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 www.whatliberalmedia.com.



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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