Of the 57 critics chosen to participate in "Take 3: The Third Annual Village Voice Film Critics' Poll" [January 8], only nineor as many as 12 if I've misjudged some first namesare women. This figure is shocking, and a gross misrepresentation of women in this city who are professional film critics and write about film regularly.
Those responsible for this selection have been spending too much time in the dark.
Film Editor Dennis Lim replies: As J. Hoberman explained in his introduction, participating critics were drawn mainly from alternative weeklies, online publications, and film journals nationwideand were not meant to represent the city's "professional film critics." (The New York Film Critics Circle, an organization that actually does represent the city's professional film critics, has a smaller percentage of women members than our survey.) It's also misguided to assume that the demographic of the writers invited corresponds exactly to those who voted.
OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS
The headline for Sylvana Foa's "Open Letter From Israel to American Tourists" [January 8] asks: "Where the Hell Are You?" We are not in Israel, she writes, showing "solidarity" with the Jewish state. She is right about that.
I am an American Jew who has visited Israel a dozen times over the past 16 years. I am not going again until Israel announces that it is leaving the West Bank and Gaza and dismantling the settlements. I am not going for precisely the reason that my parents boycotted Franco's Spain and for the reason I would not have visited South Africa under apartheid. I do not want to send a message of American Jewish solidarity. I want to send precisely the opposite message. Every empty hotel room is a reminder to Israel to get serious about peace.
Sylvana Foa appeals to Americans to visit Israel to help relieve the 9.4 percent unemployment rate there, and to support the state of Israel. If American tourists are needed to relieve Israel's 9.4 percent unemployment rate, how much more must they be needed on the West Bank and in Gaza where, as a result of Israeli rule, the unemployment rate is 50 percent?
As for supporting Israel, Foa seems to be aware of the answer to her own question. Israel's treatment of Palestinians is as much a turnoff as was the apartheid rule of South Africa. Under Israel's policy, Palestinians are effectively barred at army checkpoints from "touring" their own country.
Theodore W. Allen
Sylvana Foa's "Open Letter From Israel to American Jewish Tourists" was interesting, but cry on the shoulder of someone who wants to hear it. New York City is staggering along too, and we are dealing with it the best we can. I sure as hell won't go to Israel anytime soon. I may be safer on their airlines, but that is about it. Being lucid and making wise decisions about personal safety is not cowardly or unpatriotic. Neither is deciding not to run up credit card debt to combat terrorism.
Thank you so much for Alisa Solomon's informative article on U.S. aid to Israel and the movement among Jewish and Palestinian American groups to stop or condition military aid upon ending Israel's illegal occupation ["Stop American Billions for Israeli Bombs," January 1]. As an American Jew, I appreciate your efforts to educate Americans about our complicity as U.S. taxpayers in supporting this "spirit-killing" (in Phyllis Bennis's words) occupation. When we can convince our legislators to pressure Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders, evacuate settlements, share Jerusalem, and make accommodations for some Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and for others to be compensated, then and only then will Israel and Palestine know real security and peaceand only then, as progressive American Jews, will we realize a significant step in our Tikkun Olam, or healing of the world.
Alisa Solomon lives in a country the vast majority of which by treaty belongs to the Native Americans and to which she has no historic ancestral claim. She is part of an occupation forcea Western imperialist colonization. This may not seem to be the immediate problem that Ms. Solomon is so angered by in Israel, because here we have nearly wiped out the Native American tribes.
Ms. Solomon is upset by Israelis who, unlike her, actually have an ancestral claim to land on which they are living, and legitimate reasonsof self-preservationfor their "treatment" of Palestinians, as opposed to the greed that has led us to decimate the Native Americans.
Alisa, I demand that you end your occupation of native lands! Out now! End the occupation!
Long Island City
"The building of homes (i.e., Jewish settlements)" is not a "terrorist act" [letter, Mark Lavine, January 1]? The brutal and bloody theft of an occupied, oppressed people's land and the attempted liquidation of their sovereignty, nationhood, and very national identity is not terroristic?
To the contrary, what could be more terroristic? The Jewish people, with their own long history of persecution and oppression, ought to recognize this racist, persecutory ploy for what it is and thoroughly repudiate the colonialist, expansionist scheme of war criminal Sharon and his complicitous U.S. backers.
Nat Hentoff's column "The Patriotism Enforcers" [January 8] was horribly lopsided in its argument against reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. Hentoff's position appears to be that the pledge should not be recited at all because that might be McCarthyist, and makes the kids who choose not to stand feel left out. However, society cannot function if we are forced to appeal to the lowest common denominator. The fact remains that most students support the values and ideals expressed in the pledge, and to deny them their right to express that support of their country is fascist. Let the children who disagree (or whose parents disagree) sit. If Hentoff is concerned with how other children will behave, then improve the quality of the history and political science classes so that all children know about the privilege to conscientiously object. The privileges of the few cannot be defended if they trample upon the rights of the many.
Nat Hentoff replies: I wrote about the Daily News and New York Post editorial writers' insistence that those who object to compulsory flag salutes are unpatriotic. That would include the Supreme Court, which ruled that there should be no orthodoxy of individual belief or conscience in this country. That is anti-fascism.
Re Nat Hentoff's "The Patriotism Enforcers": It thrills me to pledge allegiance to the American flag. Anyone who was alive during World War II will know how I feel. I just don't think we need a law requiring the pledge.
The post-September 11 flag-flying enthusiasm can be a demonstration of patriotism, but I believe patriotism does not begin or end with waving the flag. I believe patriotism is best demonstrated by defending what our nation and our Constitution stand for.
It might be instructive for the Pledge of Allegiance enforcers to ponder that the president of the United States takes an oath of office, as prescribed in the Constitution (Article II, Section I, Clause 8), which states: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." We might note that the president swears to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States"; he does not swear to protect and defend the American flag. There is no mention of the American flag in the Constitution. The American flag is a symbol we have come to love and are proud to have as a symbol of our democratic form of government. But it is the Constitution that we, and our president, must "preserve, protect and defend" to the best of our abilities.
Waldwick, New Jersey
I am writing to correct a serious misimpression that Cynthia Cotts created with her recent Press Clips column on The American Prospect, my former employer ["Bob Kuttner's Prospect: How Not to Run a Liberal Magazine," January 1]. The column stated that "former Kuttnerites Jonathan Cohn, Jonathan Chait, and Jason Zengerle left to work for The New Republic" and that "at least some of it has to do with [Prospect co-editor Robert] Kuttner." This is, Cotts says, part of "a suspicious pattern of turnover that has taken place in the past few years."
There are several problems here. For starters, Jonathan Chait and Jason Zengerle held one-year, entry-level positions at the magazine. They left the Prospect because these internships had ended. As for me, I left the Prospect after working there for five years, a veritable eternity in this business, primarily because I was eager to try something new. I cannot speak for other Prospect employees. But I can tell you that I left, after serving as executive editor, with warm feelings toward both the magazine and its editors, including Bob Kuttner, who played an instrumental role in my education as a journalist. It is one reason that I remain on the Prospect's masthead, proudly, as a contributing editor.
I'm sorry Ms. Cotts didn't contact me beforehand. I would have been happy to set the record straight on these matters.
Jonathan Cohn, Senior Editor
The New Republic
Cynthia Cotts replies: In reporting that Chait, Cohn, and Zengerle had all left the Prospect for The New Republic, I tried to distinguish them from staffers who had left citing their dissatisfaction with Kuttner. Indeed, I noted that in some cases, "it's natural for staffers to move on."
Thanks for Richard Barr's article "Giuliani = La Guardia? NOT!" [January 8]. Comparing Fiorello La Guardia to Rudy Giuliani, there seems to be a mistaken impression that Rudy was a real crime fighter in going after the Mafia, while La Guardia concerned himself with slot machines and organ grinders. Who do you think owned those slot machines? La Guardia was no joke when it came to fighting crime. He appointed a police commissioner by the name of Valentine who went after mob-run slot machines and various other criminal activities. In fact some 3000 dirty cops were fired by Valentine, with La Guardia's support, to clean up the force. Rudy talks the talk, but La Guardia went after crime, the mob, police brutality, and corruption at the same time. Rudy is no La Guardia, you got that right.
Julian Dibbell's cerebral review of Victor Sperandeo and Alvaro Almeida's novel Cra$hmaker was entertaining, and he puts the book in good company by comparing it to classics like Atlas Shrugged ["The Goldbug Variations," January 8]. But I won't let his highly crafted prose stop me from taking exception to his statement that this book contains "hidden truths that can never quite be confirmed."
To his credit, Mr. Dibbell gets to the heart of the matter by noting our Constitution's "enshrining gold and silver as the exclusive coin of the realm." This truth is not "hidden." And this truth can easily be "confirmed" by simply reading the revered document that is supposed to be the highest law of the land. What Cra$hmaker does is provide the means for thinking Americans to learn about money, while having fun doing it, because Cra$hmaker is an entertaining novel that is also informative. And its conclusion gets down to one simple truth. There is an incontrovertible difference between money and money substitutes, meaning that gold is different from dollars.
There are different ways to achieve an intended purpose. The Founding Fathers went down one road, and we stayed on it for nearly 200 years. In 1971, we went in the opposite direction when President Nixon abandoned the gold standard, subjecting everyone to the unconstitutional monetary system that has been imposed on America ever since. Anyone interested in learning why there was such an abrupt change of direction would do well to read Cra$hmaker.
James Turk, Managing Director
North Conway, New Hampshire
As the author of Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies, I was pleased with the positive review by Francine Russo ["The Reel Deal," January 1], but there are a few errors that should be noted. I worked on the PBS New York series with Ric, not Ken, Burns, and there are 328, not 270, illustrations in the book. In addition, the credit for the author's photo was incorrect; it was taken by Gina Conte.
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