Thanks to The Nation and Jeff Faux [“Is This The Big One?” April 14] for having the courage to shine a light on the grim reality this country (and the world) is facing while the mainstream media can only ask “Are we in a recession?” Government of the wealthy, by the wealthy and for the wealthy is never sustainable; such empires always fall from within. The wealthy and powerful have been leading this charge over the cliff with their golden parachutes and laser-guided bombs. Hopefully, we will learn from this very painful lesson that arrogance and greed have no place in a democracy and organize ourselves accordingly.
BEANT SINGH KHALSA
It Could Break Your Face
I was sitting in my car reading Christopher Hayes’s April 14 “End the War: Try Again,” and after several paragraphs I found myself smiling so hard my face felt like it would break, and honestly I just wanted to shout with righteousness. This feeling reminded me of something I’d read long ago, and I searched my files to find it. It was from Len De Caux’s “Armies of the Poor” (Len was a CIO activist from the ’30s): “Sometimes I’d hear a Communist speaker say something so bitter and extreme I’d feel embarrassed. Then I’d look around at the unemployed audience–shabby clothes, expressions worried and sour. Faces would start to glow, heads to nod, hands to clap. They liked that stuff best of all.” And now I quote Hayes: “To the millions who marched before the war began, to the hundreds of thousands who have protested since…the Bush Administration says, more or less, Go fuck yourself.” Well, my face is glowing, my head is nodding and I’m clapping my hands! Thank you, Mr. Hayes, for just plain saying it.
MARY ANN SCHROEDER
Thank you for David U. Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler’s “Health Policy Placebos” [April 14]. The underreported story is how much grassroots support there is for a single-payer national health insurance program like HR 676–diversified support at that, from doctors to businesses to individuals. The media instead report on the candidates’ proposals, or think-tank market-based plans, as if there are no other serious options. Private health insurance is unsustainable. The task of a business, to make a profit, is at terrible odds with the person who needs healthcare. It’s time for a system in which everyone’s goals are the same: affordable quality healthcare, with the money used for actual care–not for exorbitant executive salaries, stock dividends, lobbyists or marketing.
The Art of Saying Nothing
There’s nothing like a Cockburn comeuppance to bring things back to earth [“Beat the Devil,” April 14]. Reverend Wright’s comments about Palestine told truth to power. Obama took the safe path, responding to style rather than substance–the “perceived injustice” rather than the injustice. He had to. His game is to get elected. Then, hopefully, the fighter will emerge from beneath the patina of “national conversation.”
I loved Alexander Cockburn’s column on the “national conversation” and “if you will.” My favorite locution, used pre-emptively to silence any critic as denying reality, is “on the ground.” Where else do they expect reality to be unfolding: beyond the orbit of Jupiter?
Helen Adam’s Burning
El Sobrante, Calif.
Ange Mlinko’s review of The Helen Adam Reader [“A Nurse of Enchantment,” April 14] mentions that Helen “decided to move to New York to adapt her apocalyptic play San Francisco’s Burning for Broadway. It was a bust.” Far, far from the truth: Helen was conspicuously hostile to Broadway. She had no intention of “adapting” it for anyone. She was pleased with the staged reading it received in San Francisco and hoped to have a more extensive production in New York.
The Judson Poets Theater, at Judson Memorial Church, one of the four major Off Off Broadway theaters, enthusiastically accepted it for production. Composer Al Carmines wrote sixty-three songs for it, Lee Guilliat designed a remarkable set, and a cast of thirty singing actors, directed by myself, created a sensationally successful play that filled the house every performance. Helen played the Witch (she claimed in life to actually be a witch) and when not onstage would stand in the back of the house and keep the performance going with spells. When we got a bad review from the Village Voice, Helen put a curse on the critic and mailed him an ace of spades. He broke a leg, came back and apologized with a great new review. Helen was happy!
Helen Adam’s previous collections are not all “out of print for decades.” Ghosts and Grinning Shadows, her collection of chilling ghost stories, published by Hanging Loose Press in 1979, is still in print. The same is true of San Francisco’s Burning, which we brought out in a new complete edition in 1985, with the original score by Al Carmines and others and illustrations by Jess. Hanging Loose’s policy is never to let its titles go out of print. Both can be found at hangingloosepress.com.
ROBERT HERSHON, DICK LOURIE
MARK PAWLAK, editor/publishers
Croton on Hudson, N.Y.
The Judson Church production of San Francisco’s Burning did indeed make Helen Adam happy, and it resulted in her growing cult status. But according to Kristin Prevallet, Adam’s ultimate goal was a Broadway production and financial security. Larry Kornfeld states that “Helen was conspicuously hostile to Broadway.” Prevallet, however, maintains that “Adam, then fifty-four years old, was working as a waitress at a pizza parlor. Given the success of San Francisco’s Burning, the sisters decided they should move to New York City to seek fame and fortune on Broadway.” The move was supposed to be temporary–they left with only a few suitcases and put most of their possessions in storage–but “their big-city dreams were never realized, and after two years in New York they were too broke to return to San Francisco.” Judging from a 1986 letter to Robert Duncan, Adam seems to have viewed this fate as a punishment for her worldly ambition, which was at odds with her poetic muse. Certainly, the whole history of San Francisco’s Burning is vexed, but that only adds to its mystique.
In Alexander Cockburn’s April 28 “Beat the Devil” column, the Seawolf submarine is nuclear powered, not nuclear armed.