PROZAC NOTION

New York City

Your devil-beater, in his diatribe against antidepressants, is throwing out the patient with the Prozac syrup [Alexander Cockburn, “Beat the Devil,” April 19]. He is right about a moribund FDA and greedy drug companies. I ended my membership in the American Psychiatric Association because of their oh-too-close love affair with the pharmaceutical industry. And I am disgusted with doctors whoring for industry and with industry treating doctors to fancy dinners and trips to lovely resorts, where they “learn” about the latest, greatest antidepressant.

But Cockburn does a disservice by putting quotes around depression and chalking it all up to the lack of a good martini. Tell that to Spalding Gray’s family or the millions of people who don’t kill other people and have their lives saved by these medications.

Write about the vast medical-governmental-pharmaceutical conspiracy: I’m with you all the way. But don’t diminish important muckraking by being so dismissive and cavalier about what can be a serious and life-threatening disorder.

STEPHEN P. HERMAN, MD


COCKBURN REPLIES

New Orleans

The sentence that irked some was my reference to “‘depression,’ a vast new territory opened up for exploitation after the economy peaked in the mid-1960s and people stopped drinking dry martinis.” I thought it was a funny line, a lighthearted way of evoking all those cocktail drinkers of the ’50s beating back the blues with buckets of gin. My motive for the line and for the quotation marks was to remind people of fashions in words and conditions, like quaint “hysteria” or fusty “neurosis,” now a marked-down item in Siggy’s Antiques. Real suffering marches on down the decades, and of course I entertain no indifference to the sufferers and their gratitude for the salves that help them.

ALEXANDER COCKBURN


STICKY PICKETS

Los Angeles

David Moberg is an astute observer of labor [“A Union of Unions,” April 19], but I take issue with his grouping of the UNITE-HERE merger with some other “new alliances.” The dozen-plus unions that made up the Alliance for Economic Justice were merely a tactical assemblage, pulled together to get out the Gephardt vote. This is nothing like UNITE-HERE, two unions joining forces for a common vision and an overarching strategy to change dynamics of worker power (UNITE-HERE being one of the first concrete manifestations of the New Unity Partnership–itself the most exciting thing to happen internal to labor since John Sweeney’s election in 1995).

Both of these models must be distinguished from the Steelworkers-PACE “strategic alliance,” which smacks of a cobbled-together facade orchestrated by AFL-CIO leadership, to provide a countervailing force to the NUP. Too cynical? Which major labor president, in response to the NUPistas, issued a quote attacking the group? Steelworkers president Leo Gerard. And when the Steelworkers-PACE alliance was announced, the AFL-CIO touted it. When the UNITE-HERE merger was announced, the AFL-CIO uttered nary a peep. It may be scared of the change blowing in from the NUP, and rightly so. Rightly or wrongly, therefore, this AFL-CIO staffer would prefer that you withhold his real name here.

“JOSH H. PILLE”


MOBERG REPLIES

Chicago

There are many quite different efforts to find new ways for labor to work together more fruitfully, some more far-reaching than others. The Alliance for Economic Justice is a much looser arrangement, more focused on politics than the NUP, for example, but it has persisted past the primaries. While Steelworkers president Gerard says he applauds any NUP attempts to organize more effectively, he’d oppose any effort by the group to challenge Sweeney if he runs for re-election as AFL-CIO president. There’s a need for even more experimentation, and collegial debate, on what direction labor should take, fewer institutional hang-ups and a much greater sense of urgency.

DAVID MOBERG


PHONY GAPS & PHONY WARS

Washington, DC

Frances FitzGerald [“The Goldwater Parallel,” March 29] incorrectly links the charges of the “missile gap” in the early 1960s to false intelligence, when in fact the intelligence community, thanks to intelligence from U-2 flights, put an end to both the so-called bomber and missile gaps during the Eisenhower presidency. The phony gaps were kept alive by the Air Force to justify greater defense spending and by such cold warriors as Paul Nitze and H. Rowan Gaither Jr., who had headed the Air Force’s RAND Corporation think tank. Moreover, it was Senator John F. Kennedy who milked public fears of such gaps for political gain, very similar to George W. Bush’s current exploitation of 9/11 fears for similar gain.

MELVIN A. GOODMAN
Former CIA analyst


Springfield, Mass.

In Frances FitzGerald’s article we learn that “antiwar rhetoric has caused considerable dismay among some Democratic strategists” because the Democrats cannot win unless they “regain [their] status as the party of national security.” It is important not to permit this viewpoint to take over in the Kerry campaign. The antiwar sentiment that helped end the war in Indochina and that finally found voice in the Howard Dean campaign must not be marginalized. It must be front and center in the coalition whose first goal is to defeat Bush and his dangerous neocon extremists. Without both groups in the coalition, John Kerry will not win in November.

That anti-Bush coalition involves the anti-interventionist (anti-imperialist!) wing of the Democratic Party in a shotgun marriage with old cold warriors like Zbigniew Brzezinski. It is heartening to see members of the foreign policy establishment attacking Bush’s imperial strategies. However, we must recognize that Bush’s behavior, aside from its verbal audacity, is nothing new. The “imperial impulse” in US foreign policy has a long, strong history. Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy all used force to protect the American Empire. Carter, whose administration FitzGerald claims was dominated by the left of the foreign policy establishment, was persuaded by Brzezinski to finance rebels against the pro-Communist Afghan regime in order to “draw” the Soviets in and give them “their Vietnam.” When asked about this by Le Nouvel Observateur, Brzezinski shrugged off the resulting rise in Islamic fundamentalist militancy by saying that the defeat of the Soviet Union was much more important!

To their credit, some Democrats were persuaded that the imperialists had overreached themselves in Vietnam and thus joined in coalition with the antiwar movement to force an exit from Indochina. But they did this because of the pressure from outside the mainstream. It is essential that the “outsiders” (like many who joined the Dean campaign) continue to keep the pressure on Kerry and others to not back away from strong criticism of Bush’s foreign policy.

John Kerry, veteran, made a significant contribution to the antiwar movement. John Kerry, senator, almost threw that away with his vote to support Bush’s move to war. John Kerry, presidential candidate, must resist the siren song of the establishment to distance himself from the anti-imperialist wing of the Democratic Party. He must embrace it, or we’re all doomed to four more years of Bush and the Project for a New American Century.

MICHAEL MEEROPOL


FITZGERALD REPLIES

New York City

I thank Michael Meeropol. I am not at all surprised by what Melvin Goodman says–and, if true, it makes my point even more strongly.

FRANCES FITZGERALD


THE NEW YORK ISLAND

New York City

As Phillip Lopate’s editor on Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan, I commend John Palattella’s review [“Water’s Edge,” April 12]. Every editor–and author–wants such a well-written, well-researched, informative review.

DOUG PEPPER
Crown Publishers


New York City

Bemoaning the death of the Westway superhighway, Phillip Lopate mentions New York’s “fractious civic culture, better suited to stop anything from getting built, than to respond creatively to the need for fresh urban solutions.” As someone in the Westway fray, I know our side had a vision. We pressed for that boondoggle to be traded in for what the city really needed: money to fix our crumbling transit system. Our work won $1.4 billion to buy new subway cars and buses and rebuild the infrastructure. So every time a New Yorker gets off the subway at Coney Island or the bus at Orchard Beach, the Westway foes helped get them to the water’s edge.

GENE RUSSIANOFF
NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign


New York City

Several years ago Phillip Lopate joined the Shorewalkers’ Great Saunter (see www.shorewalkers.org), on which one encounters magnificent miles of park along the Harlem River, beautiful and historic bridges beneath spectacular highlands, a waterside path with views of the curvaceous East River, green islands, seabirds, Jefferson Park, fishermen and ever-changing marine views of Queens and Lower Manhattan. Lopate saw public-housing projects, to which he devoted an entire chapter. I found some thoughtful and good writing in his book. But for reviewer John Palattella to compare Lopate’s meandering flotsam to Joseph Mitchell’s The Bottom of the Harbor is literary sacrilege.

CY A. ADLER, author
Walking Manhattan’s Rim; Walking the Hudson Batt to Bear


MINDING OUR PMs & AMs

Jeff Jarvis’s May 17 “F*cked by the F*CC” defines the term “safe harbor” as the period from 6 am to 10 pm, when “indecent” programming is banned. Actually, the term applies to the 10 pm to 6 am period, when restraints are loosened. Readers may decide for themselves whether there’s safety in either harbor.