Ziva Zaff
Scarsdale, New York


The assertion by James Ridgeway in "Shame Down Under" [Mondo Washington, February 19] that Australian prime minister John Howard told UN high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson to "go fuck herself" is as absurd and offensive as the assertion in the same item that Australia is abusing illegal immigrants. It is, rightly or wrongly, the intention of the Australian government and the wish of many Australians that illegal immigrants depart. The "detention" Ridgeway references is in fact only to prevent them from gaining entry to our country illegally. Their continued presence in Australia at great cost to the Australian taxpayer is due to their refusal to leave, which they are free to do, even at our expense.

Vic Ashford
Sydney, Australia


Toni Schlesinger's article "On the Waterfront" [February 12] thoroughly describes the controversy surrounding the land-use proposal for the 480-500 Van Brunt Street warehouse in Red Hook. However, the article trivializes the potential consequences that the project could have on the communities of Red Hook, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, and Park Slope. Schlesinger's article reads more like a narrative of local characters than an examination of the roles of developers and the community board in land-use processes. The article summarizes in one paragraph the ways in which the government protects citizens' health and how citizens influence land-use decisions that affect them through the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP).

The ULURP determines what type of environmental impact a land-use project will have on a community. For an area such as Kings County, which was rated in the top 10 percent of U.S. counties in 1999 for sulfur dioxide in a three-hour average concentration, the ULURP procedures may be "costly" and "arduous," but no more so than caring for a child with asthma. Schlesinger successfully conveyed the community board members' and residents' sentiments for the Red Hook waterfront. However, the processes through which interested people and parties determine the social, economic, and physical conditions of Community District 6 merited a more thorough examination than the cursory analysis given in Schlesinger's article.

Cecilia Culverhouse


Andy Humm's article on human rights enforcement in New York City and State was right on except that nowhere did it mention disability rights. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is over 10 years old, and it has no teeth. Enforcement is voluntary unless agencies get involved or we initiate lawsuits. The city and state human rights commissions do not have the staff to do much for the disability community. However, they try. The NYC Human Rights Commission is engaged in the One-Step Program with Disabled in Action (DIA) and other disability rights groups to eliminate one-step barriers to public places such as stores, offices, restaurants, and apartment buildings. It's just a shame this article was written after former mayor Rudolph Giuliani left office and not during his administration.

Jean Ryan
DIA board member


In his overview of 401(k) plans in this week's Mondo Washington ["What's Wrong With 401(k)'s?" February 26], James Ridgeway left out one reform that I would like to see. Every plan should be required to have an FDIC-insured bank account as an "investment" option. Some of us are not fans of Wall Street, and we should not be forced to put 401(k) money there. And it seems quite certain to me that as the baby boomers retire and take their money out of the stock market, the price of stocks will have to go down. It should follow about the same pattern as the Social Security fund, with a net outflow starting around 2013. Those of us who are aware of these things and think ahead should not be punished for those who do not.

John Hackl
Arcadia, California


While I enjoyed Greg Tate's article "Nigger-'tude" [February 5], I personally think that discussions of this kind are quite pointless. It doesn't really matter who uses the word—its derogatory power has not changed since its inception, no matter what many people in the entertainment industry may say. As a black male, I feel as long as people within the black community use and/or condone the usage of this word, we will continue to be viewed as fools.

Keith Alexander


Quite a few Pazz & Jop Critics' Polls [February 19] have come and gone since I've read the top line and thought, "Of course, what else?" Still, I was glad to see some dissent against the prevailing acclaim.

Dylan has never inspired unanimity, and he'd be mortified if he ever did. But I've got to take one critic to task. Amy Phillips complains that Dylan's latest album "doesn't rock." Why should he or any other musician always rock? Sometimes Dylan rocks, sometimes he rolls, sometimes he leans back, and sometimes he swings. Sometimes he misses—but seldom that I can hear in "Love and Theft." The critics who placed this album in the No. 1 spot got it right.

Ken Braun


After reading the results of the Voice's 2001 Pazz & Jop poll, I really have a bone to pick with some of the reviewers' cynical observations. I was particularly disheartened by Phil Freeman's statement that "music at its best is a one-on-one pleasure" and Sean Howe's comment that he's been afraid to let his "escapism last longer than three minutes" for the past few months. The thought that people with these views of music as alienation and escapism were allowed to vote in this poll is very alarming to me. Why do they bother if they are so jaded?

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