Howard Blume’s recent essay on Michael Lerner’s dispute with ANSWER over anti-war organizing [“Furor in Frisco,” February 14–20] concludes by saying, “The risk is that these attempts to shove ANSWER to the sidelines also could provide the right wing with another round of ammunition.” It’s hard to see how this follows from the rest of his article — or, for that matter, from the events of the past week. The logic here is pernicious: ANSWER gets to decide who the unacceptable speakers are (i.e., anyone who has publicly criticized them), and everyone else opposed to war in Iraq should keep quiet lest we divide the movement and give ammunition to the right? How exactly does this make sense?

Let’s be clear about one thing: The right wing has no better ammunition than ANSWER itself. Not even The Wall Street Journal and National Review could have dreamed up a coalition more likely to divide the left and de-legitimate the anti-war mainstream. ANSWER now says that this is not the time for infighting among anti-war protesters. But they weren’t able to put their sectarianism aside even this once in the interests of the greater good — namely, appealing to anti-war Americans of all kinds.

—Michael Bérubé
State College, Pennsylvania

I think Howard Blume got shellacked and bamboozled by pros when he set out to find the truth behind the controversy over Michael Lerner and ANSWER. One fact is plain and undeniable: Lerner, proposed as a speaker at the antiwar rally, was refused by ANSWER on the grounds that those who have criticized a member of their coalition may not speak. This is the nub of the problem: How can those who claim to believe in democracy close ranks to deny public debate? Those are the tactics of despotism, and they should be challenged wherever they arise. Having sat through hundreds of sectarian meetings in my time, I instantly recognize that when someone says they did not wish to pursue a matter further, as Lerner's lieutenants say in Blume's article, they are really saying, "We surrendered. It wasn't worth the fight. We were going to lose, so why bother?" In other words, the matter was crushed in committee before it could hit the airwaves — which it didn't until Lerner's side finally put up a stink.

Greg Goldin
Los Angeles

HOWARD BLUME REPLIES: The spin on this issue was coming from all directions. I stand by the story.



In the Weekly’s election endorsements [February 14–20], the editors gush about Martin Ludlow being a “legendary organizer at 38 years of age” and a descendant of a very progressive family. Thus, you say, he will “fight the entrenched business political establishments on behalf of the more socially responsible investment.” PUH-LEEZ. The Martin Ludlows of the progressive movement are the problem besetting and holding back progressives and the labor movement. Labor endorsed Nate Holden for the 10th Council District and is now endorsing Martin Ludlow for the same seat. With the same level of opportunism and shortsightedness, labor is endorsing a candidate with no true connections to the district. In fact, Ludlow filed in three other races before carpetbagging his way into the 10th. (He originally filed in the 8th District, but did not have the stomach to take on Chief Parks.) You claim that Ludlow will fight the anti-ethnocentric fight in L.A., yet this “legendary organizer,” when faced with challenging the most ethnocentric of candidates, courageously backed out. I guess what they say is true: Love is blind. Or, in this case, myopic.

—Jane Kim


Marc Cooper’s column “What’s Proof Got To Do With It?” [Dissonance, February 14–20] furnished a solid analysis of the dynamics leading to the launching of an unjustified attack against Iraq. I have problems, however, with the conclusion of his piece, in which he suggests that if war does come and the United States occupies Iraq, progressives should not necessarily call for the ending of the occupation. Instead, U.S. troops and money should be used to construct “something better” for the people of Iraq.

Perhaps what is at stake is that we start from different assumptions. I believe that convincing evidence exists that the Bush administration aims at nothing less than imperialistic world domination. Their arrogance has reached the point where they scarcely seek to disguise it. It is important to recognize that U.S. occupation of Iraq will seek to make Iraq a compliant occupation client state and in no way will be aimed at achieving any good for the people of Iraq. In these circumstances it will be necessary for progressives to oppose that occupation and, even more importantly, to oppose future projected aggressions.

—Donald B. Delano
Los Angeles

The correct answer to Marc Cooper's question "What's proof got to do with it?" — referring to the reasons put forth for a war against Iraq — is "nothing." Sure, thin evidence has been put forth linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11 and establishing that Iraq has deployable weapons of mass destruction. But isn't this beside the point? May I offer a scenario that better fits the known facts? In attacking the U.S., in issuing a fatwa against Saddam Hussein, and in releasing a timely tape a short time back from which one may infer a link between Osama bin Laden and Saddam, it is apparent that Al Qaeda wants to provoke us to invade Iraq, so that they can subsequently take over.

Two-thousand years ago, the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu propounded several tactics for war, including "Base all warfare on deception," "Use bait to lure the enemy" and "Subdue the enemy without battle [by getting other nations to fight your wars]." The war with Iraq is an obvious Al Qaeda trap. But how do we stay out of the trap, and what are the repercussions whether we stay out of it or get into it, are the real questions for national discussion. Neither the journalistic spin of Marc Cooper nor the propaganda of government is helpful to producing a consensus on this issue.

Wayne Lusvardi



Bill Bradley, in writing “The New Boss” [February 7–13], could have used a dose of reality. California is incredibly broke: $30-plus billion in the red is $1,000 per person, or about $4,500 per family. So California goes to people who have this kind of money, in this case Wall Street, and — horrors! — Wall Street wants some assurances that it’ll be paid back, and that the gigantic fiscal mismanagement that brought California to its door won’t continue. Ah, that evil Wall Street. Maybe we should be asking the Saudis instead. I wonder what their rates would be, and what special favors they’d ask. In any case, let’s not blame Davis, the Legislature or the voters of the state.‰ ä

As far as I’m concerned, the only thing that should stand between Davis and the Nevada border is a wooden rail, a bucket of tar and a bag of feathers.

—Don Meyer


On John Powers’ “The Journalist and the Pop Star” (On, February 14–20), he apparently can’t resist slamming Bill Clinton a full two years after the termination of his presidency. Even more pathetically, Powers uses the time-honored Republican tradition of blaming the Clinton administration for our current woes. Face it, Powers, two years ago we had unprecedented prosperity, a balanced budget, peace, decent relationships with our allies all over the world, and no September 11 incident to mourn over. It is totally within your rights to not like Bill Clinton because he didn’t fulfill your ideal of what a Democrat should be, but please save your cheap shots for the belligerent, oil-money-rich self-righteous right-wing scumbags who now hold power in this country.

—Fred Stratton
Los Angeles

John Powers' take on the Michael Jackson interview is right on the money. It is reassuring to know that the nation chooses to obsess about its first stonewashed citizen and what has happened to his nose, rather than about the consequences of a genocide about to be perpetrated by our vacuous leader and his gang of thugs.

Lawrence J. Pippick
Los Angeles


Ostensibly, the Weekly aims to offer a radical critique of our society. But does that mean that your arts critics have to ignore true talent unless the product supports the overthrow of existing social institutions? Steven Leigh Morris, in “Familiarity and Contempt” [February 14–20], offers a perfect instance of this kind of critical myopia. Reviewing Lisa Loomer’s extremely clever, funny and politically sensitive new play at the Taper, Living Out, he finds himself wishing the play were “angrier.” His underlying wish is that the play “had an attitude,” that is, that it be a different kind of play, a politically radical play, the kind of play that he would write.

Lisa Loomer’s wonderfully subtle, socially aware play, while offering us a mirror of the way we interact with one another today, subordinates all these social factors to the overriding dramatic concerns that make her tragicomedy such a triumph. Moreover, she writes well. I would recommend any reader who loves theater to go and judge for yourself Lisa Loomer’s enjoyable, thoughtful and brilliantly written play.

—Brian Finney
Long Beach


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