‘Voice’ Spreading Paranoia Every Which Way


Letter of the Week
Re “Twisted Spitzer” [December 13–19]: I never thought I would see Wayne Barrett shill for a corrupt politician! As a longtime state employee, Comptroller Alan Hevesi accrues approximately 43 sick days a year; this time is supposed to be used to, among other things, take sick relatives to medical appointments. Even worse, he has earned several million dollars working for CUNY and New York State. He should have used some of it to pay for an ambulette or a car service for his wife. Just because he isn’t as corrupt as other disgraced politicians doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be fired!
James J. Dillon
Long Island City

Itch, itch, itch
I found Mara Altman’s article [“Bed Bugs & Beyond,” December 13–19] callous, snide, and downright naive. As a former bedbug sufferer—it took two years, two moves, and upwards of $10,000 to rid myself of the pests—I was disgusted and horrified by her description of bedbug sufferers as sniveling neurotics, obsessively logging on to their support groups because of paranoia rather than actual parasites.

Altman claims the numbers don’t live up to the hype. Gee. I wonder how many people have to get them before she starts checking her own sheets at night. By the end of my two-year battle with bedbugs, I was in self-imposed exile, sleeping in a sealed bug tent on an inflatable mattress surrounded by double-sided sticky tape. I did not go out at night or on the weekends. I felt guilty going to work for fear of giving them to my co-workers. I spent the holidays alone, because I was paralyzed by the possibility of carrying the parasites to my brother’s home, where he and my two toddler nieces lived. My “paranoia” was not without warrant: Although my on-again, off-again boyfriend and I spent the night together all of once, eight months into the relationship he got bedbugs too, and by default so did his two roommates. It felt great, you know, giving them bedbugs.

Perhaps Altman’s real problem is the inability to wrap her mind around something as insidious and stubborn and hellish as bedbugs. The epidemic is no War of the Worlds fantasy. It’s real.
Michelle Wilson
Jersey City, New Jersey

I just finished reading your article and have to say that I enjoyed the lighthearted sarcasm. All too often in the media, the message is fear, fear, fear. It is nice to see a twist like this on the issue of bedbugs.

There are certainly those who are delusional and those who are overreacting, but the fact of the matter is, bedbugs are back, and they are here to stay.
Sean R.

My dear Mara Altman, you must be familiar with the phrase “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” In the midst of a bedbug “epidemic,” the last thing frazzled and sleepless New Yorkers need is more ways to freak out. Now, you’ve done a wonderful job illustrating the many ways a victim of bedbugs can view the situation. What you don’t offer is a solution, or even a calming insight, to this rampant paranoia.

I heard tell of these bedbugs but did not actually take the problem seriously until I was faced with the little critters. Of course I was freaked-out and itching everywhere. I threw out my mattress. I washed everything in the house. I went to Home Depot and bought a jug of Real Kill ($6). My landlady was kind enough to take care of my animals while I attended to my new guests. Patrons at my neighborhood laundromat, as well as the owners, helped me do numerous loads of laundry. New Yorkers really have a way of coming to the rescue!

The bugs came back two weeks later because, while I had killed the live ones, I hadn’t broken the life cycle. But I pulled out my jug of Real Kill and followed my routine (I spray every six weeks), and I haven’t seen a bug in six months.

What your article needed to do was assuage fears. Instead, you perpetuated the paranoia.
Kate Bedard

Conduct unbecoming
Wayne Barrett’s support for Alan Hevesi
[“Twisted Spitzer,” December 13–19]
is unusually hypocritical. Most of his 10 reasons for nonremoval are of the “Everybody’s a crook” variety. Hevesi’s job is not that of any politician; it is to be the overseer of the accounting of state entities. And it demands moral probity. He knew the rules, and indeed, Barrett cites the various memos he received that, rather than justifying Hevesi’s conduct, as Barrett suggests, clearly set the limits that he exceeded for years.

I know many people who did indeed vote for Hevesi in this election, and without exception, they did so with the expectation that if Hevesi were re-elected,
Spitzer would get to pick his replacement—which, they reckoned, was better than voting for an unknown, relatively inexperienced Republican.

Finally, does anybody have any doubt that if Hevesi were a Republican or an appointee of Rudy’s, Barrett would be leading the “Off with his head” chorus?
Jerry Rothstein

Poisonous atmosphere
Re Kristen Lombardi’s “Death by Dust
[November 29–December 5]
: If the EPA statement of clean air was a lie, it’s hard to believe our mayor and president didn’t participate in perpetuating the lie, and therefore they should also be named in the lawsuit. Whoever should have been responsible for giving workers respirator masks that worked properly should also be punished. Wouldn’t that all fall under the mayor’s duties?

Is Giuliani the kind of man we’d want to be our president one day? Another liar as a president who cares more about money than people’s health.
Marcia Raff

Kristen Lombardi’s article is seriously misleading. Many health programs have been set up to assist those who worked at ground zero. Over 30,000 WTC workers have been examined for any medical conditions possibly related to their work. In the five years since 9-11, the NYPD and FDNY have not seen any increase in the number of cancers among their members. The FDNY has conducted, and continues to conduct, an exhaustive medical investigation of 12,000 of the most highly exposed ground zero workers. None of the medical programs that have been examining WTC workers’ health since 9-11 have reported any increase in cancers. However, because of the unprecedented nature of this disaster, the city has continued to push for further federal funding to monitor WTC workers—so that we can continue to monitor for any possible emerging issues and provide prompt and appropriate care whenever needed. The WTC Disability Law also allows city employees who worked on the
cleanup and recovery efforts to qualify for disability retirement—in the event that they develop an illness later on—without having to prove a link between their illness and their exposure to WTC dust. The article bases much of its analysis on an interview with, and facts provided by, David Worby, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney in the WTC litigation. However, the article failed to disclose that Mr. Worby and his colleagues could receive more than $300 million in attorney’s fees if they prevail in the lawsuits.

Moreover, Lombardi never contacted defense counsel for comment. Those who courageously served this city and their country deserve to be presented with accurate information, and not unverified data disseminated by a private attorney with a multimillion-dollar interest in distorting the evidence.
Kenneth Becker
NYC Law Department
Chief, WTC Unit

Kristen Lombardi replies: I made several attempts to get comment from both the FDNY and NYPD. As the story noted, the fire department declined to comment. A police spokesperson failed to respond to several requests for an interview.

The article blames the U.S. and New York governments for the disease related to 9-11 exposure and quotes an attorney as saying, “Our officials might be responsible for more deaths than Osama bin Laden on 9-11.”

I would say that the deaths and injuries, both immediate and lingering, that resulted from the 9-11 attacks are completely the responsibility of the terrorists. They chose to attack civilian targets without warning, in an effort to create the maximum suffering and death possible. To whatever extent they were successful, I want them to have the full blame.

Shifting the blame to our government is just a way for this lawyer and others to have someone to sue for a large settlement.
Mark Harrington
Greenville, North Carolina

No Cannes do
Can you please fire J. Hoberman? Would that be possible? We need smart movie reviews, not reviews of the director’s personal life. Apocalypto is a great film, amazingly directed. Sorry to disagree with Hoberman’s personal views.
Leila C.

Making a list. Tracking you twice.
Re “Spying on Big Brother”[December 6–12]: Nat Hentoff’s latest article on our government’s tracking of everything and anything remotely having to do with anyone is terrific! Thank you for having such a fine journalist onboard. Nat is the best, and so is the Voice!
Frances Lynch
Duxbury, Massachusetts

I think one of the companies that will develop the microchip that will track our every move is trading on the AMEX under the symbol ATA and is being forced to be delisted—it’s trading for less than a dollar. It specializes in nanotechnology. Please confirm before publishing anything.
Santa Claus
North Pole, Alaska

Editor’s note: The company you’re referring to is Apogee Technology, and it did indeed receive a delisting notice in November from the American Stock Exchange. Satisfied, Santa? Now how about that red wagon?

In Nathan Lee’s review of the film Home of the Brave [“O Say Can You . . . What?,” December 13–19], a character and the actor who plays him were misidentified. Brian Presley, not Chad Michael Murray, plays the National Guard soldier who returns home, only to re-enlist. His character’s name is Tommy.