s taking it too far. Doesn’t Mrs. Edwards realize she’s just going to alienate more people by making comments like Mrs. Cheney ‘overreacted’ and that her going public with her objections was “a sad state of affairs.” No, it would be a sad state of affairs if a loving and concerned parent failed to step up and protect their child from being exploited.”

And National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez, who’s been following the Mary story too, reports that she’s been getting quite a few letters like this one (scroll down):

“I work in an office with four mature ladies. Relatively close quarters. They speak not a whiff of politics. Didn’t watch on Weds. This morning’s topic of conversation? ‘How dare they bring up that man’s daughter in the debate. You DON’T go there. I can’t vote for somebody like that.'”

Sounds as though Lynne Cheney has company.

And here’s an e-mail from reader A.N. about The Other Charlotte’s post on colleges that charge sky-high tuition–and then use it to provide goodies to students that are only tangentially related to getting an education (See The Ivory Tower–It’s Golden, Oct. 13). TOC quoted from Richard Vedder’s new book Going Broke by Degrees:

“Duke University, for example, gives each freshman a cutting-edge high tech iPod (the new bells-and-whistles successor to the walkman) for no particular reason.”

As far as I can figure out, the iPod is mainly useful for downloading music from the Internet, so I’ve got to agree with TOC and Vedder. But A.N., a college librarian, says we’re wrong:

“I’d like to point out the iPods can be used as a storage medium for any type of file (i.e. it’s not limited to housing music files). As colleges and universities think about ways to make effective use of technology to further both scholarship and teaching, even transform them, items such as tablet PCs, PDAs, USB mini-hard-drives, and now iPods are all being played with creatively. Vendors such as Apple and IBM frequently partner with schools to create pilot programs that will test innovative uses of technology, hoping that if the idea works and catches on, they’ll be able to sell more of their products.

“That’s just good old smart capitalism at work, not largesse being carelessly lavished on the masses by the Imperial State. Increasingly, the syllabi and supplemental materials students are using are made accessible via the web (with certain protections for copyrighted materials, etc.). More and more frequently, their texts are available in electronic versions. Their research involves, to a high degree, use of electronic databases, journal indexes, etc., and of course most of them write their papers on the computer nowadays.

“It therefore makes increasing sense to use newer, smaller, and more powerful devices that allow them to carry a wealth of information around in their hip pockets. I am personally very excited by the possibilities. Just the thought that if I were to return to college now I wouldn’t have to carry around the spine-bending load of books I did as an undergraduate, fairly makes me pant with joy!”

That sounds wonderful–yet why should students, especially the mostly well-off students who can afford Duke, get their iPods for free? And of course, they’re not free, since Duke has merely socialized the cost, which ultimately comes out of tuition. Wouldn’t it make more sense if Duke charged a little less and left the decision whether to buy an iPod up to the individual students, subsidizing only those on scholarship who couldn’t afford to buy high-tech accessories on their own?