Letter Of The Week

Serious Comedy

Re Richard Goldstein's "Generation Nix" [Press Clips, July 7-13]: As a 21-year-old college student who devours newspapers on a daily basis, I found Goldstein's article to be especially interesting. I routinely avoid watching TV news, as I find it to be too superficial—the product of a society more obsessed with soundbites and one-liners than substantive information. However, I confess that I often like to watch >The Daily Show because it reveals the lighthearted side of the world's unrelenting flow of depressing news. The show really makes political issues come to life, thereby engaging young voters who are put off by the older, stodgier networks. Young people are starting to take comedy more seriously. And anything that reverses the political apathy among younger voters is a good thing for American democracy.

Adam Click
East Village

Fact Attack

Re Ta-Nehisi Coates's "Block the Vote" [villagevoice.com, July 9]:

Coates writes, "Propaganda is still propaganda. Thus anyone voting because they saw Fahrenheit 9/11 shall hence be forever disenfranchised." Propaganda, per Merriam-Webster, is "ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause."

Essentially, this is what most communication is about. Propaganda only crosses ethical lines when what is spread are allegations that are not facts. Moore is not the "leftie Limbaugh." He may arrange the facts as he chooses—why not? However, he is careful to stick to facts. Writers should not cast aspersions on his work unless they can cite factual errors in it.

Russell de Grove
Tallahassee, Florida

Show Me the Money Reform

Re Wayne Barrett's "A Real Chance at Reform" [June 30-July 6]:

When I ran for mayor in the 2001 Democratic primary, despite qualifying for the ballot under New York's difficult Election Law and the debates sponsored by the New York City Campaign Finance Law, Reverend Al Sharpton barred me from participation in his Martin Luther King Day forum for Democratic mayoral contestants and later claimed in his book that there were only four candidates, omitting me. I complained to Wayne Barrett, who was present at the forum, but he agreed with Sharpton, complaining that I, a retired state auditor of city programs and former tax compliance agent, had no right to run.

It is gratifying that Barrett now wishes to reform the Campaign Finance Law. He effectively lays out the problems, noting on one hand Council Speaker Gifford Miller, "whose comparatively paltry $2.5 million campaign committee is a magnet for every inside player in town," and on the other hand Mayor Bloomberg, who according to Barrett "won in 2001 by spending $73 million of his own billions outside the system."

Barrett offers no solution, although he looks favorably on Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo's "proposal to set a $250 limit on contributions for all those doing business with the city." Cardozo's recommendation falls far short of proposals contained in the 1989 report of the Commission on Government Integrity, headed by former Fordham Law School dean John Feerick. The Feerick Commission proposed prohibiting all campaign contributions for those doing business with the city. This was an essential part of my campaign for mayor and of the testimony I have submitted before several New York Charter Commissions. Dean Feerick also recommended, and I seconded, barring no-bid contracts. Actually, if most of the contracting out was done by the civil service—as current Public Advocate and former parks department commissioner Betsy Gotbaum inadvertently discovered could be done at much lower cost— or through sealed bids, there would be far less money around to contribute to political candidates.

As for dealing with the "problem" of rich candidates spending their own money, I have long suggested that an enhanced voter guide combined with large amounts of interactive cable TV—which, incidentally, works well in Boston—could provide the electorate with all the information it needs to make a rational choice. If employed in New York City, it would place the winner of the Democratic primary on an equal plane with Mike Bloomberg in next year's general election. I tried to get this message out in 2001; however, this type of campaign finance reform had an apparent flaw to Wayne Barrett because it might have put me on the same level as his favorite, Mark Green, and in the previous mayoral race, Sal Albanese with Barrett's 1997 choice, Ruth Messinger.

George N. Spitz
Upper East Side

Wayne Barrett replies: George is one of those unique New York gadflies who frequently knows more about the history of our politics than those of us who cover it. I doubt I ever had precisely the conversation with him that he cites in this letter. But I know he has long been dismayed that I thought people like Ruth Messinger or Mark Green might be more qualified to be mayor than him. What was I thinking?

Playa Hata

Re Ta-Nehisi Coates's "Mushmouth Reconsidered" [July 14-20]:

Coates appears to be another apologist for the dysfunction that has infected our collective community. The pathology of gangsterism that permeates the youth culture must and should be addressed, even if Cosby may not be the most qualified person to take on this charge. Nevertheless, to put our heads in the sand, and dismiss Coz as just another old fool, is a major mistake.

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