By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Letter Of The Week
I am distressed to read all the letters from readers dumping on Kerry in reaction to James Ridgeway's "John Kerry Must Go" [Letters, May 5-11]. Kerry is, indeed, far from perfect, and I was a much more enthusiastic supporter of Dean. But let's face it, Kerry provides the only hope of undoing the damage wrought by Bush's huge tax cuts for 1 percent of the population, the needless slaughter of hundreds of American troops and civilians in Iraq, the shrinking of civil liberties, and the resurgence of the religious right. The dissing and dismissing of Kerry that I see in Voicereaders, as well as many others, is akin to that toward Al Gore in 2000and is the kind of thinking that helped get George W. Bush "elected" (or whatever the hell it was he pulled off at the end of that so-called election).
In "Is This America? For Now, Maybe" [May 12-18], Sydney H. Schanberg presents some good points regarding how the Iraqi prison torture scandal is colored by the arrogance and deception of the Bush administration.
Indeed, Amnesty International and other organizations have received frequent reports of torture or other mistreatment of Iraqis by coalition forces during the past year, and Amnesty's extensive research in Iraq suggests that the situation in Abu Ghraib is not an isolated incident. However, the Bush administration reacted only after the images had hit the television screens.
The "war on terror" cannot be won through secrecy or disregard for human rights and international law.
Jam for Francis
I was both saddened and disappointed when Gary Giddins suddenly announced his departure from the Voice in December. He was like an old friend for almost 30 years, and I came to rely on his devoted, reassuring, and regular insights on both the traditions and new directions of this still vibrant but neglected art form.
However, the reappearance of Francis Davis on these pages (his early-'90s consumer guides were treasures) has been a very pleasant and welcome surprise. More than just filling the Giddins void, he has quickly re-established the Voice's coverage of jazz with a unique style that is continually sustained by his interesting and varied tastes. I hope he sticks around.
In "Hung Out to Dry" [The Essay, April 7-13], David Ng harshly criticized the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) for not stopping the rise to fame of William Hung, the most infamous reject of American Idol. "Call it selective advocacy," Ng writes. "Or falling asleep at the wheel. When MANAA sticks its head up its own ass, it effectively gives the public permission to mock away."
We would like to point out a few things to your readers. First, the Asian American community is not strongly against William Hung. As early as February, MANAA polled the Asian-Pacific Islander American community about William Hung; while opinions varied, the response was mainly positive, a fact that even Ng admits in his reporting. After discovering the parity among the APA community we decided there would be no cause for action. If Ng bothered to contact MANAA before he put pen to paper, he would have known about our extensive research and our just cause for not taking action.
Second, Ng's disdain for Hung seemed strangely personal, and we question if he is the right person to advocate Hung's abolishment. He starts to tell a story about a firsthand experience with Asian foreigners, hoping to add legitimacy to his article, but instead reveals that he has a xenophobic rage toward them. Unfortunately Ng's essay will be dismissed as a useless rant, and Hung will still be around in the near future.
We have to be smarter about issues like William Hung. The real problem is not that Asians such as William Hung exist, but that mainstream film and television fail to present a diverse picture of the Asian American community and instead only show Asian males as either geeks, asexual, or foreigners. MANAA asks those angered by the Hung phenomenon to focus their criticism on the system that facilitates Hung's success, while supporting other Asian American performers who do not fit into stereotypical molds, like the charismatic Harlem Lee of Fame, a show similar to American Idol. Attacking other APA organizations will just show weakness among an already divided community.
MANAA regrets not making public our decision not to take action and our reasons for not protesting. We take matters like this very seriously. One can be certain that if Hung's ethnicity, accent, or looks were ridiculed in a racist fashion, MANAA would be there in a heartbeat.
Los Angeles, California
David Ng replies:I never asked for Hung's "abolishment." In my essay, I argued that we ought to ask ourselves exactly why we think Hung is funny, amusing, or exemplary. The fact that so much racism today isn't obvious or visible but veiled and sublimated is something worth considering. And MANAA would do well to address these cases of ambiguous racism in addition to more overt ones.
Against All 'Enemies'
I am a veteran, a proud conservative, and in complete agreement with Nat Hentoff's analysis in his article "Is Bush the Law?" [Liberty Beat, May 12-18]. We shouldn't be surprised at the recent sadistic developments in the Iraqi prison when our leaders believe that they have the power to abolish basic constitutional liberties by simply declaring that someone is an "enemy combatant."
It would be helpful if you could connect the dots between Judge Napolitano's fear that anyone could be declared an enemy combatant and the kind of treatment one could receive at the hands of the government as a detainee versus as a P.O.W. or criminal suspect.
The question to be asked is, "Can we, as Americans who have different religious and political beliefs, trust any administration that could snatch anyone off the streets or out of their home and subject them to despicable acts, with the idea that the public should trust them to do the right thing?" Conservatives despised both Clintons for their abuse of political enemies (real or imagined) by the Justice Department. The same standard should be applied to President Bush.
Sean R. McSherry
Chester, New York
Nat Hentoff's Liberty Beat consistently raises important questions and issues. None is more important than the issue of the unlimited power of the president that is being challenged by the Hamdi and Padilla cases.
I would be astounded if the Supreme Court were to rule in favor of the administration and against Ex Parte Milligan, but I fear it is a possibility. Perhaps the court's decision should be made by answering the question in the context of a logical extreme: Is there anything under the current law that would prevent Bush from declaring John Kerry an "enemy combatant" and incarcerating him for the duration of the election year?
Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em
Once again, as many times in the past, Mr. Hentoff hits the nail square on the head. His sense of clear, nonpartisan, and insightful journalism is a tremendous plus to your paper, and proves too that The Village Voice is in a shrinking group of publications that carries those same positive attributes. Thanks for Nat Hentoff!
Poughkeepsie, New York
Nat Hentoff replies:Sean McSherry is exactly right. That is why the Supreme Court's decision in June on Bush's removal of all rights from two American citizens as "enemy combatants" and the Supreme Court's decisions about prisoners at Guantánamo will determine whether we still have a living Constitution. As for Robert Lewis's question, John Kerry is safeeven the president's counsel, Alberto Gonzales, won't go that far. But I hope the president does not nominate him to the Supreme Court.
Congratulations to staff writer Kareem Fahim, who received the Best Reporting (Non-Daily Newspaper) award from the Deadline Club, the New York City chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He was recognized for his series of articles written from Iraq in 2003: "Last Bus to Baghdad," "On the Trail of the Missing," and "Playing with Soldiers." The other two finalists in the category were the Voice's Alisa Solomon and Sydney H. Schanberg.
A quote was incorrectly attributed to Keith Appell in Wayne Barrett's "The Sex Scandal That Put Bush in the White House" (May 19-25). It should have been attributed to K.B. Forbes, who was the spokesperson for the Buchanan campaign in 2000.