Re Nat Hentoff's column speculating that Bill Clinton may be the illegitimate heir of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ["Why Clinton Gets Away With It," February 2]:
There seem to be a few stages in a columnist's career: the first where they struggle to find a voice, and so are largely straightforward and imitative; next, when they find their voice, and make themselves distinctive; and then the voice takes them over, reducing their muse to rhetorical flourishes so detached from reality that they sound for all the world like the rantings on the sides of Dr. Brauner's Peppermint Soap bottles.
It seems, sadly, that Hentoff has joined William Safire and A.L. Rosenthal in the final stage. Neither Safire nor Hentoff can fathom any possible rational reason why the American public supports the president, and so they resort to theories that are increasingly and absurdly grandiloquent. The Masons have not been blamed yet perhaps because that would make too much sense.
Nat Hentoff replies: The clear evidence is that Clinton is a perjurer and that his agents are persistent obstructors of justice. I deal in facts, not speculation. I joined the Voice in 1958. I was just as controversial then.
Nat Hentoff, in a reply in your January 26 letters section, writes: "If a president cannot be removed from office for sending his agents to threaten his disposable women lest they testify against him, then I suppose a member of the Mob as president could not be thrown out of office."
Is Hentoff suggesting the president should be convicted by the Senate based on crimes he has not been charged with based on, perhaps, evidence senators read in a newspaper column? That's an interesting position for a civil libertarian.
In the same reply, Hentoff defends Georgia Republican congressman Bob Barr as someone who "has a strong record on protecting the civil liberties on privacy and has worked with the ACLU to that goal." That may be true, but Hentoff might have pointed out that in 1996 Barr's votes on civil liberties earned him a 0 rating from the ACLU.
Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting
Nat Hentoff replies: As my columns have indicated, there are more than enough affidavits, interviews, and court papers to warrant witness-intimidation charges. Some are in the prosecutors' record, but the cowardly Republicans are afraid to bring them up because of the backlash against the sex material in the Starr Report. As for Barr, the ACLU volunteered his civil liberties support of privacy to me. And that is all I cited. My point was that with the press attacking Barr, it should have at least mentioned one decent thing he has done. By the way, as United States attorney in Georgia, Barr prosecuted brutally racist cops and white supremacist groups.
#1 With A Bullet
I'm a college student at North Carolina State University, majoring in criminal justice. I want to congratulate you on Peter Noel's great article on Ol' Dirty Bastard ["A Bullet for Big Baby Jesus," February 2]. I do believe O.D.B. (Russell Jones) is innocent. I believe the only charge he is guilty of is being black after dark. Despite his criminal record, which does account for a lot of his legal problems, I believe he is a target. I'm not sure about the CIA assassination plot Noel speaks of. I think Dirty is probably overreacting again, but I believe if he had not driven away, he'd be dead. All I hope is that we don't end up with another Tupac situation. If the police can kill famous rappers and entertainers, then killing normal black kids like me will be no problem.
Jarvi Woods III
Raleigh, North Carolina
Pretty Fly For a White Guy
Re Peter Noel's article on Ol' Dirty Bastard: The O.D.B.-and-the-cops thing is bogus. Where I live, cops do the same thing. I get pulled over all the time for no reason. I'm not even black. I got a nice car, tinted windows, and a huge Wu-Tang sticker on the back. Every time a cop is behind my car, I get pulled over. They always have some lame-ass excuse. They pull us out, frisk us, and everything. I'm probably just as paranoid as O.D.B., but not to the point where I think they're going to kill me.
The cops in my town and the surrounding areas especially Boston and its suburbs are so blatantly racist it's scary.
As Noel notes, it's highly suspect that they can charge O.D.B. with possession of an illegal weapon when none was found. If I was Dirty, I would be scared shitless driving around there.
I hope O.D.B. makes it through this okay, but he also has to calm down his shit. Stealing shoes, terrorist threats, stuff like that will get the cops after you.
Y'know, that Christgau kid sure can write ["Dakar in Gear," February 2], but you know what I miss? Raw, spiritually cleansing hostility, that's what. I have no idea what you pay him, but I feel certain it's too little and I am prepared to kick in 25 dollars if he will stop writing such elaborate and laudatory and musicologically sound pieces about West African funk soul bruthas for just long enough to write a whole column cutting on Peter Gabriel. You can tell he wants to; you can just feel it. It would be fun. An accompanying photo montage of Pete's awful hairstyles would be the cherry on top.
P.S.: As it happens, 25 dollars is exactly how much it costs for me to keep my Volvo in Amnesty International stickers on a per annum basis. Coincidence?
Point Arena, California
I found Wayne Barrett's article on Rudy Giuliani a first-rate piece of journalism ["Rudy's White World," January 26]. It's apparent that Barrett wrote the article free of bias and covered some important issues for example, that as a child Rudy cheered for the Yankees [instead of the then recently integrated Dodgers]. Apparently, you can insinuate whatever you want about Giuliani, even if it's as juvenile as that he's a bigot because he once cheered for the white Yankees. Giuliani should be commended for sticking to his beliefs and values. Whether you agree with him or not, his resolve is steadfast. He doesn't sugarcoat issues or feed off public opinion. It's not that Giuliani is without faults; I'm just tired of political journalism that's slanted entirely to either the left or the right.
Thank you for Karen Houppert's respectful article on JoLea Lamot ["Knock-Down-Drag-Out," January 26], a sadly typical story that details some of the difficulties we transgendered people experience in gaining the dignity of being treated as human beings. It is heartening to see our community coming out in such numbers, although disturbing that with new visibility we now hear many stories like JoLea's of being abused, beaten, and discriminated against.
And what's with that headline? Nowhere in the story was JoLea described as a drag performer, and I can think of no reason other than cynical prejudice for that word to be used. Perhaps the headline writer thought the term catchy and hip; it's also limiting and patronizing, and I would expect better of the Voice. Where is your sensitivity?
Must every transgendered person be referred to in terms of "drag"? Straight and gay folk alike wear the drag of their culture every day, and you don't see us making some big deal out of it. Give us a break being TG ain't about clothes.
Sara Davis Buechner
Thank you for Karen Houppert's excellent reporting on the JoLea Lamot case. She got all the names and pronouns right a unique and pleasant treat. Great job!
Mary Ann Horton
As a psychologist who recently decided to leave my practice to pursue another profession, I think Sharon Lerner's column on managed mental health care was excellent ["Shrink Rap," January 26]. One of the primary factors in my decision was that I was tired of everyone else making determinations about my patients. I was talking about this with one of my graduate school professors who said she'd received letters from three of her former students who had stopped practicing in the last year for the same reason. It's a sad comment on the state of managed care when experienced professionals start leaving the field to pursue other careers because they feel powerless.
James B. Luther
After reading J.A. Lobbia's column on the SRO hotels being renovated so that they can be rented to tourists at a higher rate than the tenants currently pay, I think what the landlords are doing is horrible ["Room Disservice," January 26]. They are making money from forcing helpless people out onto the streets and, to top it off, it's not even legal.
I grew up on the Lower East Side when many hotels were occupied by elderly men, so I can understand the situation of the people who live in the SROs. Many of my father's friends were living in those hotels, and, like the people who live in SROs now, I know they would not have been able to afford to live anywhere else if they had been forced to leave. I don't think anybody should have the right to force these people to leave the places they've called home for over two decades, especially a bunch of heartless, lowlife landlords who only want to put a few extra dollars in their pockets.
It was good to see an enormous photograph of alto saxophonist Mike Hashim, one of New York's many talented but underappreciated jazz musicians, in the Voice ["World War II Chic," January 19]. How unfortunate that the caption "Swagger and swing at Coney Island High" did not mention Hashim's name. Granted, the photo was there to illustrate Richard Goldstein's article not a music piece but is that really a good excuse for withholding credit from a deserving musician?
Oddly, an item by James Hannaham in the January 26 Sound of the City goes to the opposite extreme, referring to singer Cassandra Wilson as a "jazz legend." Wilson is a gifted singer, no question, but surely a term like "jazz legend" should be reserved for performers who have been in the business long enough to earn a place in that pantheon.
Whatever happened to the middle ground between anonymity and idolatry?
Once again Michael Feingold has hit the nail on the critical head with his review of Fosse ["Sex Marks the Spot," January 26]. Bob Fosse was a monomaniac whose choreography was rarely integrated into the story of the musical; instead, his choreography added a new element (some would say dimension) to the musical. Feingold is right to complain that this tribute show another bald attempt to cash in on Fosse's gyrations spends far too much time on his late, overtly sexual work and not enough time on his earlier work, which is what made him famous in the first place. Other choreographers, such as Onna White or Gower Champion, are considered by many to be lesser artists because their work reflected the characters, stories, and tones of their shows. They were punished for their restraint. It's nice to see Feingold point out the problems in such commercialistic tripe.
VV Writers Cited
Jennifer Gonnerman has been named a 1999 Crime & Communities Media Fellow by the Center on Crime, Communities & Culture. She will be reporting on issues related to domestic violence while continuing to write about criminal justice for the Voice.
Guy Trebay has been nominated for a GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Award for article "Beyond the Fence: Conjuring the Lives of Martyr Matthew Shepard," which appeared in the November 3, 1998, Voice.
In Elizabeth Zimmer's review of Vaudeville 2000 last week, Laraine Goodman was incorrectly identified as the founder of Pedicabs of New York. George Bliss was the founder; Goodman worked with him in launching the company.
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