Re: “Herr Reich” [Dissonance, January 18–24]. I may not be a big fan of Otto Juan Reich’s politics, but it certainly isn’t fair of Marc Cooper to insinuate he’s a Nazi. His “Teutonic” name comes, of course, from his father, who was an Austrian-Jewish refugee who fled to Cuba to escape Hitler, leaving behind his parents, who were murdered in the Holocaust. The reference at the end of the article to pulling gold teeth from neighbors was therefore completely tasteless.

—E. Randol Schoenberg Los Angeles


Regarding President Bush’s one-year “recess appointment” of ultrarightist Otto Reich to head up the Latin American operations of the U.S. State Department, Marc Cooper states that he doesn’t know “if it’s better to laugh or to cry.” Underneath this emotional dilemma, Cooper reveals stunning naiveté when he claims that by such an assignment, the Bush administration “put the most wretched of political and electoral calculations ahead of the interests of hemispheric harmony.” In fact, the fiction of “hemispheric harmony” has been blasted to bits not by Reich, nor by Bush administration policy, which merely follows in the footsteps of the Clinton and innumerable previous administrations. Social explosions — today Argentina, tomorrow anywhere from Mexico to the Andes — flow directly and inexorably from the poor economic relations between U.S. capital and all of Latin America and the Caribbean (with the exception, of course, of Cuba, against which U.S. sanctions reached their most stringent levels under Clinton). It is worth remembering that under the “good neighbor” policy of Franklin Roosevelt, our base at Guantánamo took on its most bellicose character, and that the Somoza dynasty was headed by “our son of a bitch,” as the Democratic president called his pet tyrant.

Social conditions, driven by the juggernaut of economic crisis, anticipate volcanic responses by peoples who now shout — and will shout even more militantly tomorrow — “Enough!” For them, there has never been harmony, hemispheric or otherwise. Nothing but absentee bosses, debt collectors, dictators and death squads.

—John Hillson Inglewood


In her excellent story about the ambiguities of gender relations in Islam [“Six Blind Women and the Elephant,” January 18–24], Judith Lewis writes: “And Exodus 21:7, notes an Internet satirist who responded with an open letter to Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s Leviticus-based proscription of homosexual Jews, gives fathers the right to sell their daughters into slavery (‘In this day and age, what would be a fair price for her?’ asked the writer).”

I’d like to point out that, regardless of whether someone posted that to Dr. Laura, it was originally part of a West Wing script, from a scene in which the exceptionally levelheaded President Josiah Bartlett tells off a Dr. Laura–style character, who gets not only a piece of the commander in chief’s mind, but also a detailed minilesson in biblical law, presidential wit and White House etiquette.

Unfortunately, not everyone who posts on the Internet is willing to own up to his use of other people’s wit.

—Mariluna Martin Los Angeles


THE EDITOR REPLIES: Neither, apparently, is President Bartlett. In May 2000, J. Kent Ashcraft, a freelance guitarist who resides in Bowie, Maryland, wrote the letter and sent it to Dr. Laura (from whom he received no reply). He also sent copies to a singer friend, who posted it on the Internet. In October, The West Wing excerpted from the letter and eventually paid Ashcraft for his material.



Kudos to your triumvirate of film critics on their chastising of the Independent Spirit Awards for not nominating David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive as the year’s best film. Instead of just saying “Hollywood sucks” like all the pretentious would-be indie auteurs, Lynch shows you how, on an emotional level, this screwed-up city turns bright-eyed hopefuls into jaded has-beens. For most of us pursuing our dreams here, it’s easier to live in fantasies of what could have been rather than deal with the reality of not being the next Julia Roberts or Tom Cruise. And for the posturing Spirit-ers, Lynch’s film might have hit way too close to home.

—Chris Phillips Sherman Oaks


Re “Pure War” [On, January 18–24]. John Powers is correct: The TV coverage of the Vietnam War repelled many and polarized the country. I’ll never forget seeing a North Vietnamese prisoner being tortured with water poured onto cloth covering his face, or the shocking coverage on CBS of one bound on the ground whose life ended with a knife plunged into his chest by a South Vietnamese soldier — all while we ate our evening meal. But these images only galvanized views already held by most of my generation and half of the nation: that we had no right to be in Vietnam in the first place. I would be very surprised, however, if detailed TV coverage now would much alter the support the American public feels for the justice of this war on terrorism.

—Todd Saalman Los Angeles


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