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LEGITIMATE? I THINK NOT

The Bronx, NY


CAN WE TALK? GUESS NOT

Los Angeles

OR, 'THE GUILTY AGE'?

Skokie, Ill.


PEOPLE POWER PEOPLE

New Paltz, NY

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.

RICHEY HOPE


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.

DAVID MULLEN


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.

FRANK CIRILLO
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
about...baseball.

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.

CHRISTOPHER GIL


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.

TIMOTHY L. HOCKETT


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.

MATT STUART


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.

LARRY J. TRICKEL
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!

RALPH MOELLERS


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!

PHOEBE KESSLER


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).

EUGENE MOREAU


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 offensive...as 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.

JOHN CLIFFORD


KUCINICH ON CHOICE

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.

DENNIS J. KUCINICH
Member of Congress
10th Congressional District, Ohio



CLUCK CLUCK CLUCK

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.

PAUL SCOTT STANFIELD


TRILLIN REPLIES

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.

CALVIN TRILLIN



SEND BOOMERS TO OKEFENOKEE

Seattle

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."

JOHN OLCESE



THAT LIBERAL MEDIA

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.

MARK I. SACHAROFF


ALTERMAN REPLIES

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
www.whatliberalmedia.com.

ERIC ALTERMAN



POOR NEW YORK

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.

MARC A. CIRIGLIANO


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.

BRIAN J. WING
Commissioner, New York State Office of Temporary and Disability
Assistance



REVENGE OF THE DITTO-HEADS

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."



JACQUES WAVES

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


ANTI-SEMITIC OR ANTI-HYSTERIA?

Los Angeles

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


IRAN: THREAT OF A WIDER WAR

Needham, Mass.