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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

WHO’S CRIBBING WHOM?

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.

 

THAT’S THE SPIRIT!

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

THINGS CHANGE

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

LA Weekly