Letters

The Voice plays an important role in keeping government honest. But its impact depends on the objectivity and critical skills of its reporters. Don't relax your standards.

Alvin M. Berk
Brooklyn


Sick-Coms

Lisa Jones ["Slave TV," November 10] takes UPN to task for dismissing, without justification, criticisms that its Civil War-era sitcom The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer is deeply offensive. Regarding the network's defense— that, in terms of historical irreverence, Pfeiffer is no different from Hogan's Heroes— Jones says the latter program "hardly qualifies," but offers no explanation for this opinion.

To my mind, Hogan's Heroes is just as offensive as Pfeiffer. A comedy set in World War II Germany that never mentions the Final Solution and a Civil War comedy that trivializes slavery are guilty of roughly the same heinous crime.

Tom Meltzer
Queens


Tourist Traps

A photograph that appeared with testimonials from participants in the Matthew Shepard march ["Eyewitness News," November 3] depicts a young man being arrested by three policemen.

The man is Ulrich Rolfing, a 40-year-old artist from Hamburg, Germany, who was visiting New York for the first time. He was here for two weeks as my houseguest. On the day of the demonstration, he was at the Guggenheim Museum and at closing time he headed down Fifth Avenue. When he reached the plaza and saw the crowd, he had no idea what was happening. He doesn't speak English fluently, but tried to find out what was going on.

Immediately, without warning, Ulrich was accosted and painfully handcuffed behind his back. He tried to explain that he was only a tourist and not an activist in the demonstration, but was told, "Tell it to the judge."

Ulrich was taken to jail and kept without food or water overnight in a crowded cell. His identification did not exonerate him. He was taken to court, and his lawyer did not allow him to speak on his own behalf. He was put on probation and threatened with deportation.

Ulrich was released— some 26 hours later— and arrived at my home somewhat shaken and exhausted: an innocent man who now had a police record.

Ulrich has since returned to Hamburg with quite a tale of our police state. He was quoted in an October 21 New York Timespiece regarding marchers' anger about their treatment. I wrote a letter to Mayor Giuliani asking for an official pardon and apology. I think Ulrich Rolfing should be given a return trip, with keys to the city.

Gilbert Ireland
Manhattan


'Ochet Can You See

Re Jason Vest's article "Human Rights 'Miracle'" [November 3]: It's hypocritical of Spain to demand Pinochet's extradition on human rights charges while mending fences with Fidel Castro at the Ibero-American summit in Portugal.

A lot more than 4000 people have been imprisoned, tortured, executed, or simply "disappeared" during Castro's reign. And at least Pinochet stepped down after submitting to a plebiscite, one in which he still received 44 percent of the popular vote. Can you imagine Castro submitting to any such democratic exercise?

If Spain really believed in human rights, it would have moved to have had Castro arrested and tried. That it's chasing after Pinochet is simply a demonstration of the hypocrisy of the left and the brutal lengths it will go to in order to punish its enemies. Pinochet's arrest— while seeking medical help in London— is illegal, and a gross violation of human rights.

Michael R. Little
Omaha, Nebraska


Swinging '90s

Nat Hentoff writes in "Duke Ellington's Legacy" [November 10] that "most younger Americans remain culturally disadvantaged in their ignorance of Edward Kennedy Ellington." He recalls phoning a mail-order house, looking for some Ellington records, and speaking to someone who had never heard of the Duke.

Many people think I'm rather old-fashioned. I was raised on swing and big-band jazz, and still listen to it constantly; I belong to a ladies' sewing circle, potluck dinners and all; I wear long skirts, punctuate my sentences correctly, vote in every election on the straight party ticket, and think that goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes are rather silly. I eschew television in favor of board games (except when the Yankees are in the Series), and never wear white after Labor Day— unless I'm on the tennis court.

If this makes me old-fashioned, then I'm proud to be one of the most old-fashioned 20-year-olds in New York.

I doubt I'm the most old-fashioned, however, because being old-fashioned is coming back. Right now, I'm listening to my treasured Squirrel Nut Zippers CD, a proudly unrepentant 1990s swing band who sing, "Let the jazz band make some noise!" Today, you can't turn around without bumping into a Gershwin retrospective, a JVC Jazz Festival Commemorative MetroCard, or a Dinah Washington musical.

So don't class all of us twenty- somethings with the few, sad people who work in the record industry and never listen to anything that's not in the Top 40.

Rose Platt
Manhattan


It Don't Mean A Thing

Regarding Nat Hentoff's column "Duke Ellington's Legacy":

How can one individual be so self-absorbed and pretentious in his writing while attempting to tackle the explanation of 100 years of music and culture and civil rights at the same time? It was unpalatable and vague. The only consistent theme was that Hentoff knows who Duke Ellington is; if you don't, then you're culturally disadvantaged.

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