Honest Nat

Re Nat Hentoff's "Bush's Moral Guide" [June 1-7]: Whenever I talk with people about columnists, I always put Nat Hentoff at the top of the list, though the rest are conservatives.The intellectual honesty he writes with never ceases to amaze me. He may be "liberal," but if the liberals in Congress, i.e., Democrats, would think and act more like him, then liberal wouldn't be a dirty word and the Democratic Party wouldn't be such a train wreck in progress. Such honesty allows Hentoff to say "President Bush should ask himself what Jesus Christ would do. I mean this respectfully, because the president has said Jesus is his favorite philosopher" and not make me upset, as I know that Hentoff is not saying it in a sarcastic way to put down a religious person but challenging him to pray and try to do the right thing as best an imperfect man can.

Robert Spain
Paris, Texas

Unsavory distinction

Some might be offended by the way Andrea Toochin referenced some of the legitimate retail businesses found in Bed-Stuy ["Close-Up on Bed-Stuy," villagevoice.com, May 18]. She wanted to show the range of businesses ("Savor this distinction" were the exact words) and wrote, "While a young artsy kid prepares espresso and smoothies at Solomon's Porch, down the street they serve fried chicken and burgers behind a protective plastic shield." On first glance it seems harmless, but something gnawed at me. I reread it and realized the writer had described the espresso guy with generally positive words. The employees at the other store? Well, they don't get any adjectives, glowing or otherwise, just a dismissive "they." We aren't told the name of their store (we are told the name of the espresso kid's), but we are told that they work behind protective plastic shields. Nameless, faceless fried-chicken eaters, I mean, workers. If I might use the vernacular, "Ya feel me?" PS: You ever consider the fried-food folk might know something about crime in that neighborhood?

DFaye Anderson

Boys gone wild

Re Keith Harris's review of the White Stripes' new album ["Be as You Are," June 8-14]: What? "Until we boys get our own Courtney Love, [Jack White]'s the most calculated yet visceral exemplar of self-laceration in his gender class." That's the stupidest thing I've ever read. First, how pussy-whipped are you? Second, Keith Richards. Third, Jerry Lee Lewis. Fourth, go fuck yourself. Fifth, great writing, though. Yours, not that art school fraud Jack White's.

Tom Lunt
Chicago, Illinois

Can't newsstand it

Re Michael Feingold's decidedly ignorant comment in reference to Julia Cho's play BFE [June 8-14]: He writes, "There's also a certain oddity in [Cho's] constantly playing the unhappy-Asian card in an era when the celebrity talk is crammed with Asians and Asian Americans who've become admired public figures. Is ours the era of Amy Tan, Margaret Cho, and Lucy Liu, or isn't it?" He has got to be kidding. Amy Tan? Lucy Liu? Margaret Cho? Of these three, only Margaret and Amy directly address their struggles as Asian women in their work. But if Feingold believes that the struggle is over for Asian Americans, then he needs to go out to a newsstand and count how many Asian celebrities are on magazine covers, hosting major events, or holding major cosmetics contracts.

Admired public figures? Maybe soon, but not now, not yet.

Song Chong

I'll take Manhattanville

There are some points that need to be clarified in Christine Lagorio's "Close-Up on Manhattanville" [villagevoice.com, June 1]. The Manhattanville area doesn't end at the Columbia University campus expansion target area. It covers from 120th to 135th streets, from St. Nicholas Avenue to the Hudson River. Lagorio writes: "Columbia has planned for three decades to build a glass-encrusted campus between 125th and 133rd west of Broadway—an area the university says currently only includes 140 legal apartments, one-third of which are unoccupied." Columbia has not been planning for 30 years; its future plans are for three 10-year development stages. Also, the residential buildings of which she writes are all fully occupied except for those undergoing rehabilitation or those that have been rehabilitated and are waiting for a certificate of occupancy. Some are destined to be Housing Development Fund cooperatives for low-income families; the others are intended for not-for-profit rentals. The only buildings that are vacant and dilapidated are the property of Columbia.

Lagorio fails to point out that the increase in robberies within the 26th Precinct is mostly generated within the Columbia University population as students leave their laptops and cellulars lying about and they are stolen. The slight increase in the 26th and 30th precincts' crime stats have many explanations, all of them satisfactory, as overall the numbers are the lowest since the 1960s, making this one of the safest places to live in New York City.

Finally, I find irritating the tone of dismissal used when referring to our Manhattanville residents and the obvious delight at Columbia's plans as if they were the greatest thing since dry socks.

Jordi Reyes-Montblanc
Chairperson Manhattan Community Board 9

Castro's poor

I want to thank Nat Hentoff for writing the truth in his article "Fidel Is Afraid" [Liberty Beat, June 8-14]. As a Cuban American I am often astounded by the lack of information released by the mainstream media about what really goes on in Cuba. I am infuriated, if not wounded, by people like Charles Rangel, who wants to give the Cuban government respect. Respect for what? Forty-six years of oppression? Just a few facts for you: Cuba's literacy rate before Castro was already among the best in Latin America, very few people did not get health care, and agricultural workers' wages were as high as virtually any country but the United States.

The entire myth of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara is built on lies romanticized by The New York Times and other mainstream media whores. Yes, there was poverty, and corruption was rampant in the Batista government, but there is poverty and corruption in every country. I bet there were more poor people in the U.S. than there were in Cuba before Castro. These days if you're in Cuba you are poor unless you are a high-level government official. Maybe Fidel is afraid, maybe not. One thing's for sure, though: The dissident movement will only grow.

Jorge X. de Tuya
Miami, Florida

Dancing king

Les Ballets Grandiva was wonderful, and so was Tobi Tobias's review of the all-male troupe [June 1-7]. Many years ago, as a boy, I convinced my parents to let me take ballet. I spent 14 years dancing and don't regret it for a minute. Yes, there's a place for boys in ballet.

Michael Nicastro
Arlington, Virginia

Listen to the record

I was very unhappy with the comments made by Nat Hentoff regarding Janice Rogers Brown ["New York Times v. Janice Rogers Brown," Liberty Beat, May 18-24]. I fail to understand how anyone can defend this person's judicial record, which speaks for itself. Janice Rogers Brown has time and again proven that her ultra-conservative ideology dictates her judicial decisions. Must she be defended because she is a "minority judge," or can we look beyond her ethnicity and concentrate on who she really is?

Now that she has unfortunately been confirmed, it will be interesting to see what her impending judicial decisions are, and the impact those decisions will have.

Linda Jean Edwards
Petaluma, California

Doing Brown justice

I really appreciated Nat Hentoff's rational and, in my view, more accurate view of Janice Brown and the careless (or worse) attacks on her. I am a criminal defense lawyer in California and have appeared before the State Supreme Court several times during Justice Brown's tenure. My reaction on hearing of her appointment was that I would miss her. I agree that she's outside the mainstream of our judiciary: She's smart and honest.

Stephen Gilbert
Santa Monica, California

Chief concern

Re "Simmons vs. Foxman" by Aina Hunter [May 25-31]: Malik Shabazz is not the "chief organizer" of the Millions More Movement, but he is one of many who have responded to Farrakhan's call to build a diverse, unified movement for personal and social transformation and to work diligently to end poverty and ignorance.

Russell Simmons


Congratulations to Voice writer Tom Robbins, who won the New York Press Club's Political Coverage award for his 2004 series on former state senator Guy Velella.

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