Hard Cell

I am perhaps too hard-hearted to cry, but after reading Jennifer Gonnerman's standard-setting article "Roaming Rikers" [December 19], I felt that tears were called for. It's just that, after 10 years of imprisonment, including many months in solitary confinement (once for speaking with a reporter), they wouldn't flow. Clearly, something inside me is broken. And it must have broken in the last 10 years because, before prison, I could cry for horribly sad things.

While society will, regrettably, always need prisons, we don't need prisons from which people exit worse off—more angry, more violent, less human—than they were when they entered. We don't need prisons where, to take an example from "Roaming Rikers," the warden eliminates 94 of 105 counseling positions while spending an additional $7.6 million on security equipment of dubious utility (two armored personnel carriers!). Nearly all of the people at Rikers eventually will be released. If the only things they learn during their incarceration are more lessons in violence, it doesn't take a genius to figure out what's going to happen when they get out.

James B. Nicholas
Mid-Orange Correctional Facility
Warwick, New York

Sour Dough

Francine Russo's short review of Bread and Puppet Theater's The Heathen Nativity ["Holiday Not in Cambodia," December 26] was irksome not simply because of its shallow condescension—"The bread, at least, is fresh"—but because it was ill informed. As a onetime member of the troupe, I am quite familiar with reviewers' consternation about its persistently political drama. However, as a theater historian, I would prefer better-informed criticism.

Russo writes that Bread and Puppet "travel from their communal farm in Vermont and touch down here in a time bubble." In fact, the theater works all over the world. In the past year alone, Bread and Puppet was in residence for five months at the Expo 2000 World's Fair in Germany, performing daily giant-spectacle critiques of globalization. In 1999, it was a major presence in the pivotal anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle. In the July 25, 2000, Village Voice, both Richard Goldstein and Andrew Boyd noted how much the revival of political street spectacle is connected to Bread and Puppet's work.

Bread and Puppet is part of the older generation of avant-garde theaters and is beyond positioning itself as young, hip, and ironic. But as the Bush era begins, there's much to be gained from the theater's work, which will be on the boards and in the streets in the years to come.

John Bell

Green Gaze

As the recent Green Party candidate in New York's 8th Congressional District and a proud lavender Green, I would like to respond to Richard Goldstein's "The Year in Queer" [January 2]. In the article, Sean Cahill, research director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Policy Institute, is quoted as accusing Ralph Nader of running a "two-tier" campaign that relegates civil rights to the back burner. On the contrary, Nader has spoken passionately on the issue of civil rights, which often is usurped by corporate power—a situation that the corporate-financed Democratic Party no longer seems to object to.

In addition, to write, as Goldstein does, that Nader has made it hip to be "a social conservative of the left" is the height of ignorance. I would remind Goldstein that the Green Party's platform on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered issues is much more progressive than the Democratic Party's. Furthermore, Ralph Nader supports gay marriage and Al Gore does not. The self-appointed leadership in our communities would like us to blindly believe that the Democratic Party is our only home, but the truth of the matter is the Green Party is a more sincere, more progressive, and more friendly choice.

Dan Wentzel

Richard Goldstein replies: I have no doubt about the Green Party's support for gay rights. It's Nader's commitment I raise questions about. His cavalier attitude toward the courts in a Bush administration is a good indication of the priority he places on this issue. His "passion" for civil rights has never been reflected in any actual work on that front. The Greens will eventually discover that, when it comes to fighting racism, sexism, and homophobia, Nader is hors de combat.


Nat Hentoff's latest account of the progress of Bush v. Gore through the court system ["Is the Supreme Court Disgraced?" January 9] applauds the dissenting judges of the Florida Supreme Court and catalogs a variety of law professors whom Hentoff accuses of partisanship but omits the opinion of the heavily conservative United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. That Court saw the Florida dispute for the unadulterated question of state law that it was, and ruled accordingly. Hentoff apparently intends to use the media-hound segment of the professoriat as straw men in this debate. A more useful focus would be on why the lower federal court rejected the Bush claim out of hand.  

James M. Doyle
Boston, Massachusetts

Nat Hentoff replies: The 11th Circuit had the Bush equal-protection claim before it twice and did not rule on the merits, saying it was not ripe for judgment. But the U.S. Supreme Court decided otherwise. As for the "unadulterated question of state law," this was a federal election and the U.S. Supreme Court previously has overturned state election laws a number of times as in the landmark "one-man, one-vote" cases.

Moody Blues

Carla Spartos, in her article "Sarafem Nation" [December 12], included a great deal of extremely important material, much of which the public would not otherwise have. However, when she interviewed me, I documented the fact that researchers have provided powerful evidence that the alleged mental illness "Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder" (PMDD) does not exist and that no high-quality research has supported the claim that it does. In her article, she omitted that crucial information and simply said that whether or not PMDD is a real entity is subject to debate.

Furthermore, Spartos stated that in the previous and current editions of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, PMDD is placed in an appendix for categories requiring further study. But she failed to mention the extremely important fact that it is also unwarrantedly included in the main text for allegedly well validated categories.

Finally, I did not utter a remark which was attributed to me—that in a recent review of relevant research headed by Dr. Jean Endicott of Columbia University, "There was nothing that looked at the validity of the PMDD construct." In fact, that review's pro-PMDD authors cite some relevant articles, but they themselves have previously described those articles as methodically poor. All of this matters because it leads to the unjustified and often harmful drugging of women who are rarely mentally ill but who have real problems that need to be noticed, respected, and solved.

Paula J. Caplan
Providence, Rhode Island

Calling Jesse Jackson

Peter Noel's article "Is Jesse for Sale?" [January 2] cleared up at least two mysteries for me. First, I have long wondered how Jesse Jackson lives so large with no visible means of income: no pulpit, no congregation, but lots of media opportunities. From what Noel writes, it appears that Jackson has big corporate donors who sponsor his programs in exchange for keeping the lid on in the black community. A rather interesting quid pro quo. Second, I wonder (a) how Jackson could get through to Bush by phone and (b) why Bush took the call. Finally, learning that Jackson is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations is astonishing. Isn't it ironic that those closest to us are in the best position to stab us in the back?

Jennifer Bell
Sacramento, California

Discriminating Taste

I applaud Norah Vincent's January 2 Higher Ed column ["Welcome to the Club: Discrimination Is Sometimes Right"]. As an African American lesbian activist, I question the battles that gay and black so-called leaders regularly insinuate themselves into. As an administrator at a local university, I am also concerned that colleges and universities increasingly see being "politically correct" to be part of their mission.

As a human being, I'm more concerned about the black, gay, or lesbian person who is beaten to a pulp because someone doesn't like his or her skin color or sexual orientation than the fact that, for example, gays are banned from the St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Let's start tackling some of the problems within our communities, i.e., black-on-black crime and discrimination in the gay community. Why in the name of civil rights do we insist on limiting the rights of others while demanding respect and dignity for ourselves?

Ingrid E. Barnes
Tuckahoe, New York

Lindsay's Legacy

John Lindsay's death late last year reminded me of the many indirect ways in which his tenure as mayor of New York touched my life. I met him once, when I interviewed him in 1982, and found him to be a courtly, genial, and articulate man, well able to provide a defense for his mayoralty.

Having grown up in a neighborhood in Queens that wasn't quickly plowed out after the so-called "Lindsay Blizzard" of February 1969, I could have considered him a foe. But that was impossible once I saw a member of his administration intercede to get cops to cut a break for a college kid smoking what might've been marijuana in Central Park one day in the spring of 1970; or after Mario Procaccino, Lindsay's Democratic opponent in 1969, came into my neighborhood for a campaign appearance that looked and sounded more like a Mussolini rally.  

Lindsay's administration was the first I was aware of that had people who seemed to care how I, as a teenager, felt about major issues, whether it was the Vietnam War, the environment, or civil rights.

Those who blamed Lindsay for the fiscal crisis forgot that New York essentially had been a financial basket case for generations. A similar disaster might have befallen his Republican predecessor Fiorello La Guardia a quarter century earlier had it not been for the outbreak of World War II, which resulted in huge federal outlays pouring into the city.

John Lindsay may not have been the best administrator, and he had blind spots that no one thought of at the time (the Stonewall riot took place during his administration). But he had a vision of a better New York than the one he found, and he made some of it possible; he certainly left behind a legacy that one can think of with more fondness than anything O'Dwyer, Wagner, Beame, Koch, or Giuliani have bequeathed to the city.

Bruce Eder

Missed The Boat

I read with considerable interest your sportswriters' poll ["Moments of Glory," January 9]. Even allowing for a certain amount of bias from those of us who reside on the eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean, it seems quite remarkable that British rower Steven Redgrave's achievement in winning his fifth Olympic gold medal should warrant not a single vote in either your "Male Sports Figure of 2000" or "Best Sports Moment of 2000" categories. Since no one has ever come close to this sort of achievement in an endurance sport before, it seems surprising that your writers have ignored it. And bizarre as well, since Britain's Jonathon Edwards received two votes for winning gold in the triple jump—a fine achievement, certainly, but scarcely comparable to Redgrave's.

Alex Massie
Edinburgh, Scotland


Due to an editing error, guitarist Ed O'Brien was misidentified as the bassist for Radiohead in Mary Gaitskill's article "See Me, Feel Me" (January 2). Radiohead's bassist is Colin Greenwood.

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