Banks of the Yangtze

Karen Cook's exposé of China's Three Gorges Dam ["Dam Shame," April 4] is a good overview of the greatest socio-eco-destructive project ever undertaken, being completed with our money via scurrilous U.S. investment banks.

As the author of the book Three Gorges of the Yangtze: Grand Canyons of China, and as someone who has worked in the Three Gorges region for many years, I feel that the compounded tragedy is that this monumental "Great Wall Across the Yangtze" is not likely to produce its intended benefits of flood control and power generation due to geological and engineering problems.

In that event, the project will not be able to pay back investors, perhaps becoming the debt that breaks the fragile back of the Chinese economy—with worldwide repercussions. As Dai Qing, a journalist once imprisoned for her opposition to the dam, said: "If the Gorges could speak, they would cry for mercy!"

Rip Hayman
Greenwich Village

Degenerate Government

Reading Frank Serpico's "Why Safir Must Resign" [March 28], alas, confirms all that I have heard concerning the present New York City administration's war on blacks, Latinos, and entartet Kunst (the Nazi term for "degenerate art"). I desperately hope those politicians here in Scandinavia who have become enamored of the media representation of Giuliani's zero-tolerance policies will think again before reimporting this version of our native European fascism.

Let us also hope that voters will refrain from elevating Giuliani to higher office and that he is never placed within striking reach of the position of U.S. attorney general. That such a man could come to be entrusted with the defense of civil liberties is a frightening prospect!

Dr. M. Henri Day
Molde, Norway

Louisville Slugger

Re Frank Serpico's article "Why Safir Must Resign": Louisville mayor Dave Armstrong did not fire police chief Gene Sherrard "when two of his men shot and killed an unarmed black motorist (suspected of car theft)." That occurred nearly a year ago, and the officers were cleared by a grand jury. The chief was fired because he chose to honor both officers at a banquet this February and did not notify the mayor about it until the day before. The day after the banquet, the mayor took action.

Chief Sherrard certainly was either clueless or insensitive to the city's large African American population, however, and most Louisvillians seem to support the mayor. A gutsy but necessary move by Armstrong. I too don't see it happening with Rudy G.

Patrick Reed
Frankfort, Kentucky


Lenora Todaro's article "Hire Education" [March 21], on "labor struggles" at NYU, hides a bigger context: Workers of color have fought NYU for the past three years over its racist construction hiring. When asked to join the fight, the NYU grad and faculty union organizers were silent—even when NYU was threatening to expel students for trying to fight this racism. The construction union bureaucrats were quiet too. They're too busy collaborating with real estate developers to keep women and people of color out of jobs.

This collaboration has paid off big time for the developers—excluded groups have been forced to take nonunion work so that now the unions control fewer than half the sites in the city. It seems these people haven't changed. The unions bemoan the unsafe conditions of nonunion jobs, yet put nonunion workers' lives in danger by calling them "scabs."

The professors and grad students build their careers by academically redefining the word "work" instead of organizing on common ground with the majority of people outside the ivory tower. And the so-called Workers Rights Consortium is selling undergrads on the idea that "independent monitors"—even more bureaucrats to be hired—will rescue sweatshop victims in exotic lands so distant that it makes us forget to keep fighting for ourselves right here in the U.S. The reason for all the big show is simple. NYU is now one of the largest landowners and employers in the city.

The expansion, which has displaced much of the Latino community from the Lower East Side, isn't going to stop until the rent and job market in lower Manhattan is practically controlled by NYU. Construction unions and academic elites are hoping this fight will get them a safer haven in the heart of the beast. Apart from winning money for tenure seekers, unenforceable codes of conduct, useless independent monitors for NYU's factories, and construction sites that still exclude people of color and women from jobs, this way of "fighting" will only help NYU get a more liberal, more misleading public image. Meanwhile, most of us are shut out of jobs, shunted into sweatshops, and priced out of housing in our communities.

Note: At the end of Ms. Todaro's article, she mentioned a "conference on sweatshops," but neglected to mention that it's being funded and organized by NYU administrators.

Gil Banks
Harlem Fight Back!

Lenora Todaro replies: A number of students I interviewed about race issues in connection with organizing a GA union would not speak on the record, saying that they needed to maintain solidarity until the NLRB reaches a verdict. Mr. Banks is correct, however, in noting that racial exclusion outside of the union at NYU needs to be addressed more fully. As for the labor conference, the original draft of my piece did identify NYU's American Studies Department as the organizer of the event, but that information was deleted from the final version for space reasons.

Next Page »