Following the publication of Andrew Friedman's feature article about my arrest for selling medical marijuana ["Sacrificial Lamb," March 6], my congregation, my family, and I were deluged by well-wishers. People who learned for the first time of my plight, as well as individuals who were personally helped by my work in the past, called, visited, and sent letters of support.
I greatly appreciate the words of encouragement and want to publicly thank everyone who has been sympathetic to my case. Those who wish to contribute more substantially may send a donation to the "Ezra L." Legal Defense Fund at 1571 45th Street, Brooklyn, New York, 11219.
May the Almighty, who "heals the sick" and "frees the chained," bless us all with love, kindness, and mercy.
Even if I agree that marijuana actually has medical applications, I still have questions regarding the behavior of Rabbi Yitzchak Fried. For openers, where does the rabbi get his weed? Also, what qualifications does he have to screen his clients and assure the community that he is not supplying drugs to young users? More important, why sell marijuana at all if his objective is to "relieve" the pain and suffering of heroin addicts? Finally, given that certain governments have legalized a lesser-strength marijuana for addicts and medical patientsa kind of marijuana light, if you willwhy was the rabbi selling regular-strength shit?
Christopher A. Assad
FRIED AT LAST
Having read Andrew Friedman's story on the arrest of Rabbi Yitzchak Fried, I am shocked that this poor man of G*d was victimized by the drug war. I am glad that I left New York City many years ago. I now live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the voters have legalized medical pot and pot laws are seldom enforced. It is time to stand up against government oppressionthere is no "drug war," just a war on the American people. Free Rabbi Fried! Legalize medical pot now!
CUTTING IT CLOSE
I applaud Ward Harkavy for the article about the fellow in Arkansas castrated by Clinton cronies ["The Castration of Wayne DuMond," March 13]. I have been sick at heart for the last eight years, not so much over President Clinton as over the failure of the mainstream media to report events such as this. As Harkavy points out, DuMond was not only systematically refused justice, he also had his genitals mutilated and his home burned down.
I have one question, however: Will we only learn about Senator Hillary Clinton's true ideology and behavior after she leaves public office, or will courageous publications like the Voice start to tell us the truth now, before it's too late?
It was troubling to learn that Peter Noel ["If I Must Die," February 27] was collaborating on a book with Khallid Abdul Muhammad, a man who not only called Jews "bloodsuckers" (as Noel notes), but who also defended Hitler and the Holocaust in a 1993 speech given at Kean College in New Jersey. Noel is only one among a number of progressive blacks who have been all too eager to praise Muhammad both before and after his death and discount the fact that he willingly defended and rationalized genocide. Do progressive blacks think they ought to overlook this aspect of Muhammad's persona because he was a "brother"?
In contrast to the moral myopia of many progressive blacks (and whites), Minister Louis Farrakhan's decisive public rebuke of Muhammad was an exemplary act of leadership. Is there any doubt that if the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were alive both would have decried Muhammad as a reactionary whose attitude toward other minorities was an insult to our common humanity, and a potentially corrupting influence on the spiritual identity and dignity of African American people?
Re Peter Noel's "If I Must Die": It is my belief that Khallid Muhammad was assassinated from within his organization by government agents. Given the type of man that Muhammad was, the threat that he posed to the government, and the circumstances surrounding his death, I find it very ironic that his organization conducted no public investigation of possible political foul play. To further support my theory, note that when activist-attorney Alton Maddox and researcher Steve Cokley appeared on Al Sharpton's Sharp Talk radio program and suggested the possibility that Muhammad died from unnatural causes, Muhammad's organization uninvited them from the funeral.
B. S. Najieb
Richard Goldstein's insightful piece "Diagnosis: Artist" [February 27] seemed to miss one salient point about the portrayal of artists in movies: People like Reinaldo Arenas and Jackson Pollock make excellent film fodder precisely because they are larger-than-life characters. If they had only gone through the usual years of dues-paying leading up to eventual success, who would bother to script a movie about their lives?
Their excesses make their stories worth telling and, as Goldstein points out, seem to be justified by their art. The art and entertainment industry is sadly littered with failures and loons, but the ones who manage to make a mark with their work and make the tabloids are going to be the ones who are canonized on celluloid. As such, a script about Mark Rothko isn't going to be as sought after as a script about Salvador Dalí. The unfortunate consequence may be that the general moviegoing public is going to have greater regard for these extravagant artists over ones who are "boring."
Chisun Lee's article on City Councilwoman Margarita Lopez ["Margarita Says She Knows Best," February 27] ends with Lopez saying, "I didn't come to this job to be a coward." I think this sums up her political life, whether the issue is term limits, housing, fighting for Charas/El Bohio, or taking on exploitative greengrocers.
My union has been involved with community groups in the Lower East Side who have worked to rid the neighborhood of sweatshop-like conditions in the greengrocery industry. Lopez has been instrumental in the formation of union contracts that have helped workers in these stores receive better wages, benefits, and working conditions. These workers are recent immigrants and are among the most underpaid and exploited in the city.
If Lopez has taken a stance against term limits, I am sure that she has come to this position after reflection on how best to help people in her community, not because she has landed a well-paying job. Having her as a member of the City Council has helped make this body one that responds to the needs of the people in the Lower East Side.
Manager, Local 169, UNITE
Editor's Note: Ernesto Jofré passed away on March 5. He had been battling cancer for several months.
As a journalist at the Columbia Daily Spectator, I can't let Nat Hentoff's irrational criticism of Columbia University's journalism school ["Gag Order on Future Reporters," February 27] go uncontested. An e-mail sent to students did indeed tell them that Al Gore's lectures here would be "off the record." On this basis, Hentoff claims students were "unequivocally instructed that they were under a gag rule."
As Hentoff should know, requesting that a speaker's private remarks not be quoted as if made to the public is widely considered the prerogative of any potential journalistic source. This voluntary point, common in journalistic ethics, shares nothing with the draconian "gag rule" image that Hentoff conjures up. Hentoff mentions that Associate Dean David Klatell said the notion that the e-mail established a gag order was "mistaken," but then Hentoff dismisses this as spin and repeats the mistake.
I love seeing Hentoff's ire turned toward censorship and free speech issues, but I hate to see him substituting his own chutzpah for issues of actual substance, especially when the Spectator, in its own reporting on the issue, got it right the first time.
Columbia Daily Spectator
Nat Hentoff replies: If this policy was not instituted only for Gore, why did Dean Tom Goldstein tell the February 9 Wall Street Journal, after objections from students and the press, "We had no intention of preventing students from talking to the press afterward." And, if this is standard journalism ethics, then why did the other journalism schools at which Gore is lecturing refuse to make his comments off the record?
DANCING IN THE DARK
While I certainly enjoyed reading Deborah Jowitt's flattering review for the bopi's black sheep performance at Danspace ["Hit the Deck," February 27], I'm sure that someone out there was less than thrilled by it. Deborah Abramson, one of the "excellent dancers" that Jowitt refers to, must have been quite chagrined to see that her performance was attributed to "Deborah Abrahamson." She, like many other performers, put in months of hard work to prepare for the performances. A simple check of the program could have confirmed the correct spelling of her name.
Elizabeth Zimmer replies: Deborah Jowitt did check the program, but misread Abramson's name; other recent errors on the dance page include Jowitt's misstatement of the name of Twyla Tharp's new Mozart Clarinet Quintet K. 581, and the dimensions of Tharp's new studio100 by 65 feet ("Flying Blind Into Brooklyn," February 20), and my failure to register, in my Footnote about Robert Tracy's book on Isamu Noguchi (March 6), the fact that the sculptor died in 1988.
Michael Feingold is extremely well-informed on many subjects, so I was gob-smacked by his blithe assertion ["Over 30," February 27] that "nobody knows why" the number 30 is journalese for "the end." When I worked for the Fleet Street newspapers back in the 1970s, it seemed that everyone knew the reason for this piece of typographic shorthand.
In the days of hand-set type and manual typewriters and Teletypes, a reporter would type "XXX" at the end of each news piece to mark its finish. However, because there was no correction fluid, the fastest way to delete a typo was to type "XXX" over it. This caused confusion, so to make the "end" message absolutely clear, reporters and rewrite staffers stopped using "XXX" and used its Arabic-numeral equivalent instead. To avoid further confusion, the custom began of bracketing the number. The sequence of characters "-30 -" is recognized to mean "end of story" and cannot be mistaken for anything else, since this sequence has no other meaning.
Fergus Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Ben Osborne did wonderful work in kicking the New Jersey Nets when they're down in his article "Net-Zero at the Half" [February 27]! Why didn't he mention the George Steinbrenner dig that five reporters could beat the Nets?
Fact is, their All-Star center Jayson Williams has retired, starting guard Kerry Kittles hasn't played a game, leading rebounder Jamie Feick has missed over half the season, and star forward Keith Van Horn hasn't been healthy. Kenyon Martin, Kendall Gill, and Lucious Harris have also been injured.
Why not take Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, Latrell Sprewell, Allan Houston, and Glenn Rice away from the Knicks and see how well that team performs?
In an item discussing the purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes by Wayne Gretzky's ownership group [Jockbeat, February 27], the Voice wrote: "And no, they weren't really serving fried cactus. That's an old gringo joke, which is just one more thing you probably never expected to get from the NHL." FYI, nopalitos are fried cactus, served as a side dish or in tacos. While they may not be available at Chi-Chi's or Arizona 206, you can find them in the more authentic taco joints throughout the Southwest.
Peter M. Kelly
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