LETTER OF THE WEEK
The gospel according to Gideon
Re Joy Press's "Rage Inside the Machine" [April 14-20]: As Gideon Yago trudges through the halls of MTV, has he forgotten that he's actually working for one of the worst abusers of freelancers and temps? Finding an employee at MTV with benefits is like trying to find Osama bin Laden. MTV is notorious for its 14-hour-a-day underpaid staff killing itself trying to get a foot in the door that never opens. Mr. Hip to Be Square likes to say he wants to change things from the inside, but saying and doing are two different things. There are plenty of people in the line at MTV's time clock that could use more than Yago's lip service.
Upper East Side
Nixon's the one
Ted Gup's "The Failure of U.S. Intelligence" [April 14-20] makes no mention of the changes at the CIA, cultural and legal, that resulted from the Watergate investigations. The Nixon White House broke the law by enlisting the CIA in domestic matters within the United States against political rivals. This might not be the sole factor in the decline of the CIA, but without question it should be noted. It would have been the beginning of the end for certain CIA practices, resulting in the review, and then decimation, of the Clandestine Service at the CIA.
Up with Gup
I want to congratulate and thank you for publishing Ted Gup's "The Failure of U.S. Intelligence." This non-political analysis does not bash Bush but clearly lays out the facts to the American people, asking them to judge the state of our intelligence communitywhich is in very bad condition.
It is now the responsibility of the administration, Congress, and the intelligence community to get their collective houses in order so that we can effectively deal with the very serious threat of terrorism. The time for name-calling and finger-pointing is over. It is counterproductive and serves no useful purpose except to aid and abet the activities of our enemies.
New Providence, New Jersey
Taking a chance
Re "Soldiers Choose Canada" by Alisa Solomon [April 7-13]:
The picture painted of Brandon Hughey and Jeremy Hinzman is the picture you can paint of almost anyone in the military. We're all good ol' boys who had money and college waved in front of our faces, so we signed. We signed and we swore an oath, to God, country, ourselves, and our fellow soldiers. Nobody wants to go to war and fight for something they disagree with and possibly get killed in the process.
But isn't that what happens frequently in the U.S. military? Vietnam was only 30 years ago. You're taking a chance when you sign your name, but you're signing your name just the same. It's not like Hughey and Hinzman were drafted.
The article mentioned low morale in the military. I wonder if anyone has considered that low morale can also be caused by deserters. I share the same political views as those two in Canada, and I commend those who are able to think for themselves, because that is hard to do in the military. The difference between us, however, is that when my time came to go to Iraq, I went. I know of six people in my own small unit who decided to leave for one reason or another right when we needed to stick together and support each other. Everyone has unspoken fears and doubts about war, but having a guy standing next to you makes you feel stronger and more self-confident. When you turn around and he's not there because he got scared, where does that send your morale?
Alisa Solomon replies: Jeff Bringhurst is certainly correct that desertion can contribute to low morale. However, Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey did not leave because they "got scared" but because they have a conscientious objection to the war.
In interviews, both expressed sadness on a personal level over leaving their fellow soldiers. But they did not want to participateor help others "feel stronger and more self-confident" in participatingin what they regard as a criminal enterprise. Signing a contract does not mean abdicating moral judgment.
Asian: the new black
Re David Ng's "Hung Out to Dry" [April 7-13]:
As a black person, I can only say one thing: Join the club! TV shows that pass for comedy, like Eve, Whoopi, and Chappelle's Show, contain some of the worst stereotypes this side of the original minstrel shows of the 19th century. It is unfortunate and amazing what stereotypes people will perpetuate and accept under the auspices of "entertainment."
I agree with everything Mr. Ng writes about the phenom except for one thing: There have always been quite studly Asian males. John Lone, Chow-Yun Fat, Jet Li, Jason Scott Lee, Bruce Leefor me, the list can go on, but as with any ethnic group, one gets tired of seeing the same handful of typecast people again and again. Still, I'd take a martial arts master over a pimp/drug lord any day!
Cortlandt Manor, New York
Re Nat Hentoff's "Puppet Chancellor" [March 24-30]:
I agree with the concerns about the mayor's recent high-handedness in dealing with the Department of Education. However, Hentoff's take on Diana Lam seems overly dependent on the opinions of conservative educational critic Diane Ravitch. Lam no doubt made questionable decisions regarding the handling of her husband's employment. But the soundness of her policies, general personnel decisions, and choices of programs cannot be dismissed as fundamentally flawed simply because Diane Ravitch doesn't like them.
The textbook-by-fiat mentality that is one of the many despicable aspects of No Child Left Behind has given professionals who really know curriculum little room to exercise their best judgment. The Phonics Fascists and Testing Fanatics in Washington have rigged the game so that "research-based" becomes, simply, anything they like; research that shows they're wrong is dismissed or ignored. There has been a recent outcry against this policy by many world-renowned scientists, who have pointed out how the Bushites value politics over science on a host of issues. It's no different in education. And it's sad that Hentoff appears not to have done his own research before diving into bed with Ravitch and attacking programs about which, quite frankly, I believe he knows nothing.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Nat Hentoff replies: I have been reporting on, and in, classrooms for many years. Diana Lam's rigid restrictions on teachershow many absolute minutes to apply to each segment and how the chairs must be arrangedstifle individual learning by both teacher and student. I have written continually, both in the Voice and in my books, against high-stakes testing and continually in opposition to the built-in failures of No Child Left Behind. What I have learned is that reading literacy depends on phonics at the beginning. Teachers, not tests, determine how well students learn. And the ultimate responsibility is on the principal, to whom Lam did not give nearly enough authority.
Not necessarily the nude
While Richard Goldstein's "Grinning and Baring It" [March 31-April 6] definitely contained very eloquent examples of women's empowerment and, more to the point, men's abomination of women's empowerment, he seemed to overlook one aspect of the whole phenomenon.
Many acts of nudity, as in the case of Karen Finley, are very much rooted in activism à la performance art, but I am hard-pressed to see quite the same motivation in those Girls Gone Wild videos. Surely Goldstein can't be equating all forms of tit chic with empowerment? Americans may nurture a perverted sense of sexuality steeped more in Puritanism than progressivism, but that isn't to say that the objectification of women still isn't alive and well.
The image of drunken, self-disrespecting sorority women lifting their shirts can hardly be grouped with Liberty Leading the People in the sense that it's at all empowering. Although I do think that Goldstein was very much on target about Love's pathetic escapades as a woman on the edge, ascribing politics to them is a bit of a stretch. Instead, the rocker being suckled by a stranger outside Wendy's seems more a case of someone taking advantage of a train wreck than an expression of girl power.
Natalie Hope McDonald
The Truman show
Goldstein's article comparing Courtney Love to Janis Joplin is an insult to the memory of one of America's great musical voices. Janis was charged with sexual energy, while Courtney just acts whorish and slutty. If that is female power, then women have no hope of dignity in this violent man's world.
Avenel, New Jersey
Another little piece
Goldstein talks about Janis Joplin, saying that her death was "why I stopped writing about music in the early '70s," and adding, "but that's another piece." I'd love to read that piece, and I'm sure others would agree. I hope Goldstein writes it and the Voice publishes it.
Nat Hentoff's "Bloomberg's Accountability" [Liberty Beat, April 13-20] incorrectly identified a New York magazine contributing editor as Richard Kolker. His name is actually Robert Kolker.
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