LETTER OF THE WEEK
La Dolce Masterpiece
I have been reading The Village Voice since I was 12 or something (I am now, like Roxie Hart, older than I ever intended to be). But I continue to be astonished by Michael Musto's ability to be simultaneously literate and lowdown, side-splitting, sassy, and serious. This is the journalistic equivalent of the Wallendas' balancing act. Unlike that circus family, though, he never fallsor fails to entertain, inform, and give a good verbal whack to them that deserves whacking.
Each column is a deliciously hip, bitchy essay, with themes and leitmotifs and splendid payoffs. This ostensible fluff is the most carefully constructed, witty writing since Mrs. Parker laid down her poison pencil.
New Orleans, Louisiana
P.O.W./M.I.A. conspiracies: R.I.P.
In the article "Burying the Evidence: John Kerry's P.O.W. Cover-Up" [February 25-March 2], Sydney H. Schanberg attempts to blame Senator John Kerry for an alleged cover-up of live Americans being left behind in Southeast Asia, slandering the tireless efforts of the men and women who dedicated themselves to providing "the fullest possible accounting"an effort unmatched in the history of war.
The bipartisan Senate Select Committee on P.O.W./M.I.A. Affairs, chaired by Senator John Kerry, found "no credible evidence that live Americans were being held captive."
In the decades that followed, in spite of the expenditure of millions of dollars and considerable effort, their findings remain sound. Regardless, as part of national policy, we continue to investigate this "possibility." In addition, the committee, through its investigations, hearings, and openness, assisted in demystifying the accounting process and increased public access to the government.
There are countless heroes in the global pursuit of the "fullest possible accounting," and to compare the theatrical antics of Colonel Millard Peck and other conspiracy theorists to the services rendered by these individuals is absurd.
The issue is fraught with exploiters who prey on the emotions of the families who have endured so much; Schanberg continues to pick at the scab. His efforts to politicize the P.O.W./ M.I.A. problem, a humanitarian issue of great importance to those most affected, is shameful. The ghosts of Vietnam haunt American politics thanks in part to individuals like Schanberg who perpetuate myths instead of facts.
Senator Kerry's courage has not "gone M.I.A." The senator faced the difficult questions and provided sound decisions in the face of adversity. That is courage and strong leadership.
Robert L. Jones
Former deputy assistant secretary of defense for P.O.W./M.I.A. affairs
Sydney H. Schanberg replies:
Mr. Jones dismisses my documentation of Vietnam P.O.W.s left behind by saying that I "perpetuate myths instead of fact." Instead of calling me names, why didn't he address the documentation? Were defense secretaries James Schlesinger, Melvin Laird, and Elliott Richardson perpetuating myths when they testified under oath before the Kerry P.O.W. committee that "men were left behind"?
I found James Ridgeway's article on Haiti ["Drug Through the Mud," Mondo Washington, March 10-16] heavy on invective but light on anything new.
I take objection to his suggestion that President Aristide almost presided over the very drug trafficking that he was deliberately trying to stop, with no help from the U.S.
In addition, I would like to know what Ridgeway would have proposed to Aristide in regard to development. Clearly Aristide, who had no other source of potential investment capital than the World Bank, IMF, and IDB, had no way of knowing in advance that the U.S. would force Haiti over a barrel by manipulating these lending institutions into requiring draconian measures of loan repayment before funds started flowing.
Joan W. Drake
Jerry Saltz has confused the results for the technique in "The Richter Resolution" [March 10-16], wherein he decries the use of photo projection in representational painting. While he may miss the juiciness and emotional involvement of painters working from life, he should be careful to separate that aesthetic element from the actual process of working up a realist painting.
Also, as far as intentions go, a representational painter may be using photo-derived imagery while at the same time being disinterested in "investigating the problem of the photograph."Just how privileged is the technique of painting from life?
If we are to condemn the facility that photos give to painters, we might consider condemning collage, with its use of pilfered imagery (watch out, Joseph Cornell). Might not we even imagine the reaction of tempera painters to the invention of oil paint, with that medium's elimination of visible brush strokes (and by extension the elimination of the artist's "hand")?
Saltz is to be congratulated for raising the broad and critical issue of a perhaps thoughtless, facile misuse of a tool in the painter's arsenal. That said, he should step away from asking us to give back a tool that, properly used, is simply a tool.
Buskirk, New York
I'm afraid that my former colleague Jim Ridgewayfor whom I have the utmost respectseriously mischaracterizes my LA Weekly article criticizing Ralph Nader ["The Nader Interview," Mondo Washington, March 3-9]. I never suggested that Nader "unwittingly floundered" into the embrace of the anti-Semite Fred Newman, Lenora Fulani, and their cult-racket. On the contrary, the whole point of my column was that Nader quite consciously allied himself with the odious Newmanites knowing full well who and what they were because, having brushed off the Greens, Nader was desperate for their help in getting himself on the ballot. The Boston Phoenix article I cited on the Newmanite conference Nader headlined quotes Nader's campaign manager, Teresa Amato, as saying quite baldly that she and Ralph discussed the Newmanites' odiferous past before he decided to join with them. And as Ralph runs around the country putting his campaign together, he is actively soliciting the help of Newman's network of brainwashed illuminati. Latest example: The March 5 Austin Chronicle reported that, on his recent visit to Texas, Nader met with and recruited (for a role in his campaign) Linda Curtis, longtime head of the Texas Newmanite front group.
By "wittingly" embracing the dangerous Newmanites, Nader has forfeited his claims to leadership of the independent, democratic (small d) left.
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