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Letters submitted by our readers are read and published in the magazine.

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    Los Angeles

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  • Activism April 18, 2003

    Tim Robbins v. the Hall of Fame

    Hinsdale, Illinois

    Please convey to Mr. Robbins my appreciation for his position on Bush and the invasion of Iraq. He and Susan Sarandon are putting their necks on the line, and showing great courage. This is a lonely time for those who oppose Bush's policies. I myself, a Vietnam vet (1966-69), have had my patriotism questioned; when they find out my past, they shut up--but why should that make a difference? Woody Allen made a movie about the McCarthy era, and I recall watching it in a rather condescending frame of mind, thinking "what was the matter with those people in the 1950s? How could they be so persecutorial?" Well, those times are back. We all have to fight this now. Robbins and Sarandon, by being famous, give strength to others.


    Richmond, Virginia

    It is truly deplorable that such institutions as the Baseball Hall of Fame are run by people who have no more tact than to use this sacred institution as an instrument of their own political views to force their opinions on the baseball-loving public. I guess we can only hope that future Hall of Famers will also share Mr. Petroskey's political views for fear that they will also be subjected to such actions. And thank you, Mr. Robbins, for dispelling the notion that it is "un-American" to disagree with the war. Indeed, there is nothing more American than the airing of dissent of popular views in a public that seems wholly unresponsive to public debate. I guess we can only hope that our local cinemas don't subscribe to the same brand of "patriotism" that Mr. Petroskey seems to favor. I for one like being able to choose the movies I watch regardless of the political backgrounds of the creators.


    Shelter Island, New York

    Thank you for bringing attention to the Tim Robbins vs. the Baseball Hall of Fame flap. I worked at the museum for nearly a decade, just prior to Mr. Petroskey's arrival. I'm more surprised by the brazen political nature of Mr. Petroskey's letter than I am by their decision to cancel the event. This is a very conservative institution, run by a conservative family within a conservative community. I think that just a few short years ago Mr. Robbins would have had to do a bit more reading between the lines. Democrats in Congress, celebrities and average citizens are being intimidated. Conservatives are bolstered by the arrogance and attitudes of Mr. Bush and his regime, and all debate and dissent is trampled under the guise of patriotism and the need to "support our troops." Attending my daughter's volleyball game at a local high school the other day, I was shocked to see a poster on display in the lobby which reads, "America, Love it or Leave it." It's deja vu all over again.

    former director of exhibits and design, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

    Flint, Michigan

    As a current member of the Army Individual Ready Reserve who was activated for the first Gulf War, I find Mr. Petroskey's comments and actions to be utterly ridiculous.

    I am sick and tired of neoconservative couch potatoes using members of the military as weapons to further their own agenda. We have not only the right, but the responsibility to question our leaders. This is a democracy (actually it's a republic). This is not Saddam Era Iraq, where the leader's word is law.

    At the conclusion of this war, we will probably put on trial and execute members of Saddam's former regime that unquestioningly "stood behind their president and the troops." They will not be allowed to use that trite phrase as an excuse for the atrocities they have committed. Petroskey should stick to a subject that hopefully he knows something

    During the first Gulf War my friends supported me in two ways. My prowar friends joined military family-support groups and my antiwar friends hit the streets. Both were trying to help me in their own way and both greeted me warmly upon my return.

    When we fight and die, we do it for democracy and freedom. The men and women who serve should not be discouraged by Mr. Robbins's comments. They should, however be scared by Mr. Petroskey's actions. It is clear that he seeks to do through the private sector what the goverment could not. He seeks to prevent Mr. Robbins from exercising his constitutional right to free speech. He hides his criminal acts, by dying them red, white and blue.

    It is Mr. Petroskey and those like him who threaten to undercut our armed forces. And, at the risk of being labeled unpatriotic, I find that I cannot stand behind the President's savage and unwarranted cuts in veteran's benefits. As a former officer in the Texas Air National Guard, he should be ashamed.


    Port Angeles, Washington

    I was astounded at the childish action taken against Tim Robbins (cancellation of the screening of Bull Durham on the occasion of its fifteenth anniversary), a fine actor and articulate critic of the Bush war on Iraq, by Dale Petroskey, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. What on earth possesses so many of our self-proclaimed "defenders of democracy and freedom" to become small-minded, insulting and abusive when those freedoms are actually exercised? For the record, I appreciate everything that Mr. Robbins said--except for that part about the '69 Mets. To me it's the '88 Oakland A's that rank up there with apple pie and the flag.


    Bowling Green, Ohio

    As an American citizen and a baseball fan, I find it insulting that the president of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Dale Petroskey, would issue a de facto gag order to Tim Robbins for expressing his political views. I find it intriguing that a man who worked as an assistant press secretary in the Administration of Ronald Reagan would intimate that actors have no business in the political arena. While I consider myself a patriot, if patriotism means the irrelevance of the First Amendment, then count me out.


    Forsyth, Montana

    It is refreshing to see organizations standing up and holding "actors" responsible for what they are saying from their highly visible platform.

    Tim Robbins doesn't represent baseball fans or the majority of the American people. While he challenges President Bush (and others) for not serving in the military, he neglects to say he isn't a veteran either. I am...and I very much support our Commander in Chief, President Bush. If the decision had been made during the Clinton Administration to control the problems in the Middle East, then President Bush wouldn't have to clean up the mess.

    Hopefully, Tim Robbins will get the point that he represents only about 20 percent of the American people. The very same people who are voicing their opinions because of the stand our current and former Presidents should have made to protect our freedom.

    Freedom will continue to ring, but with no thanks to Tim Robbins.

    SGM (Ret), US Army

    Munich, Germany

    My deepest respect for Mr. Robbins for his letter to the head of the Baseball Hall of Fame (or rather "Shame"). News from the USA sounds more and more like historical pieces from Germany in the 1930s. Unbelievable!


    New Orleans, Louisiana

    I just want to thank Tim Robbins for utilizing his position in the public eye to say what needs to be said. I can only hope the Baseball Hall of Fame feels a shred of embarrassment for its behavior. I am from a family of die-hard Chicago Cub fans and we are all outraged by Mr. Petroskey's blatant misuse of a national institution--baseball!


    Brisbane, Australia

    I found this conflict between Tim Robbins and Dale Petroskey interesting. The scary thing seems to be that the propaganda of the mainstream media, including here in Australia, seems to be obvious as just that to some and not at all obvious to others. Petroskey's may be a political statement to protect himself, but I wonder if he has simply bought all the patriotic huff and puff that seems to be muddying truth, logic and common sense. The same thing happens here in Australia, especially this expression of belief in free speech on the one hand but the denial of it in practice.

    Thank you for a good read in The Nation. Without you and other independent media, we would be overwhelmed with spin and lies (which are probably the same thing).


    Bellevue, Washington

    Regarding your calling for condemnation of the Baseball Hall of Fame over its decision to cancel an appearance by Tim Robbins, isn't YOUR condemnation merely the pot calling the kettle black?

    Tim Robbins has every right to his opinions, but the right of free speech doesn't mean that others are obligated to listen. The Baseball Hall of Fame and its owners also have the right of free association, which they exercised by disinviting someone they considered a boor.

    The left has often called for boycotts of organizations, individuals, and groups which it finds is its right. Again, how hypocritical (crybaby-ish, even) to complain when the Left is boycotted.

    I support, and will defend, the right of the Tim Robbins, Martin Sheens, Jeanen Garafolos, Susan Sarandons, et al, among us to have their point of view and to express it without fear of GOVERNMENTAL oppression or physical violence. However, I also support the right of anyone who decides to never watch another movie or otherwise provide financial support for those actors whose views and attitudes they find offensive. How can one feel otherwise if one truly believes in freedom of thought?

    Alan Dershowitz once remarked that we should create a Bill of Rights Club, where members had to agree to support exercises of rights even though they might find the particular exercise repugnant. Based upon the articles I find on The Nation website, I don't think that many on the left would be eligible for membership.


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  • April 17, 2003



    Washington, DC

    In Katha Pollitt's April 21 "Subject to Debate," she mentioned that my vote on the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act will be watched. Considering that I've given this issue much thought over the past couple of years, I hope she will be watching as I oppose the bill when it reaches the House. When the Supreme Court struck down a similar "partial-birth" abortion ban in Stenberg v. Carhart, it affirmed what was said in Roe v. Wade: A woman's health must be preserved. I believe in upholding the right to choose and will oppose legislation, like the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, that restricts the rights guaranteed in Roe.

    Member of Congress
    10th Congressional District, Ohio


    Lincoln, Neb.

    I wish Calvin Trillin had used the more familiar "chicken hawk" rather than "sissy hawk" in his April 14 poem on Richard Perle. "Chicken hawk" fits the meter and lacks the whiff of latent homophobia that is surprising coming from the author of the moving and memorable Remembering Denny.



    New York City

    I thank Paul Stanfield for his thoughtful suggestion, but I had consciously decided against "chicken hawk." It actually means a hawk that preys on chickens rather than a chicken that acts like a hawk, and its second meaning (in the American Heritage dictionary, 4th edition) is "a man who seeks out boys or young men as his sexual partners." Also, I'm not ready to give up on "sissy" as meaning (to quote the same dictionary) "a person regarded as timid or cowardly." The other definition is "a boy or man regarded as effeminate," but I don't see that it's doing anybody any favors to equate effeminacy with homosexuality. It seems to me that someone who urges others on to fight wars he is unwilling to fight himself--which is what the members of the Sissy Hawk Brigade did during the Vietnam War--is properly called a sissy, even if, as in the case of Dick Cheney, he played high school football.




    Although I agree with the conclusions reached by Jonathan Schell in "American Tragedy" [April 7], I suggest a different interpretation of what brought us to this point. It is all too easy to see this as a usurpation of power and lay it at the feet of the Republicans and the "American military machine," but I believe the root cause came more in the form of an incremental abdication by the generation that seemed to hold so much promise in the sixties, my generation, the baby boomers. They have become the most powerful generation that has ever existed, and like so many before them, as they gained economically they became obsessed with the preservation of their wealth and the self-indulgent lifestyle it provided. Ideals were swapped for SUVs, social concerns for stock portfolios and Botox injections--fueled by cheap energy and damn the consequences.

    It was all too easy to allow Clinton, Lieberman and the rest to consciously (and publicly) move the Democratic Party to the right, disguising Old Republicanism as New Democrats, all too easy to sit back and salve their consciences by relabeling their greed. So now we all pay the price. A good look in the mirror is in order. To quote a rather wise possum, "We have met the enemy and he is us."



    Melrose Park, Pa.

    Eric Alterman ["What Liberal Media?" Feb. 24] and others at The Nation strongly reinforce the idea that the media--owned more and more by corporations and conglomerates--vigorously promote a conservative philosophy. Considerable evidence exists for this idea. But the theory works only with the aid of selective perception--i.e., use every confirmation to strengthen your belief and screen out every instance that contradicts it. In reality, every week, every day, the media provide cogent criticism of our government and our corporations.

    The following public figures who opposed war on Iraq without UN approval have appeared on major talk shows or have written op-eds in major dailies: Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean (a full hour on Meet the Press), Dennis Kucinich, Dale Bumpers, Anthony Zinni, Wesley Clark, Norman Schwarzkopf, Scott Ritter, President Carter, Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, George Mitchell, President Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Sandy Berger, Jessica Matthews (of the Carnegie Endowment), Kofi Annan, the director of Win Without War; liberal military analyst William Arkin, Mike Farrell, Martin Sheen, Sam Hamill (representing 11,000 poets), W.S. Merwin, liberal panelist Carl Jeffers, genocide author Samantha Power, columnist Trudy Rubin, Maureen Dowd, Gwynne Dyer and Al-Hayat journalist Raghida Dergham.

    In addition, the media have heavily covered the antiwar demonstrations here and around the world. A New York Times editorial of March 9 was so full a criticism of Bush's policies that Terry Gross had Philip Taubman on Fresh Air elucidate it. Chris Matthews has vehemently opposed the war and has many liberal guests on Hardball, including Katrina vanden Heuvel and William Arkin. Matthews was relentless in his focus on the risks and imponderables of the Iraq war. On Hardball, Eric Margolis, of the Council on Foreign Relations, commented that the total cost of the war may be $400 billion, not $200 billion, that Iraq will probably degenerate into another Lebanon or Yugoslavia, and "why not alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians" instead?

    After the war began, negative criticism of Bush's policies continued. Joe Conason, Maureen Dowd, Trudy Rubin, Leonard Pitts Jr., Ellen Goodman, Joseph Galloway and many others analyzed the defects of US policies.

    A major brouhaha occurred when Generals McCaffrey, Schwarzkopf and Wallace criticized the US war plan. The major media publicized this debate; mulish Donald Rumsfeld blamed the media for the problem. We have also seen on TV pictures of Iraqi civilians injured by US shrapnel and starving, dehydrated civilians fighting for food and water. The corporate media reported US bombings that killed many civilians. News of an impending humanitarian catastrophe as a result of the war has been widely disseminated by print and TV media. The media also disclosed a poll showing that optimism about the war among Americans declined March 21-22 from 52 percent to 38 percent, a change that sent the White House scrambling for psychological explanations. The US media are certainly not liberal overall, but the left's disgruntled belief that they are incorrigibly conservative is just as certainly mistaken.



    New York City

    n Mark Sacharoff can find my response in the pages of What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News (Basic). I invite him and the rest of our readers to peruse the opening chapter free at



    Rochester, NY

    Thanks to Jack Newfield for his wonderful article, "How the Other Half Still Lives" [March 17]. The largesse the World War II "great generation" created through a combination of widely distributed government deficit spending and a vibrant capitalist marketplace has disappeared. The Democratic coalition that produced it was smashed by the Reagan Administration with the tactic of shouting "handout" at any form of public assistance or funding, unless it was for the military or local pork. Instead of seeing poverty as a structural problem, we have lapsed into the nineteenth-century habit of labeling the poor "lazy," the cause of their own destitution. In the meantime, Wal-Mart has replaced GM as America's largest company, with a precipitous drop in wages and opportunity. And to all this, the baby boomers, my generation, have shown their most identifiable quality: indifference. Let's hope that more of us can come to see poverty through the realistic and sympathetic eyes of Jack Newfield.


    New York City

    No one can be content with the level of poverty in New York City or in our country. But an accurate picture of "how the other half lives" should not be drawn merely from anecdotal material, even if gathered by a reporter as practiced as Jack Newfield. The fact is that under New York's governor, there is good news for low-income workers. For example, according to Census data, for children living with single mothers, the reduction in poverty in New York since 1995 was almost three times the reduction of the economic expansion of the 1980s.

    The same source reveals that in New York, work rates for single parents rose 38 percent in the period following welfare reform--four times the increase of the economic expansion of the 1980s. In 1994 New York invested $77 million in the earned-income tax credit. Now, thanks to the steadfast support of George Pataki, we invest $550 million, a 543 percent increase. The combined federal and state EITC can add up to $5,000 to the annual income of poor working families. Newfield's silence on the EITC is puzzling, as is his silence on the significant increase since 1995 in health insurance coverage for low-income New Yorkers and the tripling of childcare subsidies.

    The facts indicate that Governor Pataki has been "locating the frontier of the possible" in his strategy for shrinking poverty--a strategy that provides solid dollars-and-cents help for low-income working families. The Nation ought to tell the full story.

    Commissioner, New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance


    Michael Massing, in "The Doha Follies" [April 21], repeated reporter Michael Wolff's claim that Rush Limbaugh played a tape of Wolff and gave out his e-mail address on the air, resulting in the jamming of his inbox with thousands of e-mails. Limbaugh protests that he did not broadcast the address on air. While that may be true, Wolff insists he saw his URL posted on the Limbaugh website and that of the e-mails he read, "hundreds referred to getting the address from Rush."


    In "USA Oui! Bush Non!" [Feb. 10] Jacques Rupnik was inaccurately described as a former adviser to Jacques Chirac.

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  • April 10, 2003



    Los Angeles

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  • April 7, 2003

    Diversity, Democrats and War

    We've received numerous letters regarding William Hartung's "Keeping Hope Alive,", Al Ross and Lee Corkorinos's Our Readers

  • April 2, 2003



    Needham, Mass.

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  • March 26, 2003



    Oxford, England

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  • March 19, 2003



    Studio City, Calif.

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