De-Railing Hitchens

In Richard Goldstein's article on Christopher Hitchens and the left ["Just Our Bill?" March 23], he writes that I "railed" about Hitchens being an "informer."

For the record, what I actually wrote in a Nation editorial and said was that "there is a journalistic (and ethical) presumption against using private conversations with friends for a public purpose without first obtaining permission." Hitchens disagrees and says that he was not turning a friend over to the authorities but rather exposing the authorities. We had a difference of opinion. Nobody railed.

Victor Navasky
Publisher and Editorial Director
The Nation

Richard Goldstein replies: I relied on other published sources for my description of Navasky's remarks. I stand corrected.

'Lifetime' For Leni?

Re J. Hoberman's "A Snitch in Time" [March 23]: I have no problem with Elia Kazan being given a special lifetime achievement award by the Motion Picture Academy as long as Leni Riefenstahl is given the same award at next year's ceremony.

Certainly Riefenstahl's classic account of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Olympia, warrants such approbation, even if it was preceded by her glorification of the Nazi Party in the cinematic nightmare, Triumph of the Will.

Both directors put their careers before their principles, and refused to acknowledge responsibility for cooperating with evil.

Mark Marcus
Los Angeles, California

Reel Life Rats

What J. Hoberman overlooks in his anti-Kazan manifesto, "A Snitch in Time," [March 23]is that neither Elia Kazan nor the House Committee on Un-American Activities, before which he testified, was responsible for instituting or maintaining Hollywood's infamous blacklist.

That responsibility rested with the moguls who ran the studios, and the boards of directors behind them, who were trying to protect their businesses— which were susceptible to public tastes and prejudices. At the time of Kazan's testimony, the U.S. was caught up in the Cold War.

In hindsight, we can debate the justice of the congressional hearings, but the movie executives of that time— many of whom had built their studios up from nothing— felt they had a responsibility to protect their investments and the livelihood of their employees, most of whom had never been Communists or gave a rat's ass about communism.

Bruce Eder

Notion of Islam

All of the possible successors to Minister Farrakhan named in Peter Noel and Karen Mahabir's article "The Pretenders" [March 23] seem feasible, with the possible exception of Benjamin Muhammad.

Benjamin Muhammad (the former Ben Chavis) hasn't been in the Nation of Islam long enough, and he still carries the stigma of the alleged actions that led to his resignation from the NAACP. The Nation has always viewed itself, first and foremost, as a religious organization. Ben Muhammad doesn't have the Islamic background to lead the Nation into the 21st century.

Les Odom
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Underclass Consciousness

J.A. Lobbia's article "Harlem for Whom?" [March 16] succeeds as a nostalgia piece, reminding us of when six-room apartments in Manhattan were $300 a month and cigars were five cents apiece. Happy days they were. However, I am not convinced that government central-planning is the miracle cure Lobbia makes it out to be or that mixed- income neighborhoods are inherently a bad thing. Underclass-only neighborhoods are not the latest rage in urban planning, but this issue is conveniently ignored.

Peter Lawrence

Cooper-Ation Square

Thanks to J.A. Lobbia for her balanced article "Bowery Bummer" [March 23], which accurately presents the political and economic snags that have doomed previous development plans for the Cooper Square urban renewal area.

Yes, three residential households at 295 Bowery and three commercial tenants at that site will have to relocate, but the arguments for demolition are compelling. Preserving 295 Bowery would rob the community of not just 100 new mixed-income housing units, but also about 5000 square feet of new community space.

In other words, preserving the Bowery frontage will result in less new housing and less space for after-school programs for youth, or perhaps the elimination of a proposed day-care center.

It's time for the Bowery tenants to accept that relocation is inevitable, and to negotiate in earnest with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development toward that end.

Steve Herrick
Executive Director
Cooper Square Committee

Protest Power

Guy Trebay's "Disobedience Training," in last week's issue, was a great article. It brought together the many facets of the Diallo killing protests with a frankness I found refreshing, especially after weeks of reading the standard daily reports.

K. Andrew Codrington-Valz

Color of Prejudice

I Appreciated Alisa Solomon's article "A Dream Detained" [March 30], which exposed the confounding behavior many INS officials have toward immigrants seeking asylum. I couldn't help but notice that all of the detainees mentioned in the piece were either from Africa or the Caribbean.

Deborah Alarape

Driving Out Daisies

Reading Guy Trebay's article "Car Park" [March 23], I'm convinced that, after crime, the biggest threat to our quality of life comes from the misuse of automobiles in the city. It is bad enough that cars pollute, maim, and kill pedestrians on city streets. Must we allow their destruction of park bridle paths as well?

No cars other than emergency vehicles should be allowed anywhere but on the designated roadways of Central Park. Unless the mayor stops ignoring the thousands of postcards pleading for a car-free park, we run the risk of having an area intended for pedestrian solitude turned into a dangerous speedway.

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