Readers on Taki, Von Bulow, Strausbaugh, Kramer, Tabb

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:56

    I try to read Taki & Co.'s articles but the woids?oh, those big woids. What the hell is a "polymath, party-giver sans pareil" and "raconteur"? How about Les Fleurs du Mal?

    One of my anti-favorites: "literary San Gennaro effigy that publishers hoist about in a pious frenzy knowing we'll throng blindly to the parade. Let us foil them. Let's, for once, play the papal skeptic and face down the plaster saint's hagiolatry" (Melik Kaylan, "Top Drawer," 7/5).

    Throng blindly? Foil? Papal skeptic? Hagiolatry?

    Are you talkin' to me?

    Jim Buckley, San Francisco

    There Is a Santa Claus

    Claus Von Bulow: I did not know that you had such fine writing skills ("Top Drawer," 7/5). Having lived both in America (San Francisco) for many years and now in Europe, I can appreciate many of your comments.

    Like you, I find much that is commendable about London. The theaters are the best in the world.

    I hope to see many more fine, erudite articles issuing from your pen in the near future.

    Rick Jones, Prague

    Tell Nietzsche

    John Strausbaugh is God!

    Michael Mabry, Manhattan

    Shadows and Flog

    Mimi Kramer's mostly thoughtful piece ("Culture Desk," 7/5) on...well, on lots of things, including agitprop left theater, falls on its intellectualoid face with its quip: "The trouble with the American left has always been its inability to keep more than one idea in mind at a time. In this it resembles the American right." This is silly smartass stuff, revealing only Kramer's inability to change her focus from the world of shadows and mimicry to the world of life.

    David F.X. Mandel, Manhattan


    I love William Monahan's pieces and always look forward to them. His "Coney-Catching" ("New York City," 6/28) was delightful, but I believe he is wrong in his speculations about the etymological connection of "coney" and "cunt." The word "coney" (meaning rabbit), does come from the Latin cuniculus via the Old French conil. But it's highly unlikely that the word "cunt" is related to this term, or indeed to the Latin cunnus.

    The Middle English form of "cunt" was queynte, as it appears in the "Miller's Tale" of Geoffrey Chaucer. This derives from a conflation of two Old French words, coigne (wedge) and cointe (known), which descend respectively from the Latin words cuneus and cognitus. Since the outer appearance of the female genitalia is wedge-shaped (recall the "delta of Venus" metaphor), the first half of this etymology is plausible. As for the "cointe-cognitus" part, it's probably due to euphemistic prudery, whereby something taboo is referred to obliquely as "you know what."

    Latin cunnus did give rise to French con, and probably Spanish coan, but not English "cunt." The crucial bit of evidence is the final "t" of cunt, which cannot have developed out of a form like cunnus.

    Dr. Joseph S. Salemi, Manhattan

    Lost Shekel and Ms. Hyde

    As an independent "p.r. person" or "publicist," I must tell you I take great offense with the column "Monkey Business" by George Tabb ("Music," 6/28). At the end of it, he makes an idiotic remark about not opening a band's CD because "if I take the shrink wrap off to listen to it, I'll get less money for it when I try to sell it."

    Well, after reading that, all I could think was: FUCK YOU GEORGE TABB. I would like to urge all other publicists, labels and even bands themselves not to send this rock critic one more release! If Mr. Tabb thinks that "the music business" is there to provide him with extra cash, and that those who work in the public relations field "are just cheerleaders," as he once remarked, let's see how he likes it when he has to start paying for his music.

    Fuck you George Tabb, and also, fuck you New York Press, for not playing ball.

    Kathy Hyde, Manhattan

    Pinch of Salt

    John Ellis wrote a bad 7/5 column. Amazon makes as much business sense as Crazy Eddie did. I'm of the Chris Byron school. You ain't makin' money retailing other people's stuff on the Internet. The profit margins just aren't there?and they never will be. Amazon loses money with each sale.

    That anti-Nader Times editorial MUGGER wrote about (7/5) was Puke City. I have longstanding censorship and plagiarism issues with The New York Times. As you also know, a few weeks ago they decided to throw me the tiniest crumb and corrected the spelling of my name in a four-year-old article. That was The New York Times dispensing justice!

    MUGGER's also right about the bums being back. They sleep on my block!

    Barry Popik, Manhattan

    Darth Nader

    MUGGER: Bravo on your 7/5 Ralph Nader/New York Times article!

    Henriette Mantel, Los Angeles

    High Plains Heaver

    MUGGER: Great 7/5 column, especially the "Snubbing Nader" bit. Living out here in the hinterlands in Round Rock, TX, I seldom see a New York Times?and when I do I don't pick it up because I no longer have a mynah bird whose cage needs lining! Unfortunately, the local version of Pravda, the Austin American-Statesman, routinely incorporates enough stuff from The New York Times News Service to keep my gag reflex well exercised.

    Keep the great columns coming.

    Dr. Harry Mathis, Round Rock, TX

    How Very Likely

    MUGGER: How painful election night will be for you when the President scores a double victory, his vice president ascending to the presidency, his wife becoming the junior senator from New York. But you will have a rich source of new material to feed your frothy-mouthed venom.

    Michael Meyer, Washington, DC

    Sick Again

    Has anyone else noticed that the MUGGER family seems to be constantly afflicted with bouts of nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, chills, night sweats, etc., when they're traveling, or even frequently here in New York (6/28)? What's up with that?

    Granted, it's probably just our Lord and Savior punishing a not particularly nice fellow, but you would think He would leave the kids out of it. Oh well, suffer the sins of the father, I suppose, but having this pompous clown for a role model should be punishment enough for the little tykes.

    Anyway, keep up the good work, Big Guy. How about some boils on Russ Smith's tongue next, to at least slow down the ferocity of his bootlicking of little boy Bush?

    J.B. Kelly, Manhattan

    Whah, That Boy's Startin' to Smell Red!

    MUGGER: You pretend to be a conservative, when the truth is that you're a Republican first. Not all Republicans are conservative, and you just reminded me of that when you called Pat Buchanan a kook (7/15). Get real!

    And clean up your language. You're starting to sound like Robin Williams.

    Most conservatives will vote for George W. Bush because we have no choice. But stop trying to spin Bush. You're starting to remind me of a liberal.

    Name Withheld, Orlando

    We Tell Him So Daily

    MUGGER is a fascinating social phenomenon, to say the least. Sorry to hear about the $20 overcharge for the Chinese delivery (7/5). Guess what, MUGGER? These are our new trading partners. Get used to it. Between the Russian mafia, Asian gangs, Indonesian money launderers and Iraqi, Iranian, Syrian, Libyan and Afghan terrorists, the Chinese might actually look like cuddle puppies.

    As for the 2004 elections: As a Democrat, I agree, the Democrats are totally without honor and completely dishonest. The way they think the "do as I say, not as I do" crap is acceptable fodder for the herd of blind-eye open con artists leading the current party structure is as dysfunctional as it gets.

    The only real hope for the Democratic Party is Jerry Brown. At least you know what he stands for, and that the truth will be the message. Love him or hate him, he is still part of the political triad American loves: Ventura, McCain and Brown. America needs heroes, not hucksters sucking on the spin doctors' fat little polling nipples.

    Phil Perington, Dupont, CO

    Too Nasty to Mencken

    I read Evan Morris' piece "Green Hell" ("First Person," 7/5), about the social and cultural poverty of rural Ohio, within an hour of reading an essay by H.L. Mencken called "The Anglo-Saxon," in which he described the downhill slide of the "pure" Anglo-Saxon race by quoting from an unnamed survey also taken in rural Ohio:

    "One testimony will be sufficient: it comes from two inquirers who made an exhaustive survey of a region in southeastern Ohio, where the people are more purely Americans than in the rest of the State.

    "Here gross superstition exercises strong control over the thought and action of a large proportion of the people. Syphilitic and other venereal diseases are common and increasing over whole counties, while in some communities nearly every family is afflicted with inherited or infectious disease. Many cases of incest are known; inbreeding is rife. Imbeciles, feeble-minded, and delinquents are numerous, politics is corrupt, and selling of votes is common, petty crimes abound, the schools have been badly managed and poorly attended. Cases of rape, assault, and robbery are of almost weekly occurrence within five minutes... Alcoholic intemperance is excessive. Gross immorality and its evil results are by no means confined to the hill districts, but are extreme also in the towns."

    This was in the 1920s. It's good to know, as Morris vouchsafes, that nothing has changed. Mencken closed his essay by suggesting a solution: "[The Anglo-Saxon's] blood, I believe, is running thin; it needs the stimulus of other and less exhausted strains."

    What's obviously needed is more New Yorkers like Morris to flood Ohio and do their part to "stimulate" the thinning bloodline. Good luck, fellas.

    Brian Camp, Bronx

    Was It Tasty?

    I was just wondering what city in Ohio Evan Morris moved to. As a resident of Ohio my entire life, I have never experienced the majority of things he discusses. Okay, I'll admit, I've seen a few Wal-Marts that sell live bait, but that's about it.

    Elizabeth Clay, Columbus, OH

    Plinker Taylor

    John Strausbaugh: Right on. My parents (61 and 59) recently visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ("Hall of Lame, Part 2," 6/28). Never to be confused for hipsters in any way, they both felt it was pretty lame. While the whole thing was never more than dubious to begin with, inducting James Taylor is beyond the pale.

    I once attended a James Taylor show (my wife is a fan) and having to sit through his version of "Promised Land" almost made me throw out my entire record and CD collection.

    Sean Hagearty, Manchester, CT

    Sounds Great, Dom

    I don't know which part of Ohio Evan Morris ("First Person," 7/5) lives in, but it is someplace I haven't seen since I moved here in January of 1998. I, too, am a transplanted New Yorker who currently lives in West Carrollton, a small burg midway between Cincinnati and Dayton.

    While his comments on the quality of bread products (bagels, pizza, etc.) are valid, you can get some decent vittles (no, nobody really says that) once you hook up with a local. My lovely wife is my native of choice. She introduced me to the Flying Pizza, run by two transplanted brothers from Manhattan. The pizza they make is as good as any you'll taste on Cross Bay Blvd. Steve Kao's Chinese restaurant is wonderful, even if the orange beef lacks a real spicy bite.

    Yes, an auto should come with your birth certificate out here, but things are spread out out here for a reason?so people can have some room to live! I've heard more gunfire sitting in a Grand Union parking lot in East New York than I ever have out here. I have yet to have the smell of urine waft up my nostrils. Never have I been accosted by any panhandlers, traffic delays don't give you enough time to sneeze, surly clerks at the local Wal-Mart (they're called "associates") are an unknown species and dogmatic liberal points of view have to be broadcast in from the East Coast. I also discovered that the sky really does stretch out all the way to the horizon.

    Granted, there are things I miss about the East Coast. The smell of salt water and the sounds of the shore, really fresh seafood, the more hilly terrain of Westchester and Connecticut, the Mets, Giants and Rangers, the New York Post, autumn colors?someday maybe I'll come home and have that all again.

    Mr. Morris should drop his provincial bias and try to enjoy what's good about this part of the country.

    Dom Colangelo Jr., West Carrollton, OH

    Playing Spoons

    Melik Kaylan ("Taki's Top Drawer," 7/5) questions an accidental death by heroin overdose because police found "only one needle scar on the body" and Carlos Mavroleon "hadn't injected in 10 years." Whatever the validity of Kaylan's other strange conspiratorial details, such as the presence of "Pak intelligence men" and a body being moved near the syringe rather than the far easier expedient of moving the syringe near the body, it is well known that the most dangerous time for a user is that moment of weakness, after a long period of abstinence, when the disease strikes again. One is liable to forget how dangerous even a small dose can be if one has not taken the drug for a long time, as Kaylan claims for Mr. Mavroleon.

    Peshawar is an open city as far as drugs are concerned. When I was there, morphine ampoules could be purchased in pharmacies over the counter. It is a likely place for a backslide. I would not be too quick to rule out an accidental overdose.

    Name Withheld, Brooklyn

    Into the Breeches

    Godfrey Cheshire's 6/28 review ("Film") of The Patriot is a superb account of what will become a classic film of Americana.

    Well done, Mr. Cheshire.

    Robert O. Burgess, MD, Ault, CO

    Mexico City Red White and Blues

    John Strausbaugh's editorial "Freedom of Movement" (7/5) was so whiny you have to wonder if he ate something that disagreed with him prior to sitting down at the word processor to tap out his rant. Inalienable right to freedom of movement? What have you been smoking? The car companies aren't giving away their cars for free, nor are the gas companies thinking about slashing their prices. Public transportation could use the same consideration those freaks at the Dept. of Defense have received for too many decades. Travel America next time, John.

    And MUGGER no doubt received a bill from his own brigade of lawyers prior to deciding he doesn't like the idea of paying estate taxes. Who is gonna make up the difference in lost tax revenues, MUGGER? Why shouldn't the very rich pay these taxes? You can't take it with you. One only need to meet a few NYU students or trustafarians masquerading as starving artists to become a vocal supporter of increasing estate taxes. Of course, if Congress decided to take some steps to eliminate federal spending (NMD, the Air Force, the ATF, the war on drugs), you could very nicely reduce taxes for everyone, not just large donors to the Republican and Democratic parties.

    Thank you, William Bryk, for your excellent article "The Fallen Angel" ("Old Smoke," 7/5). Did Aaron Burr complain when the presidency was snatched away from him and bestowed on a lesser man? Of course not! In light of Vicente Fox Quesada's recent election, one cannot help but wonder what would have happened if Burr had ascended to the presidency instead of that whining Virginian. No need for NAFTA, we would have annexed all of Mexico years ago!

    Marc Safman, Queens

    Soup Bones

    I loved Alexander Cockburn's column on bacteria hysteria and the USDA ("Wild Justice," 7/5). He is absolutely right about bacteria. On the other hand, I believe the reason I practically never get sick today is that I wash my hands about 20 times a day.

    For related reasons I've by and large given up using dishwashing detergent. Americans have been oversold on the necessity of using this stuff. Most of what you eat is water-soluble anyway, so why do you need detergent? It would be better to do a half-assed job of washing a dish than to poison yourself by leaving detergent residue on it. (I'm assuming you don't share dishes with seriously ill people.)

    When you are on the beach and you eat something using utensils, how do you clean them? You just wash them off in the ocean. Does anybody die from doing that? Of course not. So why should you sweat over dishwashing detergent at home?

    Not only that, but people use way too much. Dishwashing detergent is extremely concentrated stuff with powerful greasecutters. (I use it to clean bicycle grease off my hands, something you can't do with soap.) Before I gave it up entirely, I used one bottle for seven years without coming close to finishing it; afterward, when I lived with roommates, I foolishly put it out for others to use and it was gone in two weeks. When I really want some, if I have any, I use the residue on the tip of the bottle. That is plenty.

    As for the problem of capricious overregulation by federal agencies like the USDA and undue influence of huge companies described by Cockburn, at some point it might be worthwhile to emigrate to someplace where they haven't accumulated so many stupid laws and regulations. It's a frequent daydream of mine.

    Joe Rodrigue, New Haven

    Bobbie Sock

    This is a reply to Bobbie Schwartz's letter, "Graham Crackers," about George W. Bush, in the 7/5 "Mail."

    If Bush is unfit because of Gary Graham, what about Slick Willie? Graham may not have killed the party he was executed for killing, but he was no choir boy, having committed various types of mayhem, including rape, robbery and at least one other murder he bragged about. Slick Willie had to prove his cajones during his first presidential run by presiding over the execution of Rickey Ray Rector, a man so brain dead that a hatrack had more smarts than he did.

    I forgot?Slick Willie can do no wrong.

    I no longer vote, as Democrats took away my right to vote in 1993, and I have not voted since.

    Please withhold my name, as I do not want the politically correct police on my back.

    Name Withheld, Queens

    Crispin Chicken

    Why can't Matt Zoller Seitz get his details right? His columns are generally well-written, but he consistently makes factual errors in his reviews. The latest is in his review of Chicken Run ("Film," 6/28). He wrote that when Ginger "makes a big St. Crispin's Day speech to her fellow hens that ends with, 'You can live as free range chickens or die trying!,' all the hens cheer...except for one, who raises a feathered wing and asks, 'Dearie, are those our only two choices?'"

    The line is actually, "We can die as free range chickens or die trying!"

    Though there is only a minor difference, the subsequent joke doesn't make sense the way Mr. Seitz has written it. But more seriously, the error detracts from Mr. Seitz's subsequent praise of Aardman Animations' professionalism and precision.

    Dan Schwan, Berkeley

    Matt Zoller Seitz replies: The reader is correct. I apologize profusely for this catastrophic error in chicken-joke reporting and will endeavor to prevent such errors in the future.

    Fin de Siecle

    Tanya Richardson and Lisa LeeKing: Loved your interview with the author of the incredible book, Men Are Like Fish ("Books," 6/14). It was ballsy and smart to publicize Steve Nakamoto. He is brilliant. I loved the work he did with Tony Robbins, don't you? New York Press should get Robbins for an interview.

    I am using Men Are Like Fish as source material to flesh out the protagonist character in my screenplay. I wrote a "menopause thriller"; it's a new genre and I want the hero (George Clooney?) to be compelling. This book will help.

    Thanks to Tony Robbins, I no longer troll for poon; it comes calling godspeed!

    They don't call me a spokesman for Generation X for nothing!

    Tom Phillips, Manhattan

    The Occidental Apologist

    Christopher Caldwell was really full of beans, or some other item, when he wrote his 6/28 "Hill of Beans" blasting Al Gore, his father Sen. Albert Gore Sr. and the late Armand Hammer of Occidental Petroleum. It is this trio that Caldwell blames for the high price of gasoline! Good grief!

    So 30 or 40 years ago, Hammer used his business savvy to keep peace between the U.S. and the USSR. That was bad? WWIII would have been better, Crazy Caldwell?

    And now, here is Caldwell trying to blame Occidental for high prices at the pump, obviously not knowing that Occidental is an exploration company, not a sales company. And obviously Caldwell is not aware that Occidental works hard to locate new oil fields around the world, not always successfully or profitably.

    Why doesn't Caldwell cast an evil eye upon Exxon, probably the most profitable oil company in the world? And then cast another evil eye upon our overuse of nonreplaceable natural resources?

    Furthermore, if we were on better terms with Iran, Iraq and Kuwait, the liquid gold would be flowing more freely.

    Caldwell wrote his foolish article just to help George "Dubya" Bush. If Bush should read Caldwell's nonsense, he would probably say, "Don't do me any favors. I have enough troubles now."

    Hannah Goldberg, Brooklyn

    T.Z. Parser

    Ugh! As you are well aware, I hold New York Press above most media, both as to content and make-up of the paper. I revel in the diversity. As an old Southern Episcopalian, I have learned much sitting at the feet of your fine writers, and await eagerly each week's issue.

    Taki reaffirms my own dark thoughts about the fact that Western society and culture have started the inevitable slide back to the primordial mud. Yet he achieves this with humor and an almost languid understanding that, in the end, the mob will rule in any society that promotes "total" freedom for the uneducated and uncaring.

    MUGGER, on the other hand, shows the interplay among family that not only helps reaffirm that one's own family is not as particular as one thinks, but does so with mirth and understanding. (It seems to me that Russ almost builds failure into each family adventure, not unlike an enabler for some sot of a husband. I of course mean this in jest.) Yet it is not hard to imagine Mr. Smith planning a trip to the sewer plant for a bubble boy. Why anyone would take two children, or themselves for that matter, to an "art deco" hotel (6/28) among the fey and foolish of Miami, seems strange at best. (Sounds like "comps" to me.)

    Finally to the point: I have average intelligence, don't dribble food, can normally complete bathroom functions without aid and know that the Democrats are the most thuggish group ever assembled in my lifetime. Then why can't I get a handle on the T.Z. Parsa article about Taco Town and those who love it ("Mustache Rides in the Big Taco," 6/28)? I turned every rock and kicked every cow patty; nothing was there. What is deficient in me?

    Yes, you live in caves in the Sour Apple. You seldom "friend up," as it may be necessary to destroy the sucker later. But knowing and allowing for these facts, I still puzzle over this article. I'm not, not upset?just curious why I don't get it. Again, I know: The fault is not in the stars, but within myself. But what the hell is it?

    Guess if you didn't want to drink the water, you could spend weeks at your desk writing, but why this?

    A.H. Watson, Holder Beach, NC

    Amoling, Not Amoral

    MUGGER: I think you're entirely wrong that George W. Bush can't win with a pro-life runningmate (7/5). In fact, if I were a betting man, I'd bet that he'll lose if he takes Tom Ridge or Christie Todd Whitman.

    Al Amoling, Kennebunk, ME

    Big Fun, Etc.

    MUGGER: Good article all over (6/28).

    Airline food is now so bad that even I, an unreconstructed sailorman, can be bothered to make two tuna salad sandwiches, "dressed" as we say down here, with lettuce and tomato, plus a Zapp's jalapeno chips and a Kentwood water, all before taking the shuttle out to Moissant airport (politically enfranchised parking rates suck too, and my truck's safer in its slot in the French Quarter).

    Miami is like Coney Island used to be, a little exotic and too many bright, strange colors, sticky food that my mother doesn't want me to eat and amazing girls, gork-gawk! Boca Raton's nicer.

    So you gotta come down to the swamp! The heat and humidity suit you, we have the largest tarpon in the world (Mississippi outwash plankton feeding on our rich garbage), food and water you can drink all year round, music and stuff, Emeril's many feeding zoos filled with models and power players from the Coast on a long and lazy weekend, the crookedest politicians in the nation and we keep electing 'em.

    And it's still America, even with the Code Civil, above-ground graves, real Cuban-looking arkitektura, not that 30s deco shtick tarted up in the late 80s. Cost of everything is less than miles around and you can get to work from anywhere in 40 minutes. We're even getting the crime under wraps. Lots of God-fearing Baptist chambermaids in the hotels and apartments.

    Yes, even po' folk have a lady in once a week, usually their mother's maid's granddaughter or something. All maids and yard-rakers are word-of-mouth, safer that way for everyone. And everybody knows everyone else eventually.

    You're right about George W. Bush, even for four years. Glad to hear Matt Drudge is doing okay.

    Y'all come visit!

    Walter Thornhill, New Orleans

    Poke from the Boke

    Re: "Miami Quicksand" ("MUGGER," 6/28): "When we went to the Bal Harbour mall on Sunday...and found that none of the stores opened till noon, all four of us were about to scream."

    Is it blue laws? Is it the "Latin American scent"/"lazy work ethic"? Maybe it's just that even in our beloved Manhattan most stores don't open until noon on Sundays. Crikey, do you mean to tell me the stores on Herald Square now open around 10 on Sundays all year round? They didn't a few years ago, when I was last in the vicinity on a Sunday morning.

    "Lazy work ethic." MUGGER, you're just throwing in racially charged code words for fun now, aren't you! How cheekily neo-aristocratic!

    Steve Koppelman, Hoboken

    Hate Kids, Bill?

    MUGGER: I really enjoy your column, and am in total agreement with your views on Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Janet Reno and the rest of the current trash that inhabits Washington, and that will be gone, hopefully, in just a few more months. However, I would enjoy your column the more if you would spare us some of the family blather that takes so much time to scroll past to find the real meat.

    Bill Challburg, Columbus, OH

    The Michael Jordan of Mendicancy

    In his 7/5 column, MUGGER writes: "On the train out and back to Shea, once again we encountered the con men and ladies who shuffled between cars, begging for a penny to get some food..."

    Ah, memories! I might be three years removed from Gotham, but I can still pinpoint the well-honed whining of subway panhandler Adrian "My God, Is It A Crime To Be Hungry?" Rivera! For persistence, shamelessness and utter transparency, Adrian deserves some subterranean version of the Irving Thalberg Lifetime Achievement Award. His never-wavering pitch, besides the above quote, always includes the plea for "a penny, nickel, dime...anything you can give," and the redoubtable "even if you got some food?a piece of fruit."

    One sweltering afternoon a few years back, having been subjected to perhaps my thousandth Rivera performance, I called his bluff and offered him half a tangerine. He took it reluctantly while fixing a laser-beam stare on me that loosely translated as "Oh, a wise guy, huh?"

    Good to see this giant of panhandling is still going strong.

    Lou Manzato, New Orleans

    Exile's Letter

    I am a guy from New Jersey who moved to Houston, TX, in 1976. Toward the end of the Dinkins era I was seriously considering suspending my biannual vacations to Manhattan. At that time there were about three bums to every street. We walked out of the Carnegie Deli one night to be cursed at by a guy (about 300 pounds) who claimed he was hungry.

    I have been to India and Africa. I know what hungry looks like. My girlfriend and I took a stroll around Central Park W. one evening and were hit up at least 20 times by panhandlers. It was just becoming too much of an annoyance. The cons (good choice of words) outweighing the pros. Then Rudy Giuliani came on the scene and it was great again. We enjoyed our trips and couldn't wait to get back.

    Last May we came for another visit and oops! Looks like things were backsliding a little. I noticed the pests asking for handouts on the subways and, yes, sleeping on the floors, too. I hoped that we hadn't seen the best and that it wouldn't be all downhill.

    Now I read your column and the good times appear to be over. Too bad. I predict New York will look back at the Rudy era with fondness, and it won't be long either.

    Wayne Rumble, Houston

    Mean Old Town

    MUGGER: You are so right about the "new" Giuliani and the slide back to the days of sprawling bums and aggressive panhandlers.

    Sidewalks being used as toilets are once again a common sight. I witnessed a particularly memorable incident recently at high noon on the corner of 8th St. and 6th Ave. A grinning bum stood in front of Gray's Papaya (home of what some claim to be New York's best hotdog), whipped out his own wiener and pissed in the street . I hunted up some cops and their response showed decided indifference to the Broken Windows theory of policing.

    One incident doesn't make a trend, but this kind of incident is becoming more frequent. As are rude responses on the part of police officers. I've tended to believe that reporting crime is a civic duty. When I was a kid the Kitty Genovese story made a profound impression on me. But my belief is definitely wavering. My neighborhood, Hell's Kitchen, is covered by the Midtown Precinct North and Midtown Precinct South police districts. One attends endless neighborhood meetings and hears the same old crap from police representatives from these districts. Solutions to complaints are obfuscated and pointed away from direct response on the part of the police. If you have a complaint about one particular problem, call this agency, for a different problem call another. These calls must be made between 9 and 5, which is often when no problem exists.

    Of course, not having access to a phone during work hours, or speaking awkward English, makes filing a complaint impossible. And if you do sort out the proper procedure you have an experience like I did when attempting to leave a message for a community policing officer at Midtown South. After maneuvering my way through a lengthy touchtone system, I finally reached the proper extension for a specific officer only to have a recorded voice say, "The voice mailbox is full. Goodbye."

    Your comments about vengeful Rudy's willful neglect also struck a chord. I have heard people in Hell's Kitchen say the police are demoralized and poor response is the result. If so, that response would be petulant and irresponsible. It would also be scattershot in effect, alienating those who are not inclined to be anti-police.

    Sadly, I was not surprised by the reaction of the police to the Central Park attacks. I have heard the same tone and the same lines myself, albeit about matters of less importance. Something negative is definitely going on within the police department, and Rudy is dropping the ball bigtime.

    Carola Solomonoff, Manhattan

    Not Peace But a Sword

    Perhaps it's because he can afford high-quality "stuff," but I'm always amazed at how MUGGER's political addiction seems to remain in overdrive, even with the passing of many years, so that (and I mean this as a compliment) he now seems like a still-enthusiastic professor of politics for the young 'uns.

    His 6/30 "e-MUGGER" is typical: A well-written piece that, I think, is instructive mostly to the young and politically still naive. You see the type on C-SPAN all the time, full of well-meaning energy as they genuinely cheer for some system politician. It makes for either depressing or nauseating viewing, depending on your point of view. We burnt-out longtime observers (whose ranks can include the relatively young who were smart enough to quickly turn to constructive cynicism, like Andrey Slivka) have little need to be told much about politics, but I wonder if MUGGER realizes how educational his writing can be to those Generation X types out there who are still fresh-faced, bright-eyed and believing in people like Al Gore.

    Others of us are just tired of the kind of political realities MUGGER wrote about in that article. We could easily start reciting the well-rehearsed lines of Chris Lehanes, Al Gores and George W. Bushes before they've even said a word. As in the advanced stages of heroin addiction or habitual drunkenness, there's no thrill in our political addiction anymore, but merely an attempt to eke out little bits of pleasure in between innumerable horrors.

    It's all part of an America that's racing with breakneck speed toward creating the most superficial, mindless and soulless "culture" in human history, and an America that is too arrogant to see its dark fate in that of past empires like it. The artificial, by-the-numbers lines of the Gore- and Bush-model machine politicians of the world are no different from the advertising world's loud, idiotic, lowest-denominator tv and other ads, which any thinking person feels assaulted by. And these are no different from the 95-percent-garbage "films" and tv shows that come out of Hollywood. And those are no different from Wall Street's plastic-smiling and parroting about "a robust economy" even as every interest-rate raise guarantees that millions will remain unemployed and poor, along with many children.

    And yet some people wonder why I preach Christ, the study of the Gospels and the life lived for God and in service to others as the only life fully worth living. And even that peaceful premise comes under media attack by the establishment, with Peter Jennings devoting an entire ABC "special" to the futile attempt to smear Christ (with nothing but some misleading "scholars" who agree with Jennings' limousine-liberal anti-Christianity, and old anti-Christian arguments and "theories" that have already been refuted and defeated by true scholars).

    Jack Seney, Queens

    Dela-No Hotel

    I could not help noticing that as part of the military/aid package for the war on drugs in South America, approximately $130 million was earmarked for "human rights education." Do you know what that is, and/or who these human rights educators might be (i.e., where will this money be going)? Perhaps you can forward the question to Alexander Cockburn, who has been devoting some space to the drug war.

    On an unrelated note, do you think The New York Times should change its motto to "All the News That Fits Our Agenda"?

    I am staying away from Florida after MUGGER's 6/28 column.

    Ed Finkelstein, Staten Island

    Get Your Hoax Up

    One does not have to be a virologist, microbiologist or Nobel laureate to recognize a causation fallacy when they see one. Nor does one have to be a medical doctor to realize that the very serious prior and ongoing health problems of the people truly at risk for "AIDS" could explain their compromised health and the opportunistic diseases they are developing.

    President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa is right to question HIV's role in AIDS! And New York Press is right to continue its excellent coverage of this urgent issue.

    It is long past time for all of us to take a very close look at the greedy, arrogant and market-driven nature of modern medical science, especially in relationship to HIV/AIDS.

    If you think that the claim HIV=AIDS is based on the scientific evaluation of the evidence, think again. There is, in fact, a huge gap between the ideals of science and the practice of the "public health officials," "doctors" and "scientists" who insist that HIV has been scientifically shown to cause AIDS!

    Keep up the great work, and please keep informing your readers about this tragic hoax.

    Michael Ellner, president, HEAL (Health Education AIDS Liaison), Manhattan

    Drink Up, Sweetie

    My only reason for living in Iowa is cheap beer. This is the only thing going for my town. Des Moines sucks!

    Name Withheld, Des Moines