After Amadou

Steve Brodner's illustration of a bullet-ridden, screaming figure on last week's cover was absolutely stunning ["The Anger This Time"]. I have saved it to my computer screen as a reminder that after Amadou, nothing will be the same.

Alyssa Alston

Sisters in Grief

Reading Wista Jeanne Johnson's article "The Fire This Time: Animosity and Fear Follow the Verdict" [March 7], I was overwhelmed by the grief I have felt since the day of the shameful Diallo verdict.

Although I don't live in the U.S., I've been following the case since I heard about it on a trip to New York. It was absolutely incomprehensible cruelty against an unarmed man. As a resident of one of the former Soviet countries, I've seen so much injustice—but I think the case of Amadou Diallo is of high importance beyond New York and the U.S. It's about the value of a human being and about equality of people of all color—and those are problems for the whole world. The verdict shook my belief in people. And I'm very sad about that.

Thanks for sharing your feelings, Ms. Johnson. Through your article I could feel related to people who—like me—are offended by this verdict.

Kristine Birze
Riga, Latvia


I am writing to clear the record regarding Peter Noel's article "Blaming the Bronx D. A." [March 7].

The alleged accounts of a conversation between the Reverend Al Sharpton and myself concerning the trial of the police officers charged in the death of Amadou Diallo are completely fictitious. No such conversations took place.

Either Reverend Sharpton or Mr. Noel has intentionally and irresponsibly deceived your readers.

Robert T. Johnson
District Attorney

Peter Noel replies: Revelation of a war of words between D.A. Johnson and Reverend Sharpton obviously is an embarrassment, especially if Johnson considered their conversations private. My sources have firsthand knowledge, and they stand by their accounts.

Moving Rhetoric

In Peter Noel's informative article "Blaming the Bronx D.A.," he writes: "[In] the Diallo case, Sharpton [and] other black activists . . . were upset by Johnson's tepid response after state appellate judges, claiming that the wave of pretrial publicity would make it impossible to find an impartial jury in the Bronx, moved the trial to Albany."

The Reverend Al Sharpton, who organized much of the pretrial publicity, is responsible for the trial of the four officers having been moved to Albany.

George Jochnowitz
Professor Emeritus of Linguistics
College of Staten Island
City University of New York

Slurring Your Words

"Bill Bradley's in a bind: He never fought the gooks. He never got captured by the gooks. He never was tortured by the gooks. The Democratic presidential candidate's problem these days isn't exactly his pedigree. . . . And it is Republican John McCain's scrappy gook-battling POW arc that enchants."

John McCain loves to use the word "gook." And, boy, so does William Bastone ["All the Wrong Moves," March 7]. Bastone enthusiastically uses the slur four times in the first two paragraphs of his article on Bill Bradley.

When backward street morons use racist terms like "nigger," "kike," and "gook," I'm offended. But when presidential candidates and members of the media blurt them out with hopeless abandon I'm more disturbed.

Using racial slurs to grab attention for your article is a cheap and lazy form of journalism.

Helen Jen


As a graduate student in cultural anthropology, I was pleased at first to learn of the Voice's new coverage of academia in Norah Vincent's Higher Ed column. Unfortunately, with each of Ms. Vincent's columns, I've grown increasingly disappointed. After three columns, I can hardly believe the Voice is wasting print on Ms. Vincent's misinformed and misanthropic rants.

What bothers me about Ms. Vincent's writing is, quite simply, its consistently nasty tone. In her first column ["Hop on Pop," February 8], she railed against "third-rate philosophers" who think too hard about "shallow amusements." In her second column ["Wedded to Orthodoxy," February 22], it was "henchqueers" with "narrow opinions."

In her third column ["The French Fried," March 7], she finally got around to writing about some aspect of academia she actually likes—even if it was Camille Paglia—but she still had to sneak in a few nasty lines about the "insipid exegeses" of scholars with whom she disagrees. Most academics I know are motivated by some kind of passion for their subject, by a vision of the world as it is or as it could be that moves them deeply and demands their attention. Ms. Vincent seems to be motivated by little more than bitterness and hostility.  

Henry Goldschmidt

Anatomy of Criticism

I read Norah Vincent's latest column with interest. I obviously do not think Americans ought to scorn European cheese, wine, cars, or philosophy, but I thank Ms. Vincent for reminding us that there are some North American thinkers who deserve to be considered as near divinities along with Foucault, Deleuze, and Derrida.

Vincent rightly calls to our attention Norman O. Brown, Northrop Frye, Marshall McLuhan, and Leslie Fiedler. She might have mentioned Kenneth Burke and Constance Rourke, as well. Among our native geniuses of the present moment worthy of study and respect I also would include Catharine A. MacKinnon.

Lindsay Waters
Executive Editor
Harvard University Press
Cambridge, Massacusetts

Rude Awakening

So the Knicks are allegedly rude to sportswriters ["Full-Court Press," Jeff Ryan, March 7]: As these athletes are overwhelmingly African Americans and these reporters overwhelmingly are not, I wish your writer had included some acknowledgment of the sorry state of race relations in New York City and its possible impact on the Knicks' locker room.

This insight would have been particularly appropriate at a time when the Diallo verdict is being interrogated for various meanings. Moreover, as confrontations on highways daily remind us, poorly paid (mostly white) police officers often are irritated in the presence of minority men in expensive cars. Could a similar race-class dynamic be operative in the Knicks' locker room, where multimillionaire black athletes confront poorly paid reporters? Just asking . . .

Gerald Horne, Fulbright Scholar
University of Hong Kong

Officers from Hell

Peter Noel's article on Spanish-speaking New Yorkers getting short shrift from the NYPD ["'Speakie Spannie?'" February 29] was a welcome and troubling exposé of the status quo in the department.

In most precincts, if you're not a white male and/or part of the old-boy network, access is severely limited, except to the front desk Officers From Hell who have graduated from Scream 101 and who seem to revel in degrading or ignoring community members.

As an elected officer of the Seventh Precinct Community Council (and a community board member), I have to make appointments to meet with incompetent Community Affairs officers who should be ensuring good relations between the community and the NYPD. As a woman, I can't walk upstairs to their offices, while white males who are not members of the service seem to roam the building with impunity.

Too often, Community Affairs officers are hooking up favors for their white male cronies, and don't want to venture out and deal with residents in the mostly minority areas of the precinct north of Delancey Street where I live. We're a mosaic—every shade and ethnicity. To some police, we're the trash of the neighborhood.

While some white male members of the Lower East Side community have instant access to precinct commanding officers, it took another activist and myself over 100 phone calls to 1 Police Plaza to have a meeting with the CO of the Seventh Precinct.

I have documented this pattern and practice of exclusion and notified the highest levels of the NYPD, from Commissioner Safir on down. They have done nothing to ameliorate the conditions, and provide equal access for all.

Where's CPR?

Marcia H. Lemmon
Lower East Side


Karen Cook's article "Eco Action" [February 22] misled readers about the dispute between the Sierra Club and a small faction among the members in New York City. Readers wouldn't know from the article that State Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Figueroa agreed with the club that the former leaders of the New York City Group engaged in serious misconduct. That's the core issue at hand, but Cook ignored it.

Although Justice Figueroa characterized the decisions of the former group executive committee as "active wrongdoing," Cook neglected to tell that to readers. Readers wouldn't know that what the article called a "handpicked" slate was actually elected by a strong majority of the New York City Group members in an election with the largest turnout, by far, in the Group's history. With their ballots, the Sierra Club's New York City members said they want to put the fractious past behind them and get back to work protecting New York's environment.

The club is going to carry out Justice Figueroa's order meticulously, so that an elected slate of officers can lead the Sierra Club's New York City Group.

Rather than being distracted by factionalism, New Yorkers want to put our energy to work cleaning up the Hudson River and fighting to end the air pollution that sears our children's lungs.  

Stuart Auchincloss
Chair, Atlantic Chapter
Sierra Club

Napoleon the Pig at Princeton

I appreciated Nat Hentoff's column on Professor Peter Singer ["Doctor Death," March 7] and think Hentoff was, if anything, too soft on him. It seems to me that the president of Princeton University is running around intellectually naked while the tailor he hired to make him a fabric of ethics is sewing stale air.

In addition to echoing the Nazis, Singer apes George Orwell's Animal Farm maintaining that "All animals are equal" and soon progressing to "But some animals are more equal than others." Do we really need a real-life version of this fairy tale with Peter Singer playing the role of Napoleon the pig?

Perhaps the most frightening thing about Singer is that his mild manner masks a totalitarian ambition. Truly, Singer's utilitarianism is in Singer's totalitarianism, since he feels he has the wisdom to decide who should live and who should die, and he will decide for us what we can do with our money and what activities will be eliminated because he perceives them to be bourgeois wastefulness.

In time I am sure Singer will be viewed with the same disdain we hold for the Joe McCarthys and Billy Sundays of the world. That time cannot come too soon.

Robert C. Speth
Professor of Pharmacology and Neuroscience
College of Veterinary Medicine
Washington State University
Pullman, Washington

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