Would Adams Defend Gitmo Detainees?


Pie Town, N.M.

I appreciated David Cole’s "Lawyers, Terror & Torture" [March 29]. A historical parallel that might add to Cole’s well-put points, particularly regarding lawyers defending Guantánamo detainees: John Adams agreed to serve as defense attorney for the British soldiers who fired on Americans in the Boston Massacre. He believed it strengthened the American cause to give the British soldiers a fair trial.





Community-Based Relief Efforts in Haiti


New York City

Reed Lindsay is right, in "Haiti’s Excluded" [March 29], that community involvement in relief efforts is essential to ensuring that aid is delivered safely, efficiently and in a manner that respects the dignity of survivors. But his portrayal of international aid agencies as a monolithic group "run by foreigners who have never been to Haiti" and who are "not reaching out to community-based organizations" is inaccurate. There are dozens of major international aid organizations in Haiti, many of them there for years. In Haiti since 1985, our global organization, Action Against Hunger, has a staff of 520 Haitian public health professionals. We have developed strong ties with local community groups, and it is precisely because of these mutually respectful relationships that we were able to respond quickly to the current crisis.

For example, we work closely with neighborhood committees formed in Port-au-Prince’s makeshift camps to identify the most vulnerable families to receive food and other essentials and complete a calm and orderly distribution without armed security. These are the same committees that help us implement a range of programs designed to provide an economic boost to people with vulnerable families, like single parents and those caring for children with disabilities.

NAN DALE, executive director
Action Against Hunger




Helicopters & Solar Panels in NY


Washington, D.C.

I was disappointed with Miriam Pemberton’s March 22 "Swords Into Solar Panels," which mischaracterized the VH-71 presidential helicopter program and ignored the fact that I’ve led the effort to establish New York as a hub for solar energy R&D and manufacturing.

The presidential helicopter fleet was designed in the 1950s and constructed in the ’70s, and all parties agree that a new fleet is needed. Last year, Senator McCain tried to embarrass President Obama by publicly criticizing the cost of the VH-71 program. Obama agreed, and the Pentagon canceled the entire program, even though helicopters had already been constructed, for more than $3 billion. Other lawmakers and I advocated for a restructured program that would have delivered capable helicopters on time within the original budget. Instead, the Pentagon is pursuing a new program from scratch that will cost up to $22 billion and take twelve years longer. Meanwhile, the White House will continue to fly a helicopter fleet the Pentagon internally describes as having a "high operational risk."

There were jobs in my district I vehemently defended, but I opposed this senseless decision because it would waste $15 billion of taxpayers’ money and create a safety risk by forcing the current fleet to stay in operation. That’s the real VH-71 story.

Pemberton suggests that instead of the helicopter program, solar energy initiatives should take root in New York; this is ironic because I’ve devoted extraordinary amounts of time to establishing New York State as a solar energy leader. In 2007 I helped coordinate the creation of the Solar Energy Consortium–an industry-driven nonprofit organization partnered with six research institutions–which is working to establish a major solar energy industry cluster in New York. As a result of this initiative, and over $31 million I’ve obtained from Congress for it, more than 500 jobs will have been created in New York by the end of this year, with 500 more jobs in 2011 and a growing solar energy industry beyond that. These facts are readily available, but Pemberton never picked up the phone to learn about them.

22nd District, New York




Pemberton Replies


Washington, D.C.

I am very glad to learn of Maurice Hinchey’s efforts to build a solar energy cluster in New York. This is one model for the economic transformation that needs to take place in communities across the country. I will mention this example in my future writing and speaking on this topic.

Hinchey says the new program will cost more than the canceled one. The Defense Department’s under secretary for acquisition, Ashton Carter, says the intent is that it will cost less and will be a model for the administration’s commitment to cut Pentagon waste and to reform the acquisition process, which creates cost overruns in virtually every defense program. We all need to watch what they do and hold them to their word.





Porning in America


Los Angeles

Despite Barry Schwabsky’s kind words about my book, there’s a mistake in his March 15 "Shelf Life." Making a smooth transition from another artist’s book to mine, Schwabsky suggests I am something I’m not: "Most artists…eed day jobs; Smith pays the bills by having sex on camera under the nom de porn Zak Sabbath."

Actually, I pay the bills by making drawings and paintings, and have done so since long before I knew anyone in porn. Adult films are a sideline for me, and the money I make there goes mostly to causes like Food Not Bombs and the West Memphis 3. I have never been a full-time adult performer or paid any bill with porn money. Since many of my friends here in Los Angeles (and in my book) are and do, I know that their job is, in many ways, far more demanding than sitting around an apartment making pictures of whatever comes into your head, and would not like anyone to think that I have ever pretended to know all that they know–in my book or anywhere else.





Schwabsky Replies



My apologies to Zak Smith. I should have expressed myself more clearly. I certainly did not intend to imply that doing any other sort of work means that an artist is unsuccessful as such. I called porn acting Smith’s "day job"; as a point of comparison, if I had said the same of, say, Charles Ray’s job teaching at UCLA, or Peter Halley’s at Yale, this would not be to imply that those artists are unsuccessful or can’t sell their work–this is evidently not the case, and I’m happy to be assured that the same is true of Smith, whose work I admire.





Mind Your N’s and Q’s


In the bio for William R. Polk’s April 19 "Legitimation Crisis in Afghanistan," it should have said that the title of his latest book is Understanding Iran (not Iraq).