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.

Reassuringly, nor can Robbins cite an example of any decision being affected by racial or parochial prejudice.

Robert Calvin Adelman
Upper West Side

Tom Robbins replies: Two decisions, both cited in my article, underscore the argument that Pataki's imported appellate judges from upstate and Long Island are out of "sync" with the people for whom they adjudicate: moving the Amadou Diallo trial out of town and the denial of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity's lawsuit to increase state funding for city schools (later overturned by the Court of Appeals).

The unnameable

"My Flood of Tears" by Anya Kamenetz [September 7–13] makes me think of author Anne Lamott's writing. It's the first piece, other than the interview with Mayor Ray Nagin for The New York Times, that makes the reader feel the unnameable beneath the Katrina crisis.

Roberta Fineberg
Upper East Side

Funeral rights

Re Nick Sylvester's Riff Raff entry "Impromptu NYC New Orleans Jazz Funeral Forgets to Mourn New Orleans" [villagevoice.com, September 12]: The Bush regime charscalex100 is responsible for mass murder by criminal neglect in the Gulf Coast. It is exactly appropriate, while mourning, to hold it responsible for this needless death and suffering.

Sylvester attempts to dismiss the tremendous outpouring of more than 80 musicians, many extraordinary professional horn players, and several hundred mourners as a "collection of idiot assholes." Back in the real world, millions are contemplating the role that race and national oppression have played in this country. This is as it should be! And it is as it should be that people talk about the particular role of the Bush regime and its behavior toward black people. It is exactly relevant that this regime came to power illegitimately in the first place—through the disenfranchisement of black voters. It is exactly relevant that many in the administration or influential supporters of it are racist.

Sylvester feigns concern for the victims of Katrina and then displaces blame onto those who are taking responsibility through resistance. It is absurd and devious to suggest that our funeral procession has denied a respectful burial to the victims.

Again, Sylvester ridicules and blames the organizers for the fact that the NYPD brought out an extraordinary show of repression: paddy wagons, dozens of cops in helmets, grips and grips of plastic "riot cuffs," "terrorist squad" types, and a repeated threat to arrest everyone present. If he doesn't find that reprehensible, if he doesn't direct his scorn toward that injustice, then it doesn't matter how cynically sophisticated he tries to sound, he is just an apologist for the repression here and the repression down in New Orleans.

Sunsara Taylor
World Can't Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime


In the preview of the New York Film Festival ["See It Now," September 14–20], the capsule review of Gabrielle was misattributed. It was written by Dennis Lim.

In "Mike's Awkward Ally" by Tom Robbins [September 14–20], a patient at the Atlanta Center for Social Therapy who complained of being recruited into Independence Party politics was incorrectly referred to as being a patient of Erika Van Meir's. The patient was a client of the center.

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