Bravo to Michael Kamber and The Village Voice for framing the Daniel Pearl story in its obvious context ["The Chosen One," March 5]. Call it a reflexive reaction drummed into me by my Holocaust-surviving parents, but when I heard that a reporter with a name like Daniel Pearl was kidnapped by an Islamic fundamentalist group in Pakistan, I immediately started reciting the kaddish. It seems that lack of religious observance didn't save Daniel from Jaish-e-Mohammed, just as Hitler and his henchmen didn't take pains to ask their victims if they had made the morning minyan.
Bottom line: Whether you like it or not, being an American might get you kidnapped in that part of the world, but being a Jew will get you slaughtered. The whitewash by government and the mainstream media is nothing more than a Wolf Blitzer masquerading in sheep's clothing.
I'd like to express my appreciation to Michael Kamber for his take on the murder of Daniel Pearl. It's baffling and disturbing to me that the mainstream media are basically ignoring the blatant anti-Semitism involved in Pearl's kidnapping and killing. I hope that Kamber's article reaches as wide a readership as possible.
"The Chosen One" by Michael Kamber was one of the most brutally straight articles I've seen from the Voice in quite a while. I appreciate its honesty and Kamber's ability to pinpoint the unquestionably anti-Semitic angle of the murder of Daniel Pearl and the pervasiveness of that sentiment in that area of the world: one that, as Kamber notes, has been downplayed throughout this entire ordeal. Thank you.
I was horrified to read Cynthia Cotts's Press Clips column in which she allowed that "maybe in a twisted way" Jerry Falwell "was right" when he suggested that terrorists attacked the United States because "we're" gay ["Ten Questions the Media Can't Answer," February 26]. Cotts then cited a Times of London article, which argued that one result of defeating the Taliban had been the restoration of "gay rights" in Kandahar.
Ms. Cotts would have done well to distinguish pedophilia from homosexuality. Most homosexuals do not want to have sex with underage boys. Those who do are pedophiles, just as men who have sex with underage girls are pedophiles. Equating homosexuality with pedophilia is a hateful, bigoted message. Get it?
THE ENVELOPE PLEASE
I liked Cynthia Cotts's list of "Ten Questions the Media Can't Answer," but she missed one: Where did the anthrax come from? For some time we were hearing that it didn't come from Iraq, and may have come from laboratories within the United States. Now there is speculation in the press that in fact the source was a U.S. government lab. It's imperative that the authorities pursue this just as vigorously as they pursue the sources of foreign terrorism.
Eden Prairie, Minnesota
In Cynthia Cotts's February 26 Press Clips column, she asks the question "How Many Civilians Have We Killed in Afghanistan?" Cotts then states that "no one is officially keeping track." I defy Ms. Cotts to find anyone who will give her a definitive answer. In my opinion, even hinting that there is such a thing as an "official" tally of civilian deaths in Afghanistan is grossly misleading. No such thing exists.
When it comes to accounting for civilian deaths in a country impoverished by decades of war, disease, and poverty, where the burial of innocents frequently happens within hours of their tragic passing, and where reporters from around the world continue to be threatened not only by the reigning lawlessness beyond Kabul, but by the U.S. military as well, in such a country there will never be an "official" tally of civilian deaths. To wish for one is understandable. To wait for one is naive. At best, we can only hope to rely on the painstaking reporting of incidents by eyewitnesses, foreign press who are investigating these incidents, and the foreign aid community, who are witnesses to the destruction of this country.
Laura J. Beatty
San Francisco, California
BELLS AREN'T RINGING
I find it disappointing that Michael Feingold has written not so much a review as a cheap and unnecessary attack against the Roundabout Theatre ["What Price Spirituality?" February 26]. First, while it's true that the Roundabout does feature many productions with well-known film actors, most of these actors started their careers in the theater. Also, An Almost Holy Picture was a last-minute replacement for Assassins after the 9-11 attacks. As a Broadway theater producer, I know that it is extremely difficult to mount a major replacement production in such a short time. And Mr. Feingold's comparisons of $65 ticket purchasers to the victims of Enron were pitiful and in poor taste.
Perhaps next time Mr. Feingold might like to put up several hundred thousand dollars and help bail out a production like this one, but he is probably too busy dealing with his accountant on his 1099 forms from Enron. Hope he made out OK.
James L. Simon
I found Michael Feingold's article "What Price Spirituality?" to be right on in many ways. I'm an employee of the Roundabout Theatre and I'm so glad that they are finally being exposed. They are only out for the money; all interest in producing good or even mediocre theater is lost. I've often wondered, as have many of their employees, how the Roundabout gets away with as much as they do!
Kudos to Michael Feingold for calling it like it is regarding the embarrassing current production of An Almost Holy Picture. I can't recall the last time I had to actually grab the armrest to keep from fleeing the theater.
OUR MUTUAL FRIENDS
James Ridgeway's trashing of 401(k)'s [Mondo Washington, February 26] is more rant and pie-in-the-sky hopes than a realistic assessment of the situation and what needs to be done. To clear up some of the ranting, prior to the "faddish" 401(k) being introduced in the early 1980s, only large, well-established companies and the government were offering their employees retirement plans. Thanks to the 401(k) legislation, smaller companies, which employ the bulk of American workers, are able to give those employees an option for saving toward their retirement.
As to the maligning of the mutual fund industry, again, it is through such funds that smaller employers' 401(k) plans can offer their employees diversified investment options that were formerly available only to large, sophisticated employers (e.g., big business and big government).
What Mr. Ridgeway doesn't address is fundamental reforms that would align 401(k)'s with the interests of employees rather than management. First, allow employees who receive their 401(k) match in company stock to sell that stock, if they so choose, after a certain holding period. Second, require that each plan offer enough investment options so that employees can create a diversified portfolio.
Finally, make sure that the investment administrator's performance is reviewed on a periodic basis.
Joseph P. Murin
I found "What's Wrong With 401(k)'s?" by your Washington columnist James Ridgeway excellent for its measured tones and reasoned content. Being a conservative, I can usually see through your political writers' bias by their use of labels and adjectives, but this one is just right (no pun intended).
Mr. Ridgeway's conclusion that "a real pension doesn't have anything to do with the stock market or whether it's good or bad for a corporation" is correct, but the trick that is not fully addressed in the column is how to achieve this.
Democratic senators Kennedy, Corzine, and Boxer's wanting "to legislate diversification" and the Century Foundation's seeking to "create an independent fund, managed by a new separate government agency" are the knee-jerk types of solutions we've come to expect from politicians. They always know exactly what is best for us, except that they don't. Once the market learns to game the new rules, they'll have to step in to enact new rules all over again. In addition, Social Security, created by legislation with absolutely no actuarial foundation, is not only in danger of going broke but does not even provide enough for a retiree to live with dignitythus the need for other funding schemes like 401(k)'s.
No government-sponsored scheme will ever guarantee all of us a decent retirement. We are on our own.
Adolfo G. Fabregat
Blythewood, South Carolina
As chair of the New York City Commission on Human Rights under David Dinkins from 1990 through 1994, I believe Andy Humm's article on the demise of the city and state human rights agencies could be an important first step in a movement for the rebirth of enforcement of equal-treatment laws ["What Ever Happened to Human Rights?" February 26].
However, this will happen only if leadership from all disenfranchised communities organizes for dramatic change. It must be an effort by all the groups protected by the New York City lawone of the most progressive in the country. Statements in the article attributed to Joe Grabarz, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, to the effect that more money is not needed are the height of cynicism.
To be actively seeking the inclusion of sexual orientation in the human rights law while refusing to advocate for more resources says only that he does not really care about a workable enforcement mechanism. We need real civil and human rights leadership to stand up before the law is rendered even more meaningless. To say we don't need more resources borders on the bizarre and callous.
SILENCE OF THE SHEEP
Kathy Deacon's article on your Web site ["Prevarication Becomes Electric"] is an excellent summary of the dangers posed by EMF radiation. Unfortunately, most Americans are unaware of this health threat due to the reason Deacon stated: the deafening silence in the mainstream media. In the face of such ignorance, The Village Voice would do readers a service if it devoted more space to environmental hazards.
In reference to Chuck Eddy's item about me in the music listings [March 5], in which he says I provide "no clues on [my] demo EP about what exactly 'pokies' are" in my song "Blow Up the Pokies," "or who is supposed to blow them up": Pokies are slot machines (called poker machines in Australia). They are rife in Australian pubs, and have unfortunately replaced most live music in the country, as well as ruining many lives.
Quick, name the much revered combo that reconvened in 2001 to unleash a more impressive comeback than Dylan with more Avenue A guts and grit than the Strokes, more hilarity and hooks than the Fugs (what's up with that, Bob? geez, enough with the geezers already), and more gen-you-whine street cred than Ryan Adams, the White Stripes, and Radiohead combined? Nope, not Depeche Mode . . . jumpin' jack flashpots, it's the Dictators, who obviously didn't have the cash to send enough free copies of "D.F.F.D." to climb above #203 in this year's Pazz & Jop countdown to the ongoing demonization of Ecstasy [February 19]. For shame.
WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS
Re Michael Atkinson's review of Monsoon Wedding, which I saw last November at a festival screening films of the Indian diaspora ["Prosaic Nations," February 26]: Within that context, such details as the film's use of Hindi and English dialogue (often within the same sentence) seemed to be an amusing, dead-on acknowledgment of the pervasiveness of American culture. But after seeing print advertisements for the movie, featuring an image of the groom gazing lovingly at his bride's cousin (a romantic pairing that doesn't occur in the film), I can't help but wonder if the bride was edited out of the ad because the actress who plays her cousin conforms more to Western beauty standards. Atkinson's assertion that director Mira Nair essentially "globalized her own movie" suddenly seems to ring true. American standards conquer all, and there's nothing feel-good about it.
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