By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Kudos to Michael Feingold for calling it like it is regarding the embarrassing current production of An Almost Holy Picture. I can't recall the last time I had to actually grab the armrest to keep from fleeing the theater.
OUR MUTUAL FRIENDS
James Ridgeway's trashing of 401(k)'s [Mondo Washington, February 26] is more rant and pie-in-the-sky hopes than a realistic assessment of the situation and what needs to be done. To clear up some of the ranting, prior to the "faddish" 401(k) being introduced in the early 1980s, only large, well-established companies and the government were offering their employees retirement plans. Thanks to the 401(k) legislation, smaller companies, which employ the bulk of American workers, are able to give those employees an option for saving toward their retirement.
As to the maligning of the mutual fund industry, again, it is through such funds that smaller employers' 401(k) plans can offer their employees diversified investment options that were formerly available only to large, sophisticated employers (e.g., big business and big government).
What Mr. Ridgeway doesn't address is fundamental reforms that would align 401(k)'s with the interests of employees rather than management. First, allow employees who receive their 401(k) match in company stock to sell that stock, if they so choose, after a certain holding period. Second, require that each plan offer enough investment options so that employees can create a diversified portfolio.
Finally, make sure that the investment administrator's performance is reviewed on a periodic basis.
Joseph P. Murin
I found "What's Wrong With 401(k)'s?" by your Washington columnist James Ridgeway excellent for its measured tones and reasoned content. Being a conservative, I can usually see through your political writers' bias by their use of labels and adjectives, but this one is just right (no pun intended).
Mr. Ridgeway's conclusion that "a real pension doesn't have anything to do with the stock market or whether it's good or bad for a corporation" is correct, but the trick that is not fully addressed in the column is how to achieve this.
Democratic senators Kennedy, Corzine, and Boxer's wanting "to legislate diversification" and the Century Foundation's seeking to "create an independent fund, managed by a new separate government agency" are the knee-jerk types of solutions we've come to expect from politicians. They always know exactly what is best for us, except that they don't. Once the market learns to game the new rules, they'll have to step in to enact new rules all over again. In addition, Social Security, created by legislation with absolutely no actuarial foundation, is not only in danger of going broke but does not even provide enough for a retiree to live with dignitythus the need for other funding schemes like 401(k)'s.
No government-sponsored scheme will ever guarantee all of us a decent retirement. We are on our own.
As chair of the New York City Commission on Human Rights under David Dinkins from 1990 through 1994, I believe Andy Humm's article on the demise of the city and state human rights agencies could be an important first step in a movement for the rebirth of enforcement of equal-treatment laws ["What Ever Happened to Human Rights?" February 26].
However, this will happen only if leadership from all disenfranchised communities organizes for dramatic change. It must be an effort by all the groups protected by the New York City lawone of the most progressive in the country. Statements in the article attributed to Joe Grabarz, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, to the effect that more money is not needed are the height of cynicism.
To be actively seeking the inclusion of sexual orientation in the human rights law while refusing to advocate for more resources says only that he does not really care about a workable enforcement mechanism. We need real civil and human rights leadership to stand up before the law is rendered even more meaningless. To say we don't need more resources borders on the bizarre and callous.
SILENCE OF THE SHEEP
Kathy Deacon's article on your Web site ["Prevarication Becomes Electric"] is an excellent summary of the dangers posed by EMF radiation. Unfortunately, most Americans are unaware of this health threat due to the reason Deacon stated: the deafening silence in the mainstream media. In the face of such ignorance, The Village Voice would do readers a service if it devoted more space to environmental hazards.
In reference to Chuck Eddy's item about me in the music listings [March 5], in which he says I provide "no clues on [my] demo EP about what exactly 'pokies' are" in my song "Blow Up the Pokies," "or who is supposed to blow them up": Pokies are slot machines (called poker machines in Australia). They are rife in Australian pubs, and have unfortunately replaced most live music in the country, as well as ruining many lives.
Quick, name the much revered combo that reconvened in 2001 to unleash a more impressive comeback than Dylan with more Avenue A guts and grit than the Strokes, more hilarity and hooks than the Fugs (what's up with that, Bob? geez, enough with the geezers already), and more gen-you-whine street cred than Ryan Adams, the White Stripes, and Radiohead combined? Nope, not Depeche Mode . . . jumpin' jack flashpots, it's the Dictators, who obviously didn't have the cash to send enough free copies of "D.F.F.D." to climb above #203 in this year's Pazz & Jop countdown to the ongoing demonization of Ecstasy [February 19]. For shame.