Alterman, Asses, Satan and the NYC Mayoralty

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:54

    I admire New York Press for its literate writers. Was this a joke?

    Tina Nicholas, Broad Hollow, NY

    Rump Change Christen Clifford's "Nothing Butt" ("First Person," 4/5) is the most gratuitously and revoltingly gross article I have ever read in a mainstream paper. If it's a joke, I didn't get it. I can think of one of your many faithful readers who would enjoy it and find numerous chuckles in it?and consider it relevant. That would be William Jefferson Clinton. I am sure Bubba and Christen are well into a torrid e-mail romance by now.

    David A. Powers, Manhattan

    Painted Desert Loved the "classic" George Tabb story ("Desert Storm") in the 4/5 New York Press. It's great to see that George is still an idiot, thinks he's funny when he isn't and makes sexist remarks every chance he gets. Of course, I don't believe a word of his prose. He probably made the whole event up. But no matter, you publish the moron's stories anyway. Perhaps you do so in hopes that he'll generate hate mail, much like Russ Smith. Well, no luck here with that idea. Jeanie Preston, Brooklyn

    Every Single Time Re: The title "Job Applicant #2" that you put on my 4/5 letter to "The Mail": Should I take that title as an attempt at humor or a note of interest?

    Marc Gardner, Gig Harbor, WA

    Satanic Cabal Alan Cabal's piece about how he digs Rudy Giuliani ("New York City," 4/5) because both he and the Mayor are Satanists misses one key point: Giuliani claims to be a Catholic! In other words, Giuliani is a liar and a hypocrite in Cabal's eyes, no?

    Claire Francis, Brooklyn

    Moses and The Devil Re: Alan Cabal's article "Meeting Mayor Satan" (4/5): Alan Cabal's blithe statement that Giuliani is the most Satanic mayor since Jimmy Walker is astounding. No two mayors have been more opposite. Giuliani is a nasty, vindictive control freak who wants to turn this city into Singapore. And he's none too popular, even among those who voted for him.

    Jimmy Walker was a happy-go-lucky frontman for Tammany Hall, a fact he never tried to hide. This "Satan" would have understood the importance of community gardens to the common Joes who elected him. This was Jimmy's magic. People loved him because they knew he never placed himself above them. Years after his resignation, a poll was taken among New Yorkers, asking whom they would rather have as mayor: Walker or Fiorello La Guardia. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of Walker.

    If Cabal wants to compare Giuliani to another Satan, I'd suggest the power-hungry miscreant Giuliani's been emulating: Robert Moses.

    Lorraine Diehl, Manhattan

    Spring Rush Christopher Caldwell: You're an IDIOT ("Hill of Beans," 4/5). What kind of week did Al Gore have? George W. Bush's "slow, comfortable screwup"? Must be describing your childhood. Warren Lloyd, San Diego

    You're Very Welcome I don't think you can properly call Eric Alterman an asshole ("MUGGER," 3/29) without employing the term "smug shit," too. Thank you. R. Willou, Peterborough, Ontario

    Quick and The Dead Despite all the fancy dancing of the sort she would no doubt despise in, say, Bill Clinton, Petra Dickenson ("Top Drawer," 4/5), in a desperate attempt to twist equivalency out of the disparate cases of Matthew Shepard and Jesse Dirkhising, obstinately misses the point: two straight men who hated gays killed Matthew Shepard because he was gay. Did the two men who killed Jesse Dirkhising hate straights, and kill Dirkhising because he was straight? Dickenson never answers the question because she never asks it; perhaps because the answer would make clear that there is no equivalency, and, worse, would make equally clear her own biased agenda.

    W. T. Quick, San Francisco

    Roger, Kimball While I agree with Kathy Wollard ("Opinion," 3/29) that evolutionary theory, based on sound scientific observation, trumps creationism, her characterization of Galileo as an imprisoned martyr is an historical manipulation, an abuse of our collective past that drains our history of meaning and power. Galileo spent the last 10 or so years of his life under house arrest, yes. The reason he was not tortured by the Inquisition in 1633 was because he recanted his teachings and beliefs. An excerpt of his abjuration, in front of the pope, reads as follows: "I have been judged vehemently suspected of heresy, that is, of having held and believed that the Sun is at the center of the Universe and immovable, and that the Earth is not at the center and that it moves. Therefore, wishing to remove from the minds of your Eminences and all faithful Christians this vehement suspicion reasonably conceived against me, I abjure with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith these errors and heresies, and I curse and detest them as well as any other error, heresy or sect contrary to the Holy Catholic Church."

    Galileo did not stand up for his beliefs. Casting him as a stoic martyr, even in support of an admirable cause, is a manipulation of a valuable historical event. If we misuse our history like that, soon no one will remember exactly what Galileo did or did not do, or what it meant, and our valuable and instructive past will become worthless and dangerous.

    Harry Graff Kimball, Manhattan

    Kathy Wollard replies: Galileo recanted under threat of being tortured to death, and was instead sentenced to life imprisonment. The sentence was commuted to permanent house arrest. Confined to his house, he completed his Discourses, a cornerstone of modern physics, and had the book smuggled out of the country. Mathematician Rene Descartes (among many other scientists of the day) knew the truth as well as Galileo but chose, as Descartes wrote, "to live in peace and to continue the life I have begun under the motto 'to live well you must live unseen.'"

    Rad Betty John Strausbaugh's "AIDS Heretics" (3/8) was a fabulous piece! This kind of writing is what I expect from the alternative press. It demands that readers think, instead of flatly telling them the same stuff over and over again as if it were factual. Well done! Thank you. This is a huge story, and Africa is only the beginning of the end for AIDS, Inc. Betty Best, ACT UP, San Francisco Half Million Strong As members of a group that is confronted daily with calls from persons who are suffering from the harms of HIV medications and from parents who are at risk of losing their children because they question the efficacy and necessity of toxic medication for their asymptomatic children, we welcome the open debate on questions of HIV and AIDS. We are stunned by the cries in segments of the scientific community (largely from those who receive their research funding from pharmaceutical companies) that all significant questions about AIDS have been "definitively determined." No real scientist can lay claim to that name who would make such an assertion. Science is by definition a process, and all knowledge is understood to be provisional.

    The quest for truth demands that the marketplace of ideas remain open, and that all assertions be continually reexamined in the light of experience and reason. Only those who fear the results of the search for truth will demand that the search be ended.

    The simple fact is that, in spite of all the claims of knowledge of causation and effect, 500,000 of our friends, families and loved ones have died from the ravages of this disease. In spite of the claims of certainty, the scientific community has given us no cure, and no treatment that is not itself harmful and painful.

    We owe it to everyone who has suffered and died to step back and take a second look, without fear of confronting the possibility of error. To Laurie Garrett, Dr. Wainberg, Mark Schoofs and all who would suppress free speech, human rights and the unfettered exchange of ideas, we ask you to look at your hands and your hearts. If these persons have suffered as the result of medical error, or tame journalism afraid to ask or understand the hard questions, then their blood is on your hands, and you are the authors of your own holocaust.

    Deane Collie, executive director Robert Beard, general counsel International Coalition for Medical Justice, Inc., Arlington, VA Heartbreak Ridge MUGGER: Since stumbling onto New York Press I have become a huge fan of your column and have turned quite a few people on to it. I look forward to going online every Tuesday afternoon and reading your musings. I completely agree with your opinion of Al Gore. The man is vile. George W. Bush must win this election. However, I don't think Bush will be helped if he picks a pro-choice candidate. Most pro-lifers (myself included) will vote for Bush even if he picks someone like Tom Ridge. (I might draw the line if my own governor, Christie Whitman, were the vice presidential candidate?she embodies the worst qualities of a country-club Republican.)

    However, if Bush picks a pro-choice candidate, I can't imagine him winning over any people who consider "pro-choice" to be an important issue. I can only see him losing the votes of the very extreme pro-life people who would rather forfeit the Supreme Court justice seats that are up for grabs than give an inch.

    And all Bush needs to do to turn around the unyielding extremism on the issue of abortion attack is to agree. Bush: "Yes, extremism does exist surrounding the abortion issue. My opponent's position is so extreme that he won't even denounce partial birth abortion."

    Having said all that, MUGGER, I do think he will pick someone who is pro-choice, perhaps Ridge. And I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed.

    Tim Potter, Morristown, NJ

    Chumps for Chimps Time to play "Animal Rights." In this game we pretend animal rights activists truly believe what they say, and act accordingly. For example: Animal rights believers only eat food they foraged for in the forest. Farms take habitat from cute furry animals, causing them to starve to death!

    Animal rights believers only wear clothing made of leaves and vines. Cotton farms kill cute animals, and the water to irrigate them means dead fish! Or maybe they're all nudists!

    Animal rights believers never use anything that has to be shipped or trucked to them. Roadkill is a serious problem! Beyond that, oil tankers tend to have accidents every so often, killing many cute little fuzzies!

    Animal rights believers don't read New York Press (sorry!) because it's printed with oil-based ink (see above) on non-recycled paper (loss of habitat) using presses powered by coal (acid rain equals dead fish) or nuclear energy (dead fish from the cooling system, loss of habitat from mining plants).

    Animal rights believers refuse all medical help that has benefited from testing on animals. Essentially they rely on prayer when ill.

    Animal rights believers don't use anything made from a non-renewable resource or that wasn't manufactured using energy from solar, wind or other green energy sources.

    If animal rights were truly the same as human rights, and the activists weren't really a bunch of hypocritical white yuppie holier-than-thou assholes, they would behave in the manner described above.

    Instead they write letters.

    So let's pretend that Chris Stern, Dudley Giehl ("The Mail," 4/5) and the bimbo who responded (2/23) to my previous letter (2/9) are animal rights believers and wish them luck as they live in the forest, with no clothes, medicine or New York Press.

    Maybe the rest of us can seek a rational middle ground that ends unnecessary abuse and consumption of other living creatures, but recognizes that our existence at the top of the food chain in our current numbers makes anything beyond that a fantasy.

    Carmi Turchick, Queens

    Ape and Essence Can't you just see it now? The Million Monkey March, from Hoboken to Manhattan, with monkeys, apes and gorillas following their leaders, Dudley Giehl and Chris Stern, to a gigantic rally where they'll applaud and cheer the rousing speeches of Stephen Wise and Jane Goodall. There, the apes will issue the Monkey Manifesto, a list of nonnegotiable demands to be accomplished by any means necessary. A new dawn of ape freedom will begin. Not going to happen. Apes have no notions of democracy or rights, or any means to express them if they did. Dudley and Chris are engaged in anthropomorphic projection, trying to impose their own ideas on the poor, dumb brutes that have no means of saying nay. Who the hell elected these clowns, or Stephen Wise or anyone else, as representatives of the rights and interests of apes? Was there a chimpanzee primary or an orangutan caucus meeting, and they just neglected to send me a press release?

    Giehl and Stern, like Stephen Wise, apparently fail to understand the meaning of the word "rights" in the context that they were used by our Founders. Rights are not granted by the governors to the governed, but rather are possessed as inalienable by the people, who have the solemn duty of defending their rights against encroachment. What the animal rights people are attempting to do is project this concept into areas where its usage would only pervert the meaning of "rights." The only effect of this perversion would be to grant to a self-anointed elite the power to define the rights of animals?nothing more than an opportunistic power grab.

    Stern says that "our understanding of animals and our relationships with them become increasingly sophisticated." Great. Glad to know you're so much more sophisticated than us slobs who don't have the privilege of living in Hoboken, Land of Enlightenment.

    Giehl says that I have "no regard for the women's movement." Oh, what a terrible thing to say. I'm hurt. What will my wife and daughter think? The shame of it all.

    Giehl, in attempting to debunk my claim that animal rights is "a fringe movement without significant popular support in America," cites the membership of "numerous animal welfare organizations...celebrities in the entertainment field, as well as people in academia." I rest my case.

    While I think there is no imminent danger of the animal rights nuts being taken seriously by the rest of America, I am concerned that these nuts take themselves and their loopy cause so seriously. Instead of getting so worked up about the fictitious rights of apes, how about getting lives, guys?

    Robert Stacy McCain, Gaithersburg, MD

    Warren Hardon MUGGER: Come now. Warren Harding (3/5) was a much better president than Bill Clinton. At least the Constitution meant something to him. Name Withheld, Columbus, OH

    Sure, Hoss MUGGER: You have got to be kidding if you think that the American people aren't fully aware of the corruption that money and fundraising cause in our political system. Just because people don't check the box on the tax return, or list it as a top priority in polls, doesn't mean that we're not going to demand that our next president fix the campaign finance system. And Al Gore's plan is the best one I have heard so far. Chris Fick, Frisco, TX

    A Head Swells in Tribeca MUGGER: Outstanding column last week. You're unashamedly pragmatic. You have uncommon common sense. While Al Gore is still repeating his overused and increasingly hollow and nonresonating mantras (I think he's got Gore fatigue; it seems like he's just playing out the string), George W. Bush is quietly offering policies on education and the environment. George will win a large part?if not the majority?of the women's vote, and should do well enough among Hispanics to win in a cakewalk.

    It's all over. When Gore tries to inflame his base, they won't react. Witness Gore's tepid response to George's environmental proposals. They know Bush is stealing all their major issues. What can they do? Become more conservative? More like McCain? If they do, they will be called on by the liberal media. Meanwhile, Bush's proposals will be taken more or less on their own merit, portrayed less as being the product of cynical politics and more as serious proposals. After all, how can the liberal media deride Bush when Bush is giving them exactly what they want?

    George Mikos, Concord, CA

    Getting Scholastic on Our Asses MUGGER: The only objection I have to your line about Al Gore's "character defects" (4/5) is that you're falsely assuming he has a character to be defective! Dale Brooks, Ogden, NY

    One Less Lawyer MUGGER: Just wanted to drop you a line from the hinterlands of Oklahoma and thank you for keeping me sane. Between you and Jonah Goldberg, I am able to stay off the hard stuff and maintain my sanity in what is shaping up to be a weird political season. Graduating law school in December may be a bittersweet event for me. Why? If Al Gore wins the November elections, I will not be able to put my law degree to work, as I will either be tending bar in a pub in Ireland or working as a towel boy at a posh resort in Mexico. I figure those are better options than living here through the Gore Years.

    Christopher William Cotner, Norman, OK

    Listing to Port I am writing in regard to Taki's 3/22 "Top Drawer" piece, "Hollywood's Blackguard List." The article has some minor errors that need mending: Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin, chaired the Senate committee investigating subversive influences in the U.S. State Dept., and improprieties in the U.S. Army. The liberal Robert F. Kennedy was on his staff, as were Roy Cohn and David Schine. But McCarthy was not part of the HUAC team, which conducted hearings about disloyalty within Hollywood primarily, and within New York television secondarily. (Also, trivia aside, McCarthy liked being called "Tailgunner Joe," as a man-of-action WWII veteran, even though he had little significant combat experience. Taki incorrectly calls him "rear-gunner Joe," but who in hell now gives a damn who called whom what?)

    Originally, it was the Hollywood 19 who were singled out for the first rounds of testimony before HUAC. Seated on the left of Rep. J. Parnell Thomas, who chaired the hearings, was the junior representative from California, Richard M. Nixon. My point is that Taki errs in connecting McCarthy with the investigations of the Hollywood 19. Of that number, only 10 appeared in those first hearings, which became so unruly, the witnesses so defiant, that the second group, the nine, escaped summonses, except for Bertolt Brecht, whose testimony was short and sweet, like an old lady's dance. He fled to East Germany the following day.

    Of the Hollywood Ten, I knew four personally, and two or three by correspondence, per my duties as founder/editor of Film Comment magazine, now published by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

    Doubtlessly some, or even all, of the Hollywood Ten were "card-carrying commies" (that was the epithet of the period). I will not attempt to defend them here. But I wish to emphasize that the U.S. has a long tradition of iconoclastic political thinking, even radicalism, since the mid-1800s, some of which can be called socialism. We have long had our own indigenous social activism. Indeed, many of these homegrown union organizers, et al., resisted efforts by sophisticated eastern Marxists to "infiltrate and subvert"?the common jargon when the working class gets smart and organizes. The great industrial strikes that tested union strength in the 1930s were by and large free of communist theory. No one talked about silly threats of American workers permanently seizing and managing the Detroit auto factories, etc.

    All they wanted were decent wages, job security, safe working conditions, recognition for their unions and maybe a bit of vacation time. All of that is modest and reasonable. Americans are too individualistic, too argumentative, to fall into line obediently under the red flag of rebellion on behalf of what they sensed was an unworkable ideology that didn't fit America's style.

    Similarly, the factory bosses and their allies in Congress were not terrified by the word "communism." Their desires were simple, like those of their workers. The bosses wanted merely to break the unions entirely and to return to the pre-union sweatshop happy days, or at least to dominate and control the unions indirectly. And for that purpose they halfway invented the Red Menace, along with their stooge press, and they chose their surrogates in Congress accordingly. I say "halfway," because there were indeed some Americans?very few?whose first loyalties were to the USSR.

    Let me take a moment for nostalgia. For a time in the 1950s I worked in Hollywood, at one point as dialogue coach for the Twentieth-Century Fox comedy Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell, adapted from the Broadway hit. The film was one of the Belvedere series, starring Clifton Webb, following on his first Belvedere hit, Sitting Pretty, for which he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Webb lost to Olivier for Hamlet, but, as Webb said, "Larry is an old pal," so he forgave him.

    The Hollywood blacklist was then going full blast. Hollywood writers, performers, et al., were being summoned to testify. Webb was glued to his radio every spare minute, since the confession and contrition made for great theater. When Webb was due on the set, he asked me to take over the radio so that he could learn everything about the HUAC hearings, if only secondhand. Webb rejoiced when Larry Parks whined and groveled before the committee. But Webb's ultimate joy was the testimony of Jose Ferrer. How pitiful to hear a man nearly break down, as his estate and swimming pool were in jeopardy. Ferrer had starred in the original Broadway hit The Silver Whistle. Similarly, at that time I knew others in Hollywood who were suffering through the blacklist ordeal.

    And so it came to pass that I myself was blacklisted. As a merchant seaman, I first sailed deep sea in the summer of 1942, at the age of 17, too young for the draft. I sailed five tankers and three Liberties from 1942 through 1945, and then, at 20 years of age after the war, I quit the sea and for a year worked on the English-language Mexico City Herald, developing a taste for journalism and Dos Equis beer.

    The maritime industry by then was undergoing its own loyalty investigations, hearings and blacklists. There were variations. Sometimes you merely signed an oath swearing such and such. Sometimes others were questioned about you. Sometimes your phone was tapped, your mail studied. I endured some of this later, during the Vietnam War, when, as editor of Film Comment and as a sometime guest editor of Film Culture, the feds were concerned about the anti-Vietnam stance I expressed in print. Per the Freedom of Information Act, I sent for my FBI file, which was merely 80 pages. (I was also, by the way, a stringer for Variety, but my articles and reviews in that publication never generated any controversy. Besides, they wouldn't dare attack Variety.)

    Thus I commend Taki for taking on a complex controversy. I'm trying to provide some context, however, having lived through all that. As Gen. Robert E. Lee told his troops at the surrender, "I wish you all an affectionate farewell."

    Gordon Hitchens, Manhattan

    Drunken Boat I would like to reply to several items in the 3/29 New York Press. As Taki would say, the right to reply is sacred. So I will begin with him. He is drinking too many jiggers. While he was correct, in his response in "The Mail," that Jacob Weisberg was soft on the left in his attack on Joseph McCarthy, Taki should be somewhat forgiving. From what I understand, Weisberg was something of a red-diaper baby, or grandbaby. It's understandable that someone consciously or unconsciously would want to defend the honor and integrity of his ancestors. Say what you will about his skills or opinions, Jacob is above all a man of honor. His dignified letter in "The Mail" was appropriate for a man caught in an embarrassing position.

    Next, two well-meaning but ill-informed chaps write letters to "The Mail" attempting to correct Taki on his history of the blacklist. Taki's column contained subtle misrepresentations, but a moron named Ross Willett and a fella named Mike Chapman also failed to tell the whole story. In brief, neither HUAC nor McCarthy created the blacklist. It was created in 1947 at a meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria by all the big producers. Originally, the list contained 10 known communists, but it later expanded to fellow travelers and finally to those unwilling to fully cooperate. It was just good business and preemptive censorship. It was encouraged by some members of the Jewish ADL because so many of the known communists had Jewish backgrounds, which was becoming embarrassingly scandalous. The producers, most of whom were Jewish, wanted to purge these traitors from their midst. They were patriots, were wary of accusations of dual loyalty and were rightly afraid that if too many Jews were revealed to be involved in treacherous behavior, it would inevitably lead to an anti-Semitic reaction.

    HUAC, on the other hand, was created originally in 1935 by Samuel Dickstein, in order to investigate links among Nazi propaganda, right-wing groups and German-Americans. Just recently, Allen Weinstein published a book about the era with the assistance of Soviet files. It turns out that Dickstein was a communist and a paid Soviet agent. The Soviets wanted to dump him because they felt he was too expensive and unproductive. They dubbed him "the crook."

    After two years, Dickstein's committee published its finding, but Nazi propaganda continued. He was unable the get reauthorization. He then approached Martin Dies, who agreed to help set up a new committee, but could not limit itself to hunting Nazis. He would also hunt communists. In Dicksteins' words, they would "investigate everybody for activities that were un-American." Thus, in 1938, the HUAC committee was formed, and a multi-decade reign began, with many highs and many lows. With a conservative majority, Dies dominated the group, but remember?Dickstein created it, and he was a paid Soviet agent.

    Dickstein's treason was disclosed only a couple of years ago, but very few people know this. The media doesn't report it, history books don't write it and for people like Jacob Weisberg and other writers the subject is a sore and sensitive one.

    Finally, Tom Phillips writes a letter repeating his claim to be a spokesman for Generation X. He mentions dating two Oriental girls. I once trolled for poon in Bangkok, and I remember smoking opium and reciting Baudelaire's "Invitation au Voyage": "Mon enfant, ma soeur/Songe à la douceur/D'aller la-bas vivre ensemble."

    For Village Voice readers, that translates as: "My child, my sister/Dream of the sweetness/To go down there to live together."

    Since then I married a Latina, but I still keep a gong over my bed. I hope Tom Phillips does, too. As a generational spokesman, though, he should do more for the blacks and even the gays. We can only pray.

    T. O'Toole, Ridgewood, NJ