Re Hua Hsu's "Foucault's Turntable" [January 8-14]:
I hope readers can appreciate that the thrust of hip-hop scholarship is not limited to the rhetoric of black men rappin' in the streets or the university.
Hip-hop as scholarship is cool, but there's hard work ahead. It's still dissed in the "department" of music particularly among the public; women's participation in hip-hop is still overlooked, as is the music's impact on children; and while top rappers and MCs have college degrees, they may not have the time or the skills to battle how pop music works at the local and industrial level.
Many of us hip-hop academics came to bring new views of race, gender, and music from the streets to the ivory tower and back home again.
Kyra D. Gaunt, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Music
New York University
PUMP IT UP
Re Jennifer Black's "Roe v. Wade, Then v. Now" [January 8-14]:
You may be interested to know that there is a small but growing contingent of feminists who consider themselves pro-life. If I believe women should have equal rights, equal pay, equal standing, and everything else feminists believe, but don't agree that abortion is a right, am I not a feminist?
Personally, I believe feminists should give more attention to the struggle of women who have children and are discriminated against. As noted in the article, the ratio of childless women execs to males who have kids is 1:1. Perhaps we'd do better to look into why so many successful women who wanted children were unable to do so because of their careers, when men were not forced to make the same sacrifice. Just recently, I was denied further training at my job because I requested two short breaks to use my breast pump. Why is there no feminist outcry over that?
Babylon, New York
Jennifer Block replies: No matter how much outrage we may share over unequal pay and backward office culture, those who place the fate of unwanted fetuses above the survival of living, breathing women are simply not feminists.
WIN ONE FOR THE KIPER
Allen St. John claims that, prior to last season, the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes franchise "had exactly one NHL playoff series in its less-than-glorious past" ["A Year of Self-Parity," January 1-7]. As a longtime Whaler fan (and no-time Hurricane fan), I can tell you that the Whalers made the playoffs in 1979-80 and then in every season from 1986 to 1992. If St. John meant that the franchise had won only one playoff series before last season, then he was correct, but he might have been clearer about it.
Also, while I'm on my cursory fact-checking jag, I should mention that ESPN's football analyst is Mel Kiper (not "Kuiper") Jr. It's possible that St. John had former major league second baseman Duane Kuiper on the brain.
BEG YOUR PARDON
Re Nat Hentoff's "Liberty's Court of Last Resort" [January 29-February 4]:
I'm a part-time fan of Nat Hentoff, which is to say I'm a conservative. I would assume that Hentoff is comfortable with the fact that the president may pardon anyone for any offense. One could argue that if the president has this degree of power, then all laws are meaninglessthat when one individual may unilaterally decide who is guilty or innocent, there exists a dictatorship.
But I have not heard this argument seriously made. Hentoff, however, makes a similar one when he, as he did in this column, drafts freedom's obituary on the basis that the president may imprison a man indefinitely with equal autonomy.
Allow me to argue this: Just as the pardon (in the hands of an honorable person) serves as justice's last resort, so does this new wartime presidential authority.
East Meadow, New York
Nat Hentoff replies: No one person should have such absolute power for anything. Remember Bill Clinton?
BEANS AND RICIN
George Smith's comments about ricin are, unfortunately, misinformed. ["Ricin, the Unproven Poison," Weapon of the Week, January 15-21]. Ricin makes up 1 to 5 percent by weight of castor beans. That's one to five grams per hundred grams of beans, a trivial amount. Unfortunately, the 100 percent lethal dose of ricin is 60 micrograms.
Given the murderous lunacy of these extremists, and the resources they are willing to devote to their evil cause, it would not be at all surprising for them to have found workable solutions to the extraction and delivery of ricin as a weapon of mass murder.
Re Andrew Aber's "Close-Up on Bay Ridge" [January 29-February 4]:
Even though I live abroad, I grew up in and still have close connections to Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. I would like to know who your sources were who claim that "vodka and caviar have replaced anisette and anchovies as the mobster food of choice in Bensonhurst."
Unless Bensonhurst changed overnight, I question that the ethnicity of the place I visited a month ago has changed from Italian to Russian. Granted, there's a large Russian community, but the Italians are still prevalent in the area.
In regard to Bay Ridge, how could you not have mentioned Hinches in your Best Restaurants category? It's only a diner, but it's a Bay Ridge legend!
THE OFFICIAL STORY
Re Richard Goldstein's "Target: Martin Luther KingA New Look at America's Most Unresolved Assassination" [January 8-14]:
Goldstein pays worthy tribute to King by reminding us of compelling facts. Almost 40 years later, these facts remain shocking, perhaps because most television and newspapers ignore them.
Halfway through his piece, Goldstein even refers to an "official explanation" of the King assassination, as supported by skeptics such as Gerald Posner. The fact is that the last "official" reopening of these cases and "official" investigations were done in 1979 by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which questioned the trial of the mentally retarded James Earl Ray.
This 1979 committee concluded that Ray probably got help from at least his brothers, if not from a wider conspiracy. Why, then, are these 1979 findings not the "official" version?
Who decides which version is "official" and which version should be ignored?
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