Winging It

Re Donna Ladd's article on John Stossel ["Cyberfugitive," September 26]: I don't believe I have seen such slanted reporting since I perused the Daily Oklahoman this morning. Ladd focuses on one error, for which Stossel apologized, and his connections to so-called "right-wing" organizations. As for the mistake he made, Stossel's forthright apology is far more admirable than the stonewalling and dissembling that many in the public eye would engage in. And Ladd's focus on his politics shows this is what truly offends her.

Libertarians don't use the old one-dimensional, left-right scale Ladd is still using. We consider Stossel neither left nor right. We consider Stossel, and ourselves, to embody the best of what is often considered the right and the left. Ms. Ladd may disagree, and we would defend her right to express her opinion and to continue to write slanted articles based on an outdated political spectrum. However, she should be aware that her political viewpoint shows exactly what she claims troubles her about Mr. Stossel.

Christopher Powell
Libertarian Candidate for the
Oklahoma House of Representatives
Bethany, Oklahoma

Organic Panic

In response to the dismissive statements in the article about John Stossel about the possibility that organically grown vegetables contain carcinogens: We live in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains; we raise much of our own food. We use some pesticides and fertilizers—if we did not, we would not have much of a crop.

However, if you look at history, until very recently all farming was organic, and if you think the average person's life, or life span, was superior to today, you must be reading the history for a parallel universe.

My question is, how is it that you can rant on and on about this issue when you live in a city that has more rats than people, most of you could not feed yourselves without an ATM card, it's hard to tell which is worse, the police or the criminals, and you can't even produce a decent homegrown candidate for senator? Why don't you do something about your own dung heap before worrying about the rest of us?

We're doing just fine, thank you.

Patrick Dowd
Arlington, Washington

Green on the Scene

Many thanks for James Ridgeway's "Crazy Like a Fox" [villagevoice.com, September 20]. I find it downright ludicrous that the "solution" to let Ralph Nader participate in the Bush-Gore debates, as proposed by Fox News, is all those who wish to hear Nader's voice of dissent can hope for. I can only imagine the scenario if Jello Biafra or Noam Chomsky were the Green Party nominee instead. They wouldn't even be allowed audio; they'd have to fax responses on loose-leaf paper!

Are the chips really that stacked against Nader's supporters, and are we really that outrageously manipulated by the powers that be? It would appear so.

Michael J. Piskai
Blue Bell, Pennsylvania


As a longtime Libertarian, I am always amused at the liberal/left take on Libertarians as "right wing" ["Atlas Rising," James Ridgeway, villagevoice.com, September 26]. I suspect that liberals suffer cognitive dissonance when they hear Libertarians call for drug legalization, gay marriage, an end to U.S. neoimperialism, corporate welfare, etc. Of course, this is the same reaction that right-wingers suffer when they hear us call for no gun control, no affirmative action, and an end to the income tax. With critics like this, we must be doing something right. By the way, it is silly to claim that Harry Browne will take votes from Bush. Most Libertarians would never vote for Bush or Gore. Why the hell do you think we are running Browne?

Frederick L. Woeckener
Hyde Park, Vermont

Effacing Race

In response to Carly Berwick's credulous article "The Human Race Machine" [September 26]: Nancy Burson's contribution to "Paradise Now: Picturing the Genetic Revolution," currently at Exit Art, has been getting a lot of favorable publicity, including the positive assessment in the Times and the invasively pedantic billboard at Canal and Church streets mentioned by Berwick.

This is distressing. The Human Race Machine is an interactive computer-graphics installation that invites the user to morph her or his face into one of five "races": Asian, White, Black, Hispanic, or Indian. Although the artist is at pains to tell us there is "no gene for race," her machine—a sleek Soho version of photo-morphing boxes already found in amusement zones in Las Vegas and Coney Island—reinstalls racial typologies that, in the U.S., have been animated by appeals to biological difference. Despite her own naive rhetoric, Burson fixes physiognomic stereotypes as "race"; her model leaves no room to represent the historical and cultural factors that contribute to the pervasiveness of racism and to the political salience of race as a social category.  

The intended message of the installation seems to be that all humans, regardless of race, are the same and if we just learn the appropriate science, the category of race will wither away. It is obvious that this is not so; it gets resurrected in this very work.

Stefan Helmreich
Assistant Professor of Science in Society
New York University

Carly Berwick replies: Helmreich makes some tenable points, which is why I addressed similar arguments near the end of the article, writing that "social critics caution that morphing images could lead to a belief that racial and cultural differences don't matter." However, the Times review was not exactly ringing with praise for Burson's Human Race Machine. Michael Kimmelman wrote, "It doesn't work very well, but the point . . . comes across." Second, Burson's morphing programs predate those "already found in amusement zones" (going back to her Age Machine developed at MIT in the mid 1970s, as was mentioned in the article), so if anything, she repeats not today's amusements but herself.

The Hole Truth

As a prison psychologist, I have to admire Wen Ho Lee's fortitude and determination in withstanding months of solitary confinement ["Not a Chinaman's Chance," Chisun Lee, September 26]. I have seen inmates break down after several weeks of solitary confinement—which is one method used to control errant behavior in prisons and a very effective one indeed. That the government chose such a technique with Lee is outrageous because it appears that it was designed as a form of psychological torture to break a man's spirit.

It is amazing that Lee was able to bear this punishment as long as he did without confessing to the charges of spying. In my experience, most individuals would have said just about anything the jailers wanted just to get out.

Jerry L. Ward
Grants, New Mexico

Never the Twain

In his article "Buying Unhappiness: America's Obsessive Consumption Habit" [VLS, September 26], I wish Rick Perlstein had mentioned Tocqueville's Democracy in America, in particular the chapter "Why Americans Are Restless Amid Their Prosperity." Or Mark Twain's take on popular tastes in Life on the Mississippi. Juliet Schor [author of Do Americans Shop Too Much?] is pious and banal by comparison, but then again, except for Orwell, who isn't?

Shepard Barbash
Atlanta, Georgia

Consumer Guide

Do we shop too much? If we pay $12 for the 102-page book recommended by Rick Perlstein, you bet we do.

Donald Rice

Visions of Sugarplums

Mike Davis's trashing of my book Democracy at Risk ["The Bullshit Economy," VLS, September 26] provides keen insight into why the American left has long been so pathetically ineffective. Pandering to those who've spent a fruitless century angling to grab the reins of aggregate corporate power, he disses all who dare succeed at merely devising ways to share our wealth. Oblivious to the irony, he'd make a perfect poster boy for the clueless left who dream their sugarplums of power while the 400 richest Americans deftly bagged assets equivalent to one-eighth of the GDP. So what if one cyber tycoon has more assets than the poorest 45 percent of Americans? Spread it out? Nope, Davis instead dusts off that old lefty chestnut: power to the people. And what's the point? Power to spread our prosperity? Fergeddaboutit. Power—raw and aggregate. For what? Sugarplums, apparently.

Davis's loopy blather reveals the course that's long left working people out of the economic progress they deserve—while allowing the top 1 percent to skim 42 percent of Wall Street's decade-long gains. He and his ineffectual ilk are content to whine while the rich remain content to line their pockets. And to retain the power Davis so clearly relishes. He renders your readers a fine service by reminding us once again how America's lefty losers earned their renown for posturing that's proven itself powerful only at ensuring continued economic exclusion.

Jeff Gates
Green Party Candidate for U.S. Senate
Atlanta, Georgia

Horse Sense

Whether or not the ASPCA has exploited New York City's carriage horses for donations, as Wista Jeanne Johnson's article "Horse Rules" [September 19] suggests, is not the issue. Anyone who cares about these horses knows that they live a very hard life. Besides, what could be wrong with legislation that regulates healthier temperatures and humidity indexes, larger stalls and safer stables? This is not the 19th century. Horses do not belong in the heavy traffic congestion of New York City, where they breathe in car fumes and are forced to compete with emergency vehicles, taxis, buses, cars, and pedestrians. Over the years, horses have dropped dead on the job and have been involved in traffic accidents where both they and pedestrians have been injured.  

On many occasions, I have witnessed the very common violation of drivers overloading their carriages, squeezing in more people than allowed. I have witnessed a driver allowing his horse to take only a few gulps of water before he jerked her head away, telling his passengers that the horse needed to know who was boss. I have witnessed horses with open sores on their faces from ill-fitting bridles.

The present law requires the ASPCA to order drivers off the street when the temperature reaches 90 degrees, but I have often seen drivers sneaking back out before the temperature dropped. The carriage horse industry has brought these woes on themselves by using their horses as a means to an end—making money.

Elizabeth Forel
Coalition for New York City Animals

Barr Bills

It is not surprising to me that Nat Hentoff found Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia to be one of the fiercest defenders of privacy rights ["Who's for the Bill of Rights?" September 26]. As a board member of the NRA, Barr believes in all of the Bill of Rights.

Thomas Armstrong
Lakeside, California

Living in Oblivion

Re Chisun Lee's article about the hip-hop duo Dead Prez being banned from performing at some New York City clubs ["Taking the Rap," September 12]: So much for free speech. Why is it OK for Marilyn Manson to get onstage and promote depression and glorify death? White boy Eminem can rap till he turns blue about killing his wife and dosing teenagers with illegal drugs. God forbid, an intelligent black artist, with a sense of well-deserved self-pride, comes onstage and talks about struggle and standing up for yourself against injustice. How much more oblivious can the system be to their obsession with oppression?

Shannon Corrigan
Greenbelt, Maryland

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