Furthermore, excessive use of pot, like that of all drugs, has other consequences on the culture. I would no more care to grow up as the child of a chronic daily pot smoker than I would in a house with alcoholics.

If you want to challenge the law and write passionate articles, fine—but get it right. Romanticizing weed is as unreal as demonizing it.

Meera Atkinson

The Egg and Ashcroft

As a concerned nurse, mother, and woman, I am writing in response to Sharon Lerner's article "Reading Between the Lines" [February 6], regarding John Ashcroft's stance on abortion and contraception.

In the article, Lerner states that the main therapeutic action of oral contraceptives and the injectable contraceptive Depo-Provera occurs after fertilization. This is not the case. The primary function of the pill is to inhibit ovulation through a negative feedback system directed at the hypothalamus. Although progesterone can inhibit implantation, the main goal of the pill is to keep fertilization from taking place. Depo-Provera, on the other hand, suppresses egg maturation and therefore ovulation; hence, the primary action occurs prior to fertilization.

Ashcroft opposes the use of contraceptives, including those that work to inhibit fertilization, so the issue becomes one that is more about control of women than concern for human life. The "human being" clause in the 14th Amendment referred to in Lerner's article, which Ashcroft uses in defense of his stance on abortion, cannot logically be applied to the use of contraception to suppress the maturation and release of the ovum unless Ashcroft posits that the ovum has potentiality for human life. One could argue that if potentiality is the condition on which Ashcroft bases his argument, every sperm also has potentiality, and using a spermicide would be considered mass murder.

Historically, Ashcroft has supported anti-abortion and anti-contraceptive policies that oppress women—even contraception that works prior to fertilization.

Julie Newton, R.N.
Massena, New York

Sharon Lerner replies: You're right; Depo-Provera and the pill both do certain things before fertilization. But, because they're also active after conception, these methods could have been outlawed by "human life" measures Ashcroft has supported. As for the 14th Amendment clause, it wasn't used against contraception in general, but against abortion (which, according to Ashcroft's definition, does seem to include these types of birth control).

Last Exit to Vinegar Hill

Despite the compelling reflections of our neighbors in the Farragut Houses ["Project Girls," Janet McDonald, January 23], it is unfortunate that they seem to know little about the surrounding areas of Vinegar Hill or DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).

In the 1840s, developer John Jackson attracted Irish immigrants to the Brooklyn waterfront, calling his planned community Vinegar Hill, after the Irish-English battle of 1798. The area was also known as "Irishtown."

After World War II, while Vinegar Hill somehow survived, the bustling red-light strip immediately to the south, then simply known as "the Navy Yard district," was razed to construct the Farragut Houses. Completed in 1951, they were named for Admiral David G. "Damn the Torpedoes!" Farragut in deference to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Thus, for Farragut resident Gladys Ollivierre to point out that we in Vinegar Hill don't "want to be known as Farragut" is like saying that the entire East Village doesn't want to be known as Stuyvesant Town.

With regard to Dolores Johnson's statement in the article that DUMBO residents "even got their own state park"—Empire State Park, on the East River, has been open to all since 1978. In recent years, the Vinegar Hill and DUMBO neighborhood associations have been among the most outspoken in ensuring that the proposed Brooklyn Bridge Park will welcome all of the communities around it, Farragut Houses among them.

Nicholas Evans-Cato
Vinegar Hill Neighborhood Association

Rocky Road

After reading Jennifer Gonnerman's article about Governor Pataki's plan to reform the Rockefeller drug laws ["Mixed Bag," January 30], I understand why some people are critical of the fact that the plan deals only with Class A-1 drug felonies. However, they should realize that it will be a big step.

My husband is doing 25-to-life for a first-time Class A-1 drug offense. If he is released under the plan, I know he will fight for the 20,000 people doing time for non-A-1 drug felonies. We waited this long to hear such good news. I hope the legislature will see how important it is to release nonviolent drug offenders. If they do, it will be like a dream come true.

Susan Echevarria
Valley Stream, New York

Majority Leaders

After reading Richard Goldstein's article "Dark Victory: The Unintended Consequences of Failing to Stop Ashcroft" [February 13], I am even more convinced that liberals live in a world of fantasy. Goldstein writes: "Thirty-seven years ago, flush with power and purpose, a Democratic majority in Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It proved to be the most significant piece of social legislation since the New Deal." I thought everyone knew that most Democrats in the House at that time voted against the Civil Rights Act. It would not have passed without the votes of 138 Republicans.

Sam Matthews
Niceville, Florida

Richard Goldstein replies: There certainly was a Democratic congressional majority in 1964, and that majority's control of the Senate was what saved the Civil Rights Act from many destructive amendments. In the end, liberal Republicans did join northern Democrats to assure passage of the law. But it's worth noting that many conservative Democrats—also known in those days as Dixiecrats—who opposed the act are today proud members of the Republican Party, as a direct result of civil rights legislation introduced by a Democratic president.

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