A LAUGH, A CRY...
To Tony Kushner: Thank you so much for your words, for the heart and
soul behind them, for your humor and for bringing tears to my eyes each
time (so far twice) I have read "A Word to Graduates: Organize!" [July
1] I hope to organize more.
PUSHING PILLS FOR PROFIT
I applaud Marc Siegel for exposing the hazards of direct-to-consumer
drug advertising in "Fighting the Drug (Ad) Wars" [June 17]. You might
think that as a women's health advocate I'd welcome direct-to-patient
appeals and an emphasis on prevention. But ads are not unbiased. Their
promises to cure and prevent everything from allergies and depression to
cancer and heart disease downplay--or leave out altogether--the serious,
sometimes life-threatening side effects of the pills they push.
AstraZeneca, the manufacturer of tamoxifen, has urged healthy women to
ask their doctors to prescribe a heavy-duty drug to reduce breast cancer
risk, despite a wide array of dangerous side effects, from endometrial
cancer to deep-vein blood clots. Because the Food and Drug
Administration, still leaderless, is turning its back, new consumer
health coalitions like Prevention First, whose members accept no funds
from pharmaceutical firms, are calling for a ban on these ads. Lowering
the risk of breast cancer, indeed good health generally, is much more
likely to result from clean air and water, healthy food and unbiased
information than from popping pills with life-threatening potential.
BARBARA BRENNER, executive director,
Breast Cancer Action
'THE [UNEXPURGATED] HOUSE I LIVE IN'
I was pleased to see Dick Flacks and Peter Dreier highlight my
grandfather and Earl Robinson's song "The House I Live In"
["Patriotism's Secret History," June 3]. In the wake of the September 11
attacks, the song is making a significant comeback. When I noticed in
November that it had been played on Entertainment Tonight, I
wrote a piece about the song and my grandfather's politics, which
appeared in the February issue of O. Meanwhile, the short 1944
movie by the same name starring Frank Sinatra appears regularly on the
Turner Classic Movie channel, and Michael Feinstein has recorded the
song, the proceeds of which he is donating to the September 11 fund.
One important fact about "The House I Live In" will not be apparent to
those who only see the Sinatra movie or hear his recording. My
grandfather wrote the following lines in one of the verses: "The house I
live in/My neighbors white and black." Flacks and Dreier correctly note
that "the song evokes America as a place where all races can live
freely"--however, that particular line was omitted from the Sinatra
versions, recorded and onscreen. I believe only Paul Robeson's recording
includes those lines.
Readers who want to learn more about my grandfather should see, in the
Spring issue of American Music, a scholarly article by Dr. Nancy
Kovaleff Baker, "Abel Meeropol (a k a Lewis Allan): Political
Commentator and Social Conscience."
New York City
Jack Newfield's June 17 lead article "The Full Rudy" called Rudy
Giuliani "a C-plus Mayor who has become an A-plus myth." What would it
have taken to give him a failing grade?
You might re-examine the pluses you award him (e.g., for the drop in
crime, which began under Dinkins and was pretty much nationwide) and two
minuses the article didn't mention: Giuliani's heartless treatment of
Haitian refugees as a federal officer during the 1980s and the vicious
racism that marked his successful campaign to oust New York's first
black mayor. Newfield could have shed some light on why he and a few
other white liberal journalists supported Giuliani in that campaign.
JOHN L. HESS
Jack Newfield's comment about the former mayor of New York, "They
don't allow this kind of behavior in trailer parks!" is inappropriate
and deeply disappointing in a progressive magazine. Replace "trailer
parks" with "public housing" or "Indian reservations," and you'll see
what I mean. The Trailer Trash stereotype is an expression of bigotry
based on socioeconomic class. That residents of mobile homes are largely
white and rural should not make working-class people fair game for
WHICH WAY TO THE POOL?
In a letter in the July 8 issue, John Bradley presents the appealingly
egalitarian notion that women might "have it all" by following the
strategy of high-achieving men: choosing a man "younger, poorer and less
educated than themselves." I would be much obliged if Bradley could
identify that pool of men who would even consider a date with a woman
older, richer and more educated than themselves, let alone be willing to
marry one, raise her children and tend to her emotional well-being.
AIPAC--SHOW US THE MONEY!
Michael Massing's June 10 piece, "The Israel Lobby," is the first
article I've read in a US publication that even mentions the power of
the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). In England, I
listened to a show on BBC radio that dealt with the same subject. It
amazed me that I had to go to another country to get an in-depth
analysis of the relationship between this powerful lobbying group and
Washington. It seems that since 9/11 one has to do this more and more to
get the real story--or any story at all.
Port Matilda, Pa.
While it isn't news that AIPAC is so influential in Washington, it is
noteworthy that the organization and its effect on policy is so
underreported. I can't imagine a story on guns without mention of the
NRA or one on workplace safety without mention of the influence of the
AFL-CIO. And when did an abortion story last appear without position
statements from NARAL and/or Right to Life?
MARK J. STEVENSON
San Rafael, Calif.
Michael Massing is correct: "AIPAC is widely regarded as the most
powerful foreign-policy lobby in Washington." Much of its power lies in
the concealment from the media and therefore from public scrutiny of the
degree of its financial dealings and the political use of this wealth.
Unlike other lobbies, AIPAC keeps its cards close to its chest. Despite
the Federal Election Commission rules requiring lobbies to register with
the FEC and open their books to the public, this behemoth has managed to
do neither. It rules in secret and is so massively involved in
Washington politics that few senators or congressmen will vote on an
issue without ringing up AIPAC to determine which way to vote.
AIPAC, collecting money from over a hundred Jewish PACs, directs just
how it will be spent, pouring millions into the campaigns of candidates
who vote the AIPAC way while funneling millions to the opponents of
those seen as voting out of step with AIPAC.
In an attempt to bring this monster under public scrutiny, in January
1989 then-Under Secretary of State George Ball, then-Ambassador to Saudi
Arabia James Atkins and then-Illinois Congressman Paul Findley filed a complaint with the FEC,
charging AIPAC with failing to register as a political action committee.
After almost nine years, as AIPAC fought this through the courts, the
plaintiffs received a favorable 8-2 decision in circuit court, only to
have the Supreme Court toss the too-hot issue back to the FEC, asking it
to review its decision.
In December 1999 the FEC waffled, citing insufficient evidence. The
surviving plaintiffs have appealed that decision. I refer readers to two
books: Paul Findley's They Dare to Speak Out and The
Passionate Attachment, by George and Douglas Ball.
EDWARD W. MILLER
NOW--HAPPY TO HEAR IT...
New York City
Your April 8 "In Fact..." column carried the following item: "Some
thirty public television stations suspended Bill Moyers's NOW
during pledge drives, apparently on the theory that the program's
controversial stories might offend donors." While we appreciate The
Nation's interest in public television's programming, the
implication of this story is wrong.
We at PBS do not know of any member station that has pre-empted
NOW during pledge drives out of concern that the show might
offend donors. Just the opposite, station and viewer feedback on NOW
has been overwhelmingly positive. Stations frequently alter their
schedules during pledge drives. Such long-running shows as American
Experience, Masterpiece Theatre and NOVA have all been
pre-empted to accommodate the specific formats and objectives of pledge
drives, so it would not be at all unusual for the same to happen with
Senior vice president
Co-chief program executive, PBS
DAVE DOES DAVIS
Thank you, thank you, thank you for Gene Santoro's "Folk's Missing
Link" [April 22]. I first heard Dave Van Ronk at The Catacombs or the
Second Fret in Philadelphia in the early sixties. When I moved to
northern California in 1971 I despaired of enjoying him in person
again--I knew he didn't like to fly--but then I discovered that he,
somehow, had a special relationship with a little club in Davis,
California, called The Palms, in a rundown barn south of the freeway. I
got my semiannual Van Ronk fix there. Now he's gone and the barn is to
be torn down, but I will keep the faith by teaching still more
generations of field-trippers in my ecology courses the tune and lyrics
of "Rompin' in the Swamp." Ave atque vale, Dave.
ARTHUR M. SHAPIRO
THE INCLINED PLANE OF HIS HEAD
Sierra Madre, Calif.
Calvin Trillin is quite right in observing that Dick Cheney has
perfected the art of the tilted head ["Cheney's Head: An Explanation,"
June 24], but I don't think Cheney invented the maneuver. A perusal of
1988 campaign footage will reveal that Michael Dukakis often assumed the
slanted-head position. He was preceded by the master of that maneuver,
the late Rod Serling, who frequently appeared with his head at an angle
in his opening segments for The Twilight Zone.