I must differ, though, with a comment in the 12/15 "MUGGER." The issue was Hillary Clinton's desire to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade versus her support for the gay community. You said that gays were "inexplicably excluded" from marching. But actually they are not. Gays as a group are. But individual gays, as far as anyone knows, have been marching for years. No one has been booted from the line of march for being gay. I would wager that there are gays marching with county associations or with college Irish clubs?the sheer number of people marching makes it a safe bet.
This battle started because an Irish gay and lesbian group wanted inclusion based simply on their sexuality. But they already have a Gay Pride parade for that. This is about ethnic pride. The Hibernians viewed ILGO's push as a classic liberal attack on a traditional ethnic/religious parade?and I believe the Hibernians are right.
If you're gay and want to march in the parade, join a county association, become a cop or learn to play the bagpipes. Individuals should be excluded because of their sexuality, but no group should be included solely because they share a common sexual preference.
Pat Donoghue, Philadelphia
Capture The Flag MUGGER: I thought your column last week was one of your better efforts. But I had one problem with it, and it had to do with the lame controversy over Hillary Clinton's saying that she'd like to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade. Your position was that gays should be allowed to march in the parade, and you wrote under the assumption that they're not allowed to do so now.
I know a lot of Irish people in New York. That said, I know not one person who belongs to the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Nor do I want to. I have no love for that bunch of stuffed chairs. In the 1970s they wouldn't allow marchers to carry "England out of Ireland" banners. They finally relented after many years. I've never felt a part of that part of Irish society. I never felt they'd want the likes of me around.
Now, I'd have no problem with gays marching in the parade under their ILGO banner. If I were an AOH member I'd vote them in. But I'm not. I know some members of ILGO and like them. Good Irish souls, the bunch of them.
But it's dishonest of ILGO to say they can't march in the parade. They can march?just not with their banner. This isn't just semantics. They can march, and yet no one?but no one?who writes about this matter ever mentions that. I march in the parade every year, and never have any idea who I'm marching with. I go up to 44th St., worm my way in line behind a piper band and walk up 5th Ave. with a bunch of strangers. No one's ever stopped me; nor would ILGO members be stopped.
The AOH may be pigheaded and wrong, but it's their parade?has been for more than 140 years?and they can damn well say no to whomever they please. I might not agree with their choices, but who am I? Just another mick with an opinion. And they in turn are just a bunch of micks with an opinion that may differ from mine, but that's their right. It's their parade.
I would like to see ILGO just march at first without their banner. Maybe eventually they'll be able to unfurl it. But their little drama, year after endless year, is pointless.
C.J. Sullivan, Manhattan
Mayday MUGGER: You really don't know George W. Bush as well as Texans do. Under his governorship, our school children in Arlington are now being forced to celebrate the national holiday of a foreign country. Upon checking I learned it was because Gov. Bush had twisted the arm of the legislators to give total autonomy to each district. When I wrote Gov. Bush that his father had signed the 1990 Immigration Act, which states that all new citizens must swear on oath to abjure and renounce their allegiance to their former countries and to swear allegiance to the U.S., and that our teachers were teaching these immigrants (most of whom are illegal) to do just that, I received a form letter basically saying it was nice to hear opinions from fellow Texans.
Our children are now celebrating Cinco de Mayo, a national holiday of Mexico, which celebrates their battle defeat of the French, instead of our state holiday, San Jacinto Day, which celebrates Santa Anna's defeat and our independence from Mexico. Bush has betrayed his oath of office to defend the state of Texas by allowing this to happen, and he should be impeached as governor. Talk about lack of character. And he is too dumb to even realize just what he has done.
M. Langdon, Arlington, TX
Talkin' Vietnam Blues MUGGER: Beg to disagree with your 12/15 defense of Al Gore and his military service. As I understand it, he did not serve to prevent embarrassment to his father. Rather, his father counseled him to reconsider for his (young Al's) own future.
Furthermore, he was only in country for five months. A normal tour of duty was a year. So how did Gore get out so early? Unless there's an undeniable legitimate excuse it's obvious he was there just for show. I was an enlisted Army-trained journalist. It can be dangerous, but I doubt very much that Gore would ever have been exposed.
Now, I may not have all of the details, as I got the information from talk radio, which you seem to disparage in your column. But if it's true, then Gore does not deserve defense, and certainly does not deserve the respect of anyone who had served in the military during that time. He was nowhere near an equal among equals. He was a fraud then, just as he is now.
Stan Kadota, Santa Maria, CA
Soup Bones Re: George Szamuely's latest opus ("Taki's Top Drawer," 12/15). I think it's a bit unfair to compare Israel with Austria, Germany or America in the naive way you're doing it. Israel was established on a policy of ethnic preference, because at the time Jews had no place else to go. That policy may not meet with smiles all around, but it is quite understandable given Jewish history, particularly from the 1930s until 1948. As such, setting aside the Arab minority for a moment, I think they would be quite within their rights to be alarmed at the prospect of non-Jewish immigrants coming in and significantly influencing the government. Of course this depends on who is or is not a Jew, and I'm sure there is less than total agreement on that.
As for the Russians, as far as I know it is quite accurate to say they are defiling Israel "with their pornography, prostitution, disease and alcoholism." You know, Israel has accepted a lot of Russians. They made up more than 18 percent of the Jewish population as of 1997 and are the largest subgroup in Israel by far. (My favorite joke there was, "What is the most popular second language in Israel? Hebrew." The implication being that Russian had become the national language.) Many of them are wonderful, but many others are coarse people who brought with them a lot of social problems. Prostitution, alcoholism and domestic violence were rare to nonexistent in Israel before the Russians came, and their behavior shocked the Israelis. Many Israelis I know simply roll their eyes when the subject of the Russians comes up.
As for the "fanciful and self-serving justifications" you mentioned for immigration restrictions to Israel, namely that Israel could soon "be flooded not just with non-Jews but also with those infected by the anti-Semitism in their homeland," I'm surprised that it's not perfectly obvious to you why non-Jews might well want to (and do) emigrate to Israel: because life in Israel is much better than where they're coming from.
Many of Israel's Russian immigrants pretend to be Jewish to get into the country, and this is a source of irritation among Israelis (and American Jews in Israel). Immigration officials tend to let them in even without any documentation of being Jewish because they are serious about Israel being a safe haven for Jews and they would rather err on the side of being too tolerant.
I had a roommate in Israel, a Russian from Estonia, who left her mother behind to emigrate to Israel. She had a bit of Jewish blood somewhere and no particular interest in Judaism. Her only language was Russian and she had no family or friends in Israel. She was not crazy about Israel despite the fact that we were living in one of the best parts of the country. So what was she doing there? Well, the economy in Estonia is not good and Russians are discriminated against. She had a lot of trouble finding work there. So despite the fact that in Israel she had to struggle every day with Hebrew and felt lonely and out of place, I never heard her mention the idea of going back. I don't think she ever considered it. She's simply much better off where she is.
In general, apart from the immigration question, non-Semitic people in Israel can almost forget they're not Jewish?except when it comes to marriage. Most Jewish Israelis would think long and hard before marrying a non-Jew (and would never consider marrying an Arab, and vice versa). Other than that, which I accept as a kind of weird quirk, I wouldn't consider Jewish Israelis racist.
Joe Rodrigue, New Haven
Sounding Gored I read your 12/15 article about Al Gore's exploits in his campaign against Bill Bradley with much interest. I agree with everything you say about Gore (I can't seem to come to terms with calling him "Vice President" because he certainly does not have enough of my respect to deserve such a title), but I cannot agree with you that the Seattle Times "prematurely" endorsed Bill Bradley. If I'm not mistaken, I believe it was the Seattle Times (or even The Seattle Intelligencer) that called for Bill Clinton's resignation more than a year ago, during the Lewinsky affair.
Granted, there are times when I, too, am disappointed with Bradley's late responses to Gore's attacks. But Gore simply will not be elected president this time around. Bradley is without a doubt the best candidate the Democrats have to offer. Frankly, I would like to see Bradley run against McCain in the presidential election. Don't count Bradley out at this stage of the game. I think he is just starting to get "tempered," which should make for an interesting campaign and consequently force Gore to concede bitterly. Provided, of course, that Bradley can honorably prove Gore to be a despicable man during the weekend.
Excellent journalism, Mr. Smith, and I will be looking forward to reading your comments in the weeks and months ahead.
Larry Kalb, Bellingham, WA
Mitch's Top Drawer Oy vey! Once again you people printed the anti-Semitic letter from that maggot on Staten Island ("The Mail," 12/15). He is obviously a follower of neo-Nazi National Alliance leader William Pierce. Yet you people allow him to escape any direct criticism by withholding his name. This is an act of cowardice on both your part and his also. Of course this act of cowardice should be put on the shoulders of Taki. He never gives his real name and rarely shows his face in public. Gee, what a fine example he sets. Nobody has a right to have a letter to the editor of a newspaper printed. It's at the discretion of the newspaper whether or not to print it. Yes, this maggot from Staten Island says that New York Press does not censor. But it does. It censors his name. If people knew his name, they could find out where he lives and exercise their First Amendment right to protest in front of his home. I tell you what: Let this maggot go to the Midwood section of Brooklyn and go to J St., where he will find many JDL shaya boys. I'm sure after they got through with this Jew-hating maggot, he would never dare speak the things he does. This maggot and the maggots of New York Press deserve each other.
Richard Resnick, Manhattan
Ferry Disturbing I believe that the primary characteristic of the racist and the religious bigot is the compulsion to generalize (e.g., blacks have rhythm; Italians have mob connections; the Irish are drunks; Jews are chiselers). The secondary characteristic appears to be cowardice. Both traits apply to your unnamed correspondent from Staten Island ("The Mail," 11/24 and 12/15).
I am a student of neither journalistic ethics nor of the First Amendment, but I think that a sense of decency should require a publisher to exercise the privilege of not printing an unsolicited, unsigned piece of time-dishonored hate. That would not be censorship?that would be editorial responsibility and good taste. After all, it's already quite nauseating to read, almost every week, the rhetorical contortions of Taki and his cohort as they seek to connect Jewish-sounding names (and names that once were Jewish-sounding) to a host of unappetizing behavior traits. Such a fuss over a people who constitute maybe 2.5 percent of the American population and about 0.2 percent of the world's population! That would be quite a compliment if we only could forget history.
I have been in the habit of perusing New York Press since not long after its inception. Although it contains much more writing than it did 10 years ago, there is much less to read. That's a real disappointment. Although Russ Smith calls New York Press provocative, I say that it has become nasty. It fairly radiates ill-will and meanness of spirit. The sourness begins with Smith's vanity column and ends with every self-indulgent, egregiously profane essay by some preening narcissist who is dutifully trying to provoke. Here, for example, in the 12/15 issue, is Smith writing about his sons and, a few paragraphs later, asserting that President Clinton should be behind bars, "taking it up the ass from a 7-foot, 350-pound serial killer." How does one answer the question: What did you write today, Daddy?
In anticipation of Smith's well-known suggestion, I will henceforth stop reading this stuff, and I'm certain that so will more and more people. For in the end, what will surely kill this paper dead is not just the bad vibrations, but the shameful loss of credibility.
Al Silver, Manhattan
Amending The First Howie Katz of the Anti-Defamation League was "shocked," yes, shocked, that New York Press printed a letter from a Staten Island reader who was critical of Jews ("The Mail," 12/8).
Howie, don't you and fellow outraged readers know that the doctrine of free speech does not include a clause requiring that individuals speaking out against their enemies provide their home addresses so that you and your affiliated vigilante groups can track them down and silence them?
Instead, why don't you address his points one by one? While some of his remarks are questionable, that doesn't mean that they are all without valid substance.
Name Withheld, Manhattan
Roast Beast This is in response to the meshuggener in Staten Island ("The Mail," 11/24 and 12/15) who insists on speaking of "Jewish crimes" and "Jewish power" in this country. Sadly, there are some very basic points in life that you were never taught. I will try to overlook your calling me a yenta (reread your letters, you'll find you're quite a yenta yourself!) and explain the most basic of these points to you. The rest, for now, are over your head. This one though, you should know at your age:
Ready? In this world, there are good people and there are bad people. This occurs within every single nationality and religion. But wait, you say?the Jews are an exception! They are all evil, money-hoarding, media-controlling demons, not a good Moishe among them. Worst of all, they roam the Earth with delusions of grandeur and world-domination schemes. Listen: Out there in Staten Island, have you heard the other rumors? Like that all Italians are involved in organized crime? And that you shouldn't leave any Puerto Rican alone with your CD player? And how dare those blacks act indignant when they get pulled over just for driving a nice car! Everyone knows what they've been dealing to get that car, and it ain't incense!
That is exactly how stupid you sound. Don't you understand that? Once again: There exist good Jews and bad Jews, selfish Jews and altruistic Jews, rich Jews and poor Jews. For instance, bubelach, do my parents?who came here as immigrants 20 years ago and busted their collective ass assembling necklaces in factories, lifting heavy boxes at age 45 and performing various other minimum-wage jobs so that their daughter could eventually attend college in this great old capitalistic nation?have much in common with those Hollywood directors you're so angry at? From where I sit, they sure as hell don't, so why even group them in the same category? You privileged piece of trash. You have no idea what it was like for them to lose family members to the Holocaust, to uproot their entire family and leave everything they knew, not necessarily to enter the land of milk and money, but just to get away from ignorant morons calling them the same names they'd eventually hear in this country from idiots like yourself.
You find it funny that no one has answered your accusations. Boy, please, we've heard them all a million times and we're tired. What shall we respond to, the allegation that we killed Jesus?
Now see what you made me do? There I was in my previous letter, wishing you a Happy Chanukah and giving you pointers for future success and happiness, and now you've gone and pissed me off. So gloat for just a moment, but remember this: Tomorrow, after I forget about your stupid letter and am laughing over dinner with friends, or watching The Simpsons with my husband, you'll still be lost in your same miserable hatred, in your pathetic preoccupation with nonsense, and in your high-blood-pressured, loveless life. You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
Name Withheld, Brooklyn
The editors reply: First, a general note. As most of our readers appreciate, "The Mail" is as large and lively as it is because we allow correspondents very broad latitude in the expression of their opinions and ideas, which sometimes means printing letters we or some of our readers may find offensive or insulting. Of course New York Press does not agree with all the opinions expressed in the letters we print. How could we? They're all over the map. Indeed, we believe the diversity of ideologies and opinions in our mail is a reflection of our broad readership. We'd rather know what our neighbors are thinking, even if we sometimes find those thoughts repugnant or simply idiotic, than ignore them, or, worse, try to suppress them.
That said, we do owe everyone an explanation regarding that seemingly anonymous letter from Staten Island that so riled a few of you. In fact, the writer did sign the letter. Unable to confirm the name at press time, we opted to render it "Name Withheld," when we probably should have held the letter pending confirmation.
Which brings up one last note: While we prefer that all correspondents identify themselves, and we make what we consider to be a reasonable effort to confirm and print correspondents' names, we do, obviously, print a certain amount of anonymous correspondence. It's a judgment call. Do some correspondents misuse the opportunity? Surely. But sometimes, as in the letter directly preceding this note, the writer's wish not to be identified seems justifiable.
After the Flood Godfrey Cheshire's 12/8 article on the independent Waco documentary ("American Holocaust") was much appreciated, especially in an age of big-business-owned journalism that leads to things like New York Times-produced documentaries cleverly designed to portray everyone in America with antigovernment sentiments as violent white racists.
Alexander Cockburn also deserves credit for past articles on this matter, but "American Holocaust" perfectly synopsized Waco: The Rules of Engagement (which I had already listened to over a certain radical radio frequency and that I now intend to see) in such a way as to make even the disinterested want to have a look. No one can see this documentary, fully realize what's happening in it and then go on believing that America is any different from any other country on human rights (as the Serbs, the Iraqis and a host of other peoples violently victimized by an expansionist U.S. foreign policy could have told us).
No one is a little pregnant or a minor human-rights abuser, and Waco makes clear the U.S. government's charter status in the rights-abusing club, regardless of our "democracy" and our "free market economy." ("We're not perfect, but America's system is the best of a bad batch!" you say. Even the so-called best of a rotten batch of fruit is discarded with the rest, I say, and serving it to one's children should be beyond consideration.) As did the Ruby Ridge case. As did the assassination of Martin Luther King. (Just decided, by a jury in Memphis, to have been the work of a conspiracy that may have included all the usual government agencies.) As does the fact that not a day passes in this country without Christians being discriminated against by private employers, teachers and representatives of the government alike. I listen to a sober, fact-filled Christian radio program that documents seemingly endless instances of discrimination that the mainstream media entirely ignores. Just one case to be litigated involves a war veteran who was told that he couldn't wear his "Ask Me About Jesus Christ" pin if being treated in a VA hospital.
If a brand or view of Christianity doesn't fit with the liberal, new age, Christianity Lite 'n' Inoffensive variety that the Clintons and their "ministers" find convenient and politically rewarding to practice, it is considered to be "right-wing," "intolerant" and primitive. This makes the lives of active Christians expendable in the minds of many, including those of people in power, and things like Waco (and massacres by gunmen in churches that go only briefly reported in the mainstream media) are the results.
The Branch Davidians did not practice a version of Christianity that I agree with very much. David Koresh was a man of great potential who was also in desperate need of spiritual counseling and some sort of treatment for pedophilia. But the Davidians were communally self-contained, self-supporting, humble, non-messianic (the film makes clear that Koresh did not claim to be Christ or a Christ-like figure) and bothering no one. When Koresh was sought by a Waco sheriff on a previous occasion, all he did was calmly go into town. What made some federal agency decide that it had the right to launch the equivalent of a wannabe military assault, unprovoked, on the Davidians is beyond me. So is what makes so many people (mostly liberals and Wall Street-loving conservatives, of course) think that a group with the Davidians' apocalyptic mindset was acting inconsistently in responding with gunfire to a violent attack on their compound, which contained children.
We should do all the information-spreading we can on this issue, but let's?those of us who care?not get our hopes up. The very forces that Waco exposes will never allow there to be a complete inquiry. The current "inquiry" will be allowed to drag to the whimpering end of the administration of the aging playboy in the White House, and already seems forgotten. (As with the King assassination suit, which the King family intends to publish on the Web, only the lawsuit in the Waco case shows any promise.) The politics of the Chucky Schumers of the country will win, as the evils of this world usually do. For now. Because Waco should make Christians all the more happy and joyous that with God, all evil will eventually be cleansed, all wrongs made right and all corruption defeated. "It'll all come out in the wash," as my grandmother used to say.
Too Many Lutherans Christopher Caldwell's column "Flyoverrated Iowa" ("Hill of Beans" 11/24) was right on target. As a campaign worker who had the misfortune to have worked in two election cycles in Iowa I know firsthand that the caucuses there measure nothing except the Iowa winter. Forget about that presidency stuff?I remember one local Iowa caucus in Des Moines that I attended as a campaign worker for Gary Hart. The first hour was spent debating a resolution to change the national anthem to "America the Beautiful." (It failed.)
Folks in Iowa are as good or better citizens than anywhere else. They deserve a chance to have their voices heard in the presidential nominating process. At best, fewer than 10 percent of Iowans participate in the caucus process, and sometimes it's only 2 or 3 percent. The caucuses distort rather than reflect that voice via a Kafkaesque process that virtually no one understands. The only real winners in the Iowa caucuses are rental car agencies, restaurants and hotels, all of whom profiteer off the hordes of media sentenced to cover the silliness.
Howard Park, Washington, DC
Hash and Whores MUGGER: Loved your 12/15 column as usual, except for one part?this business about Al Gore's having gone to Vietnam being "admirable." Give me a break. His little gig over there was as classic a "favorite son" setup job as was ever done for any offspring of a U.S. senator or congressman. And you can bet your ass that if Bush had gone over there under identical circumstances there would be a howl from Gore and his buddies the likes of which you have never heard. And while on the subject of Bush, even if he was in the Texas ANG rather than Vietnam, you can bet he had one fuck of a lot more on the line (such as his hide) driving F-102s in the skies over Texas than Al Gore ever did knocking back mai-tais at the Caravelle Bar in Saigon.
So Gore went to Vietnam. So what? Do you think that just because somebody got posted "in country" during the war that their lives were in imminent danger the whole year they were there? (Gore spent five months over there as a "journalist." But nobody else got out of Vietnam in less than a year unless they were maimed or dead. What's Gore's excuse?)
I've got a news flash for you, pal. Ninety percent (yes, I said 90 percent) of the men sent to Vietnam were what the 10 percent who were actually in combat called REMFs, Rear Echelon Motherfuckers. Sure, you stood a chance of buying it in the odd VC rocket attack while working as a jet mechanic, truckdriver, logistics clerk, cook or medical orderly (none of which jobs "journalist" Gore dirtied his hands doing). But consider this. We lost approximately 58,000 men in all the years that war lasted. Yet during the war this country lost approximately 50,000 a year in car accidents, most of whom were in the same age range as the guys over there. Do the math. Gore stood a lot bigger chance of dying right here in the good old U.S. of A. while out hotrodding in his Super Bee Six Pack, Mustang Mach 1 or whatever he did in his five months over there "serving" as a "journalist".
Say what you will about John McCain, which I certainly do (such as his not seeming to understand the First Amendment), but military family or no, he laid it on the line and suffered the consequences in spades, as did a lot of other men. But Gore? He didn't do jack.
Sorry guy, but you dropped the ball bigtime on that one.
Pat Myers, Houston
Albert in the Can MUGGER: I'm not sure Al Gore was ever as praiseworthy as you suggest. He seems to me like a man who has yet to find any real meaning or purpose in his life, so (like our current President) he continues to pad his resume in the hope that the right situation will snare him.
I'm not at all sure that Gore wants to be president or even a politician. I think (whether he knows it or not) he might be happy growing tobacco and raising his kids. He couldn't walk away from a ready-made political career, however, and if a person can't find his/her own destiny in this world, they tend to end up in the company of the morally debased.
Bill Wilmeth, Ogden, UT