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Letters

Good For Tenants

J.A. Lobbia's "Silk Stocking Strategy" [Towers & Tenements, September 5] contains three long paragraphs of criticism by a tenant advocate taking issue with the Tenants Political Action Committee's decision to endorse State Senator Roy M. Goodman for reelection.

We respect the right of other tenant advocates and organizations to disagree with our decision and support different candidates. But Tenants PAC would never vote to endorse any incumbent legislator whose support for the rent laws amounts to "lip service" or who refuses to meet with tenants—two false charges against Goodman. Nor is it true that "when the vote does matter, he goes with the leadership."

During the great rent law fight of 1997, Goodman and Frank Padavan were the only top Republican senators who repeatedly challenged Majority Leader Joe Bruno's plan to phase out all tenant-protection laws in two years. They did this publicly and also in private—in the closed-door party conferences where real decisions are made in Albany. They voted against Bruno on the floor of the senate and opposed him in committee. (They could easily have voted to report Bruno's decontrol bill from the Senate Rules Committee, using the classic cop-out that they would vote against it on the floor.)

If Tenants PAC thought it appropriate to support Republican incumbents who give lip service to tenants, we would have endorsed Guy Velella and Nick Spano instead of raising money to help elect their challengers. Roy Goodman has earned our support.

Michael McKee
Treasurer
Tenants Political Action Committee
Manhattan


Nude For Thought

Thank you for printing Joanna Cagan's "Objects of the Game" [September 5]. As a female athlete and reader of mass media publications like Sports Illustrated and Gear, I have been outraged at the objectification of rising female athletes. I agree with Linda Steiner of the Rutgers Department of Journalism and Media Studies that to sexualize female athletes and treat them as pinups "is a way of cutting women down to size." I hope female athletes will not succumb to media and advertising pressure to take their clothes off.

Sabrina Walheim
Manhattan

Re Joanna Cagan's "Objects of the Game": Only in America would the issue of female athletes posing not fully clothed even be an issue. Because we are still largely unable to separate nudity from sex, these photos become pinups. (Admittedly, their location in men's magazines reinforces this view.) If smart women are making foolish choices, isn't the whole women's movement about their right to do so?

Richard Turner
Fontana, California

Re Joanna Cagan's "Objects of the Game": I'm a 62-year-old male who has been involved with soccer for a number of years. I am currently a referee. The controversy over female athletes posing nude or nearly nude brings out a number of emotions that reflect my feelings as a man, a father, and a soccer enthusiast.

When Brandi Chastain scored the winning goal in the World Cup championship game, I didn't see anything controversial about her removing her shirt in celebration. Male players often do the same thing in similar situations. Chastain is a very gifted athlete, completely involved in her sport. Her reaction was a spontaneous celebration, and that's all. It seems we don't want to think our women athletes are anything less than "ladies" (whatever that is).

I watched an interview in which Chastain discussed the semi-nude photo that recently ran in Gear magazine. Her confidence, her reasons for doing it, and her overall demeanor were impressive. She is a mature, intelligent, accomplished young woman.

Then the father gene kicks in and I begin to think that maybe this wasn't a good idea, even though I am proud of her and all the other players who have made U.S. women's soccer the benchmark of excellence around the world. I come down to the realization that we still carry some strains of the Puritan philosophy in everything we do. Wouldn't it be great if we could just appreciate the accomplishments of men and women without regard to whether they are clothed, unclothed, young, old, black, white, Republican, Democrat, whatever?

George E. Moore
Lexington, Kentucky


Elevated Otis

Ginger Adams Otis's "It's the Supreme Court, Stupid" [September 5] was a terrifically important article! I hope it has the widest possible circulation. Ms. Otis is absolutely right: The future of the Supreme Court is the crucial issue of this election, certainly for reproductive privacy but also for many other economic, social, and political reasons.

Reverend Dr. Phyllis J. Taylor
Wheat Ridge, Colorado


Majority Rules

The article "It's the Supreme Court, Stupid" states that Supreme Court nominees "are approved . . . in the Senate . . . by a two-thirds majority." This is incorrect. Although a two-thirds Senate majority is required to ratify a treaty or convict an impeached official, a simple majority suffices as consent to a judicial nomination.  

Gary Simon
Manhattan


Guide Dogged

In Robert Christgau's August 22 Consumer Guide, he perfectly illustrates the most recent trend in music criticism: turning off our critical faculties and avoiding moralizing at all costs. In his book Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s, Christgau gave the album G N' R Lies by Guns N' Roses an E, his rarely given, bottom-of-the-barrel grade. The reason? The album was full of gay bashing and violence toward women. It was "a call to boycott."

Twelve years later, Christgau says there's "no point moralizing" about Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP and calls on readers to "disable your prejudgment button and you'll hear a work of art. . . ." He gives the album an A.

Eminem's musical talent cannot be denied (I've caught myself humming the chorus to "The Real Slim Shady" more times than I care to admit). But I simply can't get past the abhorrent lyrical content of his songs, and it's sad that there are so many people who are just letting it slide because it's "art," after all. As Nat Hentoff has reminded us, the best disinfectant for hateful speech is sunshine. Why are we leaving Eminem in the shadows?

Jim McGaw
Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Robert Christgau replies: Art isn't merely a matter of musical hooks. For me, Axl Rose's lyrical content is one-dimensional and offensive, while Eminem's is complex and disturbing. One invites you to hate, the other forces you to think.


Kick in Gear

Now that it has dropped below 100 degrees outside (temporarily) here, I can thaw out and compliment Russ Kick on his review of Autoextremist.com [Machine Age, September 5]. Except for a pure love of car design and the fact that I am a weekend window-shopper, I have no ties to the auto industry. But to an enthusiast, this new perspective from insiders certainly helps clarify things. Most interesting has been the site's recent rantings about Daimler's snaking of Chrysler, and how the GM board can possibly sleep at night churning out bland, half-baked product as they continue to lose market share to just about everyone. Thanks for the heads-up.

Dave Muzyka
Houston, Texas


Hard To Swallow

Re "RU Pissed Off Yet?" [September 5] by Sharon Lerner:

Remember DES, "the wonder drug women should wonder about"? That tag line has application to the current scramble to get RU-486, the drug which promises a revolution in abortion, into women's hands.

Mifepristone, one of the drugs involved in this potent chemical cocktail, can cause serious vaginal bleeding. Why is there such an outcry against the FDA proposal to limit its availability to physicians who are trained in its use and have hospital admitting privileges? These restrictions seem strongly pro-woman.

Unfortunately, the "pro-woman" voice easily gets lost in the rhetoric about "rights." Isn't a woman's own life—potentially on the line if she hemorrhages—worth these basic safeguards? And what of the right to life for the unborn woman, no bigger than a grain of rice? If women have no value, any restriction to the profit motive of abortion is suspect. If women matter, we should investigate what the fuss is all about.

Mary Dwelley
Rochester, New York

Sharon Lerner replies: DES, which was widely prescribed to women in the 1940s and '50s to prevent miscarriage, caused gynecological cancers and other medical problems in those women's children. Mifepristone has been used safely by more than 500,000 women in Europe alone and was declared safe and effective by the FDA four years ago. The wait for the drug in this country hardly constitutes a "scramble" and is not about safety. Rather, as Dwelley herself demonstrates, objections are rooted in overall opposition to abortion, which is still legal in this country.


Bloc Liberation

Here we go again—the self-appointed arbiters of the "new tolerance" rising up to enforce their definition of "authentic blackness." Peter Noel's "The Uncle Tom Dilemma" [August 22] illustrates what I mean.

What is the "new intolerance"? It is the attempt to castigate, intimidate, and ultimately silence any black American who dares dissent from the traditional civil rights establishment's orthodoxy. That orthodoxy is: be Democrats; be leftists; abrograte individual responsibility and liberty; possess a paranoid's mistrust of private markets (where wealth is created); and profess an overreliance on government-as-nanny. It is the belief by black liberals that black Americans must be monolithic in their political attitudes and voting habits.  

It is that last point, in this election year, that is sparking renewed totalitarianism in the black community. For black liberals there is reason for concern. Poll after poll indicates that more black Americans are describing themselves as "conservative." They are one of the most church-attending groups in the nation. Many oppose abortion. A significant number support school vouchers, welfare reform, and stiffer penalties for criminals. And many are self-identifying as conservatives and independents, rather than Democrats.

Instead of name-calling and ridicule, why not present differing opinions among black Americans in an honest and forthright fashion? We can debate them with vigor and civility and then let black Americans—indeed all Americans—decide the merits of the arguments.

As General Colin Powell challenged at the GOP convention, "What are [you] afraid of?"

Phyllis Berry Myers
Executive Director
Center for New Black Leadership
Washington, D.C.


Gospel Truth

Interesting review by Robert Cantwell of Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, Volume 4 ["The Ghost in the CD," August 8]. I take issue, though, with his statement that "there are few if any traditional singers, black or white, who can sing gospel songs and secular songs in the same period of their lives." One thinks immediately of singers such as Almeda Riddle, Hobart Smith, Charley Patton, various members of the Watson family, Vera Hall, Doug Wallin, Dock Boggs, Roscoe Holcomb, Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Mississippi John Hurt, Bessie Jones, Uncle Dave Macon . . . and on and on.

Paul J. Stamler
St. Louis, Missouri


Correction

In last week's "Brooklyn Betrayal," by Wayne Barrett, a photograph of Congressman Ed Towns was mistakenly used where one depicting Congressman Major Owens was meant to appear. The Voice regrets the error.


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