Letter of the Week
Birds' flu

Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow's review of Mike Davis's book The Monster at Our Door ["The Birds," September 14–20] was a very important piece of information for your readers. At the Paris airport last April, I saw posters in both French and English warning travelers of the avian flu. I was surprised, as I had not heard about it here in the States. I began my own investigation and was shocked to see that this deadly pandemic is on our doorsteps. Scientists say that it is not a matter of "if," but "when." Both Asia and Europe are taking very real precautions. Right now, it is only being passed from bird to bird, bird to pig, and bird to human. When it mutates and humans can pass it on to humans, we all better pay very close attention.

Mary Ann Winiger
Asheville, North Carolina

Giuliani: Saint or "dick"?

Jarrett Murphy's piece about Saint Rudy is terrific and timely ["Rudy to the Rescue," September 14–20]. Despite his social liberalism (which I believe will carry less currency with even GOP primary voters by '08), he is now the leading contender for the 2008 nomination. Competence in the face of crisis is (at least for now) the new organizing principle in American politics, and Giuliani's image as both a competent crisis manager and a centrist will be a formidable challenge for any Democrat.

I am not so sure that a Rovean strategy of hitting Giuliani in his least vulnerable spot would be effective, and it might be more productive for Democrats to target the corruption of his administration (which has only barely been explored by the New York press—not least because so few in city government were willing to talk—and even less so by the national press) and link his time as mayor to the broader, multi-decade Republican-led decline in political integrity and related middle-class security.

No liberals will need much convincing that Giuliani is a crypto-authoritarian dick whose mayoral administration was the least kind in decades to the poor and accused. But Democrats will need to reach the broad center of the electorate, and despite their overall complicity in the GOP assault on progressive taxation (which has fallen squarely on the backs of the middle class), giveaways to corporations, declining economic security, and general indifference to the increasingly difficult plight of the middle-class majority, they will need to connect Giuliani and his tenure as mayor to the conservatarian philosophy (and its worst manifestation: the Bush administration) that brought this all about.

Kenneth Hempel
San Francisco, California

Heart belongs to Dabby

Re Tom Robbins's article "Mike's Awkward Ally" [September 14–20]: I wholly dispute Erika Van Meir's allegation that the Atlanta Center for Social Therapy is a recruiting outpost for cult-driven politics. I participated in Murray Dabby's social-therapy group for several years, and Dabby is an accomplished therapist who has helped my family immensely. In my experience, social-therapy clients would come and go as they pleased. Others, including myself, would voluntarily choose to participate in cultural activities such as theater, comedy improv, and grassroots political organizing. These people-focused activities were designed to help folks learn how to creatively work together and become more extroverted.

I knew Van Meir through the center's theater project. Her accusation that Dabby et al. are doing something "very, very unethical" should not go unchallenged. Lucky for her, she got Robbins's attention, because her allegations are presented as reliable evidence in the Democrats' intense campaign to marginalize Lenora Fulani.

Smythe DuVal
Marietta, Georgia

Voice critics' time wasted by filmmakers

Re Danial Adkison's review in Tracking Shots [September 7–13]: I'm the guy (an editor) from Walking on the Sky. Maybe you ought to change the section to "film destruction" and really go at it. I mean, really. Hold no punches. I'd even go as far as fining these loathsome filmmakers who waste your film reviewers' precious time and keen eyes. Who knows, maybe the critics will end up making their own movies.

Nimrod Zalmanowitz
Beverly Hills, California

Keane insight

Michael Atkinson's review of Keane ["Close Encounter," September 7–13] is the single best review of any film I've read in years. He treats Keane with the depth and intelligence it no doubt deserves. What? Movies are serious again? I can't wait to see this film I've never heard of. Thank you, Mr. Atkinson, for genuine film criticism instead of soundbite touts.

Robert Glass
Little Rock, Arkansas

No one packed

Based on 30 years' experience as a litigator, I reject Tom Robbins's assumption that appellate judges must be "in sync" with the demographics and ideology of a downstate constituency ["Pataki's Court-Packing," August 17–23]. Appointed judges tend to be more scholarly and dignified than elected trial court judges, most of whom are clubhouse hacks. The interpretation of law should be uniform throughout the state and apolitical. Robbins cites no example of a case wrongly decided by "Hessians" from the hinterlands. Naturally, a governor will select candidates from his own circle whom he trusts and confides in. But it is inappropriate to call that "court-packing" if Pataki fills natural vacancies and does not contrive to expand the bench, as FDR once threatened to do.

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