De-Railing Hitchens

In Richard Goldstein's article on Christopher Hitchens and the left ["Just Our Bill?" March 23], he writes that I "railed" about Hitchens being an "informer."

For the record, what I actually wrote in a Nation editorial and said was that "there is a journalistic (and ethical) presumption against using private conversations with friends for a public purpose without first obtaining permission." Hitchens disagrees and says that he was not turning a friend over to the authorities but rather exposing the authorities. We had a difference of opinion. Nobody railed.

Victor Navasky
Publisher and Editorial Director
The Nation

Richard Goldstein replies: I relied on other published sources for my description of Navasky's remarks. I stand corrected.

'Lifetime' For Leni?

Re J. Hoberman's "A Snitch in Time" [March 23]: I have no problem with Elia Kazan being given a special lifetime achievement award by the Motion Picture Academy as long as Leni Riefenstahl is given the same award at next year's ceremony.

Certainly Riefenstahl's classic account of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Olympia, warrants such approbation, even if it was preceded by her glorification of the Nazi Party in the cinematic nightmare, Triumph of the Will.

Both directors put their careers before their principles, and refused to acknowledge responsibility for cooperating with evil.

Mark Marcus
Los Angeles, California

Reel Life Rats

What J. Hoberman overlooks in his anti-Kazan manifesto, "A Snitch in Time," [March 23]is that neither Elia Kazan nor the House Committee on Un-American Activities, before which he testified, was responsible for instituting or maintaining Hollywood's infamous blacklist.

That responsibility rested with the moguls who ran the studios, and the boards of directors behind them, who were trying to protect their businesses— which were susceptible to public tastes and prejudices. At the time of Kazan's testimony, the U.S. was caught up in the Cold War.

In hindsight, we can debate the justice of the congressional hearings, but the movie executives of that time— many of whom had built their studios up from nothing— felt they had a responsibility to protect their investments and the livelihood of their employees, most of whom had never been Communists or gave a rat's ass about communism.

Bruce Eder

Notion of Islam

All of the possible successors to Minister Farrakhan named in Peter Noel and Karen Mahabir's article "The Pretenders" [March 23] seem feasible, with the possible exception of Benjamin Muhammad.

Benjamin Muhammad (the former Ben Chavis) hasn't been in the Nation of Islam long enough, and he still carries the stigma of the alleged actions that led to his resignation from the NAACP. The Nation has always viewed itself, first and foremost, as a religious organization. Ben Muhammad doesn't have the Islamic background to lead the Nation into the 21st century.

Les Odom
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Underclass Consciousness

J.A. Lobbia's article "Harlem for Whom?" [March 16] succeeds as a nostalgia piece, reminding us of when six-room apartments in Manhattan were $300 a month and cigars were five cents apiece. Happy days they were. However, I am not convinced that government central-planning is the miracle cure Lobbia makes it out to be or that mixed- income neighborhoods are inherently a bad thing. Underclass-only neighborhoods are not the latest rage in urban planning, but this issue is conveniently ignored.

Peter Lawrence

Cooper-Ation Square

Thanks to J.A. Lobbia for her balanced article "Bowery Bummer" [March 23], which accurately presents the political and economic snags that have doomed previous development plans for the Cooper Square urban renewal area.

Yes, three residential households at 295 Bowery and three commercial tenants at that site will have to relocate, but the arguments for demolition are compelling. Preserving 295 Bowery would rob the community of not just 100 new mixed-income housing units, but also about 5000 square feet of new community space.

In other words, preserving the Bowery frontage will result in less new housing and less space for after-school programs for youth, or perhaps the elimination of a proposed day-care center.

It's time for the Bowery tenants to accept that relocation is inevitable, and to negotiate in earnest with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development toward that end.

Steve Herrick
Executive Director
Cooper Square Committee

Protest Power

Guy Trebay's "Disobedience Training," in last week's issue, was a great article. It brought together the many facets of the Diallo killing protests with a frankness I found refreshing, especially after weeks of reading the standard daily reports.

K. Andrew Codrington-Valz


Color of Prejudice

I Appreciated Alisa Solomon's article "A Dream Detained" [March 30], which exposed the confounding behavior many INS officials have toward immigrants seeking asylum. I couldn't help but notice that all of the detainees mentioned in the piece were either from Africa or the Caribbean.

Deborah Alarape

Driving Out Daisies

Reading Guy Trebay's article "Car Park" [March 23], I'm convinced that, after crime, the biggest threat to our quality of life comes from the misuse of automobiles in the city. It is bad enough that cars pollute, maim, and kill pedestrians on city streets. Must we allow their destruction of park bridle paths as well?

No cars other than emergency vehicles should be allowed anywhere but on the designated roadways of Central Park. Unless the mayor stops ignoring the thousands of postcards pleading for a car-free park, we run the risk of having an area intended for pedestrian solitude turned into a dangerous speedway.

Clarence Eckerson

West Indies

Re Eric Weisbard's "The Graying of Indie Rock" [March 30]: Here in lovely Seattle, home of the scene that killed the independent hardcore movement of the 1980s, there was a recent piece in a local rag that asked the same question: Is the indie movement dead?

What was indie music anyway? Poorly skilled bands or bands with poor equipment? Probably a combination. A few good, tiny bands of the mid '90s are now getting picked up by labels and making money. After living the indie lifestyle for more than a few years, they probably deserve it. The bands that haven't made it are reflecting on the good times they had during their careers. This is the natural rhythm of any rock scene; let's hope achieving Bonnie Raitt­style success doesn't become the goal.

Charles Cortalano
Seattle, Washington

Luc & Listen

Luc Sante's review, "Roots of Everything" [March 23], reassured me that shelling out $18.39 for Yazoo's compilation CD Before the Blues— The Early American Black Music Scene, Vol.1 was worth every cent. The history and background Sante provided in his review greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the music.

Lawrence Mcgarvey

Capsule Classical

I miss Leighton Kerner's regular, weekly contributions to the paper. His comments in the listings section are far too brief. I hope he will be doing longer reviews again soon.

Patricia Contino

Good Vibration

David Kushner's article "Shock Value" [March 30], about vibrators and their renaissance on the Internet, was fascinating. The Internet has been a boon to people who want sex toys but are too embarrassed to actually buy them, and for those poor souls who live in states that are too repressed to sell them.

I am glad the Voice is now including articles on technology (if this is indeed technology).

Howard Schwartz
Lawrenceville, New Jersey

Chest Nuts

I am glad Michael Feingold had the balls to admit that Annie Get Your Gun is another emperor with no clothes ["Diversion 2.0," March 16]. How many old-fashioned Broadway musicals will avaricious producers eviscerate before realizing that new shows are more entertaining than bland rewrites of old chestnuts?

In Peter Stone's attempt to be politically correct, he ignored one of the basic rules of theater: musicals thrive on music and die on dialogue. This production was a waste of talent and time.

Lars Thorson
San Marino, California

Mystifying Musto

I was profoundly disappointed by Michael Musto's March 16 column with all its blind items.

Everyone likes to have fun, but what happened to the ballsy writer who tells the dirt like it really is? I read Musto's column because he understands the importance of recognizing our gay glitterati for what they are; he shouldn't be coyly shielding facts behind blind items.

Ross Carson
Cleveland, Ohio

Lowdown On Linux

There are two Linux user groups in New York City— not three, as Austin Bunn reported in his article "Beware All Ye Who Install Linux Here" [March 23]. The LUNY and NYLUG groups mentioned by Bunn deal strictly with Linux. The third group, LXNY, started out as a Linux group, as the name indicates, but is now more of a political-action group promoting many types of free software, not just Linux. A fourth, lesser-known resource for Linux is the AnyNix SIG, which offers support for any flavor of Unix, and especially Linux.

AnyNix Sig has a standing offer that anyone may bring a machine to a meeting and install Linux there or receive postinstallation assistance. There is also a local chapter of a group called UseNix, with annual membership dues, which has been in continuous operation for over a decade.  

Buz Cory

Diss Connected

In Sharon Lerner's HMO Watch column [March 23], she wrote that getting in touch with the Health Insurance Association of America is "a near impossible feat."

I find this puzzling. Ms. Lerner and I spoke on the telephone at least twice, and not once did she indicate that she had a problem getting through. Neither did a Voice researcher, who called me after Ms. Lerner. For future reference, our number is listed in the phone book.

Richard Coorsh
Health Insurance Association of America
Washington, D.C.

Sharon Lerner replies: Coorsh is correct, it was not at all difficult to get in touch with the HIAA. I incorrectly stated that it was. But I also went on to explain that the real difficulty was reaching not Coorsh, whom I spoke with, or the HIAA, but Inginex, the company that now owns the "usual-and-customary rate"­setting business that formerly belonged to HIAA.


  • Due to an editing error, a statement by Khallid Muhammad, head of the New Black Panther Party and New Black Muslim Movement, was wrongly attributed to an FBI agent in Peter Noel's article "Who Is Gunning for Ex-Farrakhan Spokesman?" last week. A sentence in the top paragraph of the second column on page 55 should have read: "Khallid says he argued that 'there are other times when you don't let them know and times when you tell them that no assassination plot exists, and you foment discord and tension and exacerbate tensions, blow them out of proportion and create a deadly climate of mistrust.' "

  • In James Hannaham's review of Richard Maxwell's new play Cowboys & Indians last week, the production designer was misidentified. Jane Cox is responsible for the set, costumes, and lights.

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