Cancel his conscription

Re Graham Rayman's 'Boy Soldier of Fortune' [March 19–25]: The most compelling part of Ishmael Beah's book, A Long Way Gone, is the first half, before Beah is taken into the army. It is a bit like "Huckleberry Finn Visits Hell," as he and his young friends make their way from one rebel atrocity to the next, barely keeping ahead of the war, never knowing what is around the next bend in the trail.

Beah's account of his years as a soldier is less compelling and, frankly, less credible. He may well have taken part in some of the atrocities he describes so vividly, but if they are all true, he must surely have killed dozens of "rebels" who seemed to be around every corner just waiting to be gunned down. In truth, the Sierra Leone army went out of its way to avoid contact with the rebels, and for much of the war, the army was actually on the run, rather than on the offensive.

Beah admits to many viewings of the Rambo movies, and it echoes in lines like this: "First we had to get rid of the attackers in the trees, which we did by spraying bullets into the branches to make the rebels fall off them. Those who didn't immediately die we shot before they landed on the ground."


via e-mail

A shot of wry

Re Tom Robbins's 'Trench Warfare' [March 19–25]: Oh ,Tom Robbins, I needed this piece! It would be so fun to go negative this wry way.


via e-mail

Constructive dialogue, part one:

Re Nat Hentoff's 'Whose Promised Land?' [March 26–April 1]: The entire premise of your article is wrong! There are no Palestinians, just Arabs who decided to call themselves that after the '67 war. Jews are just as much "Palestinians." Their passports under the Mandate read "Palestine," too.

Wolf Terner

via e-mail

Constructive dialogue, part two:

Re Nat Hentoff's 'The Cold, Cold Heart of Hamas' [March 19–25]: The Palestinians are not going to acknowledge Israel's right to exist until Israel acknowledges the right of return for all the Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed from their homes in 1948.

K. Sisson

Berkeley, California

Death to the infidels

For Matt Bors in his Idiot Box cartoon ['Ralf Na'dir,' March 5–11] to attack progressive presidential candidate Ralph Nader by suggesting how convenient his murder would be is an outright fascist-like move. His point is to warn that Nader would "steal" votes from Obama or Clinton and possibly put McCain in the White House—and this must be stopped at all costs.

Actually, the Democrats have also been the enablers of the war and the stallers on single-payer health care and other vital issues for many years, and still remain so—even since gaining control of Congress (and its war appropriations) in 2006.

Do progressives really need to resort to such extremely reactionary, fratricidal tactics—as this cartoon does—in order to fight for political progress?

Michael Brown


Brain death

Mr. Mamet is a great writer. He is also very rich. That is reason enough to become a conservative, I guess. Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas? states the obvious: In this country, the rich always vote their interests; the poor never do. That is a bit more honest than Mr. Mamet's "just plain folks in everyday life" approach.

Bill Thoms

via e-mail

It is extraordinarily gratifying to read David Mamet's thoughtful critique of liberalism in the pages of the Voice. I have read almost every book Thomas Sowell has written and have used him as a guide for 20 years, yet it never occurred to me that he is—as Mamet puts it—"our greatest living philosopher." Now that you mention it, he is.

I wouldn't go so far as to call liberalism "brain-dead": That risks the David Horowitz syndrome of going from one extreme to the other. But, as Mamet says, liberals do have an extraordinary inclination to substitute visions of perfection for a clear understanding of the world.

William Tucker


What's the difference between a "brain-dead" liberal and a "dittohead" conservative?

The liberal cares. The conservative couldn't care less.

Ed Schiffendecker

Forked River, New Jersey

You meet the requirements

Re Jim Ridley's 'Irina Palm: Marianne Faithfull at a Glory Hole' [Tracking Shots, March 19–25]: I can see that stupidity as well as a blunt writing tool are required to become a film critic at the Voice. Also, lack of English must be; otherwise the author would not have been able to write such confused blather about Irina Palm.

L. Bolard

Benson, Arizona

Critical commentary

I'm sad and disappointed to see that the Voice has decided to fire Nathan Lee. While I did not always agree with Mr. Lee—and Mr. Lee was not always eager to fall in line with critical consensus, either—he wrote brightly and smartly, proving more interesting than 99 percent of his peers. When I disagreed with his opinions, he didn't let me off easy; he challenged his readers.

I like reading the Voice online, but any time I've spent on your website has always begun with a link to Nathan Lee's criticism or commentary.

John Moore

Salt Lake City, Utah


In Nathan Lee's piece about the New Directors/New Films festival ['The New Class,' March 26–April 1], a participant in the documentary "Moving Midway" was referred to by the wrong name. The NYU professor's name is Robert Hinton.

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